by Nicholas Webb
It’s now the very early 80‘s. AJC is still being driven by my Dad and so we reach the memorable incident of “Barton Bridge”.
Before I start the little tale, it is interesting to note that Barton Bridge (M63 then, now M60) was actually the first part of the UK motorway construction. Ground works for the bridge approaches were completed several years prior to the Preston bypass. In the 1970's and 80's it was two lanes in either direction and was widened to three lanes, plus hard shoulders around 1987/88. I guess this event was in the winter of 1980/81.
My Dad had been doing his rounds as an environmental health officer (housing) for Salford Borough Council and had turned into an ice covered minor road. He was only doing about 4mph on the hill but when ice was detected nothing could prevent gravity pulling the Gazelle in an undesired direction. Its wayward travel was arrested by a parked car. Fortunately, no damage appeared to have been done to either vehicle but Dad knocked on doors and reported the incident anyway. He then carried on with his work and returned to his office for some pen pushing duties.
By home time it was dark and raining and as he crossed Barton bridge, right at the top, he heard a "CLANG, tinkling noise". Moments later he noticed something rather odd. The passenger side front wing looked shorter than the driver’s side. After we'd all had tea, Dad and I discussed where we could get another headlight bezel from as the minor bump earlier in the day must have dislodged the headlight bezel and that was the cause of the strange noise and 'shorter' front wing. I suggested a reconnaissance trip because it's only ten miles away and there were junctions either side of the bridge.
So Dad and I set off and crossed Barton Bridge, came off, re-joined and travelled over in the direction he had been travelling when he heard the “Clang, Tinkle”. We both saw the headlight bezel right at the top of the bridge lying in the gutter. So, another circuit of junctions and bridge crossings until Dad timed it so there was nothing behind us. With the headlamp bezel in view, Dad quickly slowed whilst I reached out to grab it with only my seatbelt preventing me from falling out if I misjudged it. "I GOT IT! I GOT IT!" I exclaimed clutching the bezel in my fist.
Amazingly, it appeared that it had just fallen off and landed in the gutter without any other vehicles running over it. Usually, I'm all for "Replace everything in poor condition" when it comes to classic car restoration. In this case however, the slightly scratched chrome peak on the headlight bezel has been retained.
Another memory I have of AJC is arriving home from school and discovering AJC sat on the drive looking really down at the back. Alarmingly down at the back! I quickly walked round to see that the boot was full of old house bricks and then Dad appeared looking exhausted and pushing his wheel barrow loaded with yet more bricks. We had the most bizarre conversation with him muttering "Oh bloody hell your back! I was hoping to be gone before YOU appeared!" and me saying "What the hell are you doing? It's only ever carried sandwiches!" I watched in dismay as he drove away and gave him a further lecturing later. "You’re an idiot it's not a bloody mobile skip!".
Dad’s use of AJC was concluded by 1981 and it was returned to my grandparents. Dad had purchased a 1975 BMW 1502 (JBG 519P). It had 13,000 miles on it and, over the next five years, it was subjected to the same nice/nasty treatment as AJC had received!
I went with dad from Gatley to Llandudno to return AJC and we travelled back in the Wolseley hornet, 54,000 miles were on the clock by this point. Dad was to double that mileage before my younger brother took it over as his 1st car.
Sadly, both grandparents died in October 1983 and only 24 hours apart. Syd had been a first World War soldier, he'd done "Fire watch" duty in WW2 and had only ever had one week off work due to illness, Sarah Alice Roberts was extraordinarily good at painting, always so kind and patient with me. I can remember 1 Pen-Y-Gaer as if it was yesterday but I've never been back.
From 1983 to 1986 my mum had AJC as her everyday car and whilst her use was somewhat more benign than Dads had been, it was still kept outdoors and used in all weathers. As ever I helped to maintain it but by now I could also drive it as did both brothers. Its mileage stood at 70,000 by 1986 and mum was suffering from severe back problems. AJC was noticeably deteriorating so a decision was made to sell it. I was twenty years old and had just moved on to my third car, a 1979 Ford Capri 2.0s (NOS 368T). So, a 1964 Singer Gazelle was of little interest to me and it was sold on.
or Carry on Crich 2016 or Several fat blokes frolicking in a field
by Mike Peake
Sunday morning broke bright and cold. I was somewhat later rising than other campers in the field as is a gentlemen’s right. This was because I had slept poorly due to the extreme cold of the night.
Hypothermia had not taken me, though it was a close run thing. Nor was my lack of hypothermia due to the antifreeze effect of the alcohol in my blood as someone rather rudely suggested. I remind you that I was dinking stream water with the rest of you.
After more wakeup sandwiches from Gar’s fatted pig, the group set off in convoy for the museum again, to be confronted by the biggest queue of classic cars ever to be seen.
It was then that the 3rd miracle of the weekend occurred. A bolt of gold lightning shot forth from the clear blue sky and struck Tosh Brooks. It had a miraculous effect on him. Suddenly feeling important and in the knowledge that everyone believed him to be a Tramway official he strode purposefully about and herded our group past the peasantry and members of lesser car clubs, straight into pride of place round the bandstand like the VIPs we should be.
I have to admit that I was fearful of serious injury caused by all the “Paddington Hard Stares” being directed at us but our Lord of Old Cars and his Prophet Tosh protected us.
Gar and I were looking forward to this day as we’d be able to enjoy the show and museum without any of the responsibilities of our own show. Paul on the other hand would still have to work very hard in his role as a volunteer and was already running around like a mad man looking harassed.
He did another great job though and another great day ensued. Obviously, it wasn’t quite as good as our own show but they did their best and it wasn’t too shabby.
We could see however, that the liberal words of our heretic from the night before had taken seed with some of the following. There was evidence of Johnnie Foreigners and Post 85 cars. It was clear that the breakaway movement was gaining ground. Don’t worry though, as we still have our puritan sanctuary on Facebook.
