by Jim Lodder
The Herald was a very different animal to the Mini when it came to driving! After the go cart handling of the Mini, cornering like it was on rails, the Herald’s tendency to tuck those rear wheels under and try to catch up the front end was quite a frightening experience. I mostly got used to it, but could still get caught out on wet bends!
Although the girlfriend (now officially fiancée) couldn’t understand why, I immediately began to personalise the Herald just as I had done with the Mini.
I made a centre console from aluminium, covered in black vinyl, that sat on top of the gearbox tunnel and housed a radio and an 8 track tape player. Speakers fitted into each front footwell trim panels. The radio aerial was a fibreglass whip thing, mounted on the rear offside wing and clipped in a big arc to the front of the rain gutter. Occasionally it became unclipped, and whipped around quite dangerously!
I also had fake sheepskin seat covers, topped with matching front headrests that slipped over the seat backs. Weird! One evening whilst parked up in a multi storey car park whilst I was at a night club, I returned to the Herald to find that someone had got into it, stolen the seat covers, headrests, and radio aerial and then locked it again! They left all the 8 track tapes and the £3 / £4 in loose change in the tray on top of the tunnel. Thieves with bad taste I think!
Around now, for reasons lost in the mysteries of time, the girlfriend / fiancée became the ex girlfriend / fiancée. Her mother never did like me! To celebrate my new found single status, 4 mates and I set off for Minehead in the Herald for a weeks jolly holidaying at a caravan park.
Around halfway through the week, as we were cresting a rather steep hill, we came to a sudden and immediate stop. Opening the front end of the Herald we were met with a pool of oil on the road, and a con rod sticking out of the side of the block! Curses! At the bottom of the hill we spotted a traditional garage / petrol station so we jumped back into the Herald and coasted into the forecourt.
The sympathetic owner allowed us to push the car round the back into his compound, on condition that unless we removed it within a month he’d scrap it for spares. We got a bus back to the caravan park, finished our weeks holiday, and went home on the train.
The following weekend, my long suffering Dad and I drove down to Minehead in his GT6. It had a towbar fitted to move his speedboat around, so with an AA approved tow rope we proceeded to tow the Herald back home, me sat in it and concentrating 101% on braking and turning. I was completely exhausted by the time we got safely home.
Then one particularly rainy evening, on my way home from the pub, I went into a sharp right hand bend far too fast, and made the classic Herald mistake of lifting off the throttle half way round. The rear end inevitably spun round, and the car left the road, spinning sideways down a grassy bank until a large oak tree stopped it by getting in the way of the front nearside wheel.
Fortunately I was shaken but unhurt, and there was no one else around, so I managed to pull the dented wing off the still inflated tyre, got back in and somehow managed to drive back up the wet grassy slope onto the road, and nursed the car back home. In the cold light of the following morning, the true extent of the damage became obvious. The bonnet was really damaged beyond repair, so that came off first, to reveal a slightly repositioned front suspension unit, and a decidedly redesigned steering rack.
Still don’t know how I got it home that night! Fortunately I had a mate who had a 1600 Vitesse bonnet going spare, but it was in blue. And I got a second hand steering rack from a scrappies, although I had to remove it from the donor car myself. Those were the days of proper scrap yards!
I took the steering rack, wrapped in old newspapers, home on the bus, to many odd looks! Having rebuilt the Herald, I flatted the blue Vitesse bonnet and managed to press the rather useful paint spraying uncle into action again. But this time he also provided the Conifer Green paint!
By now I’d had enough of the Herald, especially as it had never really been my choice, but that of the now ex girlfriend. So it was duly sold, and replaced with …………….. a red Morris Mini Minor!
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