by Gar Cole
A short 2 minute ride on the minibus didn't give us much time to reflect on what we had just witnessed on the 'Spitfires' part of the tour, especially as Andy our tour guide kept pointing things out on the ride. "On your left is the plants own fire station, on your right is the cobblestone test track putting 2 XFs through their paces" etc.
We pulled up at a large shiny new building, the plants new press shop. We disembarked the minibus and followed Andy inside where we received ear plugs and a stern warning to stay within the yellow pedestrian walkways. Andy drily pointed out if something looks shiny in a press shop that means it's sharp, so don't touch!
The press shop represents a 100 million pound investment by parent group 'Tata' to future-proof the assembly plant; compare that for 1 building in 2016 to the 4 million the entire complex cost to build in 1938.
We rounded the first series of walkways to be greeted by the biggest reel of aluminium you ever did see. These are delivered to the plant from the supplier in Germany. In fact the majority of machinery and the presses themselves are built by German companies such as Schuler. Andy pointed out that during the war Allied bombers had heavily damaged Schuler's factories. When you consider what we had just seen below ground it shows the utter futility of war and hopefully it will never happen again.
Once the reels are delivered they are given 48 hrs to adjust to the ambient temperature of the building before passing through a series of rollers that straighten the sheet out and stop it recoiling into a roll.
The building houses 13 individual presses and 16 robots, the dies for pressing the panels can be changed around relatively quickly, making parts for the XK, XF, XJ and F type. It also presses parts for the Discovery and F pace that are built at Solihull.
Now these dies are enormous, 10ft by 6ft, ranging in weight from 18,000 KGs to 42,000 KGs. They are manoeuvred by huge ceiling-mounted cranes that use chains that look like they belong to the QE2 Ocean liner. One passed over our heads as we stood in the walkway; despite it being about 10ft in the air we all instinctively made a little duck as it passed over - large machinery has a habit of making you feel very small and vulnerable.
We made our way down another narrow walkway with the ground vibrating from the heavy machinery until we came across 'the Cathedral', the huge 30ft high, 5-stage central press. The scale of these moving parts is quite awe-inspiring and with my ear plugs firmly in, my imagination fired up with sound of Sergei Prokofiev's masterpiece 'Dance of the Knights '.
These 5 presses mounted in one large Cathedral press the same panel 5 times - first with lower pressure to cut and give the basic shape, then with gradually increasing pressure as it moves from press to press that forms more and more sharper edges and detailing without splitting the metal in one big punch.
These are ultra modern machines powered by electric servo motors, much quieter than hydraulic presses of the past and with a greater degree of control - truly a sight to behold if you're a fan of heavy engineering .
Jaws lifted off the floor, Andy hurried us out of the building back into the minibus. Now we headed off once again to D and E block, back int ma day lad these buildings were used for the S type saloon, which incidentally was the first Jaguar to be completely built at Castle Bromwich - but more of that later - they are now home to the production lines for the XF and XE models.
This is by far the most modern and the most automated part of the entire plant, an incredible 680 robots from start to finish, with 86% of all jobs on the cars performed by automation. You really could feel the transition here from traditional hand crafted jobs such as welding and riveting now done by hyper accurate robotics.
During our tour there was no actual production taking place due to a small number of 2019 models being tested on the line and in a change from my day, Jaguar no longer builds cars to stock - every car made is already bought and ordered to individual specification. In these times of declining diesel sales and Brexit uncertainty it seems a sensible business plan to follow.
Having seen the bread and butter cars a few of us were keen to cross over the road to A1 and A2 buildings in which the awesome F type is built. Andy obliged and we soon found ourselves in a different sort of place, much less modernised than the other buildings we had visited and far less automation.
Just 4% of jobs on the F type are done by robots, compare that to the XF's 86%. Some of the robots and staff were still working and we got to see several stages of body construction take place before the shells disappeared on a track through the ceiling before going to the paint shop.
Lots of ooos and ahhhs could be heard from our group as we progressed around the assembly line seeing the cars more and more completed. This car represents the closest thing you will get in 2018 to a traditionally built Jaguar with 96% of jobs done by hand while incorporating the latest technology. These models are available with far greater personalisation options than other models, from unique paint jobs, 40 different interior colour and materials to choosing the colour of the stitching on the seats and dashboard.
Andy looked hopeful there might be some wealthy folks amongst us and happily pointed out the F type started at ' just ' £49,800 , but naturally having pulled into the car park in a well worn Morris Minor he didn't look in my direction! He then took us over to a parked bevy of completed beauties awaiting the ' water test ' which looked like a 50ft long washing machine.