I spent the day in good company mooching around cars, talking about cars, riding trams whilst looking at and talking about cars. Also, as was our Lords will, revealed to us on that cold hill in Derbyshire, we came up with a shortened version of our name. I declare it to be “EMB…no…that’s not right…EBM…er…what’s next…oh yes V then it’s err B… yes B followed by umm… another B and 1985. Yes that’s it! I declare, according to our Lords will, our shortened name shall be EMBVBMBV1985” Amen.
Before I knew it, it was time for me to depart. So I headed back to the campsite where miracle 4 occurred and I got everything packed back into Poppy. My sadness at leaving was outweighed by the prospect of a 3.5 hour roof down blast in my favourite car and old friend. Poppy handled this trip with aplomb and vigour.
The final miraculous happening occurred 4 hours later. Mrs FB appeared marginally pleased to see me when I arrived home.
In all seriousness though, the Crich weekend rates as THE best car club event I have ever experienced. Great cars, great venue, great weather, but most importantly, great people. You really are all jolly decent and nice and it was a pleasure to meet you.
Obviously, special thanks must go to Paul Cheetham for his vision, enthusiasm and energy and turning out not to be a young hooligan at all. If you were unfortunate enough to miss it, I’m sorry but you missed something really special. Don’t worry though, it was such a success that we are hoping to make it an annual event.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “They couldn’t possibly have eaten all that cake!” Well, yes we did. As evidence, please see the subtitle above.
I also know that you are wondering how much truth there is in the above tale. Well, I set out to produce a gospel of truth but then I remembered an old adage from my Rugby days that “What goes on tour, stays on tour.”
So, were we bathed in heavenly light from above? Or was it just Kevin turning on Sheila’s Wheels? Was the Holy Popup Tent of Crich truly holy? Or was it just bought from a motorway services? Was Mrs FB marginally pleased to see me when I arrived home? Well no. Clearly I made that bit up, but she did have a birthday tea and presents ready for me.
There is good news though. There is a way you can verify what is truth and which bits I might have applied a bit of authors licence to. COME TO THE NEXT MEET AND SEE IT FOR YOURSELVES! You might even have a bit of fun.
Full details of the next group meet are available here (click) - Ed
by Nicholas Webb
AJC 87B is a Singer Gazelle. She was registered on the 4th of December 1964 by Red Lion Garage in North Wales for use as a demonstrator. it had its first private owner on the 7th of April 1966 when it was purchased by John Hope Sydney Roberts (24-11-1895 to 14-10-1983) with 5,310 miles on the clock.
Sydney Roberts was my mother’s father and he kept a little log book for every car he ever owned dating back to the mid 1930's (I have all of them). One of the earliest entries into the logbook for AJC was a trip to Bolton to see his second born grandson (ME!).
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of seeing the Singer in his garage. I was car mad even from a very young age and whilst my brothers would be playing with their toys, I would ask if I could go into the garage to look at the Singer. There it would be, gleaming like a brand new car with shiny white paint around the wheel arches. It was never (or very rarely) driven on wet roads and always "laid up" for the winter months. My grandparents also had a maroon Wolseley Hornet mk2 (CJC 207D) which was used in all weathers and allowed for this pampering of the Gazelle.
The Wolseley eventually became my younger brother’s first car and what a thoroughly charming little car it was. It had all the quirkiness of an early hydrolastic Mini with sliding door windows and 'magic wand' gear lever. Sadly though, it appears that a subsequent owner scrapped it in 1994.
In November 1978 My Grandfathers logbook entry reads "Presented to Chris and Rod", my parents. AJC became my dad’s daily driver. It had just 27,000 'dry' miles on the clock and was still pretty much in 'new' condition. My parents had purchased a larger house two years previously and dad had just sold his 1973 Wolseley Six automatic (XMA 787M) which had proved to be something of a "Friday afternoon car" so a free car was quite welcome.
There were some misgivings from my dad;
His biggest “dislike” would be the plastic 'Ambler' seats, until an even bigger dislike was discovered soon after. My dad could never ever remember to move his head to one side after whatever routine maintenance had just been done to the engine and the back of that lovely looking chrome radiator grille that hangs from the bonnet has very sharp edges. I have managed to work on it without bloodying the back of my head but dad never accomplished that. The bonnet was angrily slammed shut on more than one occasion much to the delight of three young boys seeing their father hopping about like Basil Faulty!
Dad did try to look after it though, for several reasons. He'd never be seen in a dirty car. He did not want it to break down (EVER!) and at some point the 'loaner' would be handed back to my Grandfather. Anything my dad borrows is always returned in better condition than when lent (a trait passed down to myself!).
My dad’s hand written notes detail the work carried out between 1978 and 1981 and they are still in the logbook. It tells of items such as clutch replacement and fitting radial tyres. A clock and rear fog lights were fitted as much of dad’s driving was on motorways and there had been a spate of crashes in foggy conditions in the 1970's.
During this period, I was a young teenager and I liked to help Dad maintain AJC. I can remember being about 14 and mum and dad arriving on the driveway after a shopping trip. The car was making an unusual noise as it arrived. I stood and listened, "Don't knock it off just yet Dad, pop the bonnet" I shouted. I listened some more and all the noise was from the front of the engine... "Ok switch off" I said and a wiggle of the fan blades confirmed that the water pump bearing was shot, "Your lucky there Dad!” I said “the seal hasn't failed yet and it's not lost a drop of coolant, amazing!"... "Well done son, I'll get a water pump for it and you can fit it so I don't bang my head on its blasted radiator grille!" replied Dad.
To be continued
or "Carry on Crich 2016" or "Several fat blokes frolicking in a field"
by Mike Peake
The day was finally here. Poppy was ready for another epic adventure and so was I. Cakes had been baked, camping equipment checked, weather forecast checked, (Oh dear, put more sleeping bags and blankets in.) Music loaded onto smart phone, torch app loaded onto smart phone and satnav loaded onto smart phone with adequate space on smart phone for all the photos I’m going to take.
