by Mike Peake
The re-commissioning has now taken me into the early spring of 2014 and I’m ordering the brake components after my incompetence in the last chapter.
The Chap at Canley very wisely suggested that I be careful when removing the old brake pipe so I could use it as a pattern for bending the new pipe the correct way. I fully intended to follow this advice right up to the moment I realised the old pipe ran behind the heater matrix which I would have to remove. I consulted Haynes on the removal of the heater matrix and discovered that it would involve being upside down under the dash with my legs waving in the air. As I'm far too old (ok...fat) for those sort of antics and the fire service is far too busy to come out to put me the right way up again, I decided to consult the forum again as to whether there was any technical reason why I couldn’t re-run the pipe by a different route. There wasn’t, so I resorted to my usual technique of butchery and brute force to remove the old pipe.
Whilst butchering the old pipe, I realised that I would have to remove the nearside engine valance to get at the 4 way splitter that the other end of the new brake pipe needed to connect to. To remove the valance I would have to remove the radiator…again! I was getting quite good at draining and removing the radiator by now so it was soon all done. With easy access now achieved, the new MC was fitted along with the brake pipe re-routed in front of the heater matrix. The nearside engine valance and radiator were successfully refitted and topped up with the correct water anti-freeze mix…again.
Poppy now had her front wheels back on the ground for the 1st time in several weeks and she was very carefully turned around under her own steam to allow the back to be put up on stands so I could replace the wheel cylinders, brake hoses, springs etc. which all went surprisingly well and with the help of my patient pedal pusher (Mrs FB this time) the braking system was soon full of Dot 4 instead of air.
Mrs FB retired to order the Chinese take away that was the price of her assistance and I was happily driving up and down the driveway in front of the row of lockups enjoying the fact that Poppy not only goes but now stops.
“So, Just got to patch the steering gaiter and she would be ready for the man from the ministry”.
It was this thought that reminded me that I hadn’t checked the simple stuff like lights, wipers etc so I proceeded to do so. The good news was that all the lights were present and working correctly, as were the wipers. The bad news was that the washer pump had packed up yet again and whilst cleaning the steering gaiter ready for the patch it developed a couple of severe splits between the “bellows”!
I should be used to these emotional highs and lows by now but I wasn’t. The Prom was only 2 weeks away and I was starting to panic! So I collected the takeaway on my way home and consulted another bottle of Merlot.
to be continued
by Brian Allison
It's now 1968, Anne and myself are now engaged, and apart from the occasional drive in her father's Cortina I've not had a lot to do with them.
The garage I worked at had given up the Rootes agency and taken on not one, not even two, but four JF's :- Datsun, Alfa, Peugeot and NSU. All four had their strong points and the NSU Ro 80 in particular was quite a departure after the Rootes products. After changing one Ro 80 engine too many I developed a case of itchy feet and started looking round for a change of scenery which duly arrived in the form of fleet maintenance for a prominent local civil engineering company.( Posh way of saying builders that did a lot of work for the council.)
The new job was a long established family company with a fleet of everything from small petrol engined vibratory pokers through various company cars up to a couple of the new Ford D series tippers. So plenty of variety along with the better pay. Life at Wimpenny's promised to be interesting and educational.
The management set up was different to anything I'd come across before too. Harry ( the old man)was the son of one of two brothers who founded the firm and must have been in his 80's and was officially retired, though this did not stop him occasionally coming down and checking things out around the yard. One of his sons Harry junior looked after the quarry side of the firm.
The actual building side of things was under the control of Harry's other son Reg and their cousin Noel, each having their own projects and work gangs. The company secretary was Reg's son David who would have been in his mid 30's. The maintenance staff consisted of David, the fleet manager ( who I was glad to see didn't mind getting his hands dirty),Bert (older mechanic who'd been there years),and an apprentice, about 18 yrs. old called Patrick.
One morning shortly after I started David said he had a job for me. I was to perform what would be a regular monthly task for the rest of my time there. Not an unpleasant job at all. All I had to do was take the Land Rover up to old Harry's house then drive him in his Rover 105 down to the local barbers, wait while he had his hair cut , then take him back home. I found this little job was great fun, because whilst I was driving he would constantly be pumping me about what was going on in the yard. Any little bit of gossip I felt safe to pass on obviously made his day.
