by Graeme Moore
It may be of interest to group members to know that the love of classic cars is alive and well in Thailand, as last Saturday the Classic Car Friends Pattaya held its second classic car show as per the flyer below. It was a great event with a mixture of British, European and American cars on display.
I was duly present with my 1979 Jaguar XJ6. I’ve included a few photos of other British cars on display. One of the sponsors was LIQUI MOLY well represented by two lovely ladies as you can see in the photo of the Austin Healey. Of particular interest was the 1946 Austin 8 and the exquisitely restored 1964 Bentley S3 that was also very much admired.
It’s interesting the number of Thai people who own and / or are interested in classic cars, so it’s not only the expatriate community. For example both of the Bentleys displayed at the show are owned by Thai gentlemen. I had some interesting conversations with some of the owners. For example, the guy who owns the 1946 Austin 8 is from Austria and he says that the car was manufactured in the UK in 1946, but exported to Thailand in 1947, apparently as a military vehicle.
There were also some classic motorcycles on display, mainly British, but including an American Harley Davidson. I took a few photos of these as well for your interest.
by Eddy Glass
The first car to run on petrol was built in 1885 by Karl Benz. We have come a long way since then. But sadly cars of today have lost their character and soul. They are all about zero emissions and good MPG but unfortunately when they go wrong you need nothing short of a rocket scientist and the latest software to fix it, gone are the days when you could tinker with your old Ford Cortina to get it running when it wouldn’t start. Cars were mechanical machines and not computerised boxes.
Marques like Jaguar BMW Audi and Porsches are now pandering to the luxury SUV market. So gone are the times you could tell an XJS from a 635 coupe from a 911 Turbo just by looking at them. So, you see they have sold their soul. But now it is all about money and not style. I wonder if Morgan will follow suit with their version of a Chelsea tractor.
I left school at 15 and went to work in a back street garage in south London as an apprentice mechanic where I cut my teeth on Ford Capris Escort’s Minis Austin 1100s and the like. They were simple and easy to work on. I progressed and got my own body shop after and was in the motor trade for over 35 years most of which was spent as a car dealer and literally 1000s of cars have passed through my hands most of which are now classics and worth thousands but then they were every day cars worth hundreds or less. They were just bread and butter cars.
I am a petrol head and have always loved cars so I was lucky to have a job I loved. During the next few weeks I shall be covering some of the cars that have passed through my hands and hope you can reminisce with me if you are that way inclined. Are you just a motorist or are you a driver?
These days most households have more than one car but when I was a kid there were only a few cars in my road and I could tell which make and model they were just by sight from a young age, the American style rear lights on a Ford Anglia, the wood on a Morris Traveller and the sheer size and presence of a Mk 10 jaguar etc.
Now I have to look at the badge just to tell what make a car is as they all look the same. To some people a car is just a mode of transport but to many they are works of art. Some love vintage cars like the model T Ford, MG J2 and Austin 7, some like American muscle cars and some the British classics. I like the last two groups and would often be found at classic car shows admiring the work people put into these beauties. It’s a labour of love.
My era was the 80s and 90s where I had several Arthur Daley car lots, you know the ones, a caravan for an office, twenty or so old bangers and plenty of bunting to let people know we were there. You could choose from a 3.0 litre Capri for £895 a 1960s Mini for £450 a series 2 Jag for £995 and so on. They were all ‘cheapies’ as we called them and they sold like hot cakes. Of course I had more expensive cars to sell but preferred the cheapies as it was a quicker turn over. You could get a nice late mark 5 Cortina for £1500 or six bangers, I preferred the latter.
I often look on E Bay at these old bangers and let me tell you they certainly are not cheapies now. That 3.0 Capri is now £5k+ the Mini and Jag are in that post code too. If only I had kept a few for my pension! In the next article I will be discussing Jags, I will talk about the iconic E type of course but in my opinion there are better looking Jags than that and I don’t mean their new Chelsea tractor either.
By Mike Peake.
As with all old cars, the list of jobs to do wasn’t getting any smaller, but winter is the time to do them as I won’t be driving the car quite so often. It was time to crack on.
On the Isle of Wight tour, Super Enthusiast Man noticed the odd puff of black smoke from the back of Poppy and pronounced that I needed a carburettor rebuild. So, of course, the first thing I did on my return was order a rebuild kit from Burlen LTD. The kit turned up very promptly and immediately scared the life out of me.
You see, in all my years, I’ve never had to take a carburettor apart or indeed put it back together. So, to receive a bag of lots of really tiny unidentifiable bits, was a bit disconcerting. The instruction that came with it didn’t fill me with confidence either. It was just a diagram with numbered arrows pointing at lots of really tiny unidentifiable bits with the instruction “Remove in numbered order. Reassemble in reverse order.”
So I did the only thing I could do. I panic-watched “how to” videos on You Tube. The one I found was in three, 30 minute segments and was for the ES version of my carb as fitted to a GT6 he was restoring. So, not all of it was applicable to mine. In fact the only similarity seemed to be the lid.
Well I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, so I removed the carburettor from the car.
As Mrs FB had made it very clear that I was not to be allowed in the house with any more oily bits, I cleared space on the table in the bit of the garage I hadn’t turned into an office and started work with the new screw drivers I had bought specially and lots and lots of carb cleaner spray.
I removed the damper piston and undid the 4 screws holding the assembly lid in place and removed the lid. Everywhere I’d read and watched said to take extreme care when handling the metering needle because if you bend it, it can’t be saved. With this advice in mind, I decided to leave it in place as long as possible so I couldn’t bend it. I then turned the whole thing over to examine the bottom. The piston fell out of the top, bounced on the table and then onto the floor, bending the needle.
I said bad words, ordered a new needle and went to my Father in Law’s to see if he could make the lid shiny because obviously, a shiny lid will give it that extra performance boost.
The next day I was back at my workplace to finish the disassembly which went surprisingly smoothly apart from dropping the nut which holds the choke mechanism on. Of course, before even hitting the floor, the nut was swallowed by an errant wormhole which sucked it into another galaxy far away never to be found again. Not to worry though. I have a bag full of spare nuts, bolts and washers for when I come to rebuild.
Hours were then spent cleaning every internal nook & cranny of the carburettor body with gallons of spray and the new brushes and probes I’d bought specially, until not a speck of dirt was left inside. The old gasket material was absolutely horrible to remove. I had to resort to single bladed razor blades and fine wet and dry before, eventually, I had clean mating surfaces again.
However, I got bored. The dirt on the outside was really, really stubborn and even after resorting to Anita’s tooth brush and wet and dry, the outside components didn’t look as clean as I was hoping. The top was shiny though so hey ho.
Time passed. Due to the Christmas holidays, family commitments, work commitments, cold weather, fear and laziness, it was some time before I returned to the task. Finally, I could stand Simon Stock’s constant nagging no longer, so in the middle of February on an international rugby-free weekend, I was back at it and using the “plate” from the Triumph manual and photos SEM Gus Brooks took of Henry’s Stromberg (Mine didn’t come out), I began the task.
I started at the bottom and after replacing all the O rings and jet I refitted the metering jet assembly to the carb body making sure that it looked central. The adjusting screw was tightened up fully and then backed off 3 complete turns as a starting point for tuning.
