by Brian Allison
No not the kind of BS our politicians are so fond of spouting - this is about Bohanna and Stables. Many of you will have seen my post about their BS Nymph, mass production of which was planned but never came to fruition. So what happened next?
After the Nymph/Chrysler fiasco it would not have been surprising if Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables had crept quietly away to lick their wounds. Instead they set about developing their next project which they named Diablo, (Devil) by another name.
The Diablo was to be a Mid engine sports car with power supplied from a Austin E series, 1500 cc engine, yes the same engine as fitted to the Maxi. Well engineered and considered by most to be an attractive car, the prototype was exhibited at the 1972 London Motor show , were it aroused a lot of favourable attention.
One of it's admirers was the well respected and long established British car manufacturers AC Cars. In fact AC were so enamoured of the Diablo that they bought the project outright from BS. This decision was no doubt influenced by AC's need to find a new model to enable them to continue as a manufacturer. At that time they were engaged in making only two models at their Thames Ditton works. One was the AC 428 also known as the Frua, but this was selling in increasingly small numbers. The other was a government contract for the Invacar, a three wheeled invalid vehicle.
So, how come we never saw the AC Diablo on our roads you ask. Good question!.
In their infinite wisdom Ac decided that a few modifications were needed before the Diablo would be ready for production.
Did I say, "A few modifications"? By the time AC had finished it might well have been designed by someone other than BS.
The Maxi engine was ditched in favour of the 3ltr. Ford V6 for starters followed by so many changes that by the time they'd finished even the chassis was radically different to the original and the name had been changed to the AC 3000 ME.
A non running prototype was shown at the 1973 London Motor show. With it's low slung good looks and retractable headlights it got a very good reception and production was salted to begin the following year - 1974.
Unfortunately for AC world events in 1973 made that target impossible to reach. Firstly the Yom Kippur war ( Egypt/ Israel) led to a world wide energy crisis, and secondly, and perhaps more disastrous for AC, new motor vehicle Type Approval regulations were also announced.
These new regulations were being frequently upgraded, and with the attendant cost of designing and implementing the required changes placed much more stress on small companies like AC than on the major manufacturers.
Having initially failed this test in 1975, necessitating yet more modifications, it was 1978 before the 3000ME was finally launched.
Although initially well received it found, due to the length of time spent in development, that it now faced even stiffer competition in the form of the Porsche 924 and Lotus Esprit. The Lotus in particular, due to it's starring role in the James Bond film "The spy who loved me" and Lotus's track success's was very stiff competition indeed.
Apart from that, the delays and costs before they could actually launch the 3000 ME meant that from a projected £3,000 to £4,000 the actual launch price had risen to just over £11,000, and even that figure didn't reach the break even point.
The motoring press were quick to point out how attractive and well built the 3000ME was, albeit with reasonable rather than starling performance, but they were also critical of it's handling, especially it's tendency towards extreme lift off oversteer. AC politely, but firmly rejected suggestions that a rear suspension redesign was needed, saying that the problem was not with the car but with the journalists lack of driving ability.
Initially Ac had projected a output of twenty 3000 ME's a week, and with the Invicar contract having expired in 1977 the 3000ME was the only card they had to play. In the event sales were so few that only 76 cars had been built before AC were forced to cease production in 1984.But even then the Diablo's offspring refused to die easily.
A Scottish entrepreneur , David McDonald bought the rights to the 3000ME and set up business in Hillington, just outside Glasgow. His intention was to produce a Mk 2 of the 3000ME, in the meantime producing the existing model.
Sales were hard to come by though and although a prototype Mk 2 was almost complete, production ended in 1985. Still this extraordinary story was not quite over.
Aubrey Woods, the former Technical Director of BRM, and John Parsons purchased the remnants of David MacDonald’s company. They completed the Mk2 prototype, fitting a turbocharged Fiat twin cam engine in place of McDonald's Alfa Romeo V6, and in an attempt to raise capital to fund it's production showed the now renamed, Ecosse Signature at the 1988 British motor show. Unfortunately no new backers were found and the Ecosse Signature project faded from view and so ended the Diablo story, or did it?
The Devil had to have the last word, and it almost resulted in his resurrection.
At the 1981 Geneva Motor Show Ghia presented a re bodied 3000ME simply labelled the AC - Ghia. It won many admirers but alas none willing to put it into production.
What started in 1972 as a two man project had managed to last almost ten years before it's flame was finally extinguished.
1 - SB Nymph
2 - Original SB Diablo
3 - AC 428 (Frua)
4 - Invicar
5 - AC 3000ME
6- AC Ghia
By Brian Allison
Hello again boys and girls.
I's been quite a while since our last bedtime story but better late than never as my Granny used to say when I was a little boy.
Can anyone remember how our last story ended and who it was about? Very good Mark!, that's right, it was about Alec Issigonis, and how he had designed the Morris Minor. Can you remember when that was? Yes Babs, 1948 was the year the Minor was launched at the first British Motor Show after the end of World War Two. I'm glad someone is taking notice and not daydreaming like Leigh.