So many memories of Wimpenny's spring to mind I'm afraid I've almost forgotten what this is supposed to be about.
Ah, yes, the Ford Cortina.
The company secretary David, a thoroughly nice chap had a Cortina GT, which would have been about 18 mths. old. A light grey little beast that I'd coveted on sight. He drove the Cortina into the garage one day and went into the little office to talk to David. At one point I noticed him looking out of the office window directly at me but assumed he was just curious about what I was working on. Both Davids left the office together and headed right in my direction, causing me to wrack my brain for what I'd done wrong.
I needn't have worried - they had no complaints about my work. On the contrary they had a proposition for me. It turned out that David fancied trying his hand with the Cortina at a bit of hill climbing. He'd done his research, decided what needed to be done to make the car competitive, and wondered if I along with David would be interested in doing the work. He explained that he could not let us do it on the firm's time, but if we were willing to do it in the evenings or weekends we could use the garage and he'd pay us for any time we spent working on it. Would I? Too true! Any extra money was always welcome and I felt sure Anne would find a good use for it. No Victoria's Secret's in those days but even so..
The first job was to strip out the engine so it could be bored oversize. While the machine shop was doing that we turned our attention to the suspension, fitting shorter, stiffer springs and up rated shock absorbers. When we got the engine back we rebuilt it with a new uprated camshaft, exchange gas flowed head, and new inlet manifold and carb.( A Weber of some kind). Refitted it was completed with a beautifully constructed Abarth exhaust system which looked like it must have cost almost as much as my car ( a Morris Oxford by then).
The first time we started it up and revved it I thought for a moment that we'd forgotten to connect the exhaust manifold. Talk about loud. The road test we left to David. He left the yard in a shower of gravel and a roar from that exhaust fit to wake the dead. He's been gone so long we were starting to worry, when we heard him coming back down the main road. He arrived with the biggest grin on his face, you'd have thought he'd won the pools.
David and the Cortina were very Happy with each other and I was happy with the extra cash, so a good result all round.
Over the next two years or so I was fortunate enough to drive the GT on a fair number of occasions doing road tests and such, and can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable cars I've been fortunate enough to drive. Though with that exhaust I think on any long run earplugs would have been required.
Next time :- The Mk 2's
by Paul Sweeney
The first instalment concerned the redoubtable Standard Vanguard (see Part 1) and ended when Dad reluctantly sold it in order to change to a smaller, lighter car more suitable for my mother to drive. Enter the Triumph Herald, which died dramatically on the occasion of it's first MOT test (see Part 2).
So there we were, the whole family stranded at Williams Automobiles in Bristol. The proprietor had just delivered the dramatic news that our Triumph Herald was a death trap - it was destined for the scrap yard. "Take a look at this one", he said, ushering Dad outside to where a grey Ford Cortina was parked tight against a wall. "It needs a new engine which is coming tomorrow, so I can't start it for you" he added.
In another strange decision for a man who had good knowledge and understanding of motor mechanicals, Dad decided to buy the Cortina despite being unable to start the engine, drive it or even look at the left-hand side! Nevertheless, before long the Cortina was our new family car, complete with reconditioned engine.
For once, fortune favoured the brave; both the new engine and the left-hand side of the car were fine. I can't explain why, but the Cortina is one of only two cars from my youth of which I can remember the registration number. The other was my own first car. The Cortina's was 999 RHU. I've often reflected that in the UK now, that number if available as a 'cherished plate' would be worth considerably more than the car. For the benefit of any non-Brits reading this, 999 is the Emergency Services telephone number in the UK, hence its potential value.
Life with the Cortina was relatively trouble-free. It had just three faults worthy of mention:
On one occasion, Faults #1 & 2 combined beautifully to create a 'perfect' day. Mum was about to drive to her Teacher Training college in Bristol on a particularly wet morning. "Don't worry" Dad told her. "If the car stops, just call me at work - I'll come and rescue you". We couldn't afford AA membership, so family and friends were our 'Rescue Service'.
