by Brian Allison
I've been promising myself another classic, or "toy" as my ex describes them, for a number of years since being coerced to let my Rover P5 go. Recently this itch has been getting stronger by the day. Each time I went to a show I found myself looking at the beauties there and wondering, A - Which car did I really want, B - which could I afford to buy, and C - which could I find parts for reasonably easily. The answer kept coming back as a P6.
So with this decided I set about scouring the ads.to try and find a suitable car to buy. I knew I couldn't afford a perfect example but felt confident that I was capable of any mechanical work needed, and could make a fair fist of minor body repairs. Bearing this in mind I set about ringing any likely prospects and arranging to view them. Over the course of three months I viewed four that seemed to fit the bill.
The first one was a 2200 described as very sound with excellent body and interior that could benefit from a re-spray. Only an hour's drive away, so off I went. From a hundred yards it didn't look that bad. The could benefit part was obviously an understatement but I still had a good look round. I looked for and failed to find the door bottoms and the interior came complete with a paddling pool and badly worn drivers seat bolster and sun damaged rear seat. Good job it was a private seller, trade description would have had a field day. The next two I looked at, neither less than a three hour round trip, were no better and I was beginning to wonder if the time and fuel were worth the bother. But the itch was still as strong as ever, so onward and upwards. The fourth was another 2200 but two hours away. The photos with this advert really did look good, nice shiny primrose paintwork and apparently no faults at all mechanically.
Well worth a look he assured me, only selling because he was moving back to England, had it four years and never had a problem with it. What wasn't to like ? So off I went, nice two hour drive on a beautiful summer day with the promise of a bit of a bargain at the end of it. When I pulled in to his yard there stood a very shiny P6 and I thought it was my birthday .... until I really started looking closely and very quickly realised that the reason for the shininess was new paint. New, but not everywhere, the roof and boot hadn't been done, and whoever sprayed it hadn't been skilled when it came to masking tape. God only knew what lay underneath.
The next thing I noticed was something I'm still unable to work out. The offside panel gaps were all normal, likewise the offside door panel gaps, but the offside sill stopped about 20mm ( three quarters of an inch in old money) short of the trailing edge of the front wing, twice the gap of the nearside. I measured the sills and they were both the same length and both lined up perfectly with the jacking points. I could find no evidence of accident damage and am still totally baffled as to how this large gap could occur when both wing and door appeared to be positioned correctly. Any theories would be welcome on this. I was about ready to leave it when the seller decided to start the engine to show me how good it was. It sounded like a sack of chisels, due as I soon confirmed to a water pump with as much play in the bearings as a spoon in a teacup. Exit stage left one very disillusioned potential buyer.
I was still monitoring the ads in the fading hope of finding a genuine P6 when one for a Triumph Mk2 2000TC caught my eye. It was described as having a solid but not perfect body and interior, mechanically sound and reliable being used most days. Again almost two hours away but I decided it might be worth a look. I'd driven and worked on the same model belonging to a friend in the 70's and remembered it as being a very civilised, comfortable car, so rang the owner to arrange to have a look at it.
The following day I was about to set off to see it when the owner rang to tell me that he'd just taken a deposit from another buyer. Damn, or words to that effect. Back to the ads. Imagine my surprise when a week later he rang to ask if I was still interested. The original buyer had been forced to back out due to family reasons and would I like to go have a look rather than him re-advertise it. Amazingly the car was exactly as described. I took it for a run and found everything working perfectly, even the clock. The only thing that didn't work was the cigar lighter. The body had been Zeibarted from new and apart from a little bubbling on the front panel to wing seams was totally sound. The seller was a genuine gent not far shy of my own age and a deal was quickly struck over a cup of tea and home baked scones with his equally charming wife. Sitting in the sun chatting with them was the icing on a very good day.
I collected the car today and once I re-educated myself in the use of the overdrive had an extremely pleasant drive home. The car, hereafter known as Betsy 2, behaved impeccably, cruising at a steady 60 on the motorway section of the trip, and handling the far from perfect road surfaces with ne'er a knock, squeak, or rattle. All it needs now to make it ready to show is a polish. Oh, and a EBMVBB1985 sticker for that rear window.
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By Holly Bush
Well all my searching for clues about the car and the previous family had drawn a blank. The trail had gone cold, so there was nothing left for me to do but keep the car and wait for someone from the family to come looking for it. Yeah well that's not very likely to happen is it?
I kept the car for almost 10 more years and nothing was done to it during this time. I prided myself in keeping the car clean and dry as I wanted it to stay exactly the same as it was when I first got it. However, after 10 years our garage had become cluttered with various useless items. Boxes were stored inside it, and all around AJC and it was impossible to get her out of the garage and poor AJC became neglected.
She hadn't been forgotten about though..."when will you sell that bloomin Gazelle, there's no room to store anything in the garage, it's taking up all the space!" nagged my husband.
Eventually I let him advertise the car on one of the online car websites but this was purely to stop him nagging me. I didn't have any intention of ACTUALLY selling the car!
