by Gar Cole
Part 2 left off with myself on a high having steered the wedge through its MOT with no advisories, our group meet at Cosford loomed just a week later, having just had the suspension fluid changed and pumped back up I looked forward to the 30 mile drive.
I was awoken the morning of the show by rain splattering against my windows, cursing our bad luck at yet another wet event I none the less set off armed with umbrella and my RAC breakdown card.
To give the old girl credit she ran perfectly in driving hard rain, blower kept the windows clear and me warm, fearing I'd be the only member to show up I was pleased to see David Aikman and his Cortina GT follow me around the island as we left the M56, we were soon joined by 9 other hardy souls and their vehicles.
Good natured banter was then exchanged with folks surprised it had made it, everyone liked it's plush HLS interior but externally she was still an eyesore, as Mark Wilson so dryly put it 'now I've seen it in the flesh Gar I have to say...... It looks even worse than on the pictures ' ?
Determined to try and finish painting the car within a month I stripped out the interior the day following the Cosford show, Bressingham was looming and I had promised BL Dan Bysouth that I would bring it even if it was in pieces on a trailer, now the 4 doors, boot and bonnet are in decent condition as they are from a different car that was Zeibarted, however the original front wings and rear panels were not so fortunate and had more rusty pock marks than a teenagers face.
Armed with a cutting wire wheel I started removing the paint from the wings, filled at first with confidence as the layers of red disappeared followed by primer, excited as I waited for shiny BL steel to appear for the first time since 1981 I was quickly brought down to earth as the only thing that appeared was pitted rust.
Undeterred my amateur enthusiasm carried me on as I continued to sand the rust expecting to reach good steel when I was horrified to see the wire wheel break through the metal, this brought about an abrupt halt as I asked for advice from my friends at the local body shop, realising I was out of my depth with panels this badly corroded the job quickly turned to a 'preservation' job to keep the rust at bay for another 18 - 24 months until funds allow for a professional respray. All 4 panels were liberally coated in Vactan rust remedy before receiving 6 ' yes six' coats of hi build primer.
Working around the weather and when I had access to the paint booth, I painted the boot and 4 doors first along with the interior bare metal, I was happy with the results as the last week before Bressingham approached, however............
The 4 original panels were last to be painted, I had flattened down the primer with wet and dry and they looked fine, I couldn't see any defects in the dull yellow primer at all, loaded the spray gun up and as the first sweep of black came across the wing it revealed a 'moon scape' of pits, grinding grooves and dents I had missed, it was like witchcraft as every pass of the paint gun revealed more and more defects in the panels, frustrated and out of time I abandoned painting on the Thursday in order to refit the interior and pack the car Friday morning for the 140 mile drive to Bressingham in deepest , darkest Norfolk.
The nice drive to the countryside turned into a 5 hour ordeal with 10 mile tailbacks on the A14, however Princess Okk1 didn't miss a beat until the last 20 miles when I lost hydraulic pressure in the clutch, feeling more like a banana than a clutch pedal I nursed the gearbox with double de-clutching through pitch black, windy and wet Norfolk roads until the campsite loomed into view, yesssss we made it, thank you old girl.
The following morning I was assisted by Mike Peake, Phil Allin and Keith Lloyd who had my clutch bled and working within 5 min before we set off for Bressingham steam museum, I loved being part of a classic convoy ' it was my first ' and we certainly turned a few heads.
After a very enjoyable weekend camping the wedge was loaded up for the trip home to Sutton Coldfield, a trouble free 50 miles at a steady and smooth 60mph came to a spluttering halt at Kettering services, now it was at this point that the difference between breaking down in a classic compared to a modern car became clear, within 30 seconds group member John Hone pulled up behind me in his modern car, bewildered at his sudden appearance he sheepishly admitted he was lost and had spotted me on the A14 and had decided to follow me home, his crafty plan foiled by my breakdown, he very generously offered to wait until the RAC arrived but I let him go armed with directions back to the M1.
While awaiting rescue I updated my situation on the group to pass the time, within 10 minutes another modern car arrived carrying group member Mark Finney, they had been to a beer festival but diverted to check on me when they realised they were close by, our group is awesome and so is its members, the RAC man had the car running again after 5 minutes, a blocked fuel filter and pipes the culprit, it seems filling the tank to the brim for the first time in years dislodged a lot of rusty crud, she then drove home the remaining 70 miles without incident and redeeming herself with many friendly waves and smiles from fellow motorists.
Now I've owned the car for 12 months and had a few trips in her I'm certain of a few things, I'm smitten with the car and she's a keeper, the 300 mile Norfolk trip has shown up where more work and parts will be needed over the winter if I want a trouble free season next year, buying a near parts car isn't for everyone and it's tested me to my limits, however that is sometimes the only way to get a foothold into classic ownership and it is very satisfying saving a car from the scrap yard.
Next week we will return to the paint booth to rectify some of the original mistakes i made and dents i missed, and it will soon go to the specialists in Telford to have all 4 hydro units re gassed with Nitrogen to restore it's original ride quality, ongoing project that I'm really enjoying, updates to come in 2017 ?
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As is usual, for the day after one of our shows, the weather mocked us with fine sunshine on Sunday morning. Breakfast was last night’s leftovers and it was all jolly tasty…BBQ chicken is unusual at 9AM though. This was followed by a leisurely packing of camping gear before I was the 1st to leave at about 11.30 with everything squeezed back into Poppy and the roof down.
I spent a fabulous afternoon cruising the countryside. Gladys the sat nav did confuse herself somewhat by directing me onto some new roads which left her thinking I was driving across ploughed fields. 20 minutes of huffing, puffing, recalculating and very un-lady like language followed from Gladys until we were back on familiar territory for her and normal service was resumed. 4 hours after leaving the campsite and a weekend total of 382 trouble free miles completed, Poppy came to rest… on the hard shoulder of the M4 motorway ½ a mile from my home junction and 2 miles from home. You see, I needed 384 trouble free miles so I might have said some very bad words.
It looked like Poppy had finally left me stranded at the side of the road for the 1st time in our 15 years together. I was a little confused as she was ticking over but nothing happened when the pedal was pushed. However, I was at the side of a very busy motorway and I really didn’t fancy ending up as road kill while trying to ponder the problem so I called the RAC.
I’ve been a member for years and am paying my monthly membership on time every month so imagine my horror when the 1st time I call them, the girl on the end of the phone said “No… You’re not a member…it ran out last Friday.” I know this isn’t true as my renewal date is March and I pointed this out and requested that she check again. She said she would and came back to say that “the computer says no…” or something like that. When she said that she could still send someone out but I will be charged £110, the conversation deteriorated somewhat and I might have told her what she could do with that suggestion.