Are we all settled down now? Then I'll begin.
Alec's Morris Minor sold well enough for him to continue working to further improve his design with a view to producing a successor, and by the time Morris and Austin merged in 1952 to form the British Motor Corporation a rather different form prototype was being tested. This version had the engine mounted transversely and front wheel drive. Pardon,Keith? It means the engine was placed sideways, instead of in line with the car itself, like almost all todays small cars. One of the development engineers, Jack Daniels, used this prototype as his everyday transport and was hugely impressed with it. No Mike, I don't think for one minute that it's the same Jack Daniels that makes the drink your daddy likes so much.
One of Alec's more famous quotes is, " A camel is a horse designed by committee." Which was his way of saying that he should be left alone to get on with designing, without lots of other people interfering. So when BMC came into being he thought that would lead to even more interference than when it was just Morris Motors. His last project for BMC was the new Morris Oxford and Isis. He resigned from BMC in 1953 and took up a position at Alvis, another British car maker who produced luxury cars.
His job at Alvis was to design a new luxury car and was where he first met Professor Alex Moulton. Alex Moulton was a suspension design specialist who had done a lot of work regarding the use of rubber as a alternative to the normal methods of springing then in use. His preoccupation with the use of rubber in this way may perhaps have had something to do with his family being behind the Avon Tyres company. Alex's input into Alec's future designs was very important, as I'll tell you a little later.
Alec's design for Alvis's new car was, as developed in a prototype form, was of unitary construction which made it relatively light and strong, it offered 6 seats, had a rear mounted transaxle, including the clutch, inboard rear brakes, and a modern, sophisticated 3.5 litre V8 engine. It looked unlike any other British car at that time and more like a continental design. Probably the closest British car, looks wise, is the Jaguar Mk 1 which came out in 1955.
Intriguingly, It appears that the car was possibly designed to be suitable for a front wheel drive layout, with a flat floor and compact Moulton rubber cone suspension, leaving a large and spacious engine bay. Issigonis planned two versions, known as the TA/350 with a 3.5 litre V8 and TA/175 with a 1750cc, V4 engine. Unfortunately the TA/350 never went into production due to rising costs and also because of difficulties in getting the bodies built. The body problem was caused by the fact that the two largest body builders had been taken over, Briggs' of Dagenham by Ford in 1953, and Fisher and Ludlow in 1954 by BMC.
When Alvis cancelled the project, Alec was invited by BMC Chairman Sir Leonard Lord to return to BMC at Longbridge, as Chief Body and Chassis engineer. . He quickly arranged for Jack Daniels, do you remember him?, to move up from Cowley to Longbridge to join his team again. Daniels acted as Issigonis’s right hand man for the next ten years or more, acting as go-between for Alec and the workshops, draughtsmen, production engineers and accountants.
Lord (later Lord Lambury), had big ambitions for BMC and wanted Alec to develop the basis for a range of modern family cars to replace the existing collection of BMC products. Lord wanted modern looking cars but also wanted to be able to share some parts, especially the engines. He also wanted good quality design and cars good enough to be amongst the best in their class and internationally competitive.
BMC had already decided that some new thinking was needed to break away from the normal way of doing things, but the question was, what?.
Was it to be front or rear engined? If it was front engined, was it to be rear wheel or front wheel drive? Where was the gearbox to be fitted on a front wheel drive car? Was it to be water or air cooled? BMC had already developed, and asked outside consultants to develop, several concepts on various themes, none of which met the targets Lord had set. Lord hoped that Alec was the right man to supply the answers.
To start with the plan was to have a large family car by 1960, to be followed by a smaller car and then a city car. This plan was started on and early design studies done when it was interrupted by what became known as the Suez Crisis. If you look at your school geography books you'll see that the Suez canal is in a country called Egypt and joins the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. In 1952 a rebel force led by a group of army officers had deposed King Farouk and established Egypt as a Republic, with a man called Mohamed Naguib appointed as it's first President. Naguib was followed by Gamal Abdel Nasser as President in 1954. Although it was actually in Egypt the Suez canal had always been open to international shipping, which allowed oil tankers to carry oil from the Iraq/Iran area to Britain without having to make the long trip around the south of Africa. So when President Nasser took control of it in 1956 for Egypt and stopped the tankers using it , it led to a shortage of petrol in Britain and it had to be rationed.