With those reassuring words ringing in her ears, Mum set off into a heavy storm. Predictably enough, as she drove along an exposed road, the Cortina's engine suddenly died, leaving her stranded on the roadside. As this was many years before the advent of mobile phones, she wound down the drivers door window to see if there was a public telephone box anywhere nearby. As she did so, forgetting in the anxiety of the moment about Dad's warning, "Remember not to wind the window fully down", there was a clanging sound as the window glass hopped off the winder mechanism and fell inside the door. The rain was blowing directly onto the drivers' door and now came inside, soaking everything including Mum.
She sat for a while wondering helplessly what to do, when a car driven by a total stranger pulled up behind the Cortina. The driver (a man) hopped out and came to ask if Mum needed help. She told him what was wrong and he immediately offered to drive her to a public telephone box so she could call for help. "Thank you, but I don't have any money" Mum told him. Remarkably, he said, "Never mind, I have some" and very kindly drove her off in his car to find a telephone box, where Mum called Dad at work and explained the situation.
Fortunately Dad's office was relatively close by, so by the time Mum's White Knight took her back to the stranded Cortina, Dad was already there, retrieving the window glass from deep inside the door. By the time he had managed that, the engine had dried itself out and started easily, allowing Mum to continue her journey to college, a little damp and stressed but still in one piece.
My only other clear memory of the Cortina involves Fault #3; rust. The keen-eyed among you may have noticed rust bubbling near the offside front headlamp of the Cortina in the "Family Day out" photo above. Slowly but surely, the rust ate away the thin, untreated steel from the inside until there was a ring of rust clearly visible just behind the headlamp.
As luck would have it, some genius had recently invented fibreglass, a strange substance that could be moulded to any shape, then set hard. Dad and I decided to 'repair' the rusty Cortina, paint it up nicely, then sell it quickly before the rust returned, as it surely would.
Many, many hours of physical labour ensued. We cut away the rusted metal and inserted a cage structure roughly fashioned out of chicken wire (yes, really). Then, we applied layer after layer of fiberglass and waited for it to cure. As expected, it set hard as rock and was extremely difficult to sand smooth. We didn't have electric sanders in those days, so we worked by hand with various grades of emery paper and sandpaper, toiling until the surface was smooth and our hands were raw.
Next, we painted the area, first with primer and then with multiple layers of the correct shade of grey paint. Finally, we stood back and to be honest, it didn't look at all bad. We congratulated ourselves and felt we would be able to sell the car before the problem became too obvious again.
The very next day, an old friend and colleague of Dad's came to visit. His name was Jim Wright; Jim was a tall man I remember always having a pipe in his mouth. He was chatting to Dad outside our house, walking around the Cortina as I watched and listened. Without warning and a little strangely, he abruptly reached out and put his hand directly onto the area we had just bodged up, leaning his full and considerable weight onto the fibreglass repair. To his surprise and our horror, there was a cracking sound and the entire repair came away from the rest of the front wing and hung there by a few strands. Our work was ruined.
Poor Jim was mightily embarrassed but of course Dad never blamed him. I don't recall what Dad eventually did about that rusty front wing, but before long, the Cortina was gone from our lives, to be replaced but never forgotten.
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by Mike Peake
It is now March 2014 and the re-commissioning continues. The water pump and recon callipers arrived along with all the other brake parts required and my trusty flask of tea and I were back at the lock-up bright and early the following Saturday.
The plan was to fit the water pump, refit the radiator, fit the front callipers, hoses and master cylinder before turning Poppy around so I could work on the back brakes in the light from the open door.
Well I soon had the new water pump fitted and after searching for over an hour for the “safe place” refitted the fan and the radiator. Then I filled up with the correct mix of water and antifreeze. The callipers, hoses and all associated parts were also fitted up properly and looking lovely and shiny. It went so smoothly, it was almost as though I had a clue what I was doing!
The fly in the ointment though, was that while I was so successfully fitting all these shiny bits, I noticed that the bush had come out of one of the anti-roll bar links, the track rod end gaiters were horribly split and there was a small hole in the offside steering rack gaiter.