Imagine my surprise and delight though when I got an email from Nicholas Webb, the Grandson of the original owner. By some amazing miracle he'd been looking at the car website and spotted the Gazelle with the familiar AJC number plate! Several emails later and we'd exchanged some tales of AJC. Yes his Grandparents had indeed died in 1983 and the car had stayed in the family for another 3 years after that. Nicholas had even driven the car himself and had fond memories of it being in his family. Would he want it back I wondered?
This is the difficult bit because I wanted to make sure AJC went to a good and caring home. Would he want the burden of a rusty 50 year old car? Would he have the garage space to keep it as I wasn’t going to let her go to someone who would leave her sitting outside getting wet. Would he keep the car in the family forever? Oh it was too much to ask surely? The clutch on AJC had also mysteriously stopped working at this time, so the car would need to be transported. Damn!
Well Nicholas DID want the car and he promised to lavish attention on her and keep her forever. He even had his own car transporter with a winch. Wow! Could this get any more perfect? so I let him make the long journey north as soon as he could to collect AJC.
Yes indeed. Nicholas used to have hair on his head!
The day AJC left here was both happy and sad in equal measure. I was glad she had found a new home with the original family, but also sad to be letting go of a car I'd had for so long! All those memories! What would happen to it now?
I'd hoped AJC would pass an MOT with minimal effort, I knew it needed new brakes, a clutch , and possibly a bit of welding for the MOT. A couple of hundred quid or more maybe, and then Nicholas would have a nice old car to enjoy! (Well I could dream couldn’t I?)
What followed next made my nice little dream turn into a bit of a nightmare. Nicholas decided if he was going to keep the car forever, he'd do a proper restoration on it, and to save money he'd do it HIMSELF! Sounds good? Well we were about to open a can of worms...tin worms!.....
Yes a huge rusty mess had been uncovered as Nicholas began the painstaking job of restoring the Singer Gazelle. I was utterly dismayed at this, because I was so sure the car had been a solid little thing. I certainly didn't intend to burden him with a massive expensive project! I won't go into detail about the restoration, as Nick has done that, but I will tell you he had quite a lot of hair on his head when he first got the Gazelle, and now he doesn't, so I imagine he was tearing it out while he was restoring the car!
Many months of VERY hard work followed, and there were times when I thought he'd give up on the car. I badgered him regularly to keep him motivated - I'm not sure if that's one of the reasons he got it finished so quickly, I think he was sick of me pestering him but I actually enjoyed hearing tales of the work being done. it was good to know how much effort was being put into it and I knew the intention was to do it properly so that the car would last for many years to come and provide enjoyment in the future for his children and possibly grandchildren.
After almost a year of constant work on the car, the day finally arrived to display her at a car show and I made the long trip south to see AJC. Wow! Amazing! The wonderful thing about it is the smell - it smells exactly the same inside as it did when I first bought it 19 years ago! Sitting in the car was like being transported back in time to when I was young and carefree. Brilliant!
The car has been restored, but AJC still retains all the lovely character that made me love her so much all those years ago. I guess the memories are even better for Nicholas and his family, as the car has been part of their life for 50 years and now it's back with them again.
Oh, and the nice man with the immaculate Singer Gazelle I met at the car show all those years ago? Yes I met him again recently and told him the story of AJC. He had a tear in his eye when I told him my car had finally been reunited with the original family and restored. He's in his eighties now, and still attends car shows with his immaculate Gazelle. Well now mine is now immaculate too! I got my wish at last!
I know AJC will be looked after and cherished by the Webb family, just like Mr and Mrs Roberts did all those years ago. It's the perfect ending to my little fairy tale!
Look after her Nicholas!
Holly admiring Nicholas's work and looking rather please.
By Holly Bush.
If you've been happily reading the story of the Singer Gazelle AJC 87B, you might be wondering where the car had been living in the years between 1986, when the Webb family sold it, and 2014 when the car was finally reunited with them?
Well most of that time it was living here in Scotland with me!
The lady who'd bought the car from the Webb family had kept it for several years, and during that time it seems, some "botched repairs" had been carried out. There was certainly lots of body filler sticking out of places it shouldn't have been when I got it!
I bought (saved?) the Gazelle 19 years ago in 1997. I'd always fancied a classic car, so when AJC was advertised locally I jumped at the chance to go for a look. I discovered the owner was a young lad who'd just passed his driving test.
Well I wasn't much older than him at that time, but I reckoned I was a "capable and more mature female driver" and I wasn't going to use the car for whizzing up and down the High Street at night - I was going to take the car to some Classic Car Shows and cherish her.
The Gazelle looked to be in fairly good, original condition (apart from all the body filler!). The colour combination of white with a maroon stripe was very nice indeed. The interior was immaculate with lovely thick red carpets, wooden dashboard, and red (fake) leather seats. The smell of the old car was wonderful! So I bought her!
