by Brian Allison
My father didn’t want me to be a mechanic. He’d spent his whole working life apart from his stint in the R.A.F. during the war as a worsted weaver in Huddersfield’s woollen mills. Hard, noisy work producing the finest worsted cloth in the world. His words not mine.
He wanted something better for me and had, without my knowledge, already made soundings about a position for me as a trainee textile designer.
My mother didn’t want me to be a mechanic! She would really have preferred me to have any sort of office job as long as it did not involve hard manual work. Presumably because I’d never shown any great enthusiasm for anything of that kind.
I didn’t want to be a mechanic! Probably because although I didn’t fancy the idea of sitting in an office all day I didn’t want to do anything that involved particularly hard work.
So it’s 1958 and almost suddenly it seemed I came to the crunch, time to get a job !
You know I often shake my head in wonderment when I hear youngsters nowadays saying how hard it is for them, entertainment so diverse as to make choosing which option to take the most difficult decision of the day for them. I’d have given my right arm for the chance of a gap year.
Enough you moaning old so and so, I can hear you saying. What’s that got to do with cars ? O.K., so how to get a job, and what job ?
After a few hours thought, (mostly during class during my final months as a schoolboy), I realised I had a genuine interest in the mysteries of Electricity and decided that an electrician's life was for me. So off I went, doing the rounds of all the electrical engineering firms in town seeking an apprenticeship.
At the end of a fortnight I had offers of a job from – nobody. They all had apprentices coming out of their ears. So no joy there. Time for a rethink.
My father had never owned a car, not surprising really as I was one of eight children, and although we never really wanted for anything essential, a weaver didn’t exactly earn a fortune. My elder brother however on returning from his national service , in partnership with his best mate, bought an Austin Seven Ruby. A little black beauty.
Naturally in common with most cars of that period it was not immune to occasional malfunctions. When such an event did occur either they would manage to fix it themselves or call in another mate, ( one who actually seemed to know what he was doing), to help them out.
When this happened one day and I was watching the mate fitting a new head gasket I had that eureka moment. The electrical world’s loss was going to be the motor engineering world’s gain. I was going to be a motor mechanic !
After my experiences seeking a electrical apprenticeship I was determined to be well prepared for my search, so I spent the next few afternoons in the local reference library determined to have at least a little knowledge with which to dazzle any potential employer. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was to be the start of a lifelong love affair with a certain make of car.
Among the books I studied was one on engines which explained the basics of how an engine worked, followed by descriptions and diagrams of the various types of engine, side valve, overhead valve, overhead camshaft and one that really grabbed my attention. The overhead inlet – side exhaust as fitted to a prominent manufacturers offerings. I thought the idea of having a combustion chamber in the block instead of the head, and a completely flat cylinder head was pure genius.
Especially so after reading how this layout with its shaped piston head created a magical thing in the combustion mixture called squish and swirl which apparently caused more efficient combustion leading to greater power and smoother running.
My love affair with Rover was well and truly born !
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