I then fitted the new petrol inlet valve and the floats making sure that the pin holding the floats was spotlessly clean and smooth and then checked the height of the floats above the body. Specs said 17mm. Mine were 16.5mm without any adjusting so close enough I think. If you do need to adjust, there is a tab on the float frame that can be bent up and down to achieve the correct height. (B on the diagram)
Once all this was done I could fit the gasket and float chamber before moving onto the throttle assembly. I was in the zone now and fully concentrating on the task at hand and trying to figure out which way round the return spring went when a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses snuck up on me and made me jump out of my skin causing the spring to fly across the garage. Surprisingly, the Jehovah’s witnesses left unharmed and unaware of how close they came to being torn…. Well anyway, enough to say I restrained myself to a polite “no thank you” to their offer of a rain forest’s worth of literature and set about finding the spring which had missed the worm hole and come to rest on my socket set. I know! All praise Jehovah!
I returned to the zone and soon had the throttle assembly together. I’d fitted the new butterfly valve and shaft and made sure that I’d “split” the 2 screws to make sure they don’t fall out into the engine which would be bad, and got all the linkages fitted correctly. I’d even spotted the error on the diagram and made sure that the throttle link arm was fitted the correct way round (Item 15 on the diagram). I then spent the next 10 minutes proudly flipping the throttle open and watching it spring closed.
Next up was the choke assembly. The shaft was in place and all the linkages and springs were fitted correctly. I just needed to fit the retaining nut on the end. Yes, the inter galactic wormhole traveling nut. I dug out my bag of spare nuts, bolts and washers and found the correct size of nut. It wouldn’t fit on the shaft. Perhaps the thread is dodgy, I thought. So I found the corresponding bolt and tried the nut on it. It fitted and ran freely up and down the thread. Hmmmm. Interesting. Is it actually the correct size then? So I took the nut of the throttle assembly and tried it on the choke assembly. It fitted. I then tried it on my corresponding bolt. It fitted and ran freely up and down the thread. I have to say, I was a bit stumped to say the least. The only thing I could now do was dive down the wormhole myself and try and find the original nut. This involved emptying the entire garage to look for the nut on the unencumbered floor. It wasn’t there. Next I started to empty out all my boxes of left over plumbing bits, electrical bits, car polishing bits and leftover car bits from previous jobs.
Miracle of miracles, I found it! It was resting at the bottom of a box of floor tiles left over from the conservatory! It was quickly screwed into place and I’m still left wondering why my new nut wouldn’t fit. The only difference I could see was that the original nut had a flat face with the thread starting at the face. The new one was slightly countersunk from the face before the thread started. Never mind though. It’s all together now.
Finally, I was on the home straight. The diaphragm was fitted to the piston ensuring moulded tabs all lined up. The metering needle was then collected from its rarefied “safe place”. The endless layers of bubble wrap were removed, the plastic tube opened and the needle very carefully removed from its plastic tube. I fitted it to the base of the piston and slotted the assembly home into the carburettor body, again making sure that the moulded tab on the diaphragm lined up with the slot in the body. I then very quickly fitted the lid before I could do something stupid and bend the needle again.
Another 30 minutes was spent breathing deeply, de-stressing and admiring my handiwork. I was feeling very pleased with myself and took that incredibly complicated diagram into the house, shoved it under everyone’s noses and proclaimed loudly that “I’ve done it!” they were all suitably impressed, but my bubble was burst when my eldest daughter said “do you think it will work when you put it back on the car?” Humph! Such little faith in her old Dad!
Anyway, that was enough for me that day. My brain hurt and I was hungry. Time for a couple of beers and one of my home made Cornish pasties.
After a good night’s sleep which allowed me to recover from my mental exertions of the previous day, I was up at my lock up with a boot full of tools and a fully rebuilt carb ready to bolt it back on to Poppy’s plucky little engine. This was achieved in very short order. Accelerator and choke cables were reconnected along with the fuel and vacuum pipes. I even remembered to top up the dash pot with some fresh engine oil.
Now was the moment of truth. I turned the key with trepidation. My battery was flat so not a lot happened. Poppy was quickly connected to my Honda and I tried again. It took a while for the fuel to get there and a couple of false starts but she fired up and ran. I AM A GOD!!
As you can see from the video above she was running a little roughly and I was in danger of CO poisoning in my lock up so I disconnected the Honda and moved poppy out into the sunlight where some fiddling with the Idle adjust and mixture screws achieved a smoother engine note. The filter box was reattached necessitating another minor adjustment of the mixture screw and we were off for a test drive.
1st stop was for some fresh fuel as the stuff in the tank was leftover from the Isle of Wight tour and therefore a little stale. Then it was back home to show my family the fruits of my labour. Following another quick adjustment now the fresh fuel was coming through we were off around the green lanes to give Poppy’s newly rebuilt carb a full workout through the complete range of speeds and acceleration. She performed perfectly and even Mrs FB noticed that she now ran smoother and was a little more responsive. I knew that the shiny lid would add a little extra to the performance!
50 miles later a purring Poppy was snuggled away in her garage and we were home in time for a quick G&T before one of Mrs FB’s superb Sunday dinners with our cobwebs and cabin fever fully blown away.
Thanks for reading and we’ll be back soon. I have lots planned for Poppy this year and will keep you informed as I sink my incompetent teeth into the ever increasing “to do” list
Fatbloke and Poppy.
The things we do for you! A glimpse at the decidedly unglamorous life of your overworked Admin and blogger.
By Mike Peake
I’m fed up!
The girls are watching “I’m a Strictly X factor celebrity get me out of here apprentice come dancing” on the box and the groups are behaving themselves. So, I’m looking for something to do. My new metering needle for the Stromberg still hasn’t turned up so my carb rebuild is stalled. I can’t even finish my blog about it as there has only been one incidence of outstanding bumbling incompetence and a thousand word blog needs at least a couple to get full value. I can’t even have a row on Facebook as no one has put up anything stupid for at least 30 minutes.
So, to relieve my boredom and increase yours, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of life as a member and then an admin of a couple of large and successful Facebook groups. None of them were interested in sharing their experiences though so you shall have to put up with mine.
A bit of history first. I joined the illustrious EBMVBB1985 back in May 2015 as a refugee from another Facebook group about old British cars. I was completely fed up with the negativity and out and out rudeness shown there. Regardless of which British car was posted, someone would comment with a tired old cliché or just spew out and out vitriol and it was never long before the thread decayed into a bout of foul-mouthed name calling.
Now whilst I don’t deny that a lot of fun can be had baiting these sorts, even this pales after a while - especially when it is your own car that is receiving the abuse. So I was looking for somewhere a little more tranquil where the members were actually “enthusiasts” and we could enjoy and be enthusiastic about cars. Well the “clue was in the title” wasn’t it and it was time to see if it “did what it said on the tin.” (Sorry, but I was still living on a diet of clichés from the other group.)
Well, what an oasis of joy! There I was, scrolling through pages of posts of lovely British cars and no one trolling. Dare I? I did dare. I posted a pic of my car with a thanks for letting me join and I didn’t get abused. In fact, I was welcomed and complimented.
I did have a bit of a slip up on my first comment on another post. It was a “which do you prefer Mk1, 2 or 3 Capri?” post. Well as I’d had a poster of the 2.8i mk3 on my bedroom wall as a kid, I’d posted it in “the other group” and been roundly abused and called all sorts of a fool because it was German. Well seeing this post here, I innocently enquired if “the mk3 was allowed? Isn’t it German?” To which Gar commented “oh no! let’s not do this again!” Well I didn’t know what he meant so as I hadn’t chosen, my next comment was, “I’ll have the German one.”
