The things we do for you! A glimpse at the decidedly unglamorous life of your overworked Admin and blogger.
By Mike Peake
I’m fed up!
The girls are watching “I’m a Strictly X factor celebrity get me out of here apprentice come dancing” on the box and the groups are behaving themselves. So, I’m looking for something to do. My new metering needle for the Stromberg still hasn’t turned up so my carb rebuild is stalled. I can’t even finish my blog about it as there has only been one incidence of outstanding bumbling incompetence and a thousand word blog needs at least a couple to get full value. I can’t even have a row on Facebook as no one has put up anything stupid for at least 30 minutes.
So, to relieve my boredom and increase yours, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of life as a member and then an admin of a couple of large and successful Facebook groups. None of them were interested in sharing their experiences though so you shall have to put up with mine.
A bit of history first. I joined the illustrious EBMVBB1985 back in May 2015 as a refugee from another Facebook group about old British cars. I was completely fed up with the negativity and out and out rudeness shown there. Regardless of which British car was posted, someone would comment with a tired old cliché or just spew out and out vitriol and it was never long before the thread decayed into a bout of foul-mouthed name calling.
Now whilst I don’t deny that a lot of fun can be had baiting these sorts, even this pales after a while - especially when it is your own car that is receiving the abuse. So I was looking for somewhere a little more tranquil where the members were actually “enthusiasts” and we could enjoy and be enthusiastic about cars. Well the “clue was in the title” wasn’t it and it was time to see if it “did what it said on the tin.” (Sorry, but I was still living on a diet of clichés from the other group.)
Well, what an oasis of joy! There I was, scrolling through pages of posts of lovely British cars and no one trolling. Dare I? I did dare. I posted a pic of my car with a thanks for letting me join and I didn’t get abused. In fact, I was welcomed and complimented.
I did have a bit of a slip up on my first comment on another post. It was a “which do you prefer Mk1, 2 or 3 Capri?” post. Well as I’d had a poster of the 2.8i mk3 on my bedroom wall as a kid, I’d posted it in “the other group” and been roundly abused and called all sorts of a fool because it was German. Well seeing this post here, I innocently enquired if “the mk3 was allowed? Isn’t it German?” To which Gar commented “oh no! let’s not do this again!” Well I didn’t know what he meant so as I hadn’t chosen, my next comment was, “I’ll have the German one.”
Well imagine my horror when I returned to the thread to find my comments removed and an admonishment from Captain Sweeney himself saying “Mike Peake. You were warned!” I found out later that earlier that week, just before I joined, there had been a bit of a bad tempered discussion about what is and isn’t British.
It subsequently turned out that this group applied a "simple common sense" approach to questions of this sort, which I rather liked. Well I apologised profusely, promised Lemon Drizzle cake (It hadn’t won an award yet) and promised to behave myself. I was allowed to stay but the experience has left me slightly scarred.
(I'd just like to state for the record that I have no recollection of this exchange but since it resulted in cakey, who am I to argue? - Paul S)
I spent the next couple of months enjoying my time on Facebook much more than I used to, posting pictures and annoying Zebidee by pointing out the Heralds in every street scene picture posted. (It is almost guaranteed that there will be a Herald in every street scene photo or film taken in Britain between 1960 and 1980. It’s true, go and look.) Yes, this was the origin of “Oh look!”
In January 2016, Inspired by BL Dan Bysouth, I started what I thought would a short run of blogs detailing my trials and tribulations and joys of classic ownership. (Here we are on my 74th blog and 94,000+ words written. Sorry about that, but thanks for putting up with me for far longer than I ever expected.)
So, despite a rocky start I must have been doing something to get noticed in a good way as in March 2016 I was invited to help Admin the group and I was honoured to accept. (It was the cake, you fool! - Paul S)
I have to say, it wasn’t what I expected. There was no vast salary or corner penthouse office to come with the post. Apparently, the love of a well done job is payment enough, and I guess it is because here I am 2 years later.
The 1st task that the new guy is given is vetting member requests, which to be honest isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. The thrill of nosing through peoples profiles soon wears off as most of you are pretty dull on the whole especially when you are wading through hundreds a month when we were growing at our fastest. However, there were one or two memorable exceptions.
“Wilma Sussies” was one such memorable potential member. His profile was full of adverts for women’s clothes in male cut and sizes but nothing that suggested any interest in cars. Whilst I have absolutely nothing against cross dressers in any way, I felt that he would only be joining our group to promote his business. His profile picture was rather “Racy” for our sensitive members too (and also how I know Wilma was a “he”). Wilma was confined to the Lift Shaft of Doom without passing Go and without collecting 200 cakes.