I started by removing the anti-roll bar link and tried to get the bush and tube back in, but it all refused to co-operate. Pushing with fingers didn’t work. Hitting it with a hammer didn’t work and neither did hitting it with a bigger hammer. Nor did a Fatbloke standing on it or jumping up and down on it manage to get the bush back in so I gave up and went home and decided to order a new one with all the rubber bits now required.
The wonderfully patient and helpful people at Canley Classics were subjected to yet another call and all the additional parts were very quickly received.
The date for the Prom was approaching worryingly quickly so I planned a full weekend of spannering and optimistically booked the MOT test for 1st thing Monday morning before work.
The new anti-roll bar link was quickly fitted and it was time to turn my attention to the track rod end gaiters which looked easy. It would just a matter of undoing the single nut, slipping the track rod end out of the steering arm and swapping the new gaiters for the old.
I am sure all the old lags out there have already spotted the flaw in my plan. The nut was undone but I could not separate the track rod end from the steering arm. I tried pushing it, wiggling it, pushing and wiggling at the same time. Then I tried standing astride the wheel and lifting it, until I remembered the calliper incident. I even consulted my trusty Haynes manual which had never let me down so far. It simply said “remove from steering arm” which I didn’t find particularly helpful! I am ashamed to say I then resorted to a big hammer…which didn’t work either.
It was time to cancel the MOT and consult the experts… I posted a plea for help in the technical matters section of the Practical Classics car forum and they didn’t let me down. The first reply from “Zipgun” said “Whatever you do, don’t hit the threaded bit with a hammer”…oops….I had left the nut on the end though so it will be alright… won’t it…?
Apparently, track rod ends are also known as “ball-joints” that I need to “split”. I did consider Zipgun’s two hammer method but Mrs FB pointed out that I was dangerous with one hammer, let alone two. Luxobarge then came to the rescue. He pointed out that there is a cunning tool imaginatively called a “ball-joint splitter” which of course, I didn’t have.
A quick trip to my local machine mart rectified this and my ball-joints were very quickly and efficiently split, gaiters changed and all reassembled and I’d discovered a new favourite tool. It’s called “the right one for the job”!! Handy hint though: NEVER pick up the Machine Mart catalogue. I have wasted an awful lot of time drooling over it planning my “lotto win” workshop full of all the “right tools for the job”!
Logic would suggest that I should have changed the steering gaiter while the TRE was off. However, I’d been reading up on this job and everyone was saying how difficult it was to get the new gaiter onto the rack housing without offering any real suggestions. Time was short. So I decided to stick a bicycle puncture repair patch over the hole and hope that that would do for now and added “find my puncture repair kit” to my “to do” list.
Flushed with my success, I went ahead and re-fitted the master cylinder and promptly cross threaded the union into the cylinder! Well I thought it was just a bit stiff, which means I didn’t stop and now the thread in both the MC and union are completely ruined.
I said lots and lots of REALLY bad words and went home to consult a bottle of Merlot on how best to proceed. The Merlot suggested that I buy a new master cylinder and section of brake pipe from Canley’s. Which I did, after drinking the Merlot.
to be continued ...
by Brian Allison
Reading a post on the Facebook page recently about the Cortina cutting out in the rain stirred my own memories of the Cortina in it's various forms.
The immediate thing that springs to mind when I think of the Mk1 Cortina is my first wife. I could perhaps have phrased that better. The first Person maybe, thing, certainly seems to fit one of her successors much more aptly.
Anyway, to get back to the car. It's 1966 and I'm working as a mechanic , been courting a lovely girl called Anne for about a year, and running a rather ratty Minor 1000. We desperately wanted to go to Devon on holiday together, so broached the subject to our parents. As I expected mine agreed readily enough, after all I was 24 yrs. old so they couldn't really say too much about it. In fact the only thing that was said was my father telling me to be careful. I thought I was a pretty good driver and objected strenuously to the comment. I could be a little slow at times in those days.