The entry level car has a 2.0 turbo engine; this didn't really impress us until we learned it kicks out 300bhp! Next up is a 3.0 V6 supercharged producing 380bhp and a lot more torque than the 4 cylinder. Moving up the range again is the 5.0 V8 Supercharged R model with a very tasty 500bhp, and for those playing 'Top Trumps' there is the SVR model boasting further engine mods to the V8 and a titanium exhaust that blasts out 550bhp. We wondered - is this car truly the successor to the legendary E type?
The tour wrapped up at this point and we headed back to the Heritage Centre for further refreshments before heading off for lunch, however I have a few other things to tell you before you go.
You may recall in the previous blog that I pointed out Castle Bromwich didn't feature in the Jaguar story until much later, 1977 to be exact. Following the war, the plant was purchased by Fisher and Ludlow, later to become Pressed Steel Fisher. This company supplied steel panels to a large number of manufacturers including BMC and later Leyland. Castle Bromwich has produced panels for the Morris Minor, the original Mini, some Imp panels for Hillman and Triumph, many Rover panels and later Jaguar.
The company became wholly owned by Jaguar in late 1977. From then until 2001 Jaguar had the unusual practice of building its body shells at Castle Brom, then loading XJS, XJ saloon and later XK sports bodies onto a fleet of arctic lorries to be driven the 13 miles to Browns Lane in Coventry for painting and final assembly.
In later years the zinc coated body shells were stored in heated storage sheds and covered in plastic until loaded onto the trucks, however through the 80s and 90s it wasn't uncommon to leave untreated bare shells out in the rain while awaiting a transporter. I even heard tales of whole bodies left outside from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. If you've ever wondered why many Jaguars of that era suffered with such bad structural rot well that's the answer. Often the metal was exposed before it was even primered and painted, amazingly this carried on until 2001 albeit with some improvements.
This was a costly and inefficient way of building cars. When the new S-Type was launched in 1998 it was completely assembled at Castle Bromwich using the new paint shop and renovated D block building. At this point we knew one of the Midlands plants was at risk. Being a Jaguar fan I believed Coventry deserved to stay open as it was the spiritual home of Jaguar, but Browns Lane was unfortunately surrounded by new housing developments whereas Castle Bromwich still had unused land, excellent access to the motorways and airport and it's own rail link. The writing was on the wall and Browns Lane had all it's production lines and 90% of its personnel transferred to Castle Brom by the end of 2003 just in time for the launch of the new Aluminium XJ350 model.
The Castle Bromwich plant is now home to Jaguar manufacturing but I hope the blogs have given you an idea of just what a fascinating place it was even before Jaguar entered it's history, I haven't been on the plant for almost 10 years and it was good to go back and relive some memories and make some new ones.
Just as I was about to leave I smiled at my Minor parked amongst what I estimated to be over a million pounds worth of machinery when the 2 young ladies who worked on the reception came outside and had their picture taken with my old moggy. Made my day that!
Road signs sometimes tell you a great deal about the country they inhabit and its people.
This one brings back memories of Mum "navigating" from the front passenger seat back in the day ... apart from the apologising part, of course. Based on a Bristol sign.
And some more in no particular order ...
By Mike Peake
It’s the morning of Sunday the 7th October 2018. The sun is shining and a few of us are having an informal meet at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon.
It may have been sunny, but 8am found me scraping the ice off the Honda so I could get Poppy from the lockup. When I got there and opened the garage door, I remembered that I had completely neglected her since I put her away after our superb Isle of Wight tour. I hadn’t even washed her! She glared at me crossly. She soon cheered up though when she realised we were going for a run.
As is my way, if nothing is falling out of the sky, the roof is down and we set off for a lovely green lane run up to Gaydon. It was a lovely day and we had a great drive up although, I may have underestimated the chill factor as it took a while after arrival for me to regain the feeling and use of my hands. Several others were out in their classics too and I “spotted” several lovely cars including an XJS, a Vauxhall Manta GTE in a convoy of MK1 and 2 Cavaliers and even a Triumph Saloon.
I pulled into the museum car park to be greeted by Ian Woodward in his Zephyr, Bernard Owen in his Morris Minor and Kevin Norris in his MK1 3100 RS Capri. This was a tad confusing as the last time we saw Kevin on the Somerset tour, he was in a Frogeye Sprite.
Brian Allison and Darren Vel Satis were also there but without their classics as were Thilo Bell and his partner all the way from Germany. Gar and Phil were on their way but Big Rov needed a jump start from Nelson at the services. They soon arrived, as did Mark Wilson in his E-Type. Mark is a big wuss as he had his roof up but at least I didn’t need to push start it this time.