Well imagine my horror when I returned to the thread to find my comments removed and an admonishment from Captain Sweeney himself saying “Mike Peake. You were warned!” I found out later that earlier that week, just before I joined, there had been a bit of a bad tempered discussion about what is and isn’t British.
It subsequently turned out that this group applied a "simple common sense" approach to questions of this sort, which I rather liked. Well I apologised profusely, promised Lemon Drizzle cake (It hadn’t won an award yet) and promised to behave myself. I was allowed to stay but the experience has left me slightly scarred.
(I'd just like to state for the record that I have no recollection of this exchange but since it resulted in cakey, who am I to argue? - Paul S)
I spent the next couple of months enjoying my time on Facebook much more than I used to, posting pictures and annoying Zebidee by pointing out the Heralds in every street scene picture posted. (It is almost guaranteed that there will be a Herald in every street scene photo or film taken in Britain between 1960 and 1980. It’s true, go and look.) Yes, this was the origin of “Oh look!”
In January 2016, Inspired by BL Dan Bysouth, I started what I thought would a short run of blogs detailing my trials and tribulations and joys of classic ownership. (Here we are on my 74th blog and 94,000+ words written. Sorry about that, but thanks for putting up with me for far longer than I ever expected.)
So, despite a rocky start I must have been doing something to get noticed in a good way as in March 2016 I was invited to help Admin the group and I was honoured to accept. (It was the cake, you fool! - Paul S)
I have to say, it wasn’t what I expected. There was no vast salary or corner penthouse office to come with the post. Apparently, the love of a well done job is payment enough, and I guess it is because here I am 2 years later.
The 1st task that the new guy is given is vetting member requests, which to be honest isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. The thrill of nosing through peoples profiles soon wears off as most of you are pretty dull on the whole especially when you are wading through hundreds a month when we were growing at our fastest. However, there were one or two memorable exceptions.
“Wilma Sussies” was one such memorable potential member. His profile was full of adverts for women’s clothes in male cut and sizes but nothing that suggested any interest in cars. Whilst I have absolutely nothing against cross dressers in any way, I felt that he would only be joining our group to promote his business. His profile picture was rather “Racy” for our sensitive members too (and also how I know Wilma was a “he”). Wilma was confined to the Lift Shaft of Doom without passing Go and without collecting 200 cakes.
You may be interested to know that we currently have 3830 permanently residing in our LSoD many of whom have been sent there directly as a result of our vetting procedures. Of the rest, surprisingly, most are sent there not for transgressing our rules, but for arguing with Admin or throwing all their teddies out of the pram after we have reminded them of the rules and pointed out how their most recent post broke them.
Some of the levels of vitriol and hate shown can be rather surprising and doesn’t always end when the individual is cast down. It is not unknown for the arguments to continue over private messenger. Accusations of Nazism, aspersions on parentage and even death threats are not uncommon - and you should see what they send back to us too. You wouldn’t believe it!
Usually, a casting down the lift shaft of doom is a quietly done affair. However, if the transgression is serious or there has been a spate of lawlessness, we may make an announcement in the group as we have noticed that our members do love a good public hanging and it serves as a reminder and deterrent and results in quieter evenings all round for us Admins.
Of course it isn’t all fighting and conflict. I’ve had some great opportunities to represent our group at some of the most prestigious events at the NEC. The recent “panel show” was definitely an experience. Of course there has also been the onerous Awards dinners which are the most difficult to bear but I’ve taken it for the team and will do so again if required.
I do love these 2 groups though and I am extremely proud to be a part of them. Knowing that, under the expert guidance of our Skipper Paul Sweeney, I am part of the team that has made this a safe place to enjoy our hobby with proper enthusiasts gives me a real sense of achievement. In addition, watching us all grow the group to the point where we are taken seriously and mixing with the big boys of the industry is an honour and a pleasure.
Best of all though are the friends I have made here and transferred to real life. People I didn’t know 3 years ago, I now consider some of my best friends and make interacting in the group so much fun and our real life meets the very best car events I have ever attended. They really are like family gatherings. (even down to Grandad getting a bit frisky after half a pint and that weird Uncle everyone is slightly wary of.)
So as it’s that time of year again, I’d like to say thank you to our great and illustrious leader, Captain Paul Sweeney for his vision and determination in steering our good ships in the right direction and the fantastic job he does in designing and running our website. I’d also like to thank our founder, John Simpson for laying down the keels, our ever enthusiastic events and merchandise coordinator Gar Cole for a great job done and the rest of my fellow deck hands Zebidee Habib, Steve Favill, Edwin Feenstra and Andrew Tanner for stoically bailing the bilge.
Most of all though a huge thanks to all our members for all your contributions and making this such a great place to be.(except Mr Stock. He’s very rude to me.)
Well slushy bit over. Normal service will be resumed soon as my metering needle has just turned up.
Have a very merry Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule, Huneker, Ede or whatever you are celebrating and a very happy new year.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
by Alan Warwick
It was my Dad, Fred, advising me to go into cars rather than motorbikes because the opportunities would be greater after finishing training. Dad tried to get me an apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Police in Hendon as well as Henley's, the famous Jaguar dealer at Henley's Corner on London's North Circular Road but neither organisation were able to take me. The Tottenham Youth Employment person knew Leslie Durdin, Managing Director of Capital Motors, Hornsey, a Vauxhall, Bedford ( trucks & vans ) and Scammell ( trucks and trailers) dealer.
I was interviewed by Mr Leslie Durdin and started my indentured apprenticeship in September 1965, having gained GCE 'O' levels in Maths, French , English Language, Physics and Technical Drawing at Tottenham County School, most of these 'O' levels coming in useful in my career.
Day one, 6th September 1965, was strange as they didn't seem to be expecting me and didn't know what to do with me so I was sent to work alongside a man in the Engine Shop rebuilding large truck engines, I remember fitting big end bearings.
Next day they seemed to have decided that I should be trained in the 'Stores' which was the motor trade expression for 'Parts department'. I was trained in using big, thick books to identify the part numbers for vehicle components and then finding and issuing the parts as well as helping unloading stock order deliveries and many menial jobs - being the youngest. I remember asking if we had Fire Alarm drill and was told 'you're not at school now, sonny' , how times change.
During the lunch times and whenever possible, I spent time in the workshop looking at the cars, vans and trucks and discovering more about the technical side of them, one colleague was Brian Stevens a former schoolfriend who taught me a great deal.
After several months in the stores, I went to the management and asked if they'd forgotten about me and they relocated me 'out' into the workshop. The first placement was a six months with the Electrician - Dick Marchant - from whom I gained good experience and several catch phrases including 'use your 'ead, save your 'ands' , which was good advice. I learned a great deal about workshop practice and vehicle electrics as well as going out on breakdowns which was always an adventure. One of my favourite jobs was fitting radios as that gave me the opportunity to listen to pop songs broadcast by the many 'Pirate' stations to the London area.
After the six months working alongside Dick, having started my tool purchasing, I was then placed with Fred Leif, the heavy commercial mechanic specialising in Diesel engines. I was NOT looking forward to that, away from cars, getting really oily and Fred was so OLD! Looking back, he was probably in his late fifties and chock-full of vehicle experience which he generously shared with me. Also, he always wore a tie, no health & safety, then!
