PALO ALTO CONCOURS d’ELEGANCE: MORRIS BROS. SO-CAL ROADSTER REUNION!

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So, the 45th annual Palo Alto Concours at Stanford University is finally one for the books. And since, as we reported, one of the marques was the Ford Flathead, there was some bitchin’ stuff to drink in under the mostly-hot-but-manageable-sun-thanks-to-the-beer-Geoff-Miles-snuck-in-thanks-Rodder’s-Journal.

But the real story this year was the Morris Bros. roadster we helped Dave Tanimura bring to the show (see the entry below): Dave got rockstar staging right inside the front gates and when an old guy and his son walked up to the car and said they knew the car, it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise. But when he said, “I’m Richard Morris,” we just about dropped our $15 glasses of chablis.

Turns out, Dick Morris, after selling the roadster to a guy on the San Francisco Peninsula, moved further northeast to Antioch, CA and has been there ever since. One random afternoon, he asked his son (a “computer genius,” as he describes and much to the chagrin of his son) to google “Morris Brothers roadster.” The kid did just that, hit the return key, turned to his dad and said, “Well, that took about all of thirty seconds!” They found that the car was going to be featured on the grass at Stanford this weekend, made sure they had cash for the bridge tolls, loaded up the fam and headed south.

Morris had hoped that the car he and his brother built and ran like a raped ape up and down the California coast, setting records all over the place, was going to be restored in some way when he sold it, but he knew the reality of the situation: once he sold it, he had to be able to sleep at night knowing that the new owner could do anything he saw fit –– damn the torpedos. Luckily, Dave knew the guy who bought it from Morris, traded his Model A coupe for the roadster and got to work on the restoration.

We were under the shade of a grove of trees on the car show field, smoking cigarettes, when a voice over the PA system called out, “Dan Tanimura, please report to your car…DAN TANIMURA…your car…”

“Hey, Dave –– I think they’re talking about you.”
“They said Dan.”
“Yeah, but how many Tanimuras do you think are here today?”
“Good point.”

As we walked up to the car, a few people were kinda milling around it and finally one of them asked if one of us owned it. And that’s when it all went down. Dave just about fell over and the reunion was on. As Richard talked more and reminisced more, the stories started coming out: going so fast that oil started pushing through the dash gauges, running around post-war Los Angeles, scheming with Alex Xydias, details here, random memories there, all of us just gobbling it up and shaking our heads in amazement. And when Dave helped him into the car and he sat behind the wheel for the first time in years and years, it was just, well, a moment, y’know?

As Morris and Dave filled in the blanks that were missing from their own experiences with the car, they promised to keep in touch and get together again. Dave’s got what he thinks are most of the trophies the car won and a fairly impressive collection of old photos, but Richard’s got more pictures and cool junk that never went with the car when he let it go. There’s got to be some goodness coming out of this soon and we can’t wait to hear more. If we’re lucky, we’ll tag along the next time they get together, which means you’ll come along, too. For now, here are some phone pics from the encounter…

5 Responses to “PALO ALTO CONCOURS d’ELEGANCE: MORRIS BROS. SO-CAL ROADSTER REUNION!”

  1. Wow. Couldn’t have asked for anything cooler than this.

  2. Tom Mahnke says:

    Richards son Mike and I were friends as kids and I remember that car sitting in the garage with stuff stacked on it etc. I am so happy that Dave has restored it and it really seems to have made Richard happy to have it back on the road again. Congrats to Dave on that one.

  3. [...] ridden in it, stood next to it when Dick Morris (half of the two-brother team that built the car, originally) fina…, drank beers sitting on the rear tire in Dave’s garage and have just generally loved this car [...]

  4. Jackie Morris says:

    Hello, I am Jackie, George Morris daughter. Mike Morris is my cousin. Truth be known …. Mike was never in our garage working on this car or any other. I was in our garage working on the roaster, belly tank, midgets, motorcycles. Having 12 cars in our front lawn if you could call it that.. ha ha .. hanging parachutes in the tree to wash dry; having water pumps in our kitchen sink. Driving to get him magnetos. I did most every thing with him in that garage. I never saw Mike there. I never saw him at any races. Don’t be fooled!! My Uncle Richard “Dick” ya he was around in the early days when they first got the car. I never saw his hands with grease on the either. Maybe holding a beer ya.. Ask Mike if he has any stories in the garage with my Dad or at any races, ask him if he was there when his car had oil fire going 180+ mph. Ask him If he ever visited him in the hospital he was there for 1 month with 3rd degree burn over most his body. Look all, my Dad and I were like pees in a pod. I spent my life out in the garage with him and going with him to races. Ya I am peed that my Dad “Gave” Mike the Roadster my Dad has regretted this and wished he had keep it in his kids hands, that would still have it. It was never to be sold but what can you say Mike I really never had history with this car. I only know he has no respect for my Dad by selling it. If you like to respond. footprintsinclay@msn.com

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