My next action could be considered almost as dangerous as working on the side of a motorway by those familiar with my tales. I called Mrs FB for assistance. “But I’ve never towed a car on a rope before!” came her reply. “It’ll be fine” I reassure her. “Oh OK! But I’ve used all the diesel in your car while you’ve been away so I’ll have to do a splash and dash on the way.” “OK” I say. “ See you in a bit”.
Whilst I was waiting, I decided to lay up and connect the tow rope. Now, rather optimistically, Triumph only fitted a towing eye to the back of the chassis so other vehicles could be towed and not at the front, so this car could be towed. It was while I was looking for something to attach the rope to that I noticed the throttle cable anchor plate was floating in the breeze and just hanging off the end of the cable.
Now, after a 4 hour run this bracket gets really, really hot so, on no account must you grab hold of it as you will get a rather nasty burn. So whilst I waited for it to cool for a while I tried to find where it had come from whilst making sure I didn’t wander into the path of the juggernauts whizzing past just inches away from me. No joy on this front though but I did manage to jam the end of the plate under the manifold enough for me to limp off the motorway and the remaining mile and a half home.
Any relief I felt at arriving home safely was immediately stripped from me though as I suddenly realised I hadn’t let Mrs FB know that I wasn’t stuck on the motorway anymore. A feeling of horror, far worse than any from the “Norfolk Beast” swept over me as I frantically reached for my phone. While I was misdialling in my panic, Mrs FB pulled up behind me as she’d seen me pull off the motorway. In an effort to distract her temper, I jumped out of the car, said a cheery “hello” and immediately started unpacking Poppy and putting everything straight away in its proper place rather than just dumping it all in the hall.
Mrs FB still had a face like thunder when I had finished. So even before I’d had a cup of tea, I offered to address the tyre pressure alarm in her Mini which was the reason she was using my CRV. Mrs FB agreed and followed Poppy and me as we limped up to the lock up, before going on to the local petrol station in the Mini.
I jumped out removed the cap on the NSF wheel and offered up the airline to the valve. At which point, the valve disintegrated in an explosive blast of compressed air as all the remaining air in the tyre instantly fell out. I may have said some more bad words as I was stranded again. BMW Minis do not come with spare wheels and puncture repair gunk wasn’t going to hack it on a disintegrated valve.
We were now 3 cars down. Poppy was out with broken throttle, The “splash” in the CRV had been dashed and now the Mini was sans air in one tyre. This just left our daughter and her plucky little Daewoo Kalos to come to the rescue and take Mrs FB home while I waited for Mini Assist.
On the plus side, due to the incompetence of the RAC, I can still say that Poppy has never left me completely stranded at the side of the road in our 15 years together.
Despite all this, I had a fantastic weekend and would like to say a massive thank you to Keith Lloyd for setting this local meet up. Of course I also want to thank all those who attended. Once again you are all jolly good eggs and fine people. I would particularly like to thank fellow campers Keith, Alison Layla And Gwen Lloyd, Phil, Lorraine and Lucas Allin and Gar Cole for turning a great day into an epic weekend. Particularly particular thanks To Phil Allin for his extensive cooking marathons. Top Chap! Gus Brooks has a rival!
Well done all. See you next time.
By Mike Peake
by Mike Peake
On arrival at Bressingham Steam and Gardens, Gar and I slipped effortlessly into our roles of Fat Controller and Deputy Fat Controller by opening the cake and starting to eat it as our other members arrived with our groups normal eclectic mix of cars.
Triumph Heralds were rubbing shoulders with a Lister XJS, Capris and Rovers and it is no longer a surprise to me as day turned into our usual friendly, good natured, family meet. It was great to see the junior Lloyds, Layla and Gwen and junior Allin and bottle flipper extraordinaire Lucas having such a great time and being welcomed by all the other members there. They are great kids and a credit to their parents. I really wish other established car clubs could be this way rather than treating all kids as mini Satans (or maybe that was just mine?)
The Venue was charming too. Several working narrow gauge steam trains to take us on trips around the beautiful gardens as well as the traction engines and “Dad’s Army” vehicles on display in the Museum including Corporal Jones’ legendary butchers van.
Altogether now! “ Open 2, 3. Out 2, 3. Bang 2, 3. Bang 2, 3. Bang, 2, 3…..”
The highlight of the museum for me though, was the glorious steam operated carousel. It was bootiful.
Huge Thanks to Keith Lloyd for setting this up.
BL Dan was a star and provided several master classes on Princess Okki. First he showed us how Gar should have polished her and then he fitted the badges without the use of No Nails! It was extraordinary. This gave me the chance to have a really good look at the result of all of Gar’s hard work and I can honestly say… err… the badges look great! Joking aside, it’s fantastic to see what Gar has done to save this car from the crusher and restored to the road where she belongs.
It was, once again, a great day out and a really friendly local meet. My personal favourite car of the meet was fellow Sarf Londoner, Ian Cross’ P4 Rover 100 and it’s ingenious use of household objects to replace some of those hard to find parts. It was a lovely car with plenty of charm.
The shiniest car of the show was without doubt Andrew Dutton’s Spitfire. She was gorgeous. Andrew was even good enough to demonstrate his magic wax on Poppy’s tired paintwork, to astonishing effect. The trouble is he only did the back deck and now it shows up the rest of the car! Err THANKS Andrew!
Poppy found another friend in Glenn Bates’ eggshell blue 13/60 convertible Herald. It was a birthday present from Mrs Glenn who spent weeks T-cutting it before presenting it too him. (I really need to introduce Mrs FB to Mrs Glenn one day.)
All the cars there had a story to tell and it was wonderful to hear them in the words of their enthusiastic and friendly owners.
After much chat the day ended with BL Dan Bysouth presenting Gar Cole with an engraved glass plaque thanking Gar for his hard work in organising our shows. A sentiment all of us present and many of our group share. Many thanks to BL Dan for expressing this so eloquently.
With goodbyes and promises to meet at other shows, our members dispersed and went their separate ways leaving the hard core campers (and the Allins living in luxury) to convoy back to the Spooky Willows campsite. Which, to be fair isn’t at all spooky in daylight and really rather charming.
Cars were parked, Merlot, beer and Hooch were quickly opened and the chat and banter continued. (The Hooch was Gar’s…yes I know… Big GIRL’S drink!) A Himalayan mountain of food appeared which meant that Phil was banished into his luxurious caravan to cook it all. We really did have enough to feed… well… me… but I’m not sure what everyone else ate.
It was a lovely communal dinner and evening with some great friends made. I even made sure that I’d had enough sleeping water to ensure I would be undisturbed when the “Norfolk Beast” put in an appearance…. Well mostly undisturbed…
To Be Continued…
By Mike Peake
“Come to Norfolk” they said. “It’ll be fun” they said.