The BEST thing about the car though, was a little handwritten log book which had been passed down with the rest of the vehicle history. This little book became very important, and it's the reason I kept the car.
It had very neat and meticulous notes of every single journey made in AJC by the first owner, Mr Sydney John Hope Roberts. In this book were details of picnics, trips to the seaside, meetings with family and friends etc. Another section of the book had details of all the maintenance that had been carried out over the years. What a lovely little book!
He'd had the car from 1966 to 1983 and it was obvious this car had been cherished and very well cared for during his ownership. Every winter it had been "laid up" as Mr Roberts was a man who didn't like his car being ruined by our British weather!
What followed over the next few years were many happy times for me and AJC. I took her to several classic car shows, and we even won a prize for "Best in Class" Ok, AJC was The ONLY car in that class, but it was nice to win a prize anyway!
Another memory of the car show era was meeting a nice chap with a VERY immaculate Singer Gazelle. I felt SO embarrassed when mine was parked beside his beautiful car. One day I hoped mine would look as nice as that!
Sadly for AJC, instead of trying to get her to a similar condition to the nice old gentleman’s Gazelle, I decided to buy a Campervan and poor AJC got neglected for a while.
It was taking up valuable space in our garage, so my hubby talked me into the idea of selling it and AJC was advertised.
A couple of guys from Ireland responded to my advertisement and they were offering almost double what I'd paid for the car, so I decided to sell AJC to them.
They came over to Scotland with their trailer to take the car away as planned, but just as the cash was being handed over I was overcome with emotion and thoughts of all the happy times the old man had documented in his wee log book and my happy years with her too. What would happen to the car if I let it go? I'd never see it again!
"I'm sorry this car is no longer for sale - I'm keeping it!" I heard myself say. (Guys if it was YOU and you're reading this I'm VERY SORRY to have wasted your time!)
Over the following months my thoughts turned to the intriguing little log book. It was looking more and more likely that the original owners Mr & Mrs Roberts would have died by now, after all they'd bought the car in 1966 and this was 2005. The last entries in the book indicated frequent trips to hospital for blood tests etc and the handwriting was becoming very poor... Oh dear what had happened to them? I had to find out!
What if I could trace some of the original family? I wonder if they'd like to see the little book again, or perhaps they'd like to have the car back with them? Hmm... maybe!
So I did a bit of research. But remember, this was in the days before I had the internet. I went to my local library and searched the phone books for clues.
Armed with some addresses and names I planned our summer holiday that year. It was going to be a road trip in the new Campervan to visit all the places listed in the Log Book, (North Wales & Manchester!) to try to find out as much as possible about the family who'd owned my Gazelle.
Well disappointingly I didn't find out very much on the holiday. The Roberts family had gone long ago from their little bungalow in Deganwy, although one of the neighbours fondly remembered the old couple and their lovely car. Next stop was the address of Mr Roberts daughter in Manchester. Sadly I discovered the family had moved away a few years before and I had no other way I could think of to trace them. My little dream of reuniting AJC with the original family had come to an end.....or had it?....
To Be Continued......
by Brian Allison
Wow ! What a contrast Trinity was compared to Atkinson's. The impression Pete had given me turned out to be true in all respects, the biggest difference being the attitude of Eric, the service manager. Totally approachable , unlike the pompous prat I was used to.
One of the first things he asked me was whether I had applied for a provisional licence, and when I said no, he arranged for Pete to take me in the shop van at lunch time to get it sorted. Talk about making a good impression! Before the day was out I'd got a volunteer to give me driving lessons as well. Pete Schofield was one of the mechanics, known to everyone as Shufty, due to his catchphrase. "I'll just have a shufty at that for you", "Come and have a shufty at this" etc. For our foreign readers I should explain that taking a shufty in England means having a look.
A little background to the staff at Trinity would probably be a good idea about here. There were four apprentices. Harold was a year older than me, Dicky was a year younger, and Pete, known to everyone as Bev, and myself, both eighteen. There were already two mechanics named Brian but I was fortunate that they both already had nicknames, one being Bootsy, after the character in a popular TV show of that time,"Bootsie and Snudge". The other Brian's nickname was rather derogatory and only used when he was not present.
The foreman, Tommy, was an Irishman and prone to lapsing into a broad accent when hassled by us apprentices, which I must admit was quite a lot of the time. One abiding memory of Tommy occurred when I was working under a car over one of the pits. I saw Tommy, who was quite short, well padded, and quite flat footed walking towards me muttering to himself. As he walked down the side of the pit I was able to hear him say " I don't know what we're going to do with that Bev me old dear, I just don't know." It must be said that we really did give him a lot to put up with.
I became a victim of one of the favourite tricks within hours of starting work. I was happily setting the tappets on a car, head down under the bonnet when I received an almighty electric shock, causing me to bang my head on the bonnet. When I looked round young Dicky was almost falling over laughing and pointing to the back of the car.The older one's reading this will remember the plug cleaning machines of those days. Briefly these were a means of grit blasting the deposits from the spark plug and then testing them.
