by Gar Cole
'To the MOT, and beyond'
Having arrived back home with my purchase I endured the usual first 24hrs of the neighbours offering their unsolicited opinions, much as expected it consisted of stories of build quality, strikes and how Auntie Mabel's gear knob has fallen off hers. Lesson one of owning a BL car - let your skin thicken.
Slightly overwhelmed at where to start on this car I attacked the simple bits first, a good jet washing removed several years of crud to reveal the true extent of the rust and mismatched panels. A weekend was spent carefully cleaning up the interior and re-pinning the headlining. It was nice to get out of the car clean instead of dirtier than before you got in, and under all the dirt the HLS interior was surprisingly nice.
Fortunately for me (and the car) I have a retired engineer living across the road who is a big help when I get stuck with a car problem, but even he had a look of trepidation when he clamped eyes on it, armed with a large pad and pen we attached a new battery and some new fuel hose and clamps to the Princess with the aim of making a list of jobs that required doing, gingerly we fired her up as the booming exhaust rattled the windows in the street.
What followed I can only describe as being similar to a 'blood splatter analysis' at a forensic crime scene, my spotless tarmac drive was dripped on by black spots, brown spots, caramel coloured spots, red spots and even a few rusty bright orange ones, it soon became obvious that most of the seals were about as fluid tight as a chocolate tea pot, while the two of us were distracted looking at the various oil leaks we failed to noticed the temp rising on the engine, due to two factors, the gauge didn't work (more of that later) and neither did the cooling fan which failed to cut in at all, investigations came to an abrupt halt as the majority of the foul smelling orange radiator water ejected itself from the overflow in a spectacular steamy cloud.
'Princess?' Exclaimed Chris, 'More like a Diva if you ask me'
It soon became obvious that this car required a lot of work (surprise surprise) , if I wanted it to be reliable and enjoyable to drive then there could be no half measures, over the following winter months the head was removed and sent for reconditioning, I has a custom made exhaust fitted, carb rebuilt, alternator and starter motor reconditioned, all new belts, leads, plugs, distributor, coil, water and oil pumps, new joints on the power steering pipes, brake and fuel lines replaced, new gaskets on the sump and differential housings, all this took longer than expected due to the prolonged wet winter we have just experienced, however by March all these parts had been fitted along with a Leyland ST fast road cam I had found at an auto jumble, still confident I would have it done in time for the Crich show in May I felt it must be now close to being ready for its mot??? FOOL!
Having now fitted twin cooling fans and a new thermo switch in the rad I felt confident that we would avoid a repeat of the overheating problem, once again the engine was run upto temperature and I enjoyed a brief drive reversing it back and forth up the drive without fear of explosion this time, Chris said to me 'what gauges and lights are working?' Apart from the speedo not a single gauge worked, or any of the warning lights, heater fan, interior lights or heated rear window, totally dead inside, externally the brake lights didn't work and the sidelights flashed with the hazards.
As I sat there with my head in my hands dreaming of a Rover P5 or MK1 Granada fully restored I tried to reason with myself this was to be expected with a scrap yard car and to not give up, suddenly I noticed all the gauges had filled up with smoke behind the glass and acrid plastic smoke was coming out of the vents, I switched off the engine immediately and pulled off the negative lead from the battery as the car slowly filled with smoke. Sue came out of the house and being a woman not the mince her words pointedly said ' let's hope it keeps burning, it's an eyesore ' this its fair to say was a low point and I almost gave up, if someone had offered me a few quid for it with the promise of finishing it not breaking it then I would have accepted.
Now I didn't know that OKK 160W is quite 'infamous' in Princess circles, it has been the subject of several lengthy blogs by previous owners, one of whom returned it to the road in 2012 by rebuilding it with parts from 3 other Princess models, original it is not, however the blogs did provide a reference of what had been done 'badly' to the car during this time, including a complete dashboard and interior change, having seen how poorly fitted the replacement body panels were I concluded that anything these people had touched would be a 'bodge up' , including the non functioning dashboard which had just burnt out, Crich was out of the question ?.