BBC Weather was predicting Armageddon in Norfolk.
So three o’clock on the afternoon of Friday the 16th sees me switching on Gladys the sat nav to be told I was 3 ½ hours away from our chosen campsite in Scole. Not too bad. I should be there by 6.30 with plenty of light to pitch my travelling gentlemen’s abode. Gladys is a liar!
Poppy was piled full of camping gear, tools and gentleman’s refreshment. Oh ok, Merlot and cake. Poppy was full of Merlot and cake… and a Fatbloke. Despite this heavy burden, plucky little Poppy pressed on and was making good time as we were whizzing through the Oxfordshire, Northampton shire and Cambridgeshire countryside, on our non-motorway route. The roof was down and both Poppy and I had big grins on our faces.
All was going well… Too well… It couldn’t last and it didn’t. The A14 and a 10 mile tailback saw to that. The grins on our faces would have soon turned to boredom but Status Quo playing loudly in an open top classic car is rather grin maintaining. I could see my fellow motorists were enjoying the music too as I could see them mouthing the lyrics at me as we slowly drove along. At least I think that’s what they were mouthing as I couldn’t hear them above the music, but who can resist singing along with the Quo?
So after a considerable time rolling gently along interspersed with periods of complete inactivity, the traffic inexplicably started moving again with nothing to account for the delay apart from a lorry parked in a ditch. Gladys was mocking me with her revised ETA of 8PM. Big black clouds were building ahead, daylight was fading and Poppy was running low on petrol. I also REALLY needed to use some facilities. However, this being the darkest wastelands of the east, I was starting to worry that they may not have invented service stations here yet and I was sure it was going to start raining any second.
After a worrying amount of time the dim glow of oil lamps revealed that they have indeed invented service stations of a sort here. Facilities were visited, petrol dispensed and roof was securely raised before I set off again.
It wasn’t long before I passed the sign saying “Welcome to Norfolk” where I was instantly transported onto the set of Hammer House of Horrors”. Poppy and I were navigating very dark, twisty, tree lined lanes with the wipers frantically beating in a vain effort to clear the lashing rain and windblown wet leaves from the window. All it needed was a clap of thunder and my headlights to pick out an image of Christopher Lee leering at me from between the trees and I would have been that 10 year old boy watching from behind the sofa again.
With my heart pounding out of my chest, we pressed on and 5 hours after leaving a sunny Royal Wootton Bassett, Poppy eventually pulled into the pitch dark campsite. Strange figures were shuffling under the willow trees. Was I really in a Hammer production and they were the strange manlike Norfolk Beasts? No. To my great relief it was Phil Allin, Gar Cole and Keith Lloyd bearing beer and smiles. I’d made it!
The next 30 minutes was spent fumbling in the dark and the rain putting up my tent and glancing enviously at the Allin’s luxurious caravan, but eventually I had my cosy abode set up and appointed.
The rest of the evening was spent hiding under a willow tree, drinking Phil’s beer and regaling each other with our day’s adventures before retiring for a good night’s sleep. It was shortly after midnight that I was awoken by a very loud and dreadfully frightening roaring snorting sound. I was immediately back in a Hammer production and I imagined the “Norfolk Beast” rampaging through the campsite. So I did the only thing a brave and manly ex prop forward could do. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and hid.
The night progressed and the unholy noise continued unabated until I could stand it no more. I valiantly leapt from my tent brandishing the only weapon I could find, a partially frozen hot dog roll, and stealthily proceeded to follow the dreadful cacophony to its source.
Imagine my surprise to find it coming from our very own Gar Cole’s tent! It was obvious to me what had happened, Gar has been afflicted with the curse of the “Norfolk Beast” and “turns” at midnight when within the borders of Norfolk. No human could ever make that discordant racket. It was clear that in his altered state, Gar had forgotten how to work a zip and was trapped in his tent so I returned to bed and with socks stuffed in my ears I fell back to sleep.
The following morning dawned grey and drizzly and to my great relief Gar was restored to his human form and apparently had no recollection of his traumatic night time transformation. He was passing in mountains of Bacon to Phil to be cooked in his luxurious caravan. So, not one to pass up the opportunity to avoid cooking, I passed in some sausages too.
Now it was daylight and we could see each other, re-introductions were made over delicious bacon and sausage baps.
Oil levels were checked and engines started ready to set off when the air was torn asunder by a dreadful crashing grinding noise that sent a shiver down our spines. Had the Norfolk Beast returned in daylight? No, it was Gar trying to select 1st gear in Princess Okki. A quick investigation revealed a dry clutch master cylinder which was quickly topped up and bled through and our small 4 car convoy set off for Bressingham Steam and Gardens turning many a head as we went.
To be continued.......
By Mike Peake
by Graham Hemsley
"Aaarrgghh", I cried out - or most probably something less polite along with the aarrgghh.
Lying on the side panel of the passenger side front door of Mabel (my 1960 MK 1 Riley 1.5) and realising I was in a ditch with my back, leg and fingers in a great deal of pain, I realised things could have been a lot worse. No, really they could have been. I count myself fortunate that apart from the scars to my back that my wife Julie reckons will be there forever, I’m here to tell this sorry tale.
We’re fortunate to have a cottage down in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin region in France and the day before I’d pulled Mabel down there on the back of a trailer. Longish drive from Bristol to our hamlet but no problems whatsoever experienced. Couldn’t have gone better in fact. Got her off the trailer the night before and went over to see friends for supper and realised on the way back that the rev counter had packed up as had the panel lights but hey, that’s very minor to what happened the following day.
There I was on the way to a charity garden party (very British) on a lovely May day in an area that reminds you of the English countryside and looking forward to the strawberries and clotted cream when it happened. A car was coming towards me. I veered to the left. He veered to the left and we missed each other by a gnat’s doodah. He ended up in the middle of the road. I ended up down the ditch. Yes, you’ve probably guessed. For a nano-second, my mind thought I was in the UK and as such driving on the left-hand side of the road…….as was the French driver of French car on the French road coming towards me. I’ve driven thousands of miles all over Europe and beyond with no problems so why then? I’ll never know.
I lay there. Nothing was burning. Couldn’t smell petrol so that was, at least, a positive. Ooh ah, my back hurt but I could move so nothing broken. On the basis that the passenger door was wedged tight against the bank of the ditch I managed to haul myself over to the driver’s side door and out on to the road. The owner of the French car was kind and understanding. Not so his wife but then again I had given her one hell of a shock. Once they realised I had a phone and had called the friends who I was due to see at the garden party, they said their “adieus” and “au revoirs” and went on their way.