The connection for testing was a wire fitted with a crocodile clip which you connected to the plug, then pressing the test button actuated a high tension transformer which, if the plug was ok, caused a visible spark across the plug electrodes. There was a wire leading from the plug tester to the rear bumper and he'd pressed the test button. Much more effective than pushing the horn button, which also happened frequently. This was a regular prank and some days the floor had so many lengths of wire trailing across it ,it looked like someone had spilt a bowl of spaghetti on it.
The high jinks were yet another reason to enjoy my new workplace and I quickly became as bad as the others for it. The management of course frowned on it officially, but as long as it didn't actually harm anyone a blind eye was more often than not turned. Today's HSE would have had a field day.
The change from working on Austins and Rovers to the various Rootes brands was surprisingly seamless by today's standards where it seems necessary to have a tuition course for every new model. Almost all cars of that time were relatively simple with pretty straightforward electrics rather than lots of modules and computer controls.
I started my driving lessons on my third day, Shufty making good on his promise. As I said previously I had a little experience in moving cars around the garage, so already knew about clutch control and steering. The shop van was a Commer Cob and when we'd put the L plates on and were both sat in it,rather than the lecture on where everything was and what it did, Shufti simply said, "Off you go then".
I managed to pull away without any kangarooing and crawled down the road to the T junction which met the main Huddersfield - Leeds road. After a couple of false starts there was a big enough gap for me to successfully turn onto the main road. I was mentally patting myself on the back at how well I was doing when Shufty said, "Don't you think it might be a good idea to change up a gear rather than doing 10 m.p.h. holding up all the traffic." Yea, great idea, but I'd never needed to change gear before. Oh, I knew all about it in theory, but practise was something else again. Thank the Lord for whoever invented synchromesh! I soon got the hang of it and we were bowling merrily along at a steady 30 in top gear.
That's when I felt a sharp pain in my left leg. Shufty had kicked me. "Get your foot off the bloody clutch pedal". Not exactly BSM but very effective. We'd gone about a mile when Shufty told me to take the next left. He got rather agitated when I did as I was told, apparently I was expected to slow and change gear rather than just turn the steering wheel. Not his exact words you understand, but that was the gist of it. Taking notice of his advice I managed to get us back in one piece, and was amazed when he said we'd go out again the following day. True to his word we went out most days and he reckoned I was doing great.
The second week I was there they took a Landrover in part exchange and decided it would be ideal for use as a shop van. The only snag was that the gear box would only select 1st and 2nd gear and was noisy too. Having come from the Rover agency it was decided I'd be the ideal candidate to repair it, so out the box came. I stripped the box completely, laying everything out in order on the bench, found the wrecked synchro hub that caused the lost gears and some very dodgy bearings. I made a list of parts which the stores said they would sort for me.
As it turned out this took them over a week to do, during which time people walked past the bench, picked up and examined various parts, pronounced them totally unusable ( again not their exact words), and then put them back down anywhere but where they were originally. It took me a long time to get that box back together. But the upside of it was that I used a few words in the process that I didn't even know I knew. This much to the disgust of Harold, a country lad who had never been known to utter a single swear word. When the box was refitted the Commer Cob was transferred to the body shop over in Halifax and the Landrover became my learner vehicle and shop van. This had the advantage of teaching me to double declutch as their was no synchro on 1st and 2nd.
Within a month I was due to take my driving test and felt confident of passing first time. The day of the test rolled round and Murphy's law struck again. At the time I was due to leave for the test centre the Land Rover was not back from a breakdown. No problem said Eric we'll get a car from the sales dept. for you. So instead of driving the familiar Land Rover I found myself in a Hillman Minx with just a couple of miles to get used to it. Whether it was me or the unfamiliar car I don't know, but I failed. To say I was sick was an understatement. Fortunately at that time there was no long waiting list for driving tests and I got a new date within two weeks. This time I was determined to pass.
The day of my second test couldn't have been better, Wednesday afternoon, half day closing in Huddersfield then so less traffic than usual. As we set off on the test I felt totally confident, until the tester told me to take a right turn and the indicators decided they wanted a half day too. " Don't worry about it, just use hand signals", easy for him to say, the one thing I hadn't practised! As it turned out it didn't matter anyway and I was the proud possessor of a pink sheet of paper saying I was fit to drive solo. Much back slapping and a drink after work were in order.
If you've read my earlier blogs you'll know all about my love affair with the Rover engine, and it was about this time that I developed an abiding crush on yet another. The famed TS3. This Tilling Stevens 3 cyl., 6 piston,2 stroke, blown, diesel really grabbed my attention. Never more so than when I was stood underneath one having removed the sump. Looking up was like looking at the architecture of a cathedral with beautifully formed supporting ribs, the rocker arms too were sheer engineering art. And the sound they produced was like no other engine I've ever heard.
For anyone interested I've added this link which explains more about this magnificent beast - or just click on the image.