Fred rarely referred to the manuals - he just knew what to do. We regularly removed Bedford TK truck engines, having first to disconnect the wiring etc and lifting the cab entirely off the vehicle, we didn't have a crane - just a couple of scaffold poles and several strong mechanic helpers! Fred dismantled the engine, throwing all the small parts, nuts and bolts into a large tray and then reassembled it, sometimes days later after waiting for parts, and knew where everything went-without any bits left over.
As an Indentured Apprentice, my Dad had signed a contract for me to complete the apprenticeship including my attendance at technical college on a “day release and evening” basis. The company paid for my training, probably with government grant assistance, and I had one day away from work ( on full pay ) to learn how to become a mechanic. I also had to return in the evening for other classes.
I quickly became best friends with two Peters, Cody and Lawson or Pete with a beard and Pete without a beard to family and friends. We used to take it in turns for our mums to give us dinner before returning for the evening, so we were friends with their families, too.
Initially we were in the “mechanics” stream but we soon were put in the higher grade of “technicians”, I passed Motor Vehicle Mechanics, City & Guilds examinations, with distinction and Technicians with credit as well as being presented with “Technician of the Year” award from The Institute of Road Transport Engineers in 1970. I went on to complete an additional 5th year for the management training involved to join the Institute of the Motor Industry (I.M.I. ) as an Associate Member in 1971. Subsequently, I became a Full member of the I.M.I
( Alan Warwick M.I.M.I. on my business cards )
During my time with Fred I was given one of my 'initiations’ to the Motor Trade, new de-greasing tanks had been delivered but (fortunately for me) not yet filled with a paraffin-like fluid. Several of my workmates grabbed hold of me and put me in a tank, closed the lid, sat on it and banged the side with hammers - could this have affected my hearing, subsequently?
Another time, I was put into a tube of 'mutton cloth’ or stockinette which was used to polish cars, then pushed in a wheelbarrow and deposited outside the Managing Director's office. One of the other apprentices was similarly mutton-clothed, put on a 6 foot canteen table and carried across Tottenham Lane outside and placed on the pavement. A passing lady told him “they're going to leave you here”
Because Fred had so many years experience, we got sent on a lot of breakdowns. Once we were repairing a Bedford TK truck on the M1 which involved getting inside hatches at the side of the cab, whilst under there Fred told me not to step back and admire my work - 'elf 'n' safety!
On another occasion, we were on the Southend Arterial Road stopped at traffic lights in our Breakdown Land Rover - now remember there's not much Fred didn't know about trucks - a lorry driver shouted over 'do you know anything about trucks?' Fred replied 'a bit, what's your trouble?' He had run out of diesel and wanted it bleeding having put more in but it wouldn't go because it had an air-lock in the fuel system. Even I could have bled it, never mind guru Fred. We got him going in minutes and got some 'beer money' which we used for non-alcoholic refreshments.
I ought to move on from Fred, now, as there were many other stories because I held him in high esteem. I think it was during this period that I bought my big socket set which I still have. It was about £20, and bearing in mind my weekly wages were around £6 10 shillings, the company bought the tools and deducted money weekly from our wages until they were paid for. Another deduction was the cost of overall cleaning which I remember REALLY resenting - they were essential for all workshop staff so WHY should we pay towards a company overhead!
After Fred and heavy truck experience, they put me with Goodwin Boodagee who came from an island off Africa, called Mauritius It just seemed from another planet to a boy from Tottenham. Boogy ( as he was known) was highly skilled on cars, getting all the complicated jobs including automatic transmissions ( gearboxes ) which we dismantled and had to wait a couple of weeks for parts to come from DETROIT, Michigan, USA! Remembering how to put this 3D jigsaw back together again was quite a feat, the owners patiently awaiting our efforts.
About the time I worked with Boogy, the overhead camshaft Vauxhall “slant 4” engine was introduced which was very advanced for its time but suffered from oil leaks which involved engine dismantling to put right. I appeared to be quite good at this job which required patience and attention to detail so Boogy left me to work on my own whilst he carried out other jobs which earned him bonus.
Ah! Bonus. This is how it worked and probably accounts for why we got a bad name as motor mechanics. ( I much prefer the word 'technician' which is used in the 21st century, I usually refer to myself as a 'motor engineer' ). Each 'job' carried a manufacturer's ' standard time' , say an hour to complete the job. If a mechanic amassed, say, 60 hours worth of tasks in a 40 hour week, then he was paid an extra 20 hours at the bonus rate. I never earned much bonus, partly because I wasn't very fast and partly because I would rather do the more interesting jobs that took longer than standard time. The best bonus jobs were routine servicing partly because you did them so regularly and got fast at them and partly because the apprentices could do them leaving mechanics free to do other, more complex jobs knowing that the apprentice was earning the bonus. Unofficially, the apprentices were given cash by the mechanics if they had earned well that week.
It was about this time that Vauxhall Dealers were involved with converting ordinary HB Vivas to Brabham Vivas by adding an extra carburettor, special exhaust system, other customer requirements and stripes across the bonnet and down the front wings sides. I enjoyed carrying these out as they were the sporty side of the job before the two litre Viva GT was released by the factory.
After Boogy I worked for Brian Inns for a short while carrying out general car repairs and servicing. Brian was three or four years older than me and quite a good mechanic as well as keeping me in line with my attitude and thinking both towards the job and socially. One memorable occurrence was the time he let me carry out the engine tune, spark plugs, contact breaker points, air filter and carburettor settings while he overhauled the brakes on a Victor 101.
He told me to let it back onto the floor and take it out into the yard, as I reversed (not slowly) across the 'shop, the brake pedal went straight to the floor and BOINNNNGG! I hit an iron support holding up the mezzanine floor. After replacing brake pads, the first press of the pedal brings them against the brake disc and the next press they start working - a lesson for my lifetime in cars. I can't remember if I was in trouble or whether Brian was because he ought to have pumped the brake pedal before letting the car onto the floor, I probably ought to have checked anyway.
Every now and then during apprenticeships we boys were used in the Cost Office where the charges for each job were worked out and the mechanics’ bonus calculated. I think this was when other staff were on holiday or times of staff vacancies. I was also drafted into Service Reception occasionally, which was my first experience of dealing with customers and I found that this was something I liked.
After working with Brian I was experienced enough to work 'on my own’ as it was termed, and I had passed out as an apprentice with the Managing Director noting on my “papers” …..an excellent student... deserves every success in his future career…... After a few months my friend Alan Potifer had left the company to move to Kent where housing was cheaper as he'd got married.
Alan had been one of three Service Receptionists and, as I'd had experience working in Reception, I approached the Service Manager and asked if I could have Alan's job - and I got it! One of the other service receptionists was called “Bill Bodger” - yes, really! Would you leave your car with Bill Bodger for service and repair?
The vehicles I had regularly worked on were Viva HA & HB Models, Victors ( FB & FC )
Cresta PA to PC ( including Viscount ) Bedford trucks, mainly TK, lots of Bedford CA vans and Scammell three wheel mini-tractor units which had to be split in half to replace clutches. Also I had to dismantle crashed cars prior to the paintshop doing their bit and then “fitting up” with grilles, bumpers and pieces of trim after painting.
by Callum Tooey
It's early November and my boss has just said I needed to book and take my leave before the end of the year, no need to tell me twice, I took a week in the middle of November and a few sporadic days here and there.
