by Daniel Bysouth
The first day of my apprenticeship had gone well and my second-ever job - a Jensen - didn't turn up till late in the afternoon, so it was the next morning that Keith and myself were told about the fire damage the car had suffered.
It was a Jensen Interceptor 111 that the firm's breakdown driver, Mick Amos, towed into the top floor workshop called the CBR floor ( coach building repairs ).
The driver, a very posh lady, was driving along one of our dual carriageways when she saw smoke coming from the centre console dash area. Swiftly pulling over, she jumped out and flapping her hands around, attracted the attention of a approaching tanker lorry, who fearing the worst, stopped then grabbed the massive fire extinguisher in his truck and promptly emptied the entire contents inside the smoking Jensen. Luckily, that did the trick.
We were faced with sorting the vehicle out and returning it to the owner in A1 condition. First job, push it outside and get hoovering. That was easier said than done as the extinguisher was huge and as a result the whole off the interior was at least 4 inches thick in powder. 2 hours we were in there sucking up this nasty stuff. It was like trying to juggle soot, as soon as you did one bit, a load more appeared.
When we got out of the car, we stood in the brilliant sunshine and all of a sudden we started falling all over the place, stumbling around and we couldn't stop laughing! We felt as drunk as a mattress! The bodyshop manager, Mr. John Spillings came to see what was going on as we had quickly attracted a bit of an audience. He knew something was wrong, as he knew Keith would never be drunk as Keith was Mr Spillings apprentice years before, and Keith was teetotal. Me he didn't know and I could very well have been leading his ex apprentice astray.
He straight away called both the ambulance & the fire brigade. We were just sitting in the sun looking like a couple of drunks and we couldn't care less. The ambulance men duly arrived to assess us and said we should have worn masks. It's common sense when you think of it now, but they assured us we would be ok in a couple of hours.
The fire brigade were looking at the Jensen, dressed in full ventilators, and after identifying the powder said that the only other after effect could be a touch of Delhi belly. It was just like having a night on the town, and having a curry on the way home, and we got paid for it! Mann Egertons was like a close family and soon the word went round that poor old Keith, who never had a drink in his life in 30 odd years, had only spent one day with the Honey Monster (me) and was stoned right away. ( I carried my Honey Monster nickname from school).
It was all good natured and was the talk of the firm for weeks. Next day we had a look at the Jensen and the only problem we ever found was a rocker switch near the centre console had a fault and had got a little hot. It wasn't burnt but the switch housing had smoldered, hence the smoke! We put a new switch in , tested it and it was fine. Our electrician said it was a small fault and would not have been a major problem. So thank you Mr lorry driver, or as Keith put it "Don't use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut!"
That Friday I was told that Keith was on holiday for the next two weeks and I would instead be assisting the number one coachbuilder, Mr Anthony Roland Pooley, known to everyone as 'TOOTS'. We were to become great mates in the future, but in that next week we would face the mammoth job of lifting the body off the chassis of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud 111.
The following two weeks were a real baptism of fire, but it was all part of my ongoing apprenticeship.
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