After I passed my test I determined to save hard to buy my first car - easier said than done on the wages we got then - but my fairy Godfather was about to put in an appearance. I've written previously about the youth club and it's leader, David, and how helpful he'd been to the lads with motor bikes, now it was my turn.
I'd often admired David's car, it wasn't new by any means but it had that indefinable thing called character. It was a 1934 Morris 10/4, blue over black, and apart from a patch on the nearside rear quarter where over zealous polishing had rendered the paint almost transparent was in exceptional condition. I'd passed comment on how much I liked it on a few occasions and knew that it had been in David's family from new.
His uncle had been a chauffeur for one of the local mill owners and had been given the Morris as a retirement present, his father had then used it before passing it down to him. About 2 months after I passed my test I turned up at the youth club and was surprised to see David there but no sign of the Morris. When I asked him if he had sold it he said," No, but the back axle's gone and they don't have parts for it so I'll probably have to scrap it."
I hated the thought of an otherwise perfectly good car being scrapped for the sake of a back axle and on the spur of the moment said "I'll have it, I'm sure I can find an axle off something I can fit to it." David liked the idea of the car being kept on the road and said he would give it to me but his father would go mad if he thought he'd given it away so I'd have to buy it. " How much?" "Just enough to be able to truthfully tell him I sold it, shall we say sixpence?" " You're joking." "Not at all, I can look him in the eye and tell him I've sold it, I don't have to tell him how much for."
So for sixpence (two and a half new pence) I became the proud owner of a car eight years older than myself. I arranged with Eric to borrow the works Land Rover, towed the Morris down to Trinity, and again with Eric's blessing put it in the basement where I could work towards getting it back on the road.
Next time :- Will I get the Morris back on the road? And if I do, how?
By Nicholas Webb
It took me more than a month to repair the inner and outer sills on the driver's side but it was freezing cold winter weather at that time (January 2015).
I managed to buy an O/S/F wing from someone in Hampshire and did a 360 mile round trip to get it. Actually, I bought two front wings but both were second hand previously repaired items and it was only much later that I discovered the N/S/F wing was too badly repaired to use. This was probably the worst £300 I'd spent on the project!
Repairs to the second hand wing were made and it was actually from a later model of Hillman Minx but I already had a plan to use parts from my original wing and the donor car to make one front wing.
An e-bay 'super find' was a new old stock front lower valance from Northern Ireland at £180 and now, one new welder later, I had a good floor, sill, bulkhead, outer wing and front valance. The weather also warmed up, my work was unusually quiet and rather than looking for more work I just spent more and more time working on AJC and effectively welded my way around the car until I was back at the front. The N/S sill was just as bad as the O/S, but it was actually very easy as I just copied what I'd done on the driver's side.
The N/S/F wing really was a nightmare! I had the remains of the original (not much!) and this piece of rubbish I'd driven to Hampshire and paid a lot for. However, there was one more. The very rusty wing still on the parts car, very rusty but never previously 'repaired'. The front wings on these Audax cars are welded on and getting them off pretty much destroys them, but it was this front wing that was probably my greatest achievement as the remnants of three rusted wings and homemade repair sections made one good wing. I could (and possibly should) have bought two new glass-fibre wings, the only other choice was new handmade wings from Ex-Pressed Steel Panels in Yorkshire at £450 +vat each!
Having got this far and with lots of nice chrome parts waiting in the loft there was the paintwork to attend to. Having by now exhausted all 'spare' cash, I could only think of one way it would get done. Like all the rest, I would have to do it myself. I have sprayed complete vehicles in the past but with no spray booth I decided I would be better off to do it in sections.
Spraying a whole car is difficult but spraying one body panel is relatively easy. By the end July 2015 I had worked my way around the car and it was time for our usual one week of the year holiday. Naturally, progress could not be halted entirely and the original number plates were refurbished whilst we were away! SO nice to be doing the detail items at last!
A rather strange thing happened around this time, I can't remember if it was before or after our holiday but when a car has had lots of work there is always the smell of fresh paint and rustproofing products that linger for a while but on the day the interior was refitted, I sat inside it and it smelled exactly as it had done so many years before.
Finally, 10th of August 2015 was my big day. I drove AJC for the first time in 29 years to its MOT test. Me; 20 years old to 49 years old and it was a leap back in time, AJC from 22 years old to 51 years old!
It will never win any concourse prizes and there are certainly things that I could have done better but it it's just nice to have it back.
BIG thanks to its last owner who kept it for so long. Giving away Granddad’s little logbook was a good thing as she kept it because of that... "There's some history with this car!"
by Nicholas Webb
Back in 2006 I got my first computer and one of the first things I did was check all of our previously owned family cars on the DVLA website to see if any still existed. The check on AJC 87B stated that it was last taxed in 2001 and was showing as "No tax" "No MOT" so from that I thought it most likely it had been scrapped at that time. It was a surprise to see it had lasted for so long after we'd sold it in 1986.