I was more than happy that didn’t want to hang around as neither car had hit each other and I guess they wanted to get to the local dechetterie (the tip/recycling centre) before it closed.
It then struck me that had Julie been in the car (she was still back in Bristol) I would have crushed her and hospitalised her, if not worse. However, had she been there she would have pointed out in no uncertain terms that I was driving on the wrong side of the road so bloody well get back over. On balance though I’m glad she wasn’t there as I’d rather have a damaged car and ego than a damaged wife. The car is just a bit of metal that can be repaired. I also became a convert in having seat belts fitted in an instant but more of that later.
Phone calls were made and Gerald and Anthony (who I was going to see along with their wives) came out from the garden party as quick as a flash. They took me back to our house and I asked Jerome (our French neighbour) if he would come out with his tractor and haul me out of the ditch. He duly obliged and received a very nice bottle of malt whisky for his trouble.
So, Mabel was now on the side of the road and I was not really conscious of the pains in my back, arms, legs and neck that I would certainly know about the following morning but was more concerned as to what would happen next. A young lad on a bike stopped. French I thought, but no he was English and spoke fluent French as well. He leapt into action and went into our local village and brought out Guy Brandy and his breakdown truck from the local Renault garage that he runs.
Now, having Guy around is a bit of a bonus as he organises a car event for all things old and new in our village each year and so had an interest in seeing a Riley. (Something it transpires he’d never seen before but then why would he?). So, Mabel was unceremoniously dragged up on to the back of his breakdown truck/transporter as given that the passenger side front wheel had a mind of its own, clearly it wasn’t going to get up there under its own steam. Mabel was then taken to Guy’s private workshop along with various Renault Dauphines, old Peugeots and a Land Rover based fire-engine and there she stayed for a few weeks.
Didn’t do much the day of the accident (or the next couple of days) as I clearly wasn’t in the right frame of mind or OK physically to do anything. However, the first thing I did even before phoning my friends was to call Julie, tell her what had happened and that I was OK. Her reaction………you’re OK, it’s OK, we’ll get Mabel running again. At the time I honestly wasn’t bothered but later on I’m just so glad she said it.
Spent a night in pain at our friends Gerald and his wife Sue’s house as they wouldn’t let me go back to our cottage on my own and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Not sure how I managed to get dressed in the morning and nearly had to call on Sue to help me out and to put my pants and trousers on. Not that she would have but at least it lightened the mood at breakfast…….not that I was all that hungry.
Right, what to do next as there were clearly both mechanical and bodywork issues to be addressed. Not having appropriate tools or even decent facilities in which to work meant trying to find someone who knew and understood the vagaries of old cars. As luck would have it I had previously hooked up with a local Google Group in our area where people advertise events, items for sale and services etc. Sometime before a chap (Paul Richfield) had advertised on there to say he had had a lifetime of working on vintage and classic cars and I had saved his details.
These read as follows.
“In 1961, Paul had his first vintage car. Too young to drive, many hours were spent on
stripping and rebuilding in time for his licence. This was followed by the usual Austin 7, Riley Specials and many others. Eventually turning to full time restoration he was a partner of Fergus Engineering, Lincs, working on such cars as Hispano Suiza, Bugatti, Bentley, Mercedes, Maserati etc.
Head hunted to look after a private collection on the Mediterranean coast, has spent the last 40 years maintaining European-American and English Classic cars. During the last 12 months has repaired cars ranging from a 1932 Cadillac V12 to a 1960 Morris commercial van.”
Sounds like he could be chap I need so contact was made and so glad that I did. He’s an interesting chap and has an historical association with pre-war Rileys but more of that later.
Paul came over in his beat up Peugeot 205, conversed in fluent French with Guy Brandy and it was agreed that on a temporary basis he could work on the car in Guy’s private workshop. What this in reality meant was arranging for some sort of wheel arrangement to be made that would allow Mabel to get up on the back of my own trailer and be transported over to Paul’s place for suspension and brake rebuilds to take place.
Various attempts were made and finally a Renault 5 wheel was adapted by Paul and held in place, how I’ll never know, but at least we finally made the back of the trailer after only once having the steering collapse in the main road before going up on the trailer. Mabel was then taken over to Paul’s workshop for the next stage to take place. The reason for the new smaller wheel was that the original assembly and lower suspension arms had been bent back so far that the original wheel was fouling the wheel arch.
Here’s Paul’s summary of the works that took place.
“After removing front left hand wheel the following damage could be ascertained.
The two lower arms of the suspension were badly bent towards the rear of the car. The arm connecting the shock absorber to the top links of the swivel pin was also deformed. In addition, the rubbers holding the tie bar to the chassis fixings had been torn away and the bar was now unsupported.
The main elements were provided by a specialist suspension components supplier and the Riley Motor Club in the UK. Sundry small fixings, lubricants, grease etc. were provided from stock. The chassis fixing (Eyebolt – lower arm to body [No. 62]) was not damaged and no deformation of the chassis could be seen in this area. Nor could any damage be found in the mountings of the shock absorber. There was also an electrical problem caused by the shock of the impact.
The car was supported and wheels removed – the following works were carried out on the L/H side of the car only:
I now had a working car but now needed to get the bodywork attended to, as since re-locating to the area in which we have our cottage, Paul no longer has the room or facilities to undertake this work. Shame, as I’m sure he’d have made a fantastic job.
As I mentioned I’m a member of a local Google Group down in France so I put out a call for recommendations for someone who could work on old British cars and understood the needs of classic cars which, let’s face it, are different to the cars of today.
Various suggestions were received and we narrowed it down to just a few although for logistical reasons I was favouring a chap (Franck) who was only about 20 minutes or so from us. Paul and I visited him and with Paul seeing what was going on, his facilities and looking at the quality of his work it was agreed he could do the necessary.
There being repaired was a Porsche, Jaguar XJS and a couple of piles of rust which turned out to be a pair of Mustangs being rebuilt. The chap (Franck) was clearly very good at his craft and had a passion for getting it just right. Sort of chap that wouldn’t let a job leave his premises less than perfect as it may affect the reputation he was building for himself.
So, it was agreed that on 1st September, Mabel would be delivered and he would get on with it. No point in trying to get anything done in France in August as the whole country just seems to shut down.
Now parts were required other than what Franck might do with new metal as the front panel, wing and bumper were beyond repair. OK, they probably could have been repaired but the labour costs associated in trying to get these into an acceptable condition was going to be greater than replacement parts. These would also be stronger than my damaged rusty versions.
A replacement front wing came from a fellow Riley 1.5 owner along with a bumper and good old eBay came up with as good a second-hand front panel as you’re likely to find. The front panel was sent by post and arrived in first-class condition.