Sorry Mark. Darren didn't take a photo of your E-Type
We stood around the car park chatting while Darren took pictures until I reminded everybody that I still couldn’t feel my hands. We headed into the Museum for a warming cup of coffee and a cake. It was a jolly nice apple and lemon drizzle bun. Thanks Gar.
The museum was every bit as good as I remembered from our last trip and we had a great time.
This is my favourite car photo of the day. It shows the two most famous, iconic British cars ever made and side by side. When the world thinks of British cars, these are the two that they picture.
Yes, yes, I know. Some of you will want to argue and suggest that perhaps the Morris Minor or Land Rover or whatever, should be there, but it’s my blog and I’m an Admin so its these two. OK? (That and the others weren’t conveniently side by side for a photo.)
The Museum has loads and loads of interesting stuff including prototypes and concept cars, royal vehicles and racing cars. We were in “Car Nut Nirvana”.
As a lifelong F1 fan, I was also very interested in the various racing cars that they had on display.
We were particularly interested in an ancient single seater. Initially because Gar was having a measure up to see if he would be able to get in (he wouldn’t), then we were alarmed at the proximity of the gearbox to the drivers gentleman furniture, considering he would have to sit with a leg each side. Then we couldn’t find the gear selector. I spotted it finally. It was outside the cockpit to the right of the driver. I was so involved and overexcited that I committed a slight faux pas. I gave the gearstick a bit of a wiggle and took it through the selections. It was at this point that an angry museum guard shouted “DON’T TOUCH THE EXHIBITS!” and chased us away like naughty school boys. (This is why we don’t have a picture of it)
Out of breath from the chase, we finally lost the angry guard and found ourselves in the children’s play area. It was brilliant! There were all sorts of working models and cutaways explaining how everything works. How disc brakes are better than drums are better than a block of wood on the tyre and why the steering column is a BLOODY STUPID place to put a gear stick. There were even cars that you could touch and play on.
In the end, Brian and Bernard had to drag us out by an ear each as they wanted to see the rest of the museum like grownups.
It was just as well that they did though as we found another treasure-trove. The collections building is a separate building that houses all the exhibits that they don’t have room for in the main building and it housed all sorts of wacky prototype and safety testing cars. It was brilliant and a good mooch was had before going downstairs for a gander at the Jaguar Heritage Collection.
When our stomachs started rumbling, we realised that we had been there for all of 5 hours but it had flown by. We’d had a great time but we were starting to fade away with starvation. Some of the chaps decided that they fancied going to the pub for a chat about the day and grab something to eat. We followed Gar in a 5 classic car convoy and Brian’s Modern to a fine hostelry on the Fosse Way called The Stag where we had a very nice salad and mineral water and a jolly good chat before we all broke off and headed home.
Poppy and I had a fun and spirited drive back down the Fosse Way which took me almost to my doorstep. At only 130 miles covered it felt like it was just a local trip for me but Poppy did them all extremely well. AND, no one ran out of petrol this time.
So thanks to Gar for having the idea and really sorry our Skipper and head Admin, Paul Sweeney, couldn’t make it as originally planned, despite only living just down the road in Napier … New Zealand. A great day was had by all and the British Motor Museum comes highly recommended by us.
Well winter is upon us and only the Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show at the NEC is left for this year, but what a year it has been for our group. Don’t forget, you get discount tickets as member of the group. Just use the code when buying your tickets and see you there.
As always, the pictures above are a mixture of mine and stolen from others attending the event. Particular thanks to Darren Vel Satis as I stole most of them from him.
Until next time.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
by Gar Cole
The day of our group tour of the Jaguar factory at Castle Bromwich had arrived. It was slightly bitter-sweet as it had originally been organised as part of "Head Admin" Paul Sweeney's visit to the UK from sunny New Zealand, but due to unforeseen personal circumstances the trip was called off. However we have said this is very much a postponement rather than a cancellation and we look forward to meeting Paul at some point in the future.
Living only 1 mile from the factory that I also worked at for 9 years I decided to take the moggy for a short trip, the tour guide greeted me at the gate with a beaming smile "Been many years since one of those drove through the gates" he enthused. I took my parking space amongst a plethora of F types, iPace's and other exotic machinery in the Heritage centre carpark.
I was greeted by group members Thilo Brill and his partner Eva who had flown in from Germany to enjoy the tour, with the arrival of the Brooks family we made our way into the modern glass and chrome building for breakfast refreshment and to meet our fellow tour explorers who had arrived well before 8.30am.
Introductions made, coffee and biscuits sampled the 14 of us were kitted out in 'V.I.P Visitor ' Hi-Viz vests and radio headphones so we could all hear Andy our tour guide, looking like the security crew for an 80s pop revival concert we headed off to our waiting tour minibus.