Wonderful bits of kit aren’t they? Well, no they’re not actually. My daughters cast off smart phone that I’ve been using for a year or so, suddenly decided that it would choose this moment to fall off its perch and go to meet its maker. Not to be deterred I went in search of individual pieces of tech to fill these roles. So, a torch, a cd player, a satnav, a camera and an actual phone for making phone calls was added to the already Himalayan size mountain of gear that I was going to have to fit into Poppy along with a Fatbloke.
So, the life-size game of Tetris began. Everything was squashed, squeezed, shoehorned, levered and pressed into my little car, filling the boot and the entire back seat, but leaving time to spare for a spot of lunch a shower and a shave and change into my jacket and trousers. A gentleman must look his best at all times after all.
Looking rather cool in my jacket and shades I pulled off my drive and headed oop north, a long way oop north. I’d planned a non-motorway route and had a lovely time driving the green lanes up through Stow, Morton-in-the-Marsh, Halford and so on, until my 1st rendezvous point at Bassett’s Pole. Here I met with Gar Cole and the smallest actual caravan I’ve ever seen. A few minutes were taken to shake hands, have a quick chat and stretch legs, before we set off on the next short leg to meet up with the legend and organiser of the event that is Paul Cheetham.
As gentlemen do, Gar and I had chosen to meet at (for the purposes of this blog) an elegant country hostelry with consideration for Gar parking his caravan. Paul, on the other hand, had chosen a McDonalds car park. I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions as to what character traits this may reveal, but I was beginning to wonder whether he might be one of those young hooligans one hears so much about these days.
Paul arrived in his lovely blue mini and we set off again for the final leg through the rugged and rather hilly Derbyshire countryside to our final destination. Yes, a field on top of a large hill. We pulled onto the field to a chorus of “Oh Look!” from the Brooks family who were already impressively ensconced in their “circled wagon” fortified camp.
After hasty introductions and more handshaking, Gar and I set off to pitch camp. Well, all Gar had to do was unhitch and put the legs down. He carefully unhitched and drove the car forward. It was at this point that the very loud bang alerted Gar and the whole camp site that he had forgotten to unfasten the breakaway cable. You’ll all be pleased to know though, that it performed it’s task faultlessly as the caravans brakes were deployed shortly before the cable snapped as it should.
Gar continued with his setting up whilst looking rather sheepish and the rest of us continued our own tasks with the added feeling of smugness that goes along with the wonderful feeling that we aren’t alone in our moments of bumbling incompetence.
My home from home took a little longer to set up partly because I had to spend time stroking Poppy’s fins and thanking her for getting me all the way there without any dramas, but mainly because putting up a 30 year old ridge tent that hasn’t been touched for 10 years, isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Eventually though, all was complete.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out that my pitch for this superb gentleman’s abode, was chosen with great care and wisdom, taking into account such things as prevailing wind, flatness of pitch, position on the hill to avoid bogginess, lack of ants nests etc. It was NOT the naughty corner as some of you so rudely called it!
With us all set up it was time for lengthier introductions. We all gathered in the centre of the Brooks family’s circled wagon train with the Thompsons . The evening progressed and our offerings of meat were expertly BBQ’d by Gus Brooks while the rest of us made motivational speeches, sang inspirational songs round the campfire and held lengthy intellectual, philosophical, discussions whist drinking pure water from the crystalline mountain spring running by the camp.
It was some time after sunset when we were joined by Liam White and his family. Guided onto the field by torchlight they parked up. Liam opened the door of his lovely Granada and fell to his knees clutching his chest and wailing “Oh pity us fellow travellers. We have journeyed far and into the night and it is now too dark to erect our 8 man tent that we’ve never put up before and don’t have any instructions! Won’t someone have a heart and help us in our plight?”
With that, a wondrous light shone forth from the heavens and whilst we gazed on in awe, a majestic voice rang out across the hill. “Fear not, Enthusiasts of British Motor Vehicles Built Before 1985! For I am the god of all things automotive. You have worshipped me with dedication in garages and on driveways, on verges and at the side of the road. Did you really think I would leave you exposed and freezing on this, most special of all nights, Crichmass Eve?..….Behold!...” and in a flash of green, a cosy little shelter miraculously appeared complete with its own water supply. With that, the heavenly light abruptly switched off…Then it switched back on and the voice rang out again “By the way, what idiot came up with such a ridiculously long name? Can’t you shorten it or something?” and the light went out again.
We all retired to bed with hearts filled with wonder and faces aglow with joy.
Next time - the day of the Show
or "Carry on Crich 2016" or "Several fat blokes frolicking in a field"
by Mike Peake
Saturday morning, we all awoke bright and early and wondered just what was in that spring water we were drinking last night?
Gar had bought half a fatted pigs worth bacon so wakeup sandwiches were available to all on the lovely sunny morning (yes, SUNNY!), before setting off for the Museum.
Gar and I set up our HQ by the entrance and band stand with our boxes of cake at one end and admin paraphernalia taking up most of the 6ft table. Then, after a brief pause, all the lovely cars and people started arriving. Paul Cheetham was showing off his youthful vigour by running up and down the village to arrange all the cars perfectly and proving that he’s a jolly nice chap.
Gar and I used our experience and stood at the main gate and told people where to park, before directing them back to our cakey HQ where more and more cake was appearing.
The table arrangement had completely turned around now, with cake taking over and admin stuff squashed into a corner. Cake was coming in faster than people were eating it causing Gar to have a bit of a panic. He went running round the site waving his hands in the air and screaming “there’s too much cake!” like a little girl until the Brooks brothers held him down while I beat him with a daffodil and got him chanting “There can never be too much cake, there can never be too much cake”.
The day continued bright and sunny and lots of cars, cake and even muggles were present. The venue was superb and provided a perfect backdrop for the cars as you can see from the many photos gracing our facebook page at the moment. All the Crich Tramway staff were friendly and helpful, making the day even more special.