The front wing and bumper were taken by my friend to a Riley Motor Club council meeting (along with various parts from Riley Motor Club Spares) in Kenilworth and brought back to the Bath area which isn't that far from where I live by the of chair West of England Centre for the Riley Motor Club. Now, how to get these to France?
Again, I put a note out on the previously mentioned Google group and eventually it came to pass that a chap living not far from where the parts had been taken to i.e. the Bath area and who is renovating a property very close to ours in France would bring them out. Not sure what the locals thought of a couple of chaps swapping bodywork parts from one car to another in the car park at Limoges airport but it didn’t seem to matter.
Franck had said it would take about three weeks (I guessed this would run into four weeks) and so I popped back from time to time to monitor progress……….the problem was apart from moving position in the body shop, not a lot seemed to be happening.
It all came down to a language issue and a communication breakdown but Mabel was eventually ready and looking so much better than she ever had been since I’d taken ownership of her. The trouble is she wasn’t going to be ready until after we were due to come back to the UK for the winter. My wife had to hastily arrange a flight back to the UK for work and I rearranged our sailing.
The upshot was that I’d crashed Mabel within 24 hours of arriving in France and she was ready to take back two days before the rearranged sailing. That wasn’t quite what had been planned before taking Mabel on her French adventure.
Now, there’s a few people I need to thank……
My friend for supplying the wing and bumper, the local area chairperson for fetching and carrying and especially to the chap running the Riley Motor Club spares who contributed greatly in getting parts that were on the parts list and some that were not out to France speedily in order for Paul to carry out the mechanical repairs. Paul and the chap from Club Spares were on good speaking terms by the end of this saga and the number of emails that were going backwards and forwards between all of us was quite a sizeable number. .
More on Paul Richfield - and this will appeal to pre-war owners and enthusiasts in particular. I mentioned he had owned a pre-war Riley………well this happened to be the Cuthbert Special which I understand to be a famous model and which came up for sale recently through the Historics at Brooklands auction but didn’t sell as the reserve wasn’t met. I think he’s still kicking himself as to why he didn’t keep it but it was a long time ago that he sold it. I’m sure that if anyone is compiling data on pre-war specials that Paul could provide additional information. If so please get in touch and I’ll see what can be arranged.
Seat-belts……..if they had been fitted my body might well have been less damaged than it was. For instance, when I was thrown from the right to the left I managed to shear off the door handle with my back. That's ¼ inch steel by the way. Yes, much pain and huge blue, green and orange bruises followed. Seat belts have now been fitted to Mabel. I couldn’t give a jot about their not being “period” and that the originality of the car has been devalued. For me, safety is vitally important and who knows it might not be me that is the idiot next time, it could be some other idiot and I’m not prepared to take that risk. Yes, I’ve heard all the stories about if I’d being wearing seat belts then this and that wouldn’t have happened. However, they do save lives and I consider mine worth saving.
Lastly, I know that if I were reading this I’d be asking myself…..”How much did all this cost?” I know that as I’ve kept a log of all direct and indirect expenditure and it’s………well, I’m the only one who knows the cost and that’s how it’s going to stay!
by Mark Smith
I shall bundle cars three and four together. There is a good reason for this…I can remember little about car three! This is very strange but I have thought about car three until my brain hurts and still I cannot summon up that much information about it. I do recall that it was a Triumph Toledo.
I can’t remember how I found this car, where or who I bought the car from or what happened to it but I’m guessing (based on previous history, that it was scrapped). I can recall that it was maroon and had a 1300cc engine that drove the front wheels. I seem to recall that the body was not in too bad condition but beyond that, nearly all other memories have disappeared in the mist of time. There is one thing that I do recall though and that was changing the rubber drive couplings on the front half-shafts.
These cars were one of the few that Triumph produced with front wheel drive. However, instead of using universal joints, they had opted for rubber doughnut couplings of the same sort as used on the Lotus Elan. These couplings were fine when the car was new but as a car aged and as a result of the stress they endured, they had a habit of splitting. Those fitted to my car were holding on by a thread. I ordered a new set and decided to change them myself.
This is a fiddly job at the best of times, but the problem was made worse by the fact that I had to swap them at the side of the road and on a jack. I managed it after a struggle and the car lasted me for a couple of years. It also brought me into contact with Club Triumph for the first time and a friend and I used to attend some of the Auto Tests held around the country, as spectators not competitors!
As I said, I cannot remember buying the car or how it met it’s end but its replacement is an entirely different matter! Being car-less yet again and desperate for wheels, I saw an advert in the local paper for a Morris 1100 Traveller and discovered it actually belonged to a chap at the other end of our road who I vaguely knew, so I gave him a ring.
He explained that I was welcome to come and have a look at the car but don’t expect too much! I was at the stage where as long as the car started and moved under its own steam and was cheap, it was the one for me so I paid the seller a visit. ‘Traveller’ was a rather posh title for what was a rather slab-sided grey and non-descript old banger.
The car started and it did actually move; these were its good points. The bad points were that it seemed to burn oil a bit and the hydraulic rams that should have stopped the rear door falling on the back of the neck anytime anyone attempted to put anything in the car just didn’t work but hey, it moved under it’s own steam so I bought it for the £150 asking price. I say it burned a little oil, I was soon to find out that it was a bit worse than that!
The A series engine as used in the Mini was a great little engine but when it was bored out to give more power for the 1100 range, it had an Achilles Heel in the form of value stem guides that wore quite badly as the engine aged. My car had been around the clock. The valve guides had not just worn, I think they had dissolved! When the car had been used and once the engine was hot and everything had expanded, the oil that was left on the rockers would drain down the valve stem guides and go to sleep on the top of the pistons.
The first I knew of the problem was the first morning I started the car from cold. Some of the people that live around where I live now complain about the smoke created by the steam engines on the Great Central Railway as they pass the back fence of their homes. Compared to a cold start of my Morris 1100, these people don’t know they’re born. I have never seen smoke like it before or since! In those days I was working as Postman in Harrow and had to be in the Sorting Office by 6am. This was a good thing as there were very few people about at that time of the day. I would start the car and by the time I reached the bottom of our road (which was about a quarter of a mile long) I couldn’t see the top end! James Bond would have been pleased to have had a smoke screen like this car could produce!
Petrol wise, the car was actually surprisingly economical. I am not exactly sure how many miles to the gallon the car did but it did about as many to a gallon of oil! OK, that may be a slight exaggeration but I think it would be safe to suggest it did use a pint of oil to the equivalent miles per gallon of petrol. This oil problem also had another side effect; the engine would actually run OK when the car was being driven but once I arrived home and turned the key to the off position, the situation was very different. I could get out the car, lock the door, let myself in the house and make a cuppa and the ruddy engine would still be chugging away, the over-run was that bad!