Now the spiritual home of Jaguar was and probably always will be the iconic Browns Lane plant in Coventry, Castle Bromwich did not feature in the Jaguar story until much later but it has a fascinating history in its own right and if you have read this far then make yourself comfy and I'll reveal what we learned on this fascinating tour.
The land adjacent to Castle Bromwich Aerodrome was aquired by the government in 1936, with construction starting in 1938 with an estimated build cost of £2 million pounds, the final cost would double to over £4 million, built as 1 of 12 'Shadow Factories' created to quickly change from automotive construction to military application should the political situation in Europe continue to deteriorate.
Castle Bromwich covers a vast 46 acres of ground, the buildings themselves are massively over-engineered using bridge construction methods, huge steel frames make up the roof sections which are supported by thin pillars giving maximum internal working space, this meant if a section was damaged by a falling bomb the hole could quickly be repaired with a new steel truss and the roof patched up, seeing it up close reminds one of a giant meccano set.
Getting comfy on our minibus we all stared a little open mouthed at the scale of these buildings that towered over our little bus, as we drove along the long narrow roadways between them and the exotic modern cars scattered all over the plant. The juxtaposition between new and old was quite stark. Andy our genial host started explaining how the factory built a total of 12,192 Super-marine Spitfires between 1940 - 45, hitting a maximum of 340 per month, mostly in the central C block in the middle of the plant, which happened to be the building I worked in and today serves as body construction for the XJ saloon.
The current workforce totals just over 4000; during the war it was 15000, I was fascinated to learn that 80% of the workforce was female, involved in all areas of construction. Today that figure has fallen to just 12% and JLR are working hard with local colleges and universities to recruit a higher proportion of female employees and to show them what a rewarding career can be had with the company.
In addiction to the 12k-plus Spitfires CB also constructed 200 Avro Lancaster bombers ordered in 1941, reaching a peak production of 25 a month that December. Just over 300 were produced by 1945, also 50 Seafire 45's. Once a plane was completed it was towed by tractor across the main Chester road onto the Aerodrome grounds, where each plane would be tested and delivered to the RAF all over the country by the members of the Air Transport Auxiliary headed by Chief Test Pilot Alex Henshaw. Listening intently to Andy and trying to absorb so much information on the war, we were brought back to 2018 as the minibus came to an abrupt halt and Andy jumped out the side door beckoning us to follow him.
We stood outside one of the various storeroom buildings on the grounds and one I had passed many times paying it no attention, only this time the aged pair of time-worn wooden doors that were always locked were now wide open and a dimly lit descending concrete walkway was just visible.
We followed Andy down the fairly steep ramp and you were immediately taken by the change in atmosphere, as the air cooled rapidly, that unique "old building" smell of damp, dust and rain water, which could be heard dripping onto small puddles on the ground. Rounding a corner at the bottom of the dimly-lit walkway we were greeted by another walkway that descended further underground, my imagination piqued as I felt we were in a John le Carre novel, about to trade some top secret microfilm with our agent in Moscow.
At the bottom of the second walkway a dim blue glow opening up into a larger room awaited us, as we arrived in this room I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of hospital beds. "What on earth?" I'm sure more than one of us thought, on the walls glass cases housing medical equipment and medicines of the era, plus large scale photos of the factory but showing obvious aerial bomb damage. It was quite sombre and we waited to hear Andy explain why a fully functioning hospital ward should be located under a factory.
On the 13th of August 1940 a squadron of Luftwaffe bombers dropped an estimated 118 tons of explosives and incendiary devices on the aerodrome and plant, causing significant damage to several main buildings and the surrounding road network. Tragically 6 workers were also killed during the raid; following this attack production was delayed for only 2 weeks and the buildings were quickly patched up. Tt was decided the plant also needed a hospital area to treat people for day-to-day injuries such as cuts or broken limbs. Health and Safety didn't exist at that time and they obviously expected more casualties from bombing raids as the underground hospital wing also houses a morgue (shown above).
Moving into another part of the underground rooms we glanced upon spotlighted photos of female pilots from the Air Transport Auxiliary. A video showed film newsreel of the time capturing these brave ladies piloting Spitfires, Lancasters and other types of aircraft from the aerodrome to other RAF stations across the country.
Incredibly these pilots received no radio training or evasive flying tactics. They were required by the Air Ministry to fly as low as possible and always be visible from the ground; they had to navigate just using maps and a compass in the ever-changing British weather. Speaking as someone who never travels far without a Satnav my respect and admiration for these pilots is immense. The spirit of the workforce at Castle Brom working 24 hrs a day on 3 eight-hour shifts surely had a major influence on the war.