You may be interested to know that we currently have 3830 permanently residing in our LSoD many of whom have been sent there directly as a result of our vetting procedures. Of the rest, surprisingly, most are sent there not for transgressing our rules, but for arguing with Admin or throwing all their teddies out of the pram after we have reminded them of the rules and pointed out how their most recent post broke them.
Some of the levels of vitriol and hate shown can be rather surprising and doesn’t always end when the individual is cast down. It is not unknown for the arguments to continue over private messenger. Accusations of Nazism, aspersions on parentage and even death threats are not uncommon - and you should see what they send back to us too. You wouldn’t believe it!
Usually, a casting down the lift shaft of doom is a quietly done affair. However, if the transgression is serious or there has been a spate of lawlessness, we may make an announcement in the group as we have noticed that our members do love a good public hanging and it serves as a reminder and deterrent and results in quieter evenings all round for us Admins.
Of course it isn’t all fighting and conflict. I’ve had some great opportunities to represent our group at some of the most prestigious events at the NEC. The recent “panel show” was definitely an experience. Of course there has also been the onerous Awards dinners which are the most difficult to bear but I’ve taken it for the team and will do so again if required.
I do love these 2 groups though and I am extremely proud to be a part of them. Knowing that, under the expert guidance of our Skipper Paul Sweeney, I am part of the team that has made this a safe place to enjoy our hobby with proper enthusiasts gives me a real sense of achievement. In addition, watching us all grow the group to the point where we are taken seriously and mixing with the big boys of the industry is an honour and a pleasure.
Best of all though are the friends I have made here and transferred to real life. People I didn’t know 3 years ago, I now consider some of my best friends and make interacting in the group so much fun and our real life meets the very best car events I have ever attended. They really are like family gatherings. (even down to Grandad getting a bit frisky after half a pint and that weird Uncle everyone is slightly wary of.)
So as it’s that time of year again, I’d like to say thank you to our great and illustrious leader, Captain Paul Sweeney for his vision and determination in steering our good ships in the right direction and the fantastic job he does in designing and running our website. I’d also like to thank our founder, John Simpson for laying down the keels, our ever enthusiastic events and merchandise coordinator Gar Cole for a great job done and the rest of my fellow deck hands Zebidee Habib, Steve Favill, Edwin Feenstra and Andrew Tanner for stoically bailing the bilge.
Most of all though a huge thanks to all our members for all your contributions and making this such a great place to be.(except Mr Stock. He’s very rude to me.)
Well slushy bit over. Normal service will be resumed soon as my metering needle has just turned up.
Have a very merry Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule, Huneker, Ede or whatever you are celebrating and a very happy new year.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
by Alan Warwick
It was my Dad, Fred, advising me to go into cars rather than motorbikes because the opportunities would be greater after finishing training. Dad tried to get me an apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Police in Hendon as well as Henley's, the famous Jaguar dealer at Henley's Corner on London's North Circular Road but neither organisation were able to take me. The Tottenham Youth Employment person knew Leslie Durdin, Managing Director of Capital Motors, Hornsey, a Vauxhall, Bedford ( trucks & vans ) and Scammell ( trucks and trailers) dealer.
I was interviewed by Mr Leslie Durdin and started my indentured apprenticeship in September 1965, having gained GCE 'O' levels in Maths, French , English Language, Physics and Technical Drawing at Tottenham County School, most of these 'O' levels coming in useful in my career.
Day one, 6th September 1965, was strange as they didn't seem to be expecting me and didn't know what to do with me so I was sent to work alongside a man in the Engine Shop rebuilding large truck engines, I remember fitting big end bearings.
Next day they seemed to have decided that I should be trained in the 'Stores' which was the motor trade expression for 'Parts department'. I was trained in using big, thick books to identify the part numbers for vehicle components and then finding and issuing the parts as well as helping unloading stock order deliveries and many menial jobs - being the youngest. I remember asking if we had Fire Alarm drill and was told 'you're not at school now, sonny' , how times change.
During the lunch times and whenever possible, I spent time in the workshop looking at the cars, vans and trucks and discovering more about the technical side of them, one colleague was Brian Stevens a former schoolfriend who taught me a great deal.