All of this led to another failing that these cars were prone to. The engines of course were transverse which meant that the exhaust manifold was at the back of the engine in the middle of the bulkhead. The exhaust pipe then dropped down low enough to then run under the car to exit under the rear bumper. Where the pipe bent, it had a support clip that bolted to the gearbox.
The banging and thumping as the engine rocked back and forth on the over-run, put added strain on the exhaust pipe that in turn put even greater pressure on the union between the pipe and the manifold causing the bell-end to snap off the top of the pipe. This was such a big problem with aging 1100’s that someone produced a replacement bell-end on a short piece of pipe that was made to be flexible. The original exhaust pipe would just slip inside the new fitting. I am not sure if the pipe was supposed to be welded to this adaptor but it wasn’t in the one I ended up fitting. But that was in the future.
In the meantime, I persevered with a broken bell-end. This meant that when I started the car in the morning, the exhaust pipe would jump slightly out of line with the remains of the bell-end that was still attached to the manifold. This of course increased the noise of the engine but I found that by the time I reached the bottom of our road, the pipe had realigned its self and all was well…for a while. As the problem got worse, I found that the bracket holding the bend at the bottom of the exhaust pipe to the gearbox, would work loose and the pipe would drop. The solution to this was to get under the car, loosen the bracket some more, shove the pipe back into place and re-tighten the bracket and all would be well again…for a while.
Life carried on in this fashion quite happily. I saw no point in forking out for a new exhaust as it wouldn’t last very long and having the head of the engine rebuilt was financially out of the question. Anyway, the car drove quite well once under way and clambering underneath approximately once a week was no big deal to a lad of nineteen or twenty. I never had to go too far in the car anyway so if I did get a major breakdown, I could always walk home or get a bus.
And then one day, two friends decided we were going on a fishing holiday in Norfolk. We were to camp but they decided they wanted to go on their motorbikes; one of them had a Triumph and the other a Norton. As I was not a motorbike-ist, I was to go in the 1100 and take the bulk of the gear, including the fishing tackle. They would go up the day before and just take their tents and basic needs that could be fitted on the bikes.
We were to camp on a site in the grounds of a pub on the edge of Ormsby Broad. Despite the fact that I was under no time pressure to get there the following day, it was still going to be a fair old trek in a car that was, if not on its last legs, certainly on borrowed time. Surprisingly, the knackered old Morris completed the journey in both directions without breaking down once! However, that was not the whole story.
Once I arrived at the site and found the other two, I set up my tent and unloaded the gear before the three of us headed for the pub. The next day was spent doing a bit of sightseeing using the 1100 so by the next day I needed to fill up with petrol. I checked the oil level and discovered that it was low, in fact it was so low that it barely registered on the bottom of the dipstick, let alone reached the “Minimum” mark. I set off to the local filling station with the usual problem but by the time I reached the edge of the camping field, the uneven ground had assisted the resetting of the exhaust pipe and all was well. I filled up with fuel and oil and headed off for an uneventful day.
The next morning things were a lot different! Topping up the oil had resulted in there being much more floating around in the rocker box when the car had been parked up the night before. This in turn led to far more draining into the cylinders, which in turn led to far more smoke being generated on start up and the usual jumping out of position of the exhaust pipe.
Now, picture the scene; it was a warm sunny morning, I had both door windows wound down and the ground was uneven. I started up the car and straight away the exhaust pipe parted company with the bell-end on the manifold. This instantly drew looks of displeasure from other campers and caravanners due to the sudden noise shattering their tranquil breakfast and causing them to choke on their bacon butties.
I should have been conscious of their displeasure but was in fact oblivious to it as I was instantly enveloped in a thick cloud of acrid bluish black smoke as the oil in the cylinders mixed with the ignited fuel from the carburetors! In order to mitigate the situation and stop the racket blasting out from under the bonnet, I slipped the gear stick into first gear and let out the clutch.
The car leaped forward, much to the horror of my fellow campers who didn’t know whether to sit still and hope for the best or grab their bacon butties and run. As the 1100 picked up speed and kangaroo’ d across the field, the resultant up-draught forced some of the smoke up through the air vents and out the open door windows, the rest being blown under the car and out under the wheel arches. There was now smoke blowing through every orifice and every gap around every grommet through the dashboard etc and still the exhaust pipe had not re-found its correct position.
As I neared the edge of the field, the exhaust finally jumped back into place, allowing the smoke to regain its correct path through the pipe and out the back and giving me a clear view ahead as the last wisps of smoke exited the car’s cabin. Meanwhile, my two mates who had never seen anything like it before, had collapsed on the ground with tears rolling down their cheeks and never again worried about the small oil leaks their British made motorbikes suffered!
After I got home, I read about the bell-end fitting specially developed for aging 1100’s and ordered one. It made a lot of difference to the exhaust problem and I found that I could reduce the amount of smoke emitted by reducing the amount of oil I put in the engine. As long as I kept the oil level above the “Minimum” mark, all was OK.
Somehow, I managed to keep that car on the road for about three years before it failed the MOT due to rear sub frame rot, after which it joined my previous ones in the breakers yard.
Looking back, I think this car gave me more fun than probably any other just because it was SO bad!
by Brian Allison
Been a long time since my last blog, so a quick catch up, in fact it might be better if you read the previous one first - you can do that by clicking here.
I've passed my driving test and for the princely sum of 6d (old pence) have become the owner of a non running 1934 Morris 10/4.
With the Morris safely in the basement of Trinity garage it was time for me to embark upon my mission to restore it to the road. First job was to determine what exactly was wrong in the rear axle department , so up on stands and under I went to turn the prop-shaft by hand and see what happened. This gave me quite a surprise. I was expecting to find a normal prop-shaft with Universal joint at each end as on every other car I'd worked on.
Instead, I was amazed to see at each end of the shaft what I later learned were called Layrub couplings. The drawing shows the idea better than I can describe it. The idea's the same but instead of strengthened rubber with bushes, the ones on the 10/4 was made from rubberised fabric similar to that you would find in a conveyer belt but about 3/4 of an inch thick with mounting bushes riveted in place to it.
The rear of the gearbox and the nose of the diff., plus each end of the propshaft were fitted with a three legged spider instead of the normal flat flange. Anyone familiar with the Hillman Imp or later Triumph Herald/ Vitesse/GT6 Rotoflex drive shaft couplings will immediately know the type of thing I mean. Turning the propshaft had no effect whatsoever at the rear axle, so off came the wheels, closely followed by the half shafts and finally out came the diff. to reveal one completely sheared tooth on the crown wheel, proving David's diagnosis was indeed correct.