My younger brother found himself with nothing to do so I invited him to come and stay with me and avoid frustrations by working on my car, to my amazement this emotional manipulation worked and he was happy to come!
I told him about how work on Nutmeg had stalled due to the previous fuel issue and he asked to take a look, I figured why not and demonstrated the fact she would start on full choke only and die immediately when you tried to drive. Annoyingly he guessed this was to do with the choke not turning off correctly so after some cleaning with carb cleaner and lubricating the choke cable we had her started, running, and most importantly, driving again. Words cannot express how annoyed I was.
Still, with a car now able to be driven in and out of the garage we pulled her out into the daylight so I could show the extent of the work that was still required. My forever-optimistic brother declared that we WOULD have her on the road before my wedding in the new year (May 2019) and he was going to help me to fix her up before then.
We decided to work on mainly cosmetic items to begin with, under the bonnet was rusty and a previous owner had ripped out the headlining and rusted the roof for a 'rat look'. If this was going to be a wedding car it had to at least look presentable.
Our first task was treating the surface rust under the bonnet, I'd already ripped out most of the horrible 'shaggy carpet' insulation that was stuck to the underside just waiting for a spark to turn Nutmeg into a rolling shell but there was still bits left to do, and I wanted a good finish, so after covering the engine bay with a sheet we worked on cleaning off any remnants which took most of the day, but we got to work coating the bonnet underside with Aquasteel, this was a bigger job than it looked as there are various nooks and crannies that rust had seeped into and we wanted to make it as clean as possible.
We worked until it got too dark before retiring and letting the treatment cure.
The next morning we masked up and sprayed it black making sure to spray the bonnet hook for good measure.
Weather took a turn so we couldn't get much done for a couple of days, so during the next bout of much-needed dry weather we pulled her back out of the garage with the intention of sorting out the rather poorly operating brakes which do work but the pedal is pretty much to the floor. We took off a front wheel and checked the drums, and promptly scratched our heads.
Now my experience of drum brakes were that there was a dust cover which you remove, turn a cog with two screwdrivers and this brings the shoes closer to the drum but that wasn't the case with Nutmeg, after checking the manual we discovered we needed a tool for the adjuster screw which unfortunately, I didn't have in my tool kits. We put the wheel back on and I ordered new brake shoes and the tool to adjust them and we backed her into the garage as the weather looked to be turning.
We decided to use this time instead to make a start on the inner roof, using the rest of the Aquasteel (Don't worry, I've purchased more of it off eBay!) With enough for one coat we used it until the brushes went dry and then retired to let it cure.
We inspected it a few days later and decided it needed another coat but overall were quite happy with the result.
During this time the mesh I had ordered arrived which I was using to make a custom grill, having had no luck attempting to source a complete OEM unit. I'd ordered two boxes but quickly determined I would only require one, the mesh is black aluminium and a good thickness to be lightweight but strong and pliable.
We tested it in the gap left by the missing grill and it fitted almost perfectly, it even matched up to several holes in the body that could be used to affix it to the car.
By this point it was nearing the end of the week and I needed to take my brother back home so I left Nutmeg until a few weeks later when I had a couple more days off work. I used the time to finish off rust treating the roof, sprayed the inner roof black and attached the grill to the car.
I noticed my rear view mirror was looking rather shabby and I knew I had some silver paint I had mistakenly bought instead of black, with poor weather I made the decision to do this in the garage and used Nutmeg's bonnet as a work surface, covering her with a thick sheet to protect her...
I decided to spray the mirror with Zinc Galvanised paint as a primer before giving it a silver overcoat. This appeared to work a treat and by the following morning I had a shiny new-looking rear view mirror, I even gave the screws the same treatment so that they didn't ruin the aesthetics. I refitted the mirror without issue and admired it through the windscreen, with the sun now sparking off the stainless windscreen wipers I removed the sheet and DISASTER!
The silver paint had pooled on the sheet and seeped through onto the white paintwork underneath, square in the middle of my bonnet was a stubborn fist-sized patch of silver paint.. I pulled at my hair in desperation and anxiously picked at it but it was not coming off..
I was at a loss at what to do so I grabbed my cleaning products and got to work, a cleaner and a microfibre towel took off some remnants but the main patch remained there as stubbornly shining in the late afternoon sunshine, taunting me.
It was at this moment that my missus arrived back from their day out with the kids, she came to greet me and gave me her helpful insight "There's silver paint on there, can't you get it off?" grinding my teeth but refusing to admit defeat I told one of my kids to bring me a kitchen sponge and went to raid the metal racks at the corner of my garage. The previous homeowner had helpfully left tins of all sorts of chemicals and cleaners for general household jobs. I needed something abrasive but not strong enough to ruin my paint... and then I saw my saviour.. SUGAR SOAP.
I tested a small area and with no ill effects to the paintwork or finish I doused it and started rubbing in circles with the microfibre, small flecks of silver came off, I continued until one of my kids returned with the sponge so I tested the scourer side and this made short work of the remaining silver paint.
I wiped the sweat from my brow... Crisis averted!
To be continued...
By Mike Peake.
Sunday had us back in the hall bright and early ready for another day of playing “who’s got the best car layout”.
Well, of course WE did so let me introduce the rest of the cars on our stand.
Dale Scutter’s 1952 Hillman Minx is a proper “family car”. It was purchased by his father, Brian, in 1998 who took 4 years to restore it to the level we see today and it is an absolute credit to his skills. It really is a beautiful car. Sadly, Brian passed away last year but Dale has bravely and proudly picked up the baton of keeping it on the road for the rest of us to enjoy. There is even another generation waiting keenly in the wings as Dale’s daughter seemed just as proud as he is. Dale is also the custodian of another Hillman, a vintage caravan and a scooter courtesy of his father’s passion so we really are hoping to see much more of Dale in the future. He’s a top chap too!
Of course, no BEBVBM1598 event would be complete without another Brooks masterpiece and this show is no exception. This time it is the recently completed 1958 Standard Pennant. (Yes, Poppy’s Grandad!) As we’ve come to expect, it is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Even the chairman of the Standard Owners Club was heard to grudgingly admit that it was the 2nd best Pennant he’d ever seen, just before pointing out that it had the wrong hub caps. Praise indeed.
The Pennant is another celebrity with several appearances in ITV’s Heartbeat and the Royal.
The last car on our stand was supposed to be a favourite car and owner of mine. The lovely 1948 Rover 16 owned by Alan Crown. Sadly he had to pull out at the last minute due to ill health and was sorely missed by us all. We’d all like to wish you the very best for a full and speedy recovery Alan.
So, huge thanks are due to the Brooks brothers for stepping in at such short notice and bringing a vehicle that needs no introduction, but I’ll introduce it anyway. Apollo the Rover P5B Camper. Yes, I said a Rover P5B camper. For those of you that have been members for any length of time and haven’t been hiding under a rock, you will already know and love Apollo who has become somewhat of a mascot and flagship of our group.
For those of you that have been living under a rock or new members, put the shot guns and pitchforks away. Apollo was converted into a camper by his original owner way back in 1972 when you couldn’t spit without hitting one of these cars. No one is really sure why he chose this car to convert but he did and created a unique vehicle. The Brooks bought him at this show some years ago and worked their magic to produce the glorious, mad as a box of frogs, vehicle we see today. A wonderful mix of the old and new, he was, quite possibly, the most popular car of the show. There wasn’t a moment when he wasn’t surrounded by admiring muggles and he bought a smile to everyone that approached our stand.
