I’ve often complained here about how irritating it is having to go and collect the Traveller before a run out, simply because I haven’t the room to garage it at home and wont leave it out to the elements. And although I’m not personally into the Concours competitions (mainly because I’m too lazy to maintain the required standards), I do often hear moans from people who’ve spent hours detailing their car only to have rain on the morning of an event spoil the effect. So I got to thinking: Is there a cover on the market that could help in these circumstances?
After a bit of research, I decided to talk to Cover Your Car and look at their range of covers specifically designed for the Minor. I had some rather old-fashioned preconceptions about covers, remembering the flappy tarpaulins that would disappear as soon as the wind got up, scratch the paint getting them on and off, and trap moisture underneath that kept the car wet even when it was dry outside. It was a hugely pleasant surprise to find that covers have moved on immeasurably since then, and CoverYourCar showed me four different types of cover – the Sahara, Voyager, Monsoon, and Stormforce – all custom-tailored for a Morris Traveller. Their covers weren’t cheap (the top one costs about £150) and I really wanted to see if it could justify its cost. After chatting to their representative, I opted for their ultimate cover, the Stormforce, and waited patiently for it to arrive.
The first surprise was how neat it was, in its own tailored ‘carry-bag’, which had for once been designed with getting its contents back into it in mind! It wasn’t as heavy as I expected it to be either – I revised my thoughts that it would be left at home all the time and decided that I’d simply put it in the boot in case I should need it at a show, etc. Unfortunately my own Traveller wasn’t available at the time the cover arrived, and eager to have a look I temporarily loaned it to a friend who was about to go on holiday and leave his own Traveller outside for two weeks. Unpacking it from the bag showed that it was thoughtfully designed, with underbody securing straps and even little ‘bunny ears’ for the mirrors.
This is where we noticed our first minor negative with such detailed covers – they are obviously designed around a perfectly standard car. The cover is too precisely tailored for the car to accommodate a roof aerial, for example, or the ‘kidney cutter’ headlight eyebrows that many of us have. Unscrewing the aerial and releasing the screw that holds the headlight surround which locates the eyebrows is only the work of a couple of minutes, though, so its hardly a major flaw. My own Traveller has ‘peephole’ mirrors on the door frame, although these too unscrew from their bases in just a few moments, but I must remember to do that or the cover simply wont fit.
After laying the cover over the roof of the car, we stopped for a moment to talk about the covers construction. The cover has four distinct ‘layers’, starting with a super-soft lining on the car side which wouldn’t worry owners about scratching the paintwork. The second layer has a ‘breathable’ membrane which Cover Your Car claimed would allow moisture out but not in, and given the weather we were keen to see if it lived up to their claims. The third layer is padded, forming a gap between the lining and the outer layer which is UV resistant and wipeable to get rid of the inevitable bird crap. All four layers are then bonded together, and again the attention to detail is shown with things like double-stitched seams and elasticated hems at the front and back.
My pal put the cover on himself to see if it was a one-man job and I took some pictures. Presuming you’re not putting it on in gale-force winds, one man can fit the cover in about seven or eight minutes start to finish. That’s easy enough to make it a realistic proposition to cover the car Saturday night on the rally field at the National, for example, to ensure that if it rains during the night you don’t have to do it all again while everyone else is having breakfast on Sunday morning. I’m not entirely sure what the mirror pockets purpose is, though – they kept falling off the mirror while the cover was going on, and the mirrors themselves (once ‘folded’ in against the bonnet) are protected under the cover anyway. Once fitted, we ran the optional locking kit cable round the underside through the eyelets, but to be honest I don’t think it adds anything in terms of outright security because the eyelets are plastic and would easily be ripped off by a thief. It does prevent the chap in the car next door lifting it up and dropping some bird crap on the bonnet so he can get your first place though!
While my friend was away we had some horrific weather, with a couple of major thunderstorms and some localised flooding again. I did think about popping round to his house to check on the car but resisted the temptation until he got back and we inspected the car to see how the cover had fared. Despite the very high winds (my neighbour lost a couple of ridge tiles and a fence panel) the cover was still attached just as it had been left. As you can see from one of the pictures, the outer layer was still very very wet as it was taken off – the last serious downpour was only the previous day. Underneath, though, the car was absolutely bone-dry. For comparison’s sake, we also looked at his son’s Mini which had been covered with a more conventional single-layer cover, and the bodywork on that was still wet everywhere. More importantly, the Mini also had condensation on the windows showing that there was moisture inside the car, while the Traveller had none. This was genuinely impressive – there’s no point in covering your car and keeping water inside the cover – so the one-way membrane had indeed done ‘just what it said on the tin’. Finally, the cover, once dry, fitted easily back inside its bag (only those who’ve ever tried to get a tent back into its carrybag will know the frustration of a bag that is exactly big enough and not a millimetre more!).
So, does the Stormforce justify its price-tag? In one word: easily. I was hugely impressed with its resistance to the weather, and its ease of fitting and removal. I’ll be more than happy to keep the Traveller at home more often and just cover it up, knowing that it will emerge from the cocoon exactly the same way as it was put away, no matter how much rain has fallen or how many migrating birds had picked my trees as a suitable stop-off point. I’ve got no hesitation in recommending Cover Your Car to readers, and the final icing on the cake is that from reading their site I see they’ve knocked 10% off their prices, so their top cover is now £135 including VAT and delivery here.