After several months in the stores, I went to the management and asked if they'd forgotten about me and they relocated me 'out' into the workshop. The first placement was a six months with the Electrician - Dick Marchant - from whom I gained good experience and several catch phrases including 'use your 'ead, save your 'ands' , which was good advice. I learned a great deal about workshop practice and vehicle electrics as well as going out on breakdowns which was always an adventure. One of my favourite jobs was fitting radios as that gave me the opportunity to listen to pop songs broadcast by the many 'Pirate' stations to the London area.
After the six months working alongside Dick, having started my tool purchasing, I was then placed with Fred Leif, the heavy commercial mechanic specialising in Diesel engines. I was NOT looking forward to that, away from cars, getting really oily and Fred was so OLD! Looking back, he was probably in his late fifties and chock-full of vehicle experience which he generously shared with me. Also, he always wore a tie, no health & safety, then!
Fred rarely referred to the manuals - he just knew what to do. We regularly removed Bedford TK truck engines, having first to disconnect the wiring etc and lifting the cab entirely off the vehicle, we didn't have a crane - just a couple of scaffold poles and several strong mechanic helpers! Fred dismantled the engine, throwing all the small parts, nuts and bolts into a large tray and then reassembled it, sometimes days later after waiting for parts, and knew where everything went-without any bits left over.
As an Indentured Apprentice, my Dad had signed a contract for me to complete the apprenticeship including my attendance at technical college on a “day release and evening” basis. The company paid for my training, probably with government grant assistance, and I had one day away from work ( on full pay ) to learn how to become a mechanic. I also had to return in the evening for other classes.
I quickly became best friends with two Peters, Cody and Lawson or Pete with a beard and Pete without a beard to family and friends. We used to take it in turns for our mums to give us dinner before returning for the evening, so we were friends with their families, too.
Initially we were in the “mechanics” stream but we soon were put in the higher grade of “technicians”, I passed Motor Vehicle Mechanics, City & Guilds examinations, with distinction and Technicians with credit as well as being presented with “Technician of the Year” award from The Institute of Road Transport Engineers in 1970. I went on to complete an additional 5th year for the management training involved to join the Institute of the Motor Industry (I.M.I. ) as an Associate Member in 1971. Subsequently, I became a Full member of the I.M.I
( Alan Warwick M.I.M.I. on my business cards )
During my time with Fred I was given one of my 'initiations’ to the Motor Trade, new de-greasing tanks had been delivered but (fortunately for me) not yet filled with a paraffin-like fluid. Several of my workmates grabbed hold of me and put me in a tank, closed the lid, sat on it and banged the side with hammers - could this have affected my hearing, subsequently?
Another time, I was put into a tube of 'mutton cloth’ or stockinette which was used to polish cars, then pushed in a wheelbarrow and deposited outside the Managing Director's office. One of the other apprentices was similarly mutton-clothed, put on a 6 foot canteen table and carried across Tottenham Lane outside and placed on the pavement. A passing lady told him “they're going to leave you here”
Because Fred had so many years experience, we got sent on a lot of breakdowns. Once we were repairing a Bedford TK truck on the M1 which involved getting inside hatches at the side of the cab, whilst under there Fred told me not to step back and admire my work - 'elf 'n' safety!
On another occasion, we were on the Southend Arterial Road stopped at traffic lights in our Breakdown Land Rover - now remember there's not much Fred didn't know about trucks - a lorry driver shouted over 'do you know anything about trucks?' Fred replied 'a bit, what's your trouble?' He had run out of diesel and wanted it bleeding having put more in but it wouldn't go because it had an air-lock in the fuel system. Even I could have bled it, never mind guru Fred. We got him going in minutes and got some 'beer money' which we used for non-alcoholic refreshments.
I ought to move on from Fred, now, as there were many other stories because I held him in high esteem. I think it was during this period that I bought my big socket set which I still have. It was about £20, and bearing in mind my weekly wages were around £6 10 shillings, the company bought the tools and deducted money weekly from our wages until they were paid for. Another deduction was the cost of overall cleaning which I remember REALLY resenting - they were essential for all workshop staff so WHY should we pay towards a company overhead!
After Fred and heavy truck experience, they put me with Goodwin Boodagee who came from an island off Africa, called Mauritius It just seemed from another planet to a boy from Tottenham. Boogy ( as he was known) was highly skilled on cars, getting all the complicated jobs including automatic transmissions ( gearboxes ) which we dismantled and had to wait a couple of weeks for parts to come from DETROIT, Michigan, USA! Remembering how to put this 3D jigsaw back together again was quite a feat, the owners patiently awaiting our efforts.