One evening in 2013 I was looking at classic cars for sale and clicked on the link for a Singer Gazelle. As the picture appeared and I saw the registration I was astonished to see it was AJC 87B. After several months of emails with the owner, during which I was very pleased to hear that Granddad’s little log book was still with the car, I was offered the car back on very favourable terms so long as I agreed never sell it. The following weekend I made the long journey to Edinburgh to collect it and see it for the first time in 28 years!
There was both good news and bad on seeing it. The good news was that it was complete and generally in seemingly reasonable condition. The bad news was that it was quite obvious that there was body filler in all the usual places and panel gap between the front wings and the fronts of the sills was no longer there. The sills looked as though they had been replaced but the join with the inner sill along the bottom edge was more than a centimetre thick!
Having got the car home I decided that the first step would be to make it into a self-propelled vehicle. The engine was soon running and new clutch master and slave cylinders made it mobile.
At this point I made a very wise decision to load it once more onto my Ford Transit and borrow one of my customers steam cleaner for two hours. By now after much muck had been cleaned from the underside I could see that the bodywork was going to be a big job. However, I decided at this point, that the brakes would be next job, followed by all the chrome plating that required refurbishment. The idea being that if I had spent quite a lot of money on it I'd be forced to continue if I found that things were really bad with the bodywork!
The entire hydraulic brake system was replaced, only the rear drums and back plates remain although the callipers are the originals having been reconditioned. Always a good idea I think, to have single line hydraulic braking systems in perfect order.
Just at the point I was about to start with the angle grinder, I had a spot of luck and a trip to Cambridgeshire was arranged to collect another Gazelle to use as a parts donor. Going to collect it I had the worrying thought of what may happen if the donor car had a better body-shell than “AJC”, but as it turned out it was equally rusty but fortunately in different places. It proved to be an invaluable help and very kindly donated it's near perfect doors and boot lid.
I also sold many parts from it and still have some useful spare parts in storage. It was probably the best £450 I spent in the entire project!
Having now spent enough money to guarantee my commitment, (About £2000) I chopped off the replacement outer sill. What was hidden behind was THE most awful and badly botched up mess I have ever seen in my life. I can cope quite well fixing rust but to have to undo someone else's bad welding on top was very troubling indeed. Without a doubt this was the lowest point in the restoration and I was SO upset I went to bed! (I never sleep in the day unless I'm really tired or ill.)
Later that day I rang Martin, my younger brother, and told him of the disaster. He gave me great words of wisdom and enthusiasm... "Tomorrow go back in the garage and cut out anything that was a previous repair or seriously rusted. Try not to end up with no floor at all if you can, but once you have done that you will get some ideas of how to start reconstructing it". It was also a good thing that I had already invested considerable money and time in it because I would have probably scrapped it if I hadn't!
by Mike Peake
Like many of you, I have been around classic cars for many years. I have attended too many shows to count and have taken part in many specialist forums, chat rooms, groups and clubs.
During this time, I have been observing, indeed studying, my fellow enthusiast. I have encountered the classic car enthusiast in many forms and suffered the potentially disastrous consequences of not knowing how to deal with each type effectively.
I hope the following anthropologic study will help you identify and subsequently cope effectively should you encounter the classic car enthusiasts in the wild.
I have found that whilst individual classic car peccadilloes are as varied as there are humans on the planet, all of us fall into one of the following categories and sub categories.
Main Categories of classic car enthusiast
This species of enthusiast actually owns a classic car. Some have been known to own more than one. Sometimes, even hundreds and sometimes even all at the same time. These latter types are considered by some, even among their own community, to be completely mad.
Owners also consider themselves to be the “Alpha” species in the community. Owners can be further divided in to several subspecies as described below.
The Muggle is a species of enthusiast often seen at the larger car shows open to the public and on internet forums. Whilst not owning any classic cars themselves, they consider themselves a vital part of the classic car movement. Muggles also fall into several subspecies as described below.
Sub Categories of classic car enthusiast
The Fred Dibnah (owner)
In my opinion, these sorts are the true heroes of the movement but little is known about them as they are critically endangered and rarely seen outside of their workshops. On the rare occasions that “Fred” does leave his natural habitat, usually only to visit an auto jumble, he is readily identifiable by his uniform greasy blue overalls, oily flat cap and scuffed steel toe capped boots. He may also have a pipe clamped between his teeth which he uses to point at things and has invariably “gone out”.
His natural habitat is his workshop which is always a form of darkened shed equipped with engineering machinery such as lathes and mills and lots and lots of specialist tools. Many of these tools “Fred” will have “knocked up” himself for a long forgotten specialist purpose. The shelves will be stuffed with old tobacco tins full of every nut, bolt, washer and widget known to man and some known only unto “Fred”. “Fred” knows how to do EVERYTHING. He will have restored, built, redesigned and designed everything from a toy steam engine when he was 3 months old, to a World War 1 tank and a 1900 Darracq, as well as vehicles and whajamacallits of his own making. He will often make any hard to source parts himself from ore he has dug up from his back garden.