April and May came and went as did the Superb Crich event, I wasn't in the best of health at that time and lost a little interest in the old Wedge, however after a holiday away my interest reignited and a professional electrician rewired the dashboard for me, the fire had been cause by parts of the original loom being cut and reattached with insulating tape during the dashboard swap, i managed to trace the cross wire that was causing the flashing side lights and a new brake pedal switch fixed those lights, at this time I also relacqured the dashboard and fitted an Astrali 4 spoke wheel I had aquired, at this point all seemed ready to go, just 1 week to the Gaydon show on Saturday July 9th it was booked in for mot on Thursday, just 2 days before so it was tight but I was feeling confident.................................?
On the day before mot I noticed oil leaking from the gasket on my fuel pump, Princess cars should have an electric pump and sender in the tank, however 'Father Ted' the previous owner hadn't been able to locate one when the original failed, so took it upon himself to remove the whole unit from the tank, take of the blanking plate from the engine and installed a mechanical fuel pump as used on older O series engined cars, this is the reason my fuel gauge is the sole non working dash item now, fearing my mot was in doubt I quickly went to the shop Thursday morning to buy a tube of instant gasket, thinking I had 6 hours before the test I started undoing the bolts holding the pump on ready to reseal it, as I teased the pump away from the engine the bakalite spacer shattered into 8 pieces with 2 dropping down the opening and into the top of the engine.
ARGGGHHHHHHHHH, the car is the spawn of Satan I wailed, needless to say I missed my MOT and the chance to drive it to Gaydon. Despite my crushing disappointment at missing taking it to another of our shows this fault was sorted fairly easily in the following week and after another much needed holiday away from the 'cursed one' she passed her MOT on Friday 12th August with no advisories.
Would I do it all again? Well ask me after part 3 when the cars been resprayed which is happening over the next few weeks, will it be trouble free job? Will I get the front brakes to stop sticking and have the suspension pumped up in time for RAF Cosford in just 4 days time? Well time will tell.......
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by Gar Cole
Having only restored 1 car in the past, a Rover SD1 Vanden Plas V8 EFi that I bought from group member Charlie Badams, I had fallen into the trap of believing I could take on anything, trouble is that Charlie sold me a very solid car to start with, mechanically and structurally sound, it was mostly basic parts to replace, refit interior and blow it over in the original colour, it looked a million dollars with much ' back patting ' from all that saw it, wahayy Gar the super restorer, fast forward 4 years, the car was sold, I was an admin of this fine group, I had no classic car and I was sat in our apartment in Spain slightly drunk when the phone rang.......
'Alright bro' came the greeting from my brother in his bizarre Brummie/Dorset hybrid accent, I was on a farm near Seaton today and saw this Princess, the old boy indicated he was interested in selling it as it's too much for him to take on. 'Does it run?' I asked, 'Barely' came the reply. 'Colour?' 'Well it's sort of red but most of the panels are different shades of it, that's what I can see of it under the dust, mud and seagull poo'.
I took another good gulp of my Vodka before saying the immortal words ' offer him £300 for it and not a penny more' said my good night's and hung up before sleeping all night on the sofa.
The following morning I awoke with a bad back and even badder head and no memory of the previous nights phone call, until the second call came that afternoon to say it was all mine, oh good lord I thought to myself, what have I let myself in for?????
Being an honest sort who would never back out of a deal I arranged to collect the car the following weekend after flying home, the trailer was hired and off I set for darkest rural Dorset, the place was so remote the sat navigation gave up directing me some 1/2 mile from the farm and advised me to do a 'U turn' , that may have been sound advice from what followed.
The owner emerged from one of the barns looking every inch the character from 'Father Ted'. Wild curly white hair, wonky eyes, wellies ripped jumper and a pipe, speaking in the broadest Dorset accent which I'll only attempt this once he boomed ' Arrrrr ye lost or can oii elp eee with sumthin? ' quickly I explained who I was and that I was here for the car, he gave me a gappy toothed grin and led me to the barn and flicked a switch so that 8 dusty fluorescent lights blinked into life revealing the car in question.
