by Mark Smith
It would be no use hiding the fact that I had a love / hate relationship with the Triumph Dolomite. It was a great shame. The Dolomite was a pretty looking car by 1970’s standards. It was, we are told, a fast car too. It was designed to take on the models being produced by the German automobile manufacturer, BMW.
I recall a friend buying a Triumph 1500 which may or may not have borne the “Dolomite’ label but I can’t remember and I’m afraid I am not that well versed in the multitude of similar cars produced by British Leyland under the Triumph name but his car was great! It ran well, drove well and looked fantastic in white.
My Dolomite was nothing like that. Oh yes, it looked good but under the skin it was a mess. It is well known that these cars leaked oil even before they left the factory, but mine had multiple leaks brought on by age and lack of maintenance over the years before it came into my hands.
I did what I could. I had the gearbox rebuilt, I had the springs and shock absorbers replaced, I overhauled the brakes and did the best I could to patch up the rusting front wing tops but the transmission needed majorly overhauling as did the engine.
It didn’t smoke, but it was very noisy and not a pleasant place to be at over 50mph on any road. Driving it at speed gave me a headache. But don’t misunderstand me, I LIKED the car. I used to love pottering around the town in it or driving our local country lanes. It was comfortable, never found a Triumph of the period that wasn’t. The best seats of any British Marque and model in the 70’s.
It was roomy inside too but something was lacking. I can’t put my finger on it but this particular example of the Triumph Dolomite just didn’t do it for me. I tried, really I did but when the engine started playing up for no apparent reason and even conked-out on the way to a local car meet one Saturday lunchtime recently, that was it. It had to go.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining and it seems that whoever ‘they’ are, ‘they’ were right! The evening of the same Saturday that the Dolomite threw its toys out the pram, I saw a post on Facebook by a friend who shared an advert he had just put on a Classic sales site advertising his 1952 Triumph Mayflower. It was love at first sight!
I knew this was the car for me and contacted him straight away and said I wanted it. Only slight hiccup was the small matter of having to sell the Dolomite first due to the Classic enthusiasts nemesis - lack of storage space and money! Space was the main issue but if I could off-set the cost of buying the Mayflower by at least getting some money back on the Dolomite, that would be a big bonus.
My friend explained that the car would not be going anywhere as he was off on holiday the next day so immediately I listed the Dolomite on eBay and sat back and waited. I had some 120 people watching the car so, despite the lack of bids, I felt confident. Sat watching the screen as the auction wound down, waiting for the bids to flood in at the last minute…..but they didn’t! I had three bids but they didn’t reach my reserve.
I suggested either ring or text me by 9pm the next evening with an answer and there would be no hard feelings if he decided not to buy the car. The next evening, I waited for his answer. The evening wore on and eventually I had a text saying that he couldn't decide and I should re-list it. I thanked him for letting me know and sat back to think what my next move should be.
I decided to contact the highest bidder and offer it to him. I had just done so when I had another text from the other man saying he had changed his mind and would be up the next day with a trailer to collect the car. I apologised to the highest bidder and explained what had happened and he was very good about it. The next day the prospective buyer was as good as his word, collected the car and paid the agreed sum.
All in all it was a good result. Yes I would have liked more for the car but I think it went for what it was worth and I recouped what I had spent on it so I broke even. The next issue was how I was going to get the Mayflower over from Wolverhampton. This challenge was very generously solved for me when my friend said he had a friend with a vehicle transporter and he would help me with the cost.
The fee was £150 but if I agreed to pay £50, he would stand the rest. What a nice chap - I didn’t have to think twice about that one! Ian then contacted his friend Nick who said he could deliver the car on Saturday 23rd September if that was OK with me. Again, didn’t have to think about that twice either!
It was a long week. I didn’t think Saturday would ever arrive! Eventually it did but it was going to be a hectic morning. Georgia had a Brownies seaside trip so had to be at the meeting place for 8:30am and our family Citroen had to be at the dealership by 9am for MOT and service. Luckily, the meeting point for the Brownies trip was not far away, so Christine walked Georgia there and I drove the Citroen to the garage.
I then had three hours to kill. There was no point in walking home as by the time I would have got there, it would be time to turn around and head back. Luckily, I had taken the latest book I am reading about Donald Campbell and the Bluebirds and the time went by fairly quickly. I left the dealership just after noon and stopped by our local corner shop to pick up the Saturday paper. The shop is run by a lovely family and I had told the owners son about the Mayflower so he asked me how things were going.
I showed him a photo on my ‘phone and explained that I was off home now to await the arrival of the car. He suddenly looked out the window and exclaimed, “It’s just arrived!’ I turned in surprise and followed the direction of his gaze and blow me down, he was right! Nick had stopped right outside the shop and was waiting to turn right into the road that our road is off of!
I hastily bid farewell and charged out of the shop, called to Nick and Ian who was following the transporter in his own car and tried to cross the road to the Citroen parked opposite. Why is it when you are in a hurry, an otherwise fairly quiet road turns into a slip road for the M1? It seemed to take me ages to get across to the car but eventually I made it and I pulled out to follow them both to our house.
I had told Nick it would be a good idea to back down our road as it is a cul-de-sac and he would struggle to turn around at the bottom. He managed this without incident despite the huge amount of cars parked on either side of what is a narrow road at the best of times and proceeded to unload the Mayflower which Ian had informed me was known as ‘Mildred’.
This was the first chance I had so far had to see the car in the metal and it was everything I had been told it was. The car is solid, structurally sound and just in need of some TLC to the bodywork. Nothing nasty, just some surface rust here and there. The inside is lovely but needs a new headlining. This car is just right, in good enough condition to drive as it is (subject to the fitting of a supplied new master brake cylinder that I was aware of before buying) but enough little jobs to keep a fettler occupied.
The car was unloaded and after having a good look around it, Ian started it up. What a lovely sounding engine! It purrs! Nothing like the engine of the Dolomite. Nick had to set off for home but Christine and I got in the Mayflower and Ian drove us round to my lock-up garage where I was introduced to Mildred properly. Afterwards, I had my first go at driving her as I backed her into the garage and locked her up safe and sound. I can’t wait for a proper drive in her but that will have to wait for another day.
Click on images to enlarge
After checking that the garage was secure, the three of us walked back to our house and Ian and I completed the paperwork. I had swapped the insurance over from the Dolomite to the Mayflower on Friday, taking effect from noon Saturday and during the afternoon I went online and sorted the tax out on the DVLA site.
The car is now officially mine and is legally ready for the road once the braking issue has been fixed. It goes without saying that I can’t wait to take my first proper drive in Mildred but this will be dependant on when Wally at my local garage can get her in to swap the master brake cylinder. Hopefully he can fit the car in during this coming week.
So, there we are. The Dolomite has gone on to pastures new and hopefully will get the care and attention I was unable to give it in the end and Mildred Mayflower has entered our lives. Mildred is like an elderly Great Aunt; stately, dignified, a bit frilly round the edges and probably going to be grumpy at times but no doubting she is one of the family.
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