There was such a range of cars at the show too. From the gleaming Apollo P5 Camper and Daimler 420 owned by Tosh and Gus Brooks to the wonderfully eccentric “Sheila’s Wheels”, a candy pink confection of madness that is a Reliant Rialto, owned by Kevin and Sheila Thompson, to my own slightly scruffy Herald “Poppy”. I must say I particularly liked the Thompson’s Rialto as it was as mad as a box of frogs and made everyone smile.
The other car highlights of the show for me were the Stewart Family’s pair of 1930s Austin 7s, Tony Miller’s stunningly restored Morris Marina as well as Benjamin Gretton’s Granada Ghia Coupe that was voted everyone’s favourite car of the show.
In all, there were over 60 Cars owned by our members at the show. All of them with a story to tell and entertainment to provide, and such an eclectic mix of cars too. I think that it is this mix of people and cars and our inclusiveness that makes this group such a great place to socialise both online and in the real world. Oh… and cake…Cake makes it a great group too.
A fantastic day came to its conclusion with Gar’s light hearted awards ceremony with prizes given as follows.
Best International Contributor - Robert Bothwell
Best European Contributor - Edwin Feenstra
Member's Choice Favourite in Show - Benjamin Gretton
Most Enthusiastic Member - Tony Tosh Brooks
Furthest Travelled - John Ticehurst
Oldest Car - Carolyn Stewart
Event Organiser - Paul Cheetham
Dedication - Zebidee Habib
Best Cake - Mike Peake
I must say that the last one came as a great surprise and a great honour. I am now the only bloke I know to go to a car show and come away with an award for best cake. It’s left Mrs FB wondering if I went to a WI meet instead by mistake. I’m also feeling the pressure to reproduce the Lemon Drizzle cake in quantity and to the same standard for Gaydon.
Our members left for home with smiles on their faces and positive comments on the day from all. Oh and Gar needn’t have worried about cake as there was none left at the end of the day. With just us hardy campers left, the Museum felt eerily empty so we all left for our friendly field to prepare for Crich’s own car show in the morning.
Back at the fatblokes field, we all took a few moments to compose ourselves and dress for dinner before gathering at The Brooks circled wagons again where we were joined by the friends made the previous night plus a few more happy campers that were staying over between shows. More meat was BBQ’d, more stream water drunk and just as we were thinking that some cake would go down nicely and bemoaning the fact that it had all been eaten, a 2nd miracle occurred. Doughnuts, a fruit cake, a carrot cake and marshmallows were suddenly discovered in the cake boxes!
This new miracle sparked talk of the previous night’s happenings. Liam White declared that the ”Holy Popup tent of Crich” was a highly significant relic and should be protected. He decided there and then that he would build a shelter around it as it had sheltered his family in their time of need. “It will be a very large shelter where Pilgrims can visit and worship in the 12 large bays each fitted with 4 post lifts and snap on tool chest and tools and surrounded by iconic British cars built before 1985” he loudly proclaimed for all to hear.
One of the new arrivals took issue with this though. “Surely” he said, “Our benevolent Lord of Old Cars would want us to be more inclusive and welcome cars of all nations into his loving fold. We could shorten our name to ‘Enthusiasts of Pre Millennial Motor Vehicles’ just like our Lord requested too!” Well obviously this was rank heresy, so he was executed on the spot in our time honoured fashion of being beaten to death with a plastic daffodil.
In the knowledge that we had done our duty unto the Lord we retired to bed.
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by Brian Allison
After the launch of the Mini, and the subsequent excitement it generated, life at Atkinson's settled down into a familiar pattern. Work four and a half days, Wednesday at tech.
Monday and Wednesday evenings at Tech. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday evenings at the youth club continuing my education into the mysteries of the fairer sex.
Saturday lunchtime was occupied by the now almost obligatory couple of pints in the Sportsman's Arms opposite the garage. The rest of the weekend usually consisting of sleep and further research as per the youth club.
As I mentioned, I was now 17, and a fair number of the lads I knew had bought motor bikes which they rode to the club. I personally had never been tempted down that road, having had enough experience with push bikes and playing rugby to know just how vulnerable the human body is to collision damage. Four wheels and a bit of sheet metal to offer some protection seemed a much safer bet to me.
The Huddersfield Corporation at that time was well known for it's progressive thinking re. youth clubs, and was willing to provide funds for any scheme they deemed worthwhile. They also had a number of full time youth workers who acted as youth club leaders, the one at mine being David Brook. David noticed the activity with the bikes and suggested, if I was willing to take on the job of supervising it, that he would approach his bosses with the idea of setting up a workshop so we could work on the bikes indoors.
All the lads thought this was a great idea, and thinking it stood little chance of success, I told David to go ahead. I was absolutely amazed when about a week later David asked me to make a list of what tools I thought would be needed, and would I take on the job of writing to the various bike makers to see if we could get them to supply some service sheets, posters etc. I agreed to do that while he saw about getting my list filled.
Within a matter of a few weeks we had everything we needed to work with, a designated workshop area, tools, literature from all the makers I'd written to, and enough posters to fill most of the wall space. I look at how things have changed and can't help feeling sad that this sort of thing would never happen today. Lack of funds, and 'elf and safety alone would probably prevent it, let alone the lack of interest shown by the vast majority of todays youth.
" Enough of the moaning, you miserable old so and so ", I can hear you all saying, " Get on with the story."
The workshop idea was a great success and my only regret was that it was almost unknown at that time for girls to have motor bikes, certainly none of our members had one. Apart from that it was very satisfying to be doing something I enjoyed and knowing that it was helping other cash-strapped lads to keep their pride and joy on the road.
I mentioned 'elf and safety earlier and although we tried to keep it as safe as possible accidents, thankfully mainly minor one's did happen occasionally. The only one that required hospital attention was an attempted finger tip amputation. This came about as we were rebuilding a Francis Barnett after a fitting new piston rings.