If you are lucky enough to know a “Fred”, nurture and care for him well, as he will be very useful. A mug of beer and a cheese sandwich left at his workshop door will help encourage him to be friendly towards you.
The “Norman Shufflebottom” (Muggle)
“Norman” is probably the easiest enthusiast to spot and surprisingly common. He will be of slight build, possibly slightly stooped. He will always be wearing a blue Kagool, backpack, floppy hat and sometimes a walking stick. Every inch of the floppy hat, back pack and walking stick will be covered in badges and patches from un-interesting places that he’s visited.
“Norman” will typically sidle up to a gleaming example of his chosen model and furtively ferret about until he spots “IT”. He will then accost the owner and pronounce in his extremely nasally voice “This isn’t original is it?” “Whoever restored this had no eye for detail.” “See this washer?...this one here…oh use my penlight and magnifying glass…See it now? They didn’t use that type of washer until 26th March 1969 and this car was built in February 1969….shouldn’t have it see? Dear oh dear”. “Norman” then shuffles off shaking his head.
Unusually amongst the classic car enthusiast, “Norman” may also have additional hobbies. Typically, these will be train spotting and rambling. Further, although classified as a “Muggle” he may actually own a classic car, usually a Morris Minor, but this will be entirely by accident.
The best way to deal with a “Norman”, should you encounter him, is to lead him into the “Modified/Hot Rod” field where he will immediately fall into a dead faint.
The “Julian Syngine-Smyth investment Banker” (Owner)
Back in the 80’s, “Julian” would be seen in a suit and red braces, clutching a Filofax and driving a candy red Porsche 911 Turbo with full body kit which he loudly referred to as “The Porker”. Today though, he has matured and wears a shirt, blazer and cravat set off with a panama hat.
“Julian” can be seen at the high end car shows and will be driving something very exclusive and sporty. He will be clustered together with others of his subspecies typically in a deck chair sipping champagne and eating caviar behind the row of 4 or five similarly out of reach super classics. This enclave will be protected by rolls of razor wire and the odd machine gun nest to keep the plebs from getting drool on their posh cars. On the extremely rare occasions that he ventures outside his enclave, it is to pour scorn on the owners of models he considers inferior to his own. Which, to be honest, is all of them.
“Julian” will be heard to proclaim loudly, such things as “Oh yes! Bought her as an investment actually old chap. Money markets being as they are you know” and “ Took her for a blast around the French Riviera last year. Superb!”
Of course, he has never even seen a spanner as he has “an excellent chap that looks after all that for me. Flew him out to Monty Carlo last month to fix the windscreen washers. Said he put water in the bottle or something or other. All rather technical you know.”
Should you happen across a “Julian”, on no account must you succumb to the unusually overwhelming urge to “smash his smug face in” as this type of action is frowned upon, and even illegal, in most modern societies.
The Nick Griffin (Muggle)
“Nick” is also easy to spot on the rare occasions he ventures out. He is loud, brash and oafish. The “Nick is very common and can be found at any car show. Usually though, he will be hiding behind a keyboard in his bedroom of his Mum’s house, spouting his narrow bigoted views on every car forum on the web.
“Nick” has never owned a classic and gained all his “knowledge” either from his “mate down the pub” or “that bloke off the telly”. He will vigorously repeat these second hand views as gospel.
He will be heard to say such things as “That’s not a classic” and “Cwoar, they were rubbish they were!” or “My mate down the pub says they were always breaking down!”
Unfortunately, if you meet “Nick” in real life the best thing to do is avoid eye contact and grin and bear it until he gets bored. As with a “Julian” you must strenuously resist the overwhelming urge to “smash his ignorant face in” as this type of action is frowned upon, and even illegal, in most modern societies.
It is much easier if you encounter “Nick” online as you can simply ask your harassed, overworked but dedicated admin team to “banish his arse”.
The “Oliver Truewhisstle” (Owner or sometimes Muggle)
Whilst more commonly part of the “Owner” species, the “Oliver” can occasionally be a “Muggle”. However, their characteristics are so similar in either species that they are commonly grouped together in this one overlapping subspecies.
“Oliver” is a purist in its purist form. He will robustly preach “originality” to any restorer allowing no room for even the slightest modifications. He will have strong beliefs on what constitutes a classic and it will be very narrowly defined and certainly won’t include anything post 1958.
Non-standard wheels such as Minilights or Slotmags are considered thuggish in the extreme, although for some reason, wires are usually thought to be acceptable. He will even have an opinion on the font and colour of the number plate that he will consider suitable for your car.
Whilst there are many similarities, the “Oliver” should not be confused with the “Norman”. If you try to take “Oliver” to the “Modified/Hot Rod” field, he will soon become uncooperative and even aggressive before getting close enough to have an effect. The best thing to do is to show him a pristine example of his favourite classic before opening the bonnet to reveal completely modern underpinnings. At which point, he will immediately fall into a dead faint.
The “Vicky Butler-Henderson” (Owner)
The “Vicky” is almost certainly the rarest form of classic car enthusiast and quite probably the most dangerous if not treated correctly.