I was under no illusion that I could just pop along to Mitchell Bros (the local Morris agent) and get the parts I needed, so set about making all the measurements I could think of in the hope of finding some other diff or even complete axle that I could make fit. the next job was to trawl around the local scrapyards in the hope of finding a axle that might fit, whilst praying that if I did find one, that I could afford to buy it.
Was I a lucky boy! The first yard I tried was probably the oldest one in the area and as such had pile upon pile of parts that had been stripped from cars of all ages. When I asked about a diff I was directed to a pretty large shed and told that if they did have one it would be in there.
One corner of the shed had a vast pile of diffs for me to sort through, and joy upon joy within half an hour I spotted a very familiar looking spider attached to a very familiar diff, all of which appeared to be in perfect nick. Fairy Godfather David had done it again, now I just had to pay for it. The owner must have been feeling generous and I walked away a mere £2-10s (£2.50) poorer.
Apart from fitting the new diff the only thing I found to do was the rear hub oil seals which were leaking slightly but had not contaminated the brake shoes. I did have one fright however when I was checking the lights. I had the headlights on main beam, and when I flicked the dip switch I heard a loud clang as if something had fallen off. It was the dipping mechanism. When you dipped the lights the offside one went out and the reflector in the nearside one was moved by an electromagnet, it was this mechanism I'd heard.
The MOT test had just recently been brought in which meant because the Morris was over 10 yrs. old I needed a test certificate for it. No problem, Eric said, Trinity was a testing station so one of the lads could do the test free, although he did say that they would not pass it unless it was fit for use. In the event I needn't have worried; it sailed through.
The next hurdle was tax and insurance. Again I was blessed. Clarry, one of the stores men worked in the evening as a salesman for a local used car dealer and said he would fix me up that evening after work. This he did giving me a cover note for a month in exchange for a £5-00 deposit. Funny thing is whenever I enquired about the actual policy he always said "It's in progress", then he'd give me another cover note. This went on for the whole time I owned the Morris.
The road tax was, if I remember correctly, about £15 for the year, more than the total cost of the car, repairs and insurance, some things never change, the government were a set of robbing b..... even then, but I didn't care, I was MOBILE!. OK, it was 8 yrs. older than I was, with nearly 140,000 miles on the clock, built by people who thought heaters were for wimps, and had this reddish patch on the nearside rear corner of the roof where the undercoat showed through due to over enthusiastic polishing but to me, even now, she was beautiful.
The ash framed body was as solid as the day she was built and the doors shut with the same sound you used to get with the old railway carriage doors, more a click than thud, and not a rattle anywhere. And being a bit of a forward sort of old girl she even had hydraulic brakes. And like today's cars she had a multi-function steering wheel. On the wheel boss you had, the horn button, ignition advance lever, and the dip switch. And full flow ventilation. Open the rear window and the windscreen and there you are.
At the same time all this was going on , again due to David, I'd been persuaded to take part in a panto at the youth club. This was my first foray into amateur dramatics and I found I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that along with carol I joined a group who staged a production every 3 months. After the last night of each production the older members of the group took it in turn to host a party, the first of which we attended taught me a lesson which probably saved me a lot of grief and which I've never forgotten.
The party was at a house about 5 miles out of town and was very enjoyable indeed, so much so that it was about 4 o'clock in the morning when we left. Carol lived virtually exactly on the other side of town which meant a run of about 7 or 8 miles to take her home, no problem in my trusty conveyance. On the way we realised that if we parked in a lay-by we had a fabulous view of the ICI works, so we decided to stop for a while and admire the view.
After about an hour or so of serious "sight seeing" we got back on the road, only to find when we arrived at Carol's that her mother had waited up for her. I expected the worst, but far from going berserk her mother thanked me for getting her home safely, and, "Would you like some breakfast". Silly question. So after bacon and eggs I finally wound my way towards my bed, but before then I had to put Betsy away. The garage I had actually belonged to a friends uncle but wasn't being used. It was basically a wooden shed, inside it was wide enough to allow plenty of room around the car but the door in one end was only just wide enough to fit Betsy through with about 4 inches either side. I had three attempts to drive in, hitting the door frame each time, and eventually decided to leave her outside. DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. A valuable lesson learned.
I ran Betsy for the best part of a year, by which time her drinking along with the smoke screen was getting to be a serious problem. I tried but there was no chance I was going to be lucky enough to find another engine the way I had a diff, and I certainly couldn't afford to overhaul the engine. Frank, who manned the petrol pumps had often expressed an interest in Betsy and when I was telling him my tale of woe again offered to buy her, promising that he'd get the engine done and keep her on the road.
He paid me £25 for her and true to his word employed Willie, one of the younger apprentices to do the work, again in the basement. After a rebore and new pistons she was soon to be seen parked in the corner of the forecourt. I almost wept every time I saw her but within a matter of days I'd bought a Triumph Renown, another non-runner, or more correctly, it ran, erratically. "I've changed the plugs and points and fitted a new condenser, checked the coil and it still won't run right", a quick look and for £20 I had a Renown. One distributor cap later and I was in business.
Betsy meanwhile hadn't fared so well. Within a matter of weeks she threw a con rod. I don't think Frank ever spoke to Willie again, and Betsy was consigned to the scrap yard.
A sad postscript to Betsy's tale came about a year later. I was in a scrapyard in Bradford looking for parts for my mates Fordson van when I came across a complete engine in a corner. "That was done up and never fitted, been there for years".
If only I'd known in time.
by Mark Smith
It was sad to stand and watch the hydraulic claws of the grab-arm on the scrapyard recovery truck as they pierced the windows of the Morris 1000 and lifted it unceremoniously onto the back of the truck. It had been my first car and had done its job of ferrying me around very well over the last 10 months or so after I had passed my Driving Test.
We had enjoyed some fun moments like the time I had taken part in a Pike fishing competition as the guest of some friends at an old gravel pit. The service track around the lake was rough to say the least and after the heavy rain of the previous week, it was impossible to see where the potholes in the surface were. As a consequence, when we eventually finished at the lake, I discovered that the Morris had no brakes! The linings of all four drum brakes were soaked through. The drive home was ‘interesting’ to say the least and it took a few days for the linings to dry out.
And then there was the time during that previous winter when we had a significant amount of snow that then froze solid and lasted for best part of a week. The Morris handled the conditions very well but it was hardly a powerful motor. However, on the second day of the winter conditions, my preferred parking place at work was taken and I was forced to park in one of the turnings around the corner.