It was every bit as rough as Neale described, I climbed inside, the roof lining was sagging so far it nestled around my head and shoulders making me look like an extra from a Bonnie Tyler video. After Father Ted connected a booster pack she fired up on the third attempt with a deafening roar, the exhaust had more holes than a good cheese, I slowly rolled out into daylight with instructions not to run it for long before loading it, so I took off down the lane in second gear, exhaust blaring while trying to see through the roof lining that was doubling as a wedding veil and the growing cloud of smoke coming from under the bonnet.
A hasty retreat to the barn found his holiness clutching holy water in the former of a 'fire extinguisher' , inspection under the bonnet revealed decent quantities of petrol flooding out of the carb joints all over the exhaust manifold causing the aforementioned smoky cloud, after making sure nothing was on fire I swept the cobwebs, dust and fluff from my hair that the headlining had deposited earlier, loaded the Princess onto the trailer and bid Ted goodbye, he waved the wad of £300 I had just given him at me and said ' best of luck young un, best of luck'.
I made the short 15 mile drive to my brothers house near Lyme Regis to stay for the night before heading to Brummie land the following morning, as I arrived in their rather nice neighbour hood I was met with laughter from my brother due to actually going through with it, horror from his wife who was worried the neighbours would see it and suggested maybe it could be covered overnight, my plummy accented 9yo nephew then guffawed ' oh uncle Gar you are a hoot buying tat, I shall have to call you Uncle Steptoe from now on'.
After stopping myself from kicking him up the backside with my 'size 12 boot' I retired to their house for a large drink, thinking the day was ending in a similar way to the one that got me into this situation in the first place.
Part 2 to follow
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2PM Friday found Poppy, a pile of cleaning products and me on the drive and preparations to attend our flagship meet at Gaydon began. This may have given you the impression that I was preparing for a concourse competition but I’d better assure you that this was most certainly not the case. The process mainly involved scraping off the dead bugs left over from Crich and a wipe over with a bottle of instant shine.
I then spent the rest of the evening baking my award winning lemon drizzle cake. Did I tell you I won an award for my lemon drizzle cake?
Gar was setting up at 9AM and I said I would help, so I set off ridiculously early to meet up with Chris and Johnny (his MG) before heading off on the same route as we had taken for Coventry last November. Now, I’d watched the BBC weather forecast before setting off and although it was fair then, they suggested that we might come across some rain on the way up so I’d left my roof up. However, I arrived at Chris’s to discover him taking his roof down. I received a fair bit of abuse at this point for being a softy so I folded my hood and fitted the cover. Then had to wait another 20mins while Chris continued, and continued to stow his hood and we joked about whether we would get past Moreton in the Marsh this time. (you may remember from My Coventry blog that this is where Johnny’s starter motor exploded in a shower of sparks.)
Eventually we set off, neatly dodging the horrendous queues for the Fairford air show and enjoying fairly bright weather. Turning north onto the A429 though, revealed a skyscape of heavily laden black rainclouds. Chris and I exchange a glance. Mine proclaimed “I Bl**dy told you so” and his was a rather sheepish grin.
We pressed on briskly as it’s a fantastic road for brisk classic motoring is the A429. If you haven’t already, treat yourself and give it a go. Then it started to rain. Only a few spots at first, so we kept going with our roofs down. Then it started to rain hard enough to require the wipers to be deployed but still we pressed on. You see, I’d discovered that as long as I didn’t slow down below “brisk” I kept rather dry. Yes, there was quite a bit of rain now on the windscreen but tucked down behind Poppy’s high windscreen, the cockpit and I remained surprisingly dry. I did get a bit damp when forced to slow for traffic through Stow but as we sped up again the problem went away.
The rain continued to get harder and still we pressed on. We had resorted to headlamps and wipers now and we were starting to get pitying looks from other motorists. As we were coming up to Moreton in the Marsh I started to wonder why the wipers weren’t clearing the rain as efficiently as they had been, before realising that there were now rain drops on the inside so as we would have to slow down through the village, I decided that perhaps we ought to stop and put the hoods up. We pulled into the same petrol station that Johnny had broken down in last time and I’m sure I saw two strapping passers-by turn around and walk quickly.