All was going well until some idiot decided to have a feel into the exhaust port at the exact same time that someone else decided to lean his elbow on the kick start lever. The new piston rings did a very fair impression of a scalpel removing a slice from the finger tip, fortunately not far enough up to hit the bone. David took the unfortunate victim to the hospital, which fortunately was only about a mile down the road, while the owner of the bike asked me if the blood would do any damage to his engine.
I fully expected the workshop to be shut down but in the event, presumably because there was no lasting damage to either the victim's finger or the bike, the incident went completely unmentioned from any official quarter.
I found Tech. to be quite entertaining at times too. One incident was brought back to mind recently when someone posted a photograph on the Facebook page showing him using a Dial Guage. Precision stuff !
One of the classes at Tech was entitled Workshop Practice and was taken by a chap called Dave Ainsworth. Dave was a typical Yorkshireman, with no airs and graces, told it like it was with no messing about. One of the projects was to make a set square out of a square sheet of steel. When we'd all finished sawing, filing and riveting Dave inspected each in turn, making appropriate comments.
"Not bad" meant nigh on perfect, "Could be better ", meant near enough, and the odd "Rubbish" got thrown in for good measure. One unfortunate got the "Rubbish " comment and asked why that was. Dave said the edge of the blade was miles out, to which the lad objected, " It's nobbut a cock hair out". Surprisingly Dave didn't reply, instead walking over to a bench and picking up a micrometer, then walking back to where the lad stood. Unzipping his fly he reached in and produced a pubic hair which he then measured with the micrometer. " That son is what a cock hair measures and that square's a good fifty out by my reckoning."
At work I was still unhappy about not being able to use the shop van for driving lessons despite repeated requests, and my appeal for a transfer to the commercial workshop where I could do some practical work on diesels also fell on deaf ears. Then just after my 18th birthday in April 1960, fate took a hand.
I was on the bus going to work one Saturday morning when I got talking to a lad I vaguely knew who was also an apprentice mechanic. Pete was about the same age as me and told me he had passed his driving test a few months ago and was hoping to buy a car very soon. This prompted me to tell him my tale of woe. I'd be banned from here if I repeated what he actually said, but in essence he considered it ridiculous.
This led to us comparing our respective conditions, Trinity Garage itself was a purpose built workshop and showroom facility with a Rootes agency, unlike Atkinson's which had just evolved over the 50 years or so they had been trading, hence the one pit, one hoist layout. That was one tick in the plus box for it. The staff worked alternate Saturdays, not every Saturday as we did. Pete was paid more than me, not a lot, but more. They supplied and laundered your overalls. They worked on both cars and commercials, so gaining experience on diesels. And most important of all they actively encouraged the apprentices to learn to drive using the shop van at lunch time.
Pete also said that the service manager, Eric, was a great boss to work for, and that the foreman Tommy, though a pain in the a..e at times, was OK really. All in all it sounded like paradise to me, and I told Pete just what a jammy so and so I thought he was. His response was to suggest that instead of going in to work, why didn't I go with him, have a word with Eric, and see if I could get a job with him.
As I said previously I was now 18, and as such classed as an "Improver", basically meaning I was capable of doing routine work on my own, not requiring the full time supervision of a mechanic. I was not an indentured apprentice so there was nothing to stop me moving employment.
When we arrived at Trinity, Pete took me to the workshop office and introduced me to Eric, who then introduced me to Tommy. Eric especially couldn't have been nicer, totally different from his priggish counterpart at Atkinson's. He seemed genuinely interested in why I wanted to move and understood my reasons for wanting to. He was quick to point out that I would be required to attend Tech; no problem, I was already doing so. After showing me round the shop and me being delighted with what I saw, he then asked me if I'd like to start there in a fortnight's time ? Would I !!!
So it was with a definite spring in my step that I walked into Atkinson's almost an hour late. And who should be stood by the clock when I walked in but my pet hate. "What's this. You're an hour late and walk in like you own the place.", "I had to go somewhere before I came in.", "Well, it's just not good enough and it had better not happen again", "Oh, it won't, I'm giving two weeks notice." The look on his face was priceless as I walked to the bench and got my toolbox out.
I lost count of the number of times during the next two weeks that Norman asked me if I was sure about it, until, having explained my reasons for the umpteenth time I finally said with all the cockiness of youth, "Well, if you don't know why by now you're even dafter than I thought you were.", with which I walked away. I quickly regretted saying that, he was alright really, he just had a total pain for a boss.
So before I left Atkinson's I made sure he understood that it wasn't him I had a problem with. He even came for a drink on my last Saturday morning there and we parted on good terms.
So I left Atkinson's behind me and started at Trinity the following Monday. Nice clean airy workshop with painted floor with lined out bays down each side, go down the steps in the bottom right corner to an open area with a bench along the wall and then simply walk into one of three pits.
Down another flight to the basement used for parking the tow truck and any other vehicles as need be, and a proper little canteen. The contrast with what I was used to was immense. I knew I was going to be happy here.
Next time :- I'm let lose on the road to terrify the other drivers, develop a love for another engine, and get my very first car.
by Mike Peake
It’s April 2016. Poppy has ventured out a couple of times this year but with an MOT and the group's first meet of 2016 at Crich looming, it was time I prepared Poppy for the upcoming - and very exciting - season.
My box of service parts arrived and I set about a full service which all went very smoothly apart from being a tad disappointed with the quality of parts I had received.
To be fair most of the parts were OK, but the distributor cap feels appallingly cheap and poor quality. So much so, I decided to keep the old one on the car and just use the new one as a “get me home” spare. Needless to say, I won’t be buying service kits again but choosing carefully named parts.
Next job on the list was to find out why my horn was not working at all any more. Last year, I’d fitted a new slip ring and brush, so I suspected my own incompetence.
I removed the steering wheel to inspect the suspect connections and gave myself a black eye in the process due to the steering wheel’s initial reluctance to release followed suddenly by full and very fast compliance with my request.