Whilst the “Vicky”, being female, is easily distinguished from her fellow enthusiast, she is commonly confused with the entirely separate species of “Long suffering partner”. Although this may be understandable to some, given the strong physical resemblance, this mistake can lead to serious misunderstandings.
The real giveaway that you are dealing with a “Vicky” is that on approach, she will immediately leap to her feet shouting “Yes! I’m a Woman! No! it’s not my husband’s car! Yes! I do all the work myself!” This is a reflex defence mechanism.
Surprisingly, the “Vicky” is not an instinctively aggressive species. Rather it is a condition forced upon her by the unthinking, more populous, male enthusiasts, garage mechanics and parts suppliers that she has been in contact with. She has faced years of people saying things like “It’s about the car, can I speak to your husband?” or “ no, really. Who does look after the car?” or “Did you choose the colour? It’s lovely”. Worse still, facile sexist comments and “jokes” mainly from the “Nick” subspecies.
If you are confronted by “Vicky” in full defence mode, the best course of action is to engage her in conversation about her car in exactly the same way you would any other owner enthusiast. “Vicky” is knowledgeable and a good resource for help.
If you can’t trust yourself not to make a facile sexist remark then maintain eye contact and back away slowly. It is vital that you refrain from any facile sexist comment as the next stage of her reflex defence mechanism is to bury a ½” socket drive in your skull.
The “Barry Brewer” (Owner)
The “Barry” is the dedicated devotee owner of an “unfairly much maligned” model. Once considered endangered, he is now enjoying a resurgence in numbers due to his own stubbornness and the caring, nurturing activities of another species of enthusiast I shall describe later.
The “Barry” is shy and nervous and continues to expect an imminent attack from any and every quarter. Consequently, he has developed his own reflex defence mechanism.
Like the “Vicky”, His reflex defence mechanism is triggered when approached. “Barry” will immediately begin a 30 minute lecture on why his car isn’t as bad as everybody says it is, backed up by slides, evidence and references to eminent people in the field.
The best way to deal with “Barry” is to say “that’s a nice car” in a loud and clear voice when you approach. You will still trigger the reflex defence mechanism, but 5 minutes into it, his eyes will become unglazed and he will ask “Sorry? What did you say?” at this point it is vital that you repeat, in a loud clear voice, “that’s a nice car” After a moment of shock from “Barry”, you will then be able to engage him in normal conversation about his car, or cars as it will turn out that he has 30 other examples in his back garden that he has “rescued” as he couldn’t bear to see them scrapped.
It is an exercise in futility to persist in the uneducated view that his car is rubbish. “Barry” has had years of practice defending his car and will cut any and all of your arguments off at the knees. Further persistence could trigger the final reflex defence. “Barry will forcibly insert a jack handle into your chest and then bury you under his collection of “rescued” cars.
The “EMB no damn EBMV er BB 1885” and the err “EPMMV” (Owners and Muggles)
As you can see, there are two groups to this subspecies, but their behaviours are so similar that I shall deal with them together. Indeed it is only the very slightly more liberal attitudes of the EPMMV that stands them apart. Members often view the newer “EPMMV” as more of an evolution rather than the formation of a separate group.
The “EBMVBB1985/EPMMV” are the true enthusiast. Just 2 years ago they were so rare that they were considered, in some circles, to be mythical. However, having found a sanctuary in Facebookshire, their numbers are now growing strongly and they are even venturing out into their former homelands and show grounds.
The “BBBEMV1985/MEPMV” are extremely sociable, polite, knowledgeable, inclusive and welcoming. So welcoming in fact that many a “Vicky” and “Barry” has made a home with them too.
Whilst each and every “MVEBBB1985/MMEPV” will be passionately loyal to their own favourite model and marque they are extremely tolerant of others opinions and choices. They may not agree with a members decision to spray his Standard 10 luminous green and fit candyfloss pink Slotmag wheels, but they will defend to the death his right to do so without public ridicule.
If you encounter an “EBVBBM1985/EMVPM” out in the wild, you really have nothing to fear. They are all jolly nice, friendly, and all round good eggs. However, it is worth mentioning that should you be so bad mannered as to criticise or ridicule their car or a fellow member’s car, they will become fiercely defensive.
If you persist with your bad manners, they will summon up their secret weapon to smite you from the face of the earth. This secret weapon is known amongst this group as “ADMIN”. Once “ADMIN” has been invoked, only a profuse and heartfelt apology and a copious offering of cake will prevent a smiting.
I have only a limited amount of room here, so I have restricted my anthropologic discussion to these main subspecies of classic car enthusiasts. Obviously, there are many others, some of which will be, as yet, unknown to science.
I will endeavour to research and study the subject further and maybe revisit the subject with you at some time in the future. In the meantime, if your interest has been piqued and you wish to continue your own studies, please visit the events section of the group's Facebook page for a list of shows and meets that should provide fertile grounds for research.
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