Saturday had been ram packed full of visitors, so much so that it was very difficult to get around or close to anything. Sunday was a little quieter and I didn’t have any more celebrity showings so it gave us a chance to chat on the stand and get around and see a bit of the show in a much more relaxed manner.
First though, at 11 o’clock a 2 minute silence was held to commemorate the Armistice 100 years ago. At the sound of Big Ben’s chimes, all halls fell completely and eerily silent. All the hum and noise of thousands of people just cut out while everyone reflected and remembered. It was actually quite moving and impressive.
Unfortunately, we did have a bit of an incident at about midday, when Gar and Gus were arrested by site security for stealing the seats out of a car in the car park, but we managed to smooth it all over in the end and I was able to have another mooch around the halls between manning the stand.
Now I make no big secret out of being a bit of a Triumph fan and have always quite liked the little front wheel drive 1300 but never really been up close to one until now, and this one had the bonnet up. Imagine my surprise then, when I noticed that someone had put the engine in the wrong way round!
It’s a front wheel drive car with the engine fore and aft instead of transverse. Why on earth did they do that? I thought Issigonis had already proved that the transverse is a much more efficient way of mounting an engine on a FWD car? (Answers on a postcard please) It was a jolly nice looking car though.
This is another car that caught my attention.
I’m seriously thinking of getting one of these for our tours as it could be very useful in keeping away pink Rialtos that get too close to members cars. What do you think? Crowd Fund anyone? (What? Too soon?) (Sorry Kevin, Couldn’t resist)
Of course we then had to play "Squeeze the fat blokes in a small space" and it fell to the Flat-Nose Morris to provide the space. Actually it was surprisingly roomy, but I don’t think the suspension will ever be the same again.
There were lots of others cars we wanted to play this game in, but unfortunately, the owners weren’t keen. Can’t imagine why.
Oh, and keep a close eye out for this car in the future. I’ve a feeling we may be seeing a bit more of it soon, but Shhhhh, don’t tell Allison Brooks
The show was coming to a close so our thoughts turned to a group photo for the annuls. As you can see, our early attempts weren’t up to much and we were having trouble getting everyone in the same place at the same time.
So, we decided to kidnap the Boston Classic Car Club stand to make us look busy and happy and slightly less scary. Most of them are our members too. Much better, don’t you think?
Of course there was a moment when we heard that the Artisan Bakery stand was having an end of show sale, so, as we hadn’t had enough cake over the weekend apparently, a small stampede ensued.
I think this was my favourite group picture of the weekend though. It shows what a family group this is with 3 generations of members attending. Grandad, Gus Brooks, Dad Kurt Lawrence and little Seth Lawrence whose favourite car was definitely Bernard’s Moggie. The photo was even shared by the NEC Classic car show Instagram account. As Gus said, when our club gets together, it really is like a family outing.
Sadly, the show came to an end and apart from breaking up a potential fight between the Austin 7 Club and the Period and Classic Caravan Club, the breakdown went well and sad farewells were said to all.
So, a massive thank you to John and Elaine Fisher, Matt Harris, Ian ‘windy’ Woodward and Bernard Owen, Dale Scutter and Gus and Tosh Brooks for showing their beautiful cars and manning the stand. A weekend like this is a huge commitment in both time and money and we really appreciate your support. Thanks also to all our members that came and said hello and shared cake with us.
As always, it is great to see you all and put names to faces. It was also great to see so many members on other stands with their cars. Paul Clappison, Lincoln Hunt, Chris Allan, Andy Gardner, Graham Boxhall and the Boston Classic Car Club, to name but a few. Keep spreading the word chaps!
Biggest thanks of all go to Gar Cole and Paul Sweeney whose tireless behind the scenes organising and form filling made all this possible along with the help of our sponsors Dave Youngs of Lancaster Insurance and Phil Allin of Alveston Press.
Finally, no event report would be complete without a picture of our glorious Fat Controller of Events, Gar Cole.
See you all soon,
Your Celebrity Club Administrator.
By Mike Peake
Saturday morning found me winding down a country lane looking for the Brooks who needed a lift in. Needless to say, Gladys the sat nav wasn’t very helpful and I was reduced to asking the local postie for directions. I finally found them and whisked us all to the NEC, trying to blank out the continuation of last night’s micky taking.
The 1st hour and a half in the halls is a bit of a haze for me as I was a quivering nervous wreck with my time split equally between the “facilities” and hiding behind Apollo blubbing like a little girl.
Mrs FB arrived with my daughters and then bolstered my confidence by beating me around head and telling me to “pull myself together”.
It was time to head to the stage and I felt like a man on the “gallows walk” but I made it there and mounted the stage with my fellow death row inmates from the Jowett club and 2CVGB.
I perched on the ridiculous “boy band” bar stools and just waited for the axe to fall in the shape of the rowdy chorus of “who ate all the pies” that I was expecting from my friends. It didn’t happen and I felt a modicum of relief and thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
Danny Hopkins (Editor of Practical Classics) introduced the segment and we were off. He then asked the 1st question … directed at … ME! It was quite a simple question. He asked me to tell everyone my name and which group I was representing. Of course I immediately forgot the answer to both but it didn’t matter because as I tried to stutter out something, anything, bumbling incompetence struck. My microphone didn’t work. I don’t think it was my bumbling incompetence as I really hadn’t had it long enough to break it, but it wasn’t working. It was soon swapped for a functioning one and having accidentally gained some thinking time, I finally stuttered out the correct answers.
Between trying to maintain my balance on the ridiculous stool and concentrating on the questions and my answers, I forgot my nerves and made it all the way to the end without completely embarrassing myself or the club. There wasn’t even the slightest heckle from my friends! I’d like to think this was out of respect for me and my position with the club, but suspect that it is far more likely that they were scared into good behaviour by a glaring Mrs FB and the threat of the withdrawal of cake privileges.
Well, with that ordeal over and done with, it was back to the stand for a celebratory slice of cake and a cup of coffee. Everyone was polite enough to say that it had all gone well and I’d done a good job, but I was holding a knife at the time.
With my adrenaline levels ebbing I could relax and mooch around the halls for a bit with my family and we had a very nice time of it. The highlight for Emily-Fleur was when a celebrity even higher in the lists than me actually spoke to her. It was Lewis Hamilton’s Dad and I don’t think she’ll ever forget his words. He said “Oh! Sorry! I didn’t see you there.” I’m sure that this was all down to my own new found celebrity status.
My celebrity status also made it possible for Tosh Brooks to smuggle Nick and I into the VIP auction area. I could really get used to this. However, he soon had me thrown out again when I started bidding on an SS Jaguar using his auction ID number.
Jaguarless, I returned to mooching the halls with my family having a great time discussing which cars we would take home with us if we could. Of course Anita and Emily were going to take all the minis home but Sophie was torn between the TR7s and MG Midgets.
Me? Well almost everything! However, this little gem caught my attention.
Yes, I’m sure it’s not to everyone’s cup of tea but holds a place in my heart as it was my Mum’s 1st car. Hers was a Talbot Horizon, but otherwise identical to this one. Mum learned to drive later in life and actually only passed her test (1st time) a year or two before me. Therefore my Mum, me and my younger brother all learned to drive in this car. The poor thing. My brother is the only one in our family, including my daughters, that didn’t pass his test first time, but we barely mention it these days. We barely mention the fact that there wasn’t a single undented panel left after he’d finished with the car either.