Chief Test Pilot Alex Henshaw tested over 80% of everything ever built during the war years and would treat the plant workers to amazing displays overhead, at times flying a Spitfire between the buildings upside down just metres off the ground and he remains to this day the only person to have ' barrel rolled ' a Lancaster bomber in front of a live audience at Castle Brom.
As we climbed our way back up the ramps to daylight I pondered my time at Jaguar between 2000 and 2009. I had always known about the underground cellars and often nagged Frank the security guard to show me one when we worked nights "more than my jobs worth young man" would be his reply. I knew some of the history of the plant and what had been built there but like my fellow 13 guests I had just learned about the human side of the story and it left me feeling a mixture of pride and awe.
Once again Andy crackled in our ears and said "Hope you all enjoyed that. Climb aboard the bus and we'll show you how we build cars now 😀"
Part 2 to follow soon. Please note all photos were obtained via a 3rd party on the Albanian border in exchange for lemon drizzle cake, and none of the photos shown inside the factory are in anyway affiliated with members of EBMVBB1985 😎
By Mike Peake
Roger had excelled himself this weekend. A fantastic day of driving on the Saturday and the Osborne House Classic Car show on the Sunday. However, with the weather being so wet, there was some doubt as to whether they would want their perfectly manicured lawns chewed up. So we were waiting to hear if it was cancelled.
My alarm went off stupidly early for a morning after a night of jollity, but did I actually have to get up? I filtered out the man using a jack hammer inside my head and listened carefully. I could hear Gar snoring blissfully, so I didn’t have to get up yet. I snoozed my alarm. 30 minutes later I heard Gar’s alarm go off. There was some snuffling, a couple of beeps and then The Norfolk Beast was in full flow next door and I could safely assume a cancellation and rest my weary head a bit longer.
Some amount of time later, I was roused by the smell of cooking bacon which immediately dispelled any residue “tiredness” I may have felt from the night before. In no time at all I was up showered and dressed and sat round the table with Andy and Gar, ready for another one of Old Uncle John’s cracking fry ups.
As it was still raining we relaxed in our van drinking coffee and chatting comfortably when we noticed that it was brightening up somewhat. With that, the caravan door burst open and there stood Super Enthusiast Man!
“Have you run out of petrol again?” said John, rather bravely I thought. (You see, SEM Ran out of petrol on the way down on Friday.) But no. Having already fixed the brake lights on the Rover that we didn’t know were broken, he wanted to “have at” the lights and fuel pump on John’s MGB GT.
The light switch was dismantled and no apparent faults found so reassembled. The lights then worked perfectly so it was on to the fuel pump. The MG was started and ran perfectly. So, it would appear that the mere presence of SEM can scare recalcitrant components into order. (Even if it can’t keep enough fuel in the tank.)
It had actually stopped raining. Yes really. Not only that but the sun came out and we all had a case of itchy accelerator feet so we decided to go to Ryde as that was one of the very few towns on the island that didn’t feature on Rogers spectacular tour yesterday. Yes, “We got a ticket to Ryde, and we don’t care.” (sorry. I’ll get my coat…)
We set off through the green lanes of the island which looked even better when not shrouded in mist and rain.
It wasn’t long before we were on the seafront in Ryde and as we stood admiring our cars and watching the hovercraft, I thought it might be time to get out Mrs FB’s legendary sausage plait. However Mrs FB had been as busy as I was in the run up, so we outsourced the project to Mrs FB’s Mum, who came up trumps and did us proud.
I have to say, the seagulls were more polite about grabbing the sausage plait than my fellow humans and it wasn’t long before the fights broke out. It was Bernard who got the best of it though as he waded through the group with haymakers swinging left and right. The sausage plait was gone in a flash but this time I’d made sure I had my piece before I told anyone else.
It took a short while to recover from the sausage plait and Bernard’s berserker interlude, (it’s extraordinary the lengths an OAP will go to for sausage plait, purple Quality Street or cake) but then we found out that we could drive along the pier. Well who could resist that? We even had a coffee at the end whilst watching the hovercraft and hand-me-down London Transport tube trains from the 60s that run on the island.
Photo opportunities abounded on the pier and we made the most of them. We even positioned Gus half way along to snap us as we drove past. I’m sure you’ll all agree, he did a good job. Do SEM’s talents know no bounds? (except remembering to put fuel in the Rover, obviously.)
As is usual for our tour, we have to laugh at the 2 fat blokes in a small car and Poppy was the smallest car this time, so Gar joined me in Poppy. The sun was out and it was now a lovely day, so we decided to revisit Military Road. Poppy was leading the convoy.