As I got out of my car, I glanced across at Chris and realised that he sits a bit higher in his car than I do in mine and hadn’t been receiving the same protection as me. He was soaked! What’s left of his hair was plastered down on his head and water was dripping off his glasses, ears and nose. I’m afraid I laughed… a lot… and had to take a picture.
The rest of the trip passed without incident as we dried out under our snugly fitted hoods. Although Johnny’s headlamp bulb blew as we were driving through Halford but I forgot to tell Chris until back at work on Tuesday.
There were two other shows at the British Motor Museum. The Institute of Advanced Motorists were celebrating their 60th anniversary and had a car from each of those 60 years. It was a really interesting display and there was also some modern MG thing as well so the show areas were filling up fast. We found our spot despite the marshals and were greeted by cries of “Oh Look! From The Brookes brothers and our very own fat controller. We parked up on the front row and started to help set up and then I took up my duties of “even fatter assistant controller” as all our wonderful members turned up with their wonderful cars and lots and lots of cake. (We really are going to have to get a bigger admin table!)
My duties as “Even fatter assistant controller” mainly consisted of drinking the fruit juice and eating the breakfast pastries that Gar had provided.
However, as we were setting up, a breakdown truck arrived and parked right at the front of our display area and unloaded a nice looking Lotus Eclat which joined the IAM display. When he didn’t return to move the breakdown truck I went over to ask him to do so. He rather crossly informed me that he couldn’t as it had broken down. Apparently, it was wrong to laugh and say “Wow. That is bad luck. First the Lotus and then the breakdown truck?” Whilst beating me around the head with his flat cap he rudely informed me that the Lotus hadn’t broken down, he always trailers it to shows.
My other low point was striding up to a party of people that were leaving our area and informing them that they had to pay a fiver to park their car in our display. On discovering that they were muggles looking around and hadn’t parked their car in ours or any other show area, I smiled sheepishly and sidled away to hide.
The rest of our meet was fantastic as always. You really are a very nice bunch of people with an incredibly eclectic mix of wonderful cars. Everything from everyman cars such as Heralds, Allegros Marinas and Escorts to exotic Jensons, Pipers, Bristols and E Types, all parked up side by side with their owners chatting happily without a hint of snobbery. I have to say that our shows are the first ones I’ve been to where I don’t have to worry about being made to feel like the poor relation. I loved it. And even the Stig turned up!
Awards were given to John Malley and his Piper as the attending members favourite car and BL Dan choose Jonathan Bennett’s fine Allegro estate wearing its battle scars with pride as his favourite BL car of the show.
Highlights for me were the Granada hearse with the super woofer speakers on the coffin bed. And Rich Philpot’s superb Herald Coupe which meant that for the first time at an EBMV meet, Poppy wasn’t the only Herald in the village and had a friend for the day.
I particularly liked the Supermarine Spitfire Flypast at about 2PM. Well done for organising that Gar! And, of course, Apollo.
The Museum is a great venue too. My favourite part was upstairs in the collections centre. It was an Aladins cave of motoring delights, prototypes, safety testing platforms and other oddities.
Unfortunately, due to irritating distractions such as eldest daughter’s BA Hons graduation and youngest daughter’s final dance show before going off to Study for a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Dance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, I was unable to get a weekend pass and couldn’t attend the pre and post show camping. However, I almost feel I was there as those that were, took great delight in letting me know what I was missing. Even down to the last of my “award winning” Lemon Drizzle cake which was “liberated” for the campers by the Brooks Brothers!
I did however have a fantastic time driving in a spirited fashion back home…. With the roof down!
Big Thanks to our very own Fat controller, Gar Cole for organising yet another great Day and a special mention for BL Dan Bysouth our very own genuine BL expert and all round good egg and a very nice chap. It was an honour to meet you BL Dan along with so many other nice people from the group. I feel that I ought to apologise to the Honourable John Simpson too, as I may have got a bit star struck when I met him and mumbled incoherently.
See you next time fine People.
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