Anne's parents were a different matter. It had taken a long while to persuade them my intentions were honourable but I'd gradually worn them down, and now got on really well with both her parents and knew just how protective of her they both were, after all, she was only 18 to my 24. The first reaction was a definite no, which after sulks and arguments over a few weeks became a yes, but with the proviso that they saw proof that we had booked single rooms and I promised there would be no "Funny business".
While all this was going on her father took delivery of a brand new Cortina. Very smart looking with it's maroon paintwork, especially so when compared to my Minor parked next to it looking like a runaway from the scrapyard. He was so proud of his new car, so I was not surprised when a couple of weeks later he suggested that all four of us go out for a Sunday afternoon drive, thinking he just wanted to show off to me in his new car. What did surprise me was that he wanted me to drive. We spent a very pleasant afternoon driving around the local beauty spots and I had to admit that compared to my moggie the Cortina was a delight to drive, though to be fair to the minor, I did rein in the more exuberant aspects of my usual driving style.
When we returned home her father had yet another surprise in store. Instead of driving to Devon in the Minor we'd be more comfortable if he loaned us the Cortina. I was amazed! Letting me loose with his pride and joy? Then I figured out his ulterior motive. Having been badgered into risking his daughter's virtue, he wasn't going to risk her life as well in my old banger. Ready to spring to the Minor's defence I said, "Really? That would be fantastic". So all was set fair.
Driving from Yorkshire to Devon before the motorways was a long old haul and tales of horrendous weekend traffic jams on the roads into Devon were legendary. Bearing this in mind we decide that the best idea was to drive overnight hoping to arrive before the jams got too bad.
So 10 o'clock Friday night saw us depart on our adventure. All was quiet on the roads and we were making good time, until we got into Derbyshire - it was like entering a different country. With a flash of lightning closely followed by a crack of thunder the heavens opened and it absolutely poured with rain, and I began to think I knew just how Noah must have felt.
We continued on our southerly course like a ship in a gale until after a few miles the car started losing power and sounding like a 2 cyl. rather than a 4. I had no option but to pull over and stop. The engine stopped too. So it's pouring with rain, dark as a dungeon, middle of nowhere and we're immobile, the only light being the occasional flash of lightning. I knew I'd get soaked if I got out of the car but had no option, so out I got, immediately soaked to the skin I popped the bonnet and once I had it up told Anne to try start the engine, which she did. I was very impressed with what I saw there.
Now I'd read about and seen pictures of the phenomenon known as St. Elmo's Fire where a ship is lit up with electrical discharges around the masts etc. in stormy weather, and here I was witnessing my own private version of it. The sparks flying around under that bonnet were amazing. It didn't take a genius mechanic to know that there was nothing I could do about it until it stopped raining.
Every cloud has a silver lining they say and so it proved. At least we had dry clothes for me to change into. The downside was that without the engine we had no heater and it was becoming decidedly cold, so we had to try and keep warm somehow. That silver lining again.
When the rain did eventually stop I was able to dry out all the ignition system and we were underway again, albeit a few hours behind schedule. At least we got to experience the joy of sitting in the Devon sunshine eating ice cream in that traffic jam for an hour or two.
Next time :- Our intrepid mechanic's encounter with a MK1 Cortina GT.
by Brian Allison
Over the first few weeks my education continued apace, which rather surprised me as I had never really been what you would call fond of school. I'd never seen the point of learning things like algebra and French, which I was pretty certain I would never find a use for. I had no ambition to go to France or to be the next Einstein.
It had been mentioned during my interview that I would have to go to the Tech for one day a week and I reckoned I could cope with that, so it came as something of a bombshell when Norman told me I'd also have to attend two nights a week as well. " Two nights ?", I was appalled at the idea. I already had two nights taken up with rugby training, and the other three weekday ones were fully occupied as a trainee Don Juan at the local youth club. It was pointed out to me that I didn't have any option in the matter, so I had a choice to make, rugby or girls. Being a typical testosterone fuelled youth I quickly decided the rugby would have to go.
My real education was in the workshop. I'd never thought there was anything complicated about making a cup of tea. Wrong! One cup for yourself is one thing, making about ten cups, each with the correct strength, sugar and milk seemed to call for a good memory if I was to avoid the wrath of my fellow workers. In the event I needn't have worried, Rodney already had a list drawn up which he let me copy.