Once out of Ryde, the coastal road was fantastic. Lots of twisty, turny, uppy, downy stuff and great views. Gar and I were having fun with the roof down and I got a bit carried away with myself. Despite having the smallest engine in the convoy and carrying the 2 fattest blokes in the convoy, the convoy may have got left behind … just a little bit. Gar was urging me to slow down for them to catch up by beating me about the head with his cap so I slowed … reluctantly. She’s a plucky girl is Poppy.
Once we reached Military Road, we had a bit of a swap around. The Brooks ended up with Poppy and I was left to pilot the P4. Well it couldn’t have been more different to Phil’s P5. It still oozed charm and grandeur out of every pore but the driving style was much more upright and sedate than the P5. The P4 is a pipe and slippers gentleman’s car through and through. So is the P5 - however, in the P5 I got the feeling that if you swapped the pipe, slippers and panama hat for a cigar, sovereign rings and a camel hair coat, Big Rov could be a bit of a bounder and a cad if he wanted to.
I thoroughly enjoyed the P4 and the upright style gave the impression that you were looking down on the other Plebs. I even got to the end of my stint in the P4 without running out of petrol which was a bit of a bonus not enjoyed by everyone.
Gus was using the unrestricted views from Poppy to take plenty of action photos and display his acrobatic skills.
We found another couple of parking spots along the way with great views across the coast and stopped to make the most of them.
In one of the stops we came across this Mk3 Cavalier which made me feel very old. You see, my very first brand new company car was a burgundy 1.7TD Cavalier Mk3 hatch back (M573 MTF) and I have very fond memories of that car as it is the only one I’ve had written off.
What made me feel very old is that I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these on the road and that a car that I had new, is now considered to be a “classic” and is 25 years old! It was very good to see such a lovely example and we had a good chat with the owner. (I think I convinced him to join our Pre Mil group.)
We had managed to contact Nick in his Jensen and he said he’d join us so we waited … and waited. Apparently, he managed to get lost on this tiny island. Our hunger was getting the better of us though, so we set off for the Bugle Inn in Brading and said we’d meet Nick and Jo there, if he could find it. (It sold beer so we were confident Nick would find it)
Newbie to our tours, Graham Adams took the helm in Poppy for this leg and to be fair, we made it to the pub with most of the gear box still in the car and I don’t really need those teeth anyway. He got the hang of it though and judging by the grin on his face, even started to enjoy himself.
I do find it a bit odd to be sat in Poppy’s passenger seat but not as odd as when I watch her drive away without me. That odd feeling is more than offset though because I will be driving something incredible. I’ve said this before a few times, but In my experience, this is one of the few places where owners of exotic and posh cars mingle happily with owners of the more battered and mundane without a hint of snobbery or envy. (well, ok. Maybe a bit of hidden envy.) Not only that, but everyone is more than happy, perhaps even eager, to allow other members a go in their pride and joy (although this isn’t compulsory and no one is offended if you can’t bear to let yours go.)
A nice meal was had with more good-natured banter and chat and soon it was time to head back to the caravans. I was given the great honour of the keys to Ian’s beautiful Zephyr. An honour that paled slightly when I realised that it came with 3 passengers so all my mistakes and misdemeanours would be under the critical gaze of Ian’s nearest and dearest eager to report back to the proud owner… AND, I have to say it. What a BLOODY STUPID place to put a gear stick!
It all started quite well. Ian gave me a brief instruction on the column change and warned me that it occasionally gets stuck in second and what to do about it. He neglected to tell me where reverse was but thank goodness I didn’t need it. Ian dived into Poppy’s driver’s seat and we set off after John in his MGB. We soon lost John in his MGB as he whizzed off but Ian’s wife, Sarah had sat nav on her phone and all was well with only the odd crunching of gears. All was well that is until I heard the words. “Oh. We need to turn left here” from Sarah. We weren’t going that fast so an emergency left turn was made without any words about more warning required passing my lips.
The problem was, I was now faced with a very steep hill with all momentum gone and still in top gear. Precious moments were wasted while I fumbled about searching for the gearstick where it would be in a proper car before remembering it was in a BLOODY STUPID place. It was too late though. I was now stuck on a very steep hill with an ineffectual hand brake and I was starting to panic. I couldn’t get the gear stick to move but in my panic I thought mayby it had selected 1st and tried to pull away with plenty of revs. However, I was slipping backwards to the smell of burning clutch plates. My “audience” was no help either and actually seemed to be enjoying my display of utter bumbling incompetence.