When I could see clearly again through the stars everything seemed to be functioning as it should in this area, other than the horn actually working. So I gave the slip ring and brush quick clean. A word of caution to my fellow fettlers, ALWAYS disconnect the battery when working on the electrics and don’t use wire wool. Otherwise the wire wool catches fire when it shorts across the connections and burns your fingers.
Obviously, I had cleaned my contacts with abrasive paper knowing of these pitfalls in advance (ahem) and all was reassembled. The horn still didn’t work though, so I tested the horn itself by connecting it directly to the battery and was met with complete and utter silence. Suspecting I had found the culprit, I ordered a new horn.
It was now time to turn my attention to the gaping hole in my soft top roof which used to be the rear quarter window. You may remember from a previous blo… “Oi! …What you doing?...No! …It’s my blog!...Ouch!...........................”
Right, Mrs Fatbloke here, Or as I prefer to be known, Mrs Anita Peake MSC and 2 DIPs. Don’t worry about him. He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t bleed on my carpet!
Anyway, to business. I think Mr FB may have told you about his utter failure to complete this repair properly before he went off to play with his little friends in Coventry. This time, I decided I needed to take full charge of the situation for 2 reasons.
I placed the new sheet of clear vinyl over the area it would need to cover and cut a slightly over size patch. Glue was then applied round the hole and the patch securely taped into place and padding applied behind to force the 2 surfaces to remain pressed together while the glue cured. Once the glue was cured the excess clear vinyl was trimmed away and an efficient, functional repair was easily completed. The roof of OUR Poppy is now whole again and I really don’t know what all the fuss was about. It may not be pretty because Mr FB insisted we follow the instruction on the glue which were clearly wrong, but it is functional until we can afford to have the hood replaced.
Now that I have made sure that my work has been reported correctly, I shall allow Mr FB back on the PC. Though why anybody would want to read his about his bumbling incompetence I really don’t know!
…….”Er yes…thank you dear….yes yes I’m sure they will appreciate your contribution as much as I do….”
Now. Where was I? Oh yes. The loving Mrs FB came to my rescue and very quickly repaired the window on Poppies soft top while I gazed on in wonder at her efficiency. I then quickly fitted the transfer stickers to the steering cowling so I know how to work the lights and indicators for the 1st time in my ownership..
The new horn also arrived and was fitted in time for the inspection the next day.
It is Saturday 30th April 2016 and the all-important day of the MOT had arrived. Poppy was nervously presented up for inspection. I then indulged in some aversion therapy arranged by Mrs FB to take my mind off the indignity Poppy was suffering. Yes, we went shopping.
55 Minutes later my phone rang. It was the garage… “All ok mate! Pick it up when you’re ready” and the phone clicked off before I could stammer any questions. Had it really passed? The MOT inspector sounded far too cheerful for that. I rushed back to the garage where I was cheerfully presented with my new certificate and more cheerful banter from the manager. “Been doing this motor for some years now ‘aven’t I? Bl**dy glad you fixed the seat, that was ‘orrible. An’ I got the ‘orn to work first time! You fixed that an’all? Fank gawd for that! Used to wind me up that did!”
Somewhat confused and bewildered, I parted with the requisite cash and drove off never having got the bottom of my mechanics cheerfulness. However it was obviously contagious as I was now cheerful too and went for a short celebratory drive.
The next day was spent ankle deep in cleaning materials trying to get her tired bodywork at least fairly presentable. (NOOOO! I meant Poppy!… definitely not Mrs FB!...How could you think that?....... “What was that dear? … No, no, nothing to see here I promise.” …Phew, think we might have got away with that one! Shhhh!)
See you all at Crich, boys and girls. I will be looking for material for future blogs so please feel free to expose your adventures of the day to me.
by Paul Sweeney
The Maestro delivered on every criteria I had, really. Roomy - even for a family of five - quiet, comfortable, economical. It wasnt the best-looking car in the world, but it was perfectly acceptable - apart from one thing; rust.
The old enemy was still there and as each month passed, I noticed a little more of the crusty stuff appearing in various places. After a time, I began to feel I had better get rid of the Maestro before it started to look really bad. Had it not been for that, I would have held on to it much longer.
And so it was that one day I was passing a local Austin-Rover dealer - Hartwells of Coalpit Heath near Bristol - and a huge banner caught my eye. No, not this one:
It was simply some words ... and they read, "Sale - nearly new Montegos under £5000". Since I liked the Maestro and the Montego was basically a saloon version of the same design - it would have all the same plus points. And surely they would have cured the rust issue by now, I reasoned - this car would be almost five years newer than my crumbling Maestro. I went home excitedly.
Now, I knew that revealing genuine enthusiasm to Mrs S would immediately make her oppose anything I suggested.... the trick was to somehow drop it into conversation casually - as an aside, as if I weren't really interested at all. In the same tone as one might mention "I see baked beans are only 10p a tin at Tesco this week".
So, after clearing away the dinner things, doing the washing up and walking the dog I summoned my best casual voice and said, "Have you seen the price of Montegos at Hartwells? Amazing - and they're not even a year old". Then the smart bit - I stopped talking and waited. I didnt exactly hold my breath but clung to the fervent hope we wouldnt be interrupted by one of the kids or a phone call - cos that would have broken the magic spell.
After what seemed like an age - probably 30 seconds or so in reality - SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed*) replied, "Shall we go and look?" Yeeha!! .. but dont show it, you fool! I counted silently up to 30 ... then, "Oh OK if you like. Might be interesting". So SWMBO organised a babysitter and off we went the 2 miles to Hartwells.
There were half a dozen or so F reg Montegos on the forecourt - all the 1.6L model if I remember correctly. I was immediately drawn to an all-white example; it looked very smart with body-coloured bumpers.
*Thanks to 'Rumpole of the Bailey'
The interior had been restyled and was much nicer than the Maestro interior. It had a feel of quality about it. The seats were comfortable and spacious. We went for a test drive - the steering was lighter (still no power steering on these cars) and the gear change was smooth as silk. Honda or VW box, probably but I dont remember. The engine was quiet and refined - I loved it! A trade-in deal was quickly agreed and a few days later the Montego was ours.