Another thing I quickly became good at was repairing punctures. Every Saturday morning was occupied fixing them and washing and polishing cars. Unlike today there was no such thing as a tyre machine, it all had to be done with tyre levers and brute force and inner tubes were easily nipped if you were not careful. Also unlike today the patches were not simply stuck on the tube but were actually melted onto them using a Vulcanizor machine. This was not the only piece of equipment that you would be unlikely to find in a present day workshop.
One was something that I have never encountered in any garage since. A contact breaker point re-furbisher. This, I would imagine was a throwback to the war years when parts were almost impossible to get. It was a little device that you could clamp in the vice. It was designed so you could mount either fixed or moving point on it, and had a small grinding disc to refinish the surface of the point.
We also had what I thought was a great piece of kit for stripping cyl. heads. This was a metal frame on legs which had 12 pegs about 1 inch dia. in row set in it. These blocks could be adjusted by way of sliding them along their supporting bar and vertically so that they corresponded with the valve spacing in the cyl. head so the valves rested on the pegs.
The actual fork that fitted over the valve caps was suspended from an upper frame and attached to a stirrup. So once the head was in position it was simply a matter of fitting the fork over the valve cap, press lightly on the stirrup, tap the valve cap lightly with a hammer and remove the cotters. Much simpler and quicker than using a conventional valve compressor, not to say safer too. I've searched in vain to find a picture of one but hope you get the idea.
We also had a lathe which was used to skim brake drums and dynamo and starter commutators. Slightly different from today's electronics laboratory you could say.
So life settled into a routine involving working alongside Dennis, making tea, going to the shops for the rest of the workshop's lunches, and of course generally keeping the place clean and tidy(ish). Doing the shop run was one of my favourite jobs. As a regular customer you could usually wangle a bit of discount from most of the shops, which considering the pittance paid to apprentices then was always welcome. I remember how exotic I thought the shop where I got sandwiches was. It was run by a Polish gent who'd stayed in England after the war, and was I suppose what we'd now call a deli. Long sausages of various colour and width hung above the counter and more exotic varieties of cheese than I'd ever seen before. I'd always loved cheese and made it my ambition to try them all.
An interesting job in those first few months was a chassis swap for a crash damaged P4. The firm did have a body shop but, along with their commercial workshop that was at the other end of the town. So we removed the body, using block and tackles and rolled the damaged chassis out from underneath. Setting the old and new chassis on stands we then transferred everything from one to the other. A fantastic way to get to know your way about a car. It gave me the chance to see every single part and how to check them for any damage and fit them. After we'd re-fitted the body away it went to the body shop.
It was October 1958 and I'd been been working for about 6 months when the replacement for the A35 arrived. I think it's fair to say that everyone in the shop immediately approved of the new A40 Farina styled model. Compared with the cuddly little A35 it replaced it looked bigger, more roomy and so much more of a grown up car. One thing that all the lads agreed on was how much easier it would be to work on with all that space under the bonnet. Mechanically it was more or less the same as the A35 so held no fears of new technology,(though that's a phrase I didn't hear on a regular basis for quite a few years).
One surprise was the rear brakes. I think everyone expected them to be hydraulic, whereas it turned out they were rod operated via a slave cylinder mounted under the car. Looking back I can only assume that this was due to bean counters at Longbridge, an affliction that would affect so many cars in the future. The colours available also made a big impression, especially with the contrasting roof. In many ways the A40 more resembled what we now know as a hatchback than a then conventional saloon car. I wonder if that might have been at the back of Pinin Farina's mind at the time?
As time went by I was entrusted to undertake simple tasks on my own, always on the proviso that Dennis checked my work of course. During one of these jobs I received what I still consider the only useful advice that Norman, the foreman, ever gave me. I was laid under the back of a car reconnecting the handbrake rods when Norman came along. "What are you doing?", "Reconnecting the handbrake", "Why haven't you got a hand light?", "Don't need one I can feel what I'm doing", " Get a light, only whores and burglars work in the dark". I got a light. Had to admit he did have a point.