Fortunately, Ian was right behind us and having dealt with Poppy’s ineffectual hand brake, came to the rescue. He patiently selected 1st gear for me and normal service was resumed for the rest of the trip with only the odd crunch from the gearbox and the lingering smell of very hot friction plates. (I’m really sorry Ian)
After this baptism of fire with my 1st experience of a column change, I settled down and started to enjoy the experience. Ian’s car is stunning inside and out and evokes the spirit of the rockin’ fifties with every USA influenced bit of bling and fins and curves. I fully expected my hair to grow into a DA and my lip to curl like Elvis. I loved it. Especially knowing that I should never be allowed near the car again.
I felt even more guilty when I remembered that I’d left the hood down, it was now dark and Ian was wearing nothing more than his club T shirt. (Of course he had his trousers on too! Honestly! What are you lot like?!)
Once again, we all piled into the Brooks' van for one of the funniest evenings I can remember. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time and by the end of the evening my face and sides ached. “What was so funny?” I hear you ask. Well I can’t tell you. This is a family site and what goes on tour stays on tour. I guess you’ll just have to join us at future events.
The next morning was our final chance for one of old Uncle John’s superb breakfasts and we made the most of it. He even sprung for 2 eggs!
It was time to pack up the cars, say sad farewells and head for the various ferries. We’d left plenty of time to get to ours. Or so we thought, but we were to discover that Newport has a rush hour at 8.30 on a Monday morning. Who’d have thought?
Once through the heavy traffic, Gar engaged Mach 1 again and we scraped into check-in with seconds to spare.
We made our way to the back of the boat and bade a tearful cheerio to the island that had made us so welcome. Clutching our passports, we made ready for our return to Olde Englande and the 21st century.
Being so close, it would have been rude not to visit Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his small car collection. So, Gus and Tosh, Gar and I did just that and spent a very pleasant morning supping tea with his Lordship while he showed us his cars.
So, after a fantastic weekend and nearly 400 miles in a 48 year old car, Poppy safely deposited me home to Royal Wootton Bassett.
Thank you all, for staying with me over these 3 parts and I hope I have managed to convey just how much fun we had despite a soggy Saturday. Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about our exploits and you have been inspired to join in our adventures next time. Keep a close eye on the events section and sign up to our newsletter to find out where and when.
Once again, a massive thank you to Roger Spaven and his friends from the island for a great tour and an even better welcome.
Thanks also to my fellow tourists new and old for the belly laughs and great time. I really hope that our 1st time tourists enjoyed it too and will join us again in the future. We certainly enjoyed your company and cars.
See you all again soon.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
by Callum Tooey
It's been three months since part 3, can you believe it? At a risk of sounding like a broken record, work and family life took over and Nutmeg had the occasional ray of sunshine as I started her every week but work on her had pretty much stalled.
I had a week off work but this was spent anti-fouling our boat (a small cabin cruiser that runs on a marinised BMC 1.5 petrol inboard engine) this was actually the first time we had taken the boat on a long trip (10 miles) and we were apprehensive but fortunately we got there, got the work down, and got back without any issues, but you came here to read about Nutmeg, not the boat!
So back to the car, I had plans to spend a short time at the boat and work on Nutmeg for the rest of the week but unfortunately work took longer than expected so instead I booked another week off, the final week of September and gave family and friends strict instructions not to bother me unless somebody is dying.
After what felt like an age the final week of September came and as promised bright and early Monday morning I was greeting Nutmeg and showing her many shiny bits I intended to fit.
First job was to get the headlights sorted. I had loosely fitted some new halogen units replacing the original sealed beam unit and confirmed these were working, the connectors were different on each headlight so I guessed someone had repaired wiring previously. Unfortunately when I took out the old units I discovered the metal headlamp housing had rusted on one side, as had the retaining rings and the screws holding the assembly in place, these needed replacing
I ordered some new WIPAC 7inch headlamp housings off eBay, thinking ahead I got them in plastic to prevent future rust issues these arrived on Wednesday and after some fettling I got the new units in and the front end back together.
I had hoped that the chrome ring headlight surrounds I had bought specifically for a Victor FB would fit but they did not seem to fit correctly, after asking on my owners group it would appear the grill I am missing is a five part system with a large center piece and 2 separate headlight surrounds either side.
With the headlights now done it was time for the interior, mainly sorting the welding as there was a large hole in the passenger floorpan, my dad arrived to help me and together we put together the welder and an angle grinder and got to work. We used the grinding disks to grind back the area around the hole, we then enlarged it and got a 9inch hole which now needed patching.
I noted that we now needed to cut the 1mm sheet to size to patch over the hole, not having a vice to hand we ignored health and safety and used the curb (Don't try this at home!), amazingly we got the patch cut without incident and using welding magnets to hold the patch in place I decided to try tacking it in place with the MIG welder.