As ever, the BL range was bewildering at the time, and Wikipedia bravely attempts to clarify as follows:
The Montego started life as a four-door notchback variant of project LC10. Development on the new model, intended to succeed both the Morris Marina and the Princess ranges by the turn of the 1980s, had begun in 1977 but ultimately the new car was not launched until seven years after development had started; in the meantime, the Marina had been updated and re badged as the Morris Ital from 1980, whilst the Princess had been updated as the Austin Ambassador in 1982.
Around this time, my then mother-in-law purchased a used trailer caravan and invited us to use it.
As we couldnt afford anything better, we gratefully accepted and so began a period of absolute purgatory towing the damn thing with the Montego, parking it in god-forsaken wet fields in the back of beyond and wishing I was still at home.
All of which brings to mind one rather memorable occasion. SWMBO's sister who I will refer to as TTO (The Talkative One - as she rarely stopped speaking) suggested a joint caravanning holiday.
It would be TTO with her remarkably dreary husband and 2 young boys in a caravan owned by TTO's mother in law, plus us in my mother in law's van, which I think may have been an Elldis. Don't ask me which model it was, but it looked very similar to this one:
Looking back now, I can see how that holiday marked something of a pivotal moment in our lives - but for that and the long-term verdict on the Montego, you must await the next instalment, dear reader.
by Paul Sweeney
The Montego was in almost every way an improvement over the Maestro - so I was happy. Caravanning holidays ensued and the 1.6 engine pulled reasonably well, considering there were five of us plus luggage.
And so to "That Holiday". I suspect most of you will have had one particularly bad holiday that becomes the stuff of family legend, endlessly retold and enhanced over the years; this was ours. In fact there was another one that was even worse now I think about it, but that one doesn't fit my "Buying Used Cars" theme so I'll 'park' that story for now (see what I did there?)
What follows is to the best of my recollection a true account of what happened - without elaboration or exaggeration. This story really doesn't need any of that, frankly.
We had agreed to go on a week's caravanning holiday to a campsite somewhere in Devon with the in-laws. In this case that meant the sister of SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and her young family. They would tow their caravan and we would tow ours.
On arrival, we parked cosily in adjoining pitches at the Haven campsite and very quickly learned that SWMBO's sister shouted a lot. Very loudly .. at her husband, her kids ..at the world in general, apparently. We could clearly hear what she was yelling even when we were inside our caravan with the door and windows firmly closed. We decided long before the end of the very first day that this joint holiday had not been such a great idea after all.
We woke early the next morning and as usual I was first up and out of the caravan. We had an awning on the side of the van and I had often found the zippers on the doorways a bit fiddly, but this time I just couldn't unzip the damn things, no matter how hard I tried. The awning was very similar to the image below with doors at both ends of the long side. Neither door would unzip.
Eventually - driven mainly by a now-urgent need to go to the toilet block across the camp site - I had to clamber out of one of the caravan windows. If you've ever tried to do that, you will know its not easy!
Incidentally, we did have a chemical toilet inside, but SWMBO flat refused anyone permission to use that. Her less-than-poetic explanation, "I'm not sitting here stewing in the stench of your f*cking p*ss" still rings in my ears when I think back. Such a sweet-natured woman.
Having attended to my basic needs, I returned to examine the reluctant zippers from the outside .. and found one of these attached to each zip:
What the hell was this? How did padlocks appear on our awning, and why? It took quite a while to explain to SWMBO what was going on and why she couldn't get outside. Not a patient woman at the best of times, least of all when Her Ladyship's bladder was full! Unsurprisingly it soon became "OK" to use the chemical toilet that had been very definitely declared Out of Bounds to me only minutes earlier - funny, that. But I digress.
The very helpful camp site manager eventually arrived with some tools and cut the locks off for us so the doors could be opened and everyone could escape.
Once I was able to examine the doorways, I found something else trapped in the groundsheet inside one of the entrances; it was a rough sketch. I wish I had kept the original but SWMBO destroyed it in a nuclear rage as soon as she clapped eyes on it. However, I remember it very well - I'm no artist, but here is my best effort to reproduce it for you.
Clearly the sketch was intended to represent me (I was tall and slim in those days) and SWMBO - who it must be said had a low centre of gravity. Gradually the realisation dawned that someone thought SWMBO was the shouty woman when in fact it was her sister in the next caravan!
SWMBO had a helluva hissy fit when she saw the sketch, and marched over to wave it angrily in her noisy sister's face. Naturally, her sister refused to acknowledge that she had ever shouted at anyone and very loudly proclaimed that it couldn't possibly be directed at her. I idly considered simply driving away with the kids while the two of them raged at one another, but tempting as the idea was, that would only have caused tiresome ructions later.
I admit I found all of this highly amusing .. but just who had locked us in our awning and left the artwork? As I looked around for clues, it dawned on me that a pitch a few feet from ours was empty. The previous night it had been occupied by a young couple. So, unable to tolerate the din any longer they had - it appeared - packed up during the night and left, having first exacted their revenge on our awning! By the way, if you are reading this and it was you - thanks! Its a fantastic memory and I'm very grateful.
For the remainder of that holiday, we avoided socialising with wifey's sister and just did our own thing. There was never again any talk of going on joint holidays, which was a blessing as far as I was concerned. Even SWMBO had no argument with that.
So back to cars - what about the Montego? I still liked it; it was comfortable and refined as a saloon car. However as a camping holiday vehicle I had to admit that it wasn't the most practical. When you go camping with children you have to take an enormous amount of stuff with you, and a saloon just doesn't cut it.
Buying it was a mistake - although for my money, the Montego ranked alongside or above the British competition of the time. But yes, an estate car would have been a more practical choice. Despite this, I simply resolved to learn from the experience - I would know better next time but in the meantime, I'd have to put up with it.