I'll cover the launch of more new models in the next episode including my abiding favourite the Rover P5.
by Paul Sweeney
Light and shade; chalk and cheese. The Herald couldn't have been more different from the Vanguard. Where the Vanguard was heavy, American-influenced, lumbering and relatively large, the Herald was sporty, light, Italian-designed and stylish. Exciting, even.
The Herald proudly laid claim to having the smallest turning circle of any production car in the world at the time. More importantly, heaters were a standard fitting! Luxury indeed.
I don't recall the reason, but Dad was in a major hurry to replace the Vanguard. He couldn't find a car soon enough. Being long before the advent of the internet, the only ways to find used cars for sale were a) at car dealerships or b) classified ads in the local Paper, the Bristol Evening Post.
Dad found an ad for a Herald, made a phone call and having been given the address, he and I journeyed to an unremarkable street somewhere in Bristol one dark evening. It was raining and when we arrived, the car was parked outside the owners house in the street. We could hardly see it in the darkness until the guy moved the Herald beneath one feeble street light that cast a ghostly orange sodium glow on the car. It was pure white and before I knew it, Dad had agreed to buy.
I was surprised but excited and we soon had the car home in Patchway. The very next day I took the photograph above showing Dad sitting at the wheel outside our house in Standish Avenue. As far as I know, it's the only photograph of that car in existence.
The Herald was a 2 door saloon and considerably smaller than the preceding Vanguard. It was too small for a family of five in my opinion, but Dad's top priority was - as ever - to do the best he could for Mum. This car certainly was lighter, easier to control and had far better all-round visibility than the Vanguard (which Mum recently told me she used to call, 'The Elephant' due to its size, colour and shape).
I'm not at all sure how long Dad owned the Herald for, but my next memory of it concerns the day he packed the whole family into it and drove into Bristol. The plan was to drop the car off for its annual safety check, known in the UK as the dreaded MOT Test (NZers would call it a WOF).
We dropped the car off at Williams Automobiles and went off somewhere while the test was done. On our return, the owner of the garage welcomed us and asked us into a little waiting room where we sat nervously awaiting the news. 'I hope you have enough money for the bus fare home' he began, 'because in all conscience, I cannot allow you to go anywhere in that car. It's a death trap."
He went on to explain that the chassis was so full of rust that he expected the floor to drop out onto the road at any minute and was insistent that it was too dangerous to even drive the few miles back home. I don't remember how we did get home, but I know it wasn't in the Herald, which was rapidly despatched to the breaker's yard.
Poor Dad never really forgave himself for buying that car. In those days, the old adage 'caveat emptor' definitely applied to buying used cars. Today's used cars are relatively safe to buy, but back in the 1960s it was a jungle out there and there was every chance of throwing your money away on something totally worthless. Dad knew very well that it was definitely not a smart move to buy a car in the dark and beat himself up about it many times over the years that followed. I don't believe any of the family gave him a hard time about it, but he was always his own harshest critic.
As luck would have it and possibly a little suspiciously, Williams Automobiles just happened to have a used car for sale that had recently arrived and was about to have a newly reconditioned engine fitted.
And so, that was soon to became Dad's next car - but more of that in Part 3.
by Steve Favill
This beautiful machine is a 1938 Lagonda. It has a 4.4 litre V-12 engine designed by no less an engineer than W.O. Bentley.
These cars were competing with Rolls-Royce for the performance crown, and were reputed to be capable of accelerating from walking speed to over 100mph in top gear.
They had an advanced chassis and hydraulic brakes, and were unquestionably some of the best-looking cars on the road. They are heavy cars, weighing in at around 5,000lbs. They made less than 200 of these before World War Two came along and it all ground to a halt. Lagonda is currently owned by Aston Martin.
I took this photograph in 2008, at Milwaukee's Masterpiece Classic Car Show. Held each year in late August, the city's lake-front plays host to a mind-boggling array of machinery and is always well worth a visit.
Jay Leno owns a Lagonda, a racing version but with a similar engine and chassis and talks about the company and the cars in this video. It would be really interesting and entertaining even if it were someone else presenting the information but Jay is a true car guy and he knows his stuff. Enjoy!
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