I clamped the earth lead to the car and fed wire to the plate and... Nothing! No sparks, gas was flowing, wire was feeding but no arc at all! I clamped the lead to the plate itself, still nothing, I tried it on the uncut plate outside the car and still no action. It would appear my brand new welder was unable to do the very thing it was designed to do.
We checked instructions, watched a YouTube video to confirm we were using it right, the box was powered and buzzing but no welding was happening. I now had a dilemma, a car with a 9 inch hole in the floor pan and no chance of welding it up! As it was late in the day I returned Nutmeg to the garage with the magnets holding the panel in place.
In desperation I asked on a local group for recommendations on welders "Can you get it to my unit tomorrow?" Came a reply, so the next morning I drove her a short distance to a workshop on the outskirts of town, I explained my predicament and that the car needed to be done for Oh So Retro on the Sunday "Leave it with me, we'll have it welded and give you a ring when it's done".
I took a stroll into the retail park and bought some paint from Poundland, an hour or so later the car was done, I collected her ready to drive back, her fuel gauge was reading low and she seemed to be struggling a bit so I stopped off at Morrisons and treated her to £20 of the good stuff.
As I pulled up at a set of lights waiting for them to change, Nutmeg suddenly died, I laughed at having 'stalled it' and tried to restart her but she simply turned over with no chance of firing. The lights changed and I was stranded, naturally in modern British fashion the vehicles behind helped by sounding their horns at me as the lights changed back to red. I got out and tried to push the car up onto the curbside whilst the impatient drivers gawked at me, only a teen on scooter stopped to help me push the car.
After bumping up the curb I got in and tried her again, she fired straight up and I thought I'd go for it and shot off down the road. I almost made it home before she died again, this time I threw her in neutral and let her momentum bump up the curb at a bus stop. I left her to sit for a while and called the other half to explain the issue, unfortunately although I had recovery I was under a mile from home so I knew there would be no chance of rescue. After a short while I got her restarted and drove her home, the space directly outside my front door was free so I parked her up and let her sit once again.
I was positive that the issue was fuel related and remembering another members recommendation I dived into my bags of spares for the bottle of Seafoam I had purchased, I added a few fl oz to the tank as per instructions and got her started again, I was expecting to see 'white smoke' coming from the exhaust as per the videos I had seen of this product but despite getting her to idle and rev, this didn't happen. I decided to leave her to sit and let it 'work its way through' and treated the floors instead.
Enter the next product recommendation: AquaSteel. Aquasteel is a rust remedy product, Nutmegs floors had lots of surface rust which I imagine had been hidden for years under the carpet, this stuff much like other products in the market it looks like a white cream that coats the rust blue, this coverts the rust into black paintable metal surface. I liberally coated the surfaces with this and left it to dry, it was getting late though so I tried to get her back into the garage but sadly the Seafoam had not seemed to do anything and she stalled in the middle of the road, I could perhaps get her started on full choke but selecting a gear and easing off the clutch simply caused her to stall, with no help available I got my partner to sit behind the wheel and I manhandled Nutmeg back into her garage.
It was now apparent that she would not be ready to attend Sundays show, so angry and upset I made a hasty for sale ad and retired to bed, by the morning I had calmed somewhat but decided to take a day off and took my mind off it. On the Saturday I decided to finish the floors and was amazed to see the result of the rust proofing, a quick over-spray of matt black paint and the floors look 100% better than they ever did. I told myself that replacing the fuel tank and fuel lines was a worthwhile job and with some friends and families reassurances that it would 'be worth it in the end' Nutmegs stay was extended.
I also decided that despite not being able to attend the Oh So Retro show in the car, I was still going to attend, so I sold my car pass to another enthusiast with a small Fiat and attended on Sunday in my daily Citroen C8.
We were approached by two men from the show selling raffle tickets for a 'Win This Car' competition, the car was a 1 Litre Peugeot 205, not British obviously but a nicely restored car done up in classic rally livery, as it was for charity I bought a £5 ticket for each of us and thought no more about it.
That afternoon the organizer was reading out the awards and I begun to feel disheartened that Nutmeg had been unable to attend, perhaps she would have won something? As the awards came to an end it was time for the car raffle, I heard a guy behind me boast "I've bought 30 tickets, it's in the bag lads!" "Ticket number 526" says the organizer. "That's mine!" I shouted back, my other half was in disbelief, I took my ticket to the guy, he confirmed my name and said "You just won a car for a fiver!"
Well.. I guess it wasn't such a bad week after all!
Filter by Author
Filter by Month