About the time I worked with Boogy, the overhead camshaft Vauxhall “slant 4” engine was introduced which was very advanced for its time but suffered from oil leaks which involved engine dismantling to put right. I appeared to be quite good at this job which required patience and attention to detail so Boogy left me to work on my own whilst he carried out other jobs which earned him bonus.
Ah! Bonus. This is how it worked and probably accounts for why we got a bad name as motor mechanics. ( I much prefer the word 'technician' which is used in the 21st century, I usually refer to myself as a 'motor engineer' ). Each 'job' carried a manufacturer's ' standard time' , say an hour to complete the job. If a mechanic amassed, say, 60 hours worth of tasks in a 40 hour week, then he was paid an extra 20 hours at the bonus rate. I never earned much bonus, partly because I wasn't very fast and partly because I would rather do the more interesting jobs that took longer than standard time. The best bonus jobs were routine servicing partly because you did them so regularly and got fast at them and partly because the apprentices could do them leaving mechanics free to do other, more complex jobs knowing that the apprentice was earning the bonus. Unofficially, the apprentices were given cash by the mechanics if they had earned well that week.
It was about this time that Vauxhall Dealers were involved with converting ordinary HB Vivas to Brabham Vivas by adding an extra carburettor, special exhaust system, other customer requirements and stripes across the bonnet and down the front wings sides. I enjoyed carrying these out as they were the sporty side of the job before the two litre Viva GT was released by the factory.
After Boogy I worked for Brian Inns for a short while carrying out general car repairs and servicing. Brian was three or four years older than me and quite a good mechanic as well as keeping me in line with my attitude and thinking both towards the job and socially. One memorable occurrence was the time he let me carry out the engine tune, spark plugs, contact breaker points, air filter and carburettor settings while he overhauled the brakes on a Victor 101.
He told me to let it back onto the floor and take it out into the yard, as I reversed (not slowly) across the 'shop, the brake pedal went straight to the floor and BOINNNNGG! I hit an iron support holding up the mezzanine floor. After replacing brake pads, the first press of the pedal brings them against the brake disc and the next press they start working - a lesson for my lifetime in cars. I can't remember if I was in trouble or whether Brian was because he ought to have pumped the brake pedal before letting the car onto the floor, I probably ought to have checked anyway.
Every now and then during apprenticeships we boys were used in the Cost Office where the charges for each job were worked out and the mechanics’ bonus calculated. I think this was when other staff were on holiday or times of staff vacancies. I was also drafted into Service Reception occasionally, which was my first experience of dealing with customers and I found that this was something I liked.
After working with Brian I was experienced enough to work 'on my own’ as it was termed, and I had passed out as an apprentice with the Managing Director noting on my “papers” …..an excellent student... deserves every success in his future career…... After a few months my friend Alan Potifer had left the company to move to Kent where housing was cheaper as he'd got married.
Alan had been one of three Service Receptionists and, as I'd had experience working in Reception, I approached the Service Manager and asked if I could have Alan's job - and I got it! One of the other service receptionists was called “Bill Bodger” - yes, really! Would you leave your car with Bill Bodger for service and repair?
The vehicles I had regularly worked on were Viva HA & HB Models, Victors ( FB & FC )
Cresta PA to PC ( including Viscount ) Bedford trucks, mainly TK, lots of Bedford CA vans and Scammell three wheel mini-tractor units which had to be split in half to replace clutches. Also I had to dismantle crashed cars prior to the paintshop doing their bit and then “fitting up” with grilles, bumpers and pieces of trim after painting.
by Callum Tooey
It's early November and my boss has just said I needed to book and take my leave before the end of the year, no need to tell me twice, I took a week in the middle of November and a few sporadic days here and there.
My younger brother found himself with nothing to do so I invited him to come and stay with me and avoid frustrations by working on my car, to my amazement this emotional manipulation worked and he was happy to come!
I told him about how work on Nutmeg had stalled due to the previous fuel issue and he asked to take a look, I figured why not and demonstrated the fact she would start on full choke only and die immediately when you tried to drive. Annoyingly he guessed this was to do with the choke not turning off correctly so after some cleaning with carb cleaner and lubricating the choke cable we had her started, running, and most importantly, driving again. Words cannot express how annoyed I was.