I worked at a domestic appliance store in the old Pinner High Street at the time and was forced to park in Grange Gardens, a turning in front of the lovely Pinner church that is situated at the top end of the Elizabethan High Street. The problem though, was that the gutter areas were covered with frozen ruts. I couldn’t actually drive the car tight enough to the kerb to park it and had to get out and slide it in by pushing on the passenger side until it would go no further. Getting it out at home time was even more of a problem.
I had hoped the cars in front would have moved and I could then drive it out but sadly they were still there, blocking my way out. I tried to push it out but I was working against the camber so it wouldn’t shift. As I stood contemplating my next move and whether I would have to catch a bus home, a gentleman came around the corner and offered to help. Between us we pushed the car far enough out to allow me to drive it home.
Well, it had gone now and I was left with the prospect of finding another car. Eventually, I saw a Sunbeam Rapier MKIV in our local paper and decided to go and have a look at it.
The Sunbeam was a great looking car with a wooden dashboard full of dials and pillar-less front doors. The rear side windows could be wound down into the bodywork and with the front windows downs, it left the whole side open which was great on the odd hot summer day.
Of course I knew nothing of any of this at the time, I had been attracted by the £95 price tag! When I saw the car I thought ‘this is the one for me’ and bought it there and then despite the fact that it came with four slick tyres that were so bald the canvass was clearly visible in places! Four remould tyres sorted that problem and I was ready for the open road again.
A friend came to have a look at it and spotted a spot of rust on the top surface of the passenger side indicator / sidelight pod. The indicators and sidelights were mounted on the front of a pod fitted to the body just below the headlights. I think this spoilt the lines of the car. In my opinion the lights should have been fitted flush to the body and I can only imagine the designer had had one too many G & T’s one lunchtime and thought this was a good idea ta the time. Anyway, my friend was not content with pointing out this rust bubble and insisted on investigating further by thrusting a digit into the area. Now I had a hole! Out with the plastic padding and spay can of British Racing Green paint and I was ready for the road…again.
The car drove very well and didn’t use any oil despite the high mileage and the cabin was a lovely place to be. The wooden dashboard was in great condition and the dials all worked. The seats were very comfortable if a little worn and it was like driving around in a gentleman club on wheels.
Before I passed my Test, my father was the only one in the family that drove and had never owned a car that was anything like the Rapier so polished wood was a novelty for me. Two of my friends (twin brothers and old school friends who were into custom cars by this time) were quite impressed too and decided that this car would make a great cruising machine.
In the late 70’s, there was (might still be for all I know) a big cruising scene in London and the two of them along with one of their other friends, decided we should take the Sunbeam on a cruising trip the next weekend. My old and fuddled brain can’t recall the full details of this event but I think it was held on Chelsea bridge on a Saturday evening. Being summer the evenings were nice and light and this particular Saturday was warm too.
The other friend was a bit of a twerp, for want of a better and printable term. He had what had once been a rather nice Vauxhall Viva HC in a dark blue but had jacked up the rear end, flared the rear wheel arches and shoved on grotesquely wide chrome slot-meg wheels. He had spent a fortune on the add-on’s and totally upset the geometry of the vehicle to the point that is was plainly dangerous!
He had offered me a ride in this death-trap on a number of occasions, but I had graciously refused citing health reasons…I wanted to live! Anyway, this character went to the cruise in his car and my friends came with me in the Rapier. The evening passed without incident, despite the Police interest in the event. I parked the Rapier somewhere nearby and my friends and I watched the custom cars go by from the safely of the bridge wall. The pillock with the jacked-up Viva joined the cars as they slowly drove over the bridge. After he had finished looking a twit, we all drove home. So ended my brush with the custom car scene of the 1970’s.
The Mary Rose was eventually lifted from the silt of the Solent in 1982 and was lying under a tent-like structure in Portsmouth Dockyard near to HMS Victory. The Mary Rose Trust were having to keep the remains of the Henry VIII’s flag ship drenched with fresh water to wash out the hundreds of years of soaking in salt water and to stop it drying out and becoming a pile of dust.
It went on public display in October 1983. By then, the girlfriend of my Morris period had dropped by the wayside and another girl was lurking on the horizon. The problem was that she had a boyfriend but he was a radio operator in the Merchant Navy and was away a lot of the time. I got on well with them both and one day he suggested I look after Susan whilst he was away. I thought this a rather odd suggestion but decided I wanted to go and see the Mary Rose on the first Sunday it was on display, so asked Susan if she would like to go with me in the Sunbeam. She readily accepted.
The day turned out to be quite a nice early Autumn day. I picked Susan up and we headed for Portsmouth. This was the first time I had attempted a long journey driving a car of my own since I had passed my test and just hoped the car made it there and back. The car ran very well and despite a long wait, we did get in to see the Mary Rose (they were only letting a few in at a time every hour on the hour). However, I soon discovered why the boyfriend had suggested I ‘look after’ the girl….she didn’t stop talking ALL day! The Chase and Dave song ‘Rabbit’ was written for her!
Not only did she not stop talking, she was also a fanatical fan of Boy George. Now I have to admit I liked his first hit, but this girl seemed to know more about his life and family than he did himself! It was Boy George from Harrow to Portsmouth. It was Boy George in the queue to see the Mary Rose and it was Boy George all the ruddy way home! By the time I dropped her off, I had the mother of all headaches! I did the only thing I could…I left her to the boy friend. At least he could get a break and give his ears a rest at sea!
The Rapier was a good car and I enjoyed driving it. The only problem I had found was on the yearly family pre-Christmas visit to see two Great Aunts in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Usually my father had driven but on a couple of visits, I offered to drive us in the Sunbeam. The car went well as usual….until we came off the M40 /A40 (the motorway finished before Headington in those days) when something very strange began to happen, the gauges went mad.
As we drove around the ring road to pick up the road to Banbury, we passed some electricity supply cables running along wooden pylons. The gauges in the Rapier had a voltage regulator to smooth out the voltage supply but the magnetic field around the power cables was interfering with the delicate mechanisms of the gauges and the needles in all of them shot across to the far right. Once we had passed the power lines, the needles settled back to their normal positions. This happened every time I drove past those power lines but the first time it happened, it was very disconcerting.
The car gave good service for a number of years but eventually it started to play up. It would start fine but once I had driven around a mile and a half to two miles it would suddenly cut out and would not restart until it had cooled down again. This was very odd because the engine had not overheated. I changed many parts but could never cure the problem so that car had to go.
Looking back, it was sacrilege to scrap a car like this but money was short and all a car meant to me then was transport - a way to get to work but still, it was sad to stand and watch the hydraulic claws of the grab-arm on the scrapyard recovery truck as they pierced the windows of the Sunbeam Rapier and lifted it unceremoniously onto the back of the truck…..
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