I'd owned the Montego for almost a year when I spotted some rust on the bright white paintwork. Not just any old rust, but rust bubbling through from underneath and between seams. This was not good. Not good at all. And so before long, my mind turned to changing the car again. But what car should be next?
It should be an estate car, I had already decided. And enough of these budget models - it would be better to buy a slighter older but better quality car that would last longer. And a bigger engine to handle towing the caravan. Probably not British, then.
What kind of car fit that brief? Find out next time!
by Paul Sweeney
So the Montego saloon just wasn't a great camping wagon. I needed more space, more power and superior build quality. I was tired of changing cars every five minutes. I wanted a car I would enjoy owning, feel proud of and want to keep. Was that too much to ask?
Those who have followed my sorry tales of car-related silliness and folly will recall that in the past I had spread my net far and wide when looking for used cars, but not this time. I lived in a pleasant village called Winterbourne on the outskirts of Bristol and as I was driving home one day, I noticed a car of interest parked outside the local used car dealership just half a mile from my house.
It wasn't British of course - and by now I was once more starting to believe that might be a good thing - but it was a fairly big estate car with a bigger engine than my Montego and a marque with a genuine reputation for quality.
Yes, it was a Volvo. A 240GL Estate to be precise, in a rather tasteful dark grey metallic that made the Volvo look really solid and classy. It was automatic, too - that appealed, as I'd never had an auto and was keen to try one. My Dad had a Volvo 144 saloon when I was a teen; he loved it and kept it for years - that was the experience I wanted.
I inspected the car closely, by now after years of running old British motors I had become almost obsessed with finding rust or signs of it. Nothing! This was more like it. A test drive revealed a rather old-fashioned but good quality interior that offered a cavernous load space; this would be fantastic for family camping trips. As for the ride, it was stately rather than sporty, but I didn't mind that one bit.
I did a deal and the Volvo was mine. I remember to this day washing and pampering it on the drive, then standing back and thinking how smart it looked. It felt solid, too. Rugged and able to withstand the inevitable rigours of family life. "If it's built for Sweden, surely it can survive Winterbourne", I thought to myself.
The first weekend away with the Volvo soon arrived - and joy of joys, we had more space for stuff! Naturally SWMBO (She who Must Be Obeyed) and the kids simply brought more with them, so we actually ended up with less free space than we'd had in the Montego .. typical! Fuel consumption when towing the caravan was eye-wateringly poor - but then, we didnt go away every weekend, so what the heck. "Chasing economy above all else is what led you to the cars you've had before this one", I told myself wisely (or so I thought, anyway!).
That first camping trip with the Volvo was considerably better than my last story's 'Padlocked Awning' experience. We arrived fairly comfortably and calmly in North Devon somewhere near the little coastal village of Combe Martin. SWMBO quickly identified a good pitch on the camp site and we set everything up smoothly and without drama.
Another family arrived around an hour after us so having finished, I sat comfortably and not a little smugly on a folding chair with a drink, watching them setting up. The guy had spread his awning out flat on the ground beside the caravan and crawled inside to erect it using the telescopic poles.
His little boy - around 5 years old, I'd guess - was wandering around nearby and picked up the wooden mallet his Dad had carefully laid on the grass ready to hammer the pegs in. He walked about, swinging the mallet and pretending to hit things like he'd seen his Dad doing, the way small children do.
While he was doing this, his Dad's outline could be seen inside the awning, moving around. The lad watched for a moment, then when the shape (which was his Dad's head) came close enough, he casually hefted the mallet and swung it, delivering a hefty 'wallop' onto the shape in the canvas. He'd hit his Dad hard on the head! There was a blood-curdling and indecipherable yell from within the acreage of canvas, then much flapping and swearing as the guy frantically tried to get out from under the canvas - presumably to get at the lad.
The boy suddenly realised what he had done and began wailing so loudly his mother came running to console him. Amusingly, she asked him in that 'special' idiot voice some people reserve for young children and puppies, "Awww did you hit Daddy on the head? Silly Daddy hiding under the awning, isn't he?"
By this time, "Daddy" had managed to free himself and screamed at her, "What the hell do you mean, 'Silly Daddy', you stupid wench? That little **** just walloped me on the head with a f*cking mallet!"
I had to admit, it was wonderful to witness someone else's misfortune; discretely I retired to a safe distance where I felt free to cackle without revealing to the poor chap that I had watched the whole painful thing unfold. It wasn't easy to avoid grinning like a fool when he politely greeted me later that day.
All was well. Now our camping trips were almost bearable - the Dream Team combination of a more suitable car AND the absence of the ghastly in-laws made caravanning seem almost bearable.
Almost - but not quite. I still never managed to enjoy:
In the final analysis, I could sum it all up as, "Why am I paying to endure this discomfort when I could have stayed in my relatively spacious home among all the things I enjoy?"
So if you have ever asked me about camping, you might now understand why I may have seemed somewhat less than enthusiastic.
It all came to a head on one particularly long trip home from Cornwall. As usual, the best weather of the week was reserved for that moment when we were finally packed and ready to begin the long trek home to Bristol from St Ives.
Around half way home, I stopped at a petrol station to refuel the aircraft carrier (Volvo). I misjudged the pump position, driving forward slightly too far, so engaged reverse in order to move back a foot or so. A hideous grinding sound came from the gearbox and I fairly quickly established that only forward gears could now be selected.
I later found out it was a known problem that towing caused the Volvo auto box to overheat, resulting in damage when selecting reverse. A gearbox cooling device was available to cure the problem, but that information came too late for me.
We finally arrived home, my mood dark as I contemplated the cost of an auto gearbox repair or replacement. My Dad's oft-uttered words of advice haunted me now: "Never buy an automatic, son - it's just more to go wrong". At that time, I wished I'd listened, Dad. I decided I would seek a trade-in deal and thereby avoid the repair.
Next time - another car comes into our lives and proves to be perfect for everyday use and an awesome towing vehicle, too; but I hadn't quite managed to put an end to the whole camping experience yet.
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