The Suez business led to a fall in car buying and 6,000 BMC workers jobs were cut. At the same time sales of imported bubble cars soared due to them using less petrol. Leonard Lord noted all this and in 1957 told Alec to come up with a design code named ADO 15 to compete against them. Alec jumped at the chance and he quickly developed the first Mini prototype. By placing an A series four cylinder engine transversely with the gearbox underneath in the sump and sharing the oil, and moving the wheels to the corners, he saved so much space that it was possible to accommodate a four seat car within a length of 10 feet. Wanting to ensure that as much space as possible was given to the passengers, Alec used Alex Moulton’s compact rubber suspension and had Dunlop build 10 inch wheels and tyres just for the Mini, thereby making the most of the space available for the passengers. By October 1957, Alec had shown Lord a working prototype and the decision had been made to manufacture the car. The initial prototype had the engine fitted the opposite way round to the production models with the carburettor and exhaust at the front. This led to problems with carburettor icing and also made it difficult to service the distributor, so the decision was made to turn the engine round which meant a extra gear had to be introduced between the engine and gearbox to reverse it's rotation. When a Mini is ticking over and there is something chattering, that gear is what you're hearing.
When the Morris Mini Minor and Austin Se7en were launched in August 1959 they were an instant success. With it's rather boxy basic shape, tiny wheels and external seams and door hinges that looked rather like a inside out jumper, it was a stretch to describe them as anything other than functional looking. Only when you actually sat in one did you realise just how brilliant the design was, to be in such a small car and have ample room for four adults was totally different to any other car around. On the road the Mini continued to amaze. The precise steering, front wheel drive and a small wheel at each corner with Alex Moulton's rubber suspension gave the Mini roadholding better than most sports cars, spritely performance from it's 850 cc A series engine and excellent fuel economy, 59.9MPG at a steady 40MPH and not less than 33MPG under extreme conditions. And all for under £500 - £496 for the basic model, an extra £9 if you wanted a heater. The De Luxe model cost £536.
In less than 3 years , the Mini had gone from first sketch to full production. A remarkably short time considering this was before the days of computer aided design.
January 1960 saw the Mini van launched ,followed in September by an estate car version, the Austin Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller. The traveller had wood trim to the body giving it a distinct family resemblance to the Morris Minor Traveller based on Alec's earlier design , the one I told you about in part one of this story. 1961 was a busy year, seeing the introduction of the Mini pick-up, both Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf versions, and the first Mini Cooper. The Mini Cooper had a larger 997cc. engine, twin carburettors, disc brakes, and revised gear ratio's.The next major change came in September 1962 when all models were fitted with Hydrolastic suspension in place of the previous dry rubber system. This was again designed by Alex Moulton. I've got a drawing to show you how it worked.
The Cooper S came along in 1963 with an enlarged engine, now 1071cc. and capable of 90 mph.
Just how effective the Mini Cooper S was can be appreciated by a look at it's record in what was at that time considered to be the toughest test of car and man; The Monte Carlo Rally. Unlike today's version, the rally then started from the four corners of Europe and 1964 saw three works Cooper S's entered, driven by Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makonen and Rauno Aaltonen. They finished in that order in 1St,4th and 7th places.
The next year 1965 with the engines now 1275cc was held in terrible conditions and saw Timo Makonen and his co-driver Paul Easter win, remarkably without collecting a single penalty point.
In 1966 the three works cars actually finished 1st, 2nd, and 3d,with the Citroen of Pauli Toivonen 4th. The rally organisers, Automobile Club de Monaco, amid lots of argument disqualified the Mini's saying that the extra headlights fitted to them did not meet their regulations. Pauli Toivonen was eventually persuaded to accept the trophy but made his feelings on the matter very clear by vowing never to drive for Citroen again.
After covering every possible interpretation of the rules, the Mini Cooper S's were back again, the following year, 1967. And won again, this time with Rauno Aaltonen driving the winning car. So really, the Mini's had won for 4 successive years, and the resulting publicity did sales the world of good, Mini's becoming a regular sight in all the major rallies.
The last Mini Cooper built was one of a limited edition of 500 carrying the name, Mini Cooper Sport 500. Each of these last Mini's had a small plaque in the glove box, just like the one in the photo.
By the time the Mini and it's variants production ceased in 1970 the total number built was almost 5.5 million.
It was expected that the Mini would mean the end for Alec's earlier creation, the Morris Minor, but that wasn't the case. Demand for the Minor was strong enough for it to stay in production until 1970 when the last saloon was built.
Whilst the Mini was being produced Alec was busy designing new models for the range. First was a small family car, the ADO 16 which was the Austin 1100, launched in1962. I've a picture of one of those for you too. The 1100, later with an enlarged engine, the 1300, which was made in Austin, Morris, Riley, Wolseley and Mg versions, again followed the example of the Mini. Front wheel drive, transverse engine, hydrolastic suspension and maximum use of all available space. The Italian styling studio Pininfarina were responsible for the actual body styling including , as with the Mini, a Countryman and Traveller version. A luxury version, the Vanden Plas Princess 1100, later 1300,was produced from 1963. This featured full leather trim and seats, wood dashboard, Wilton carpet, etc. to produce a very luxurious interior. Production of the 1100/1300 ended in 1974 when it was replaced with the Austin Allegro.
During it's production run it