Whilst on our mooch, we bumped into fellow member, Andy Gardner on the TR youth stand where amazingly, he’d actually remembered to bring his classic car with him this time. It’s a jolly nice TR7 that he has shoe horned a really, really big V8 into. He immediately fell back down to young idiot status again when he admitted that both Harris Mann and Lewis Hamilton’s Dad had been chatting to him on the stand but he forget to get photos with them or get Mr Mann’s signature on his boot lid. Like I said, Idiot! He’s even got a rosette to prove it.
Of course there was plenty more to see in the vast acreage of displays and here are a few of my favourites.
No selection of my favourites would be complete without me boring you with yet another pic of that 1930’s Triumph Dolomite. But no! it’s not the red coupe this time but a black saloon showing off that incredible waterfall grill.
Oh OK. The red coupe was here again too.
Another car that grabbed my attention for personal reasons was this absolutely mint Vauxhall Viceroy with its 2500 straight six engine that I believe it shared with the Bedford vans. Only 2290 of these cars were made by Vauxhall. Not out of any ideas about limited editions, I just don’t think it sold very well.
Why do I like it so much? Well I had one. It was my 2nd car when I was 19 or so. It used to waft me effortlessly between Swindon and London to see the future Mrs FB in velour clad luxury. Nothing puts a rose tint on your glasses more than nostalgia, but I did love that car. I had to sell it in the end though, because I took a job in Reading and I couldn’t afford the petrol bill this monster was producing on the daily commute from Swindon. Ahhh… happy days. Mine was white with a black vinyl roof registered RLF 410W and sadly, hasn’t survived. I hadn’t seen another one in the flesh since I sold mine back in the early 90’s so this was a real treat for me.
It was soon time for my ladies to head to their various homes and I headed back to man the stand for the last couple of hours and eat cake before a pleasant evening meal in a Harvester. I had a much more relaxed evening than the last one.
To Be continued …
By Mike Peake
How about that then? Nick Arthur came up with a new title for me and I like it much better than Bumbling Incompetent Fool, so I think I’m going to use it for a while. I’ll explain later, but don’t worry, I won’t forget my roots!
Well that was another epic success at the groups 2nd showing at this prestigious event. The Lancaster Insurance Classic Car show with Discovery, at the NEC in Birmingham.
Our beloved Fat Controller of Events, Gar Cole, outdid himself yet again with a wonderful collection of cars and owners all beautifully displayed in Hall 8. The cars looked great too. Annoyingly, work got in the way a bit so I missed set up and didn’t arrive until Friday afternoon to be greeted with a very professional looking stand.
So let me introduce you to some of the cars and their owners.
First up is this 1966 Mini Crayford Convertible owned by the delightful, if slightly bonkers John and Elaine Fisher.
Oh! Sorry. Wrong pictures. This isn’t how it appeared on our stand, but how it was discovered. Now, most people would have looked at that and thought ”how sad, a lovely rare little Mini that has gone to meet its maker, fallen off its perch and is, indeed, an ex Mini.” But not John. He looked at it and thought, “that will fix up alright”. Yes, as I said, “slightly bonkers.”
Quite an Improvement isn’t it? So, although bonkers John was correct, but before you witty wags start, it took a lot more than the miraculous “bit of T-Cut”. It took an epic and substantial rebuild which eventually turned the rusted heap into the car we see before us today. A sympathetically rebuilt car that retains the heart of a really great and rare little Mini. (let’s just hope that Stephen King’s “pet cemetery” isn’t true.)
Now whilst this provides quite enough evidence of bonkersness, John and Elaine provided even more by admitting that they actually have 761 other Mini’s and mini-based cars at home, AND they spent the weekend camping in a field … in a tent … in the middle of November, just to be at the show! Yes, as I said, “slightly bonkers.”
Next in Line is Matt Harris’s 1928 Morris Flat Nose Cowley and as you can imagine, it has seen a lot in its 90 years of life.
The pick-up truck actually left the factory as a 4 door car and is believed to have been converted to its current configuration during the 2nd World War. The reason for the conversion is thought to be because as a commercial vehicle, it would receive the larger petrol ration than that received by private vehicles. Apart from a little woodwork, the car is believed to be completely unrestored since its modification.
It has a 1546cc 11.9 HP side valve engine which, after a rather complicated starting procedure, ran as smooth as a sewing machine. I noticed it could be a little smoky when revved hard though. It took me ages to get the soot off my face and clear my lungs and I decided not to stand behind it anymore.
The Morris has a 3 speed crash box with a cork clutch but I was reliably informed that no bottles of merlot will be harmed when it comes to be replaced.
There is also evidence that the car was used on the BBC TV show, All Creatures Great and Small as the sign written doors bear the legend “Jeff Mallock, Fellmonger, Darrowby 308”. He was the knacker who collected dead animals in the fictional village. An ex BBC Props manager also confirmed that the truck was hired from Action Cars for filming, but Matt confesses that he hasn’t yet waded through all 7 series and 90 episodes to find it.
Finally for now, Bernard Owen’s immaculate 1962 Morris Minor 1000.
Bernard is one of our groups elder statesmen. (That is the polite way of saying that he is really, really old. See? I can be polite when I need to be.) Bernard is a lovely chap and everyone’s idea of a favourite Grandad but he has a wicked sense of humour with one liners that can cut you dead. He also turns into a berserker whenever there is sausage plait being shared out.
The Minor is just like him too. All cute and cuddly on the outside but a bit of a sleeper underneath. You see, the mystery engine has been identified. It turns out that a 1.3 Marina engine and gearbox has been fitted at some point during its life, along with the larger SU carburettor.
Having a “modified” car on the stand, however lightly and sympathetically, inevitably attracted a “Norman Shufflebottom”. (See my “Spotters Guide to the Classic Car Enthusiast”)
Norman furtively approached the car and then in a stereotypically nasally voice pronounced “The brake master cylinder is in the wrong place. Why isn’t it under the floor where it should be?” We had the last laugh though, because although he had spotted this minor modification, (did you see what I did there?) he’d failed to notice the much larger engine and gearbox swap so Gar took great joy in pointing this out. Norman’s face was a picture of horror as he stumbled off in shock, muttering “Ohhhh, Its been modified!”
There'll be more on the rest of the cars later, but Friday afternoon was spent pleasantly chatting with old friends and getting to know new ones and continuing this over a very nice Chinese Buffet in the evening.
Well, I say “chatted pleasantly”, but most of my “old friends” just wanted to take the micky. You see, our group had been approached and asked if we would like to put forward a representative for a panel discussion to be held on the main stage … in front of an audience. I had volunteered.
Well, I say “volunteered”, but what actually happened was that whilst I was trying to understand the question, the rest of the admins had instantly run off and hidden behind the furniture. “Thanks Mike” said Captain Sweeney. “Be on stage at 10.45am on Saturday”. (Hence the “Celebrity Club Administrator” title)
I really hadn’t been all that nervous about it on the run up to the show, but I should have known I could rely on my friends to change all that. So when I went to bed, I had the nightmare of walking on stage to a rowdy chorus of “Who ate all the pies?” from my friends and the rest of the hall joining in. This played on an endless loop in my head all night so needless to say, I did not awake refreshed and relaxed on Saturday morning.