Still, with a car now able to be driven in and out of the garage we pulled her out into the daylight so I could show the extent of the work that was still required. My forever-optimistic brother declared that we WOULD have her on the road before my wedding in the new year (May 2019) and he was going to help me to fix her up before then.
We decided to work on mainly cosmetic items to begin with, under the bonnet was rusty and a previous owner had ripped out the headlining and rusted the roof for a 'rat look'. If this was going to be a wedding car it had to at least look presentable.
Our first task was treating the surface rust under the bonnet, I'd already ripped out most of the horrible 'shaggy carpet' insulation that was stuck to the underside just waiting for a spark to turn Nutmeg into a rolling shell but there was still bits left to do, and I wanted a good finish, so after covering the engine bay with a sheet we worked on cleaning off any remnants which took most of the day, but we got to work coating the bonnet underside with Aquasteel, this was a bigger job than it looked as there are various nooks and crannies that rust had seeped into and we wanted to make it as clean as possible.
We worked until it got too dark before retiring and letting the treatment cure.
The next morning we masked up and sprayed it black making sure to spray the bonnet hook for good measure.
Weather took a turn so we couldn't get much done for a couple of days, so during the next bout of much-needed dry weather we pulled her back out of the garage with the intention of sorting out the rather poorly operating brakes which do work but the pedal is pretty much to the floor. We took off a front wheel and checked the drums, and promptly scratched our heads.
Now my experience of drum brakes were that there was a dust cover which you remove, turn a cog with two screwdrivers and this brings the shoes closer to the drum but that wasn't the case with Nutmeg, after checking the manual we discovered we needed a tool for the adjuster screw which unfortunately, I didn't have in my tool kits. We put the wheel back on and I ordered new brake shoes and the tool to adjust them and we backed her into the garage as the weather looked to be turning.
We decided to use this time instead to make a start on the inner roof, using the rest of the Aquasteel (Don't worry, I've purchased more of it off eBay!) With enough for one coat we used it until the brushes went dry and then retired to let it cure.
We inspected it a few days later and decided it needed another coat but overall were quite happy with the result.
During this time the mesh I had ordered arrived which I was using to make a custom grill, having had no luck attempting to source a complete OEM unit. I'd ordered two boxes but quickly determined I would only require one, the mesh is black aluminium and a good thickness to be lightweight but strong and pliable.
We tested it in the gap left by the missing grill and it fitted almost perfectly, it even matched up to several holes in the body that could be used to affix it to the car.
By this point it was nearing the end of the week and I needed to take my brother back home so I left Nutmeg until a few weeks later when I had a couple more days off work. I used the time to finish off rust treating the roof, sprayed the inner roof black and attached the grill to the car.
I noticed my rear view mirror was looking rather shabby and I knew I had some silver paint I had mistakenly bought instead of black, with poor weather I made the decision to do this in the garage and used Nutmeg's bonnet as a work surface, covering her with a thick sheet to protect her...
I decided to spray the mirror with Zinc Galvanised paint as a primer before giving it a silver overcoat. This appeared to work a treat and by the following morning I had a shiny new-looking rear view mirror, I even gave the screws the same treatment so that they didn't ruin the aesthetics. I refitted the mirror without issue and admired it through the windscreen, with the sun now sparking off the stainless windscreen wipers I removed the sheet and DISASTER!
The silver paint had pooled on the sheet and seeped through onto the white paintwork underneath, square in the middle of my bonnet was a stubborn fist-sized patch of silver paint.. I pulled at my hair in desperation and anxiously picked at it but it was not coming off..
I was at a loss at what to do so I grabbed my cleaning products and got to work, a cleaner and a microfibre towel took off some remnants but the main patch remained there as stubbornly shining in the late afternoon sunshine, taunting me.
It was at this moment that my missus arrived back from their day out with the kids, she came to greet me and gave me her helpful insight "There's silver paint on there, can't you get it off?" grinding my teeth but refusing to admit defeat I told one of my kids to bring me a kitchen sponge and went to raid the metal racks at the corner of my garage. The previous homeowner had helpfully left tins of all sorts of chemicals and cleaners for general household jobs. I needed something abrasive but not strong enough to ruin my paint... and then I saw my saviour.. SUGAR SOAP.
I tested a small area and with no ill effects to the paintwork or finish I doused it and started rubbing in circles with the microfibre, small flecks of silver came off, I continued until one of my kids returned with the sponge so I tested the scourer side and this made short work of the remaining silver paint.
I wiped the sweat from my brow... Crisis averted!
To be continued...
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