To be continued…
by Gar Cole
A short 2 minute ride on the minibus didn't give us much time to reflect on what we had just witnessed on the 'Spitfires' part of the tour, especially as Andy our tour guide kept pointing things out on the ride. "On your left is the plants own fire station, on your right is the cobblestone test track putting 2 XFs through their paces" etc.
We pulled up at a large shiny new building, the plants new press shop. We disembarked the minibus and followed Andy inside where we received ear plugs and a stern warning to stay within the yellow pedestrian walkways. Andy drily pointed out if something looks shiny in a press shop that means it's sharp, so don't touch!
The press shop represents a 100 million pound investment by parent group 'Tata' to future-proof the assembly plant; compare that for 1 building in 2016 to the 4 million the entire complex cost to build in 1938.
We rounded the first series of walkways to be greeted by the biggest reel of aluminium you ever did see. These are delivered to the plant from the supplier in Germany. In fact the majority of machinery and the presses themselves are built by German companies such as Schuler. Andy pointed out that during the war Allied bombers had heavily damaged Schuler's factories. When you consider what we had just seen below ground it shows the utter futility of war and hopefully it will never happen again.
Once the reels are delivered they are given 48 hrs to adjust to the ambient temperature of the building before passing through a series of rollers that straighten the sheet out and stop it recoiling into a roll.
The building houses 13 individual presses and 16 robots, the dies for pressing the panels can be changed around relatively quickly, making parts for the XK, XF, XJ and F type. It also presses parts for the Discovery and F pace that are built at Solihull.
Now these dies are enormous, 10ft by 6ft, ranging in weight from 18,000 KGs to 42,000 KGs. They are manoeuvred by huge ceiling-mounted cranes that use chains that look like they belong to the QE2 Ocean liner. One passed over our heads as we stood in the walkway; despite it being about 10ft in the air we all instinctively made a little duck as it passed over - large machinery has a habit of making you feel very small and vulnerable.
We made our way down another narrow walkway with the ground vibrating from the heavy machinery until we came across 'the Cathedral', the huge 30ft high, 5-stage central press. The scale of these moving parts is quite awe-inspiring and with my ear plugs firmly in, my imagination fired up with sound of Sergei Prokofiev's masterpiece 'Dance of the Knights '.
These 5 presses mounted in one large Cathedral press the same panel 5 times - first with lower pressure to cut and give the basic shape, then with gradually increasing pressure as it moves from press to press that forms more and more sharper edges and detailing without splitting the metal in one big punch.
These are ultra modern machines powered by electric servo motors, much quieter than hydraulic presses of the past and with a greater degree of control - truly a sight to behold if you're a fan of heavy engineering .
Jaws lifted off the floor, Andy hurried us out of the building back into the minibus. Now we headed off once again to D and E block, back int ma day lad these buildings were used for the S type saloon, which incidentally was the first Jaguar to be completely built at Castle Bromwich - but more of that later - they are now home to the production lines for the XF and XE models.
This is by far the most modern and the most automated part of the entire plant, an incredible 680 robots from start to finish, with 86% of all jobs on the cars performed by automation. You really could feel the transition here from traditional hand crafted jobs such as welding and riveting now done by hyper accurate robotics.
During our tour there was no actual production taking place due to a small number of 2019 models being tested on the line and in a change from my day, Jaguar no longer builds cars to stock - every car made is already bought and ordered to individual specification. In these times of declining diesel sales and Brexit uncertainty it seems a sensible business plan to follow.
Having seen the bread and butter cars a few of us were keen to cross over the road to A1 and A2 buildings in which the awesome F type is built. Andy obliged and we soon found ourselves in a different sort of place, much less modernised than the other buildings we had visited and far less automation.
Just 4% of jobs on the F type are done by robots, compare that to the XF's 86%. Some of the robots and staff were still working and we got to see several stages of body construction take place before the shells disappeared on a track through the ceiling before going to the paint shop.
Lots of ooos and ahhhs could be heard from our group as we progressed around the assembly line seeing the cars more and more completed. This car represents the closest thing you will get in 2018 to a traditionally built Jaguar with 96% of jobs done by hand while incorporating the latest technology. These models are available with far greater personalisation options than other models, from unique paint jobs, 40 different interior colour and materials to choosing the colour of the stitching on the seats and dashboard.
Andy looked hopeful there might be some wealthy folks amongst us and happily pointed out the F type started at ' just ' £49,800 , but naturally having pulled into the car park in a well worn Morris Minor he didn't look in my direction! He then took us over to a parked bevy of completed beauties awaiting the ' water test ' which looked like a 50ft long washing machine.
The entry level car has a 2.0 turbo engine; this didn't really impress us until we learned it kicks out 300bhp! Next up is a 3.0 V6 supercharged producing 380bhp and a lot more torque than the 4 cylinder. Moving up the range again is the 5.0 V8 Supercharged R model with a very tasty 500bhp, and for those playing 'Top Trumps' there is the SVR model boasting further engine mods to the V8 and a titanium exhaust that blasts out 550bhp. We wondered - is this car truly the successor to the legendary E type?
The tour wrapped up at this point and we headed back to the Heritage Centre for further refreshments before heading off for lunch, however I have a few other things to tell you before you go.
You may recall in the previous blog that I pointed out Castle Bromwich didn't feature in the Jaguar story until much later, 1977 to be exact. Following the war, the plant was purchased by Fisher and Ludlow, later to become Pressed Steel Fisher. This company supplied steel panels to a large number of manufacturers including BMC and later Leyland. Castle Bromwich has produced panels for the Morris Minor, the original Mini, some Imp panels for Hillman and Triumph, many Rover panels and later Jaguar.
The company became wholly owned by Jaguar in late 1977. From then until 2001 Jaguar had the unusual practice of building its body shells at Castle Brom, then loading XJS, XJ saloon and later XK sports bodies onto a fleet of arctic lorries to be driven the 13 miles to Browns Lane in Coventry for painting and final assembly.
In later years the zinc coated body shells were stored in heated storage sheds and covered in plastic until loaded onto the trucks, however through the 80s and 90s it wasn't uncommon to leave untreated bare shells out in the rain while awaiting a transporter. I even heard tales of whole bodies left outside from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. If you've ever wondered why many Jaguars of that era suffered with such bad structural rot well that's the answer. Often the metal was exposed before it was even primered and painted, amazingly this carried on until 2001 albeit with some improvements.
This was a costly and inefficient way of building cars. When the new S-Type was launched in 1998 it was completely assembled at Castle Bromwich using the new paint shop and renovated D block building. At this point we knew one of the Midlands plants was at risk. Being a Jaguar fan I believed Coventry deserved to stay open as it was the spiritual home of Jaguar, but Browns Lane was unfortunately surrounded by new housing developments whereas Castle Bromwich still had unused land, excellent access to the motorways and airport and it's own rail link. The writing was on the wall and Browns Lane had all it's production lines and 90% of its personnel transferred to Castle Brom by the end of 2003 just in time for the launch of the new Aluminium XJ350 model.
The Castle Bromwich plant is now home to Jaguar manufacturing but I hope the blogs have given you an idea of just what a fascinating place it was even before Jaguar entered it's history, I haven't been on the plant for almost 10 years and it was good to go back and relive some memories and make some new ones.
Just as I was about to leave I smiled at my Minor parked amongst what I estimated to be over a million pounds worth of machinery when the 2 young ladies who worked on the reception came outside and had their picture taken with my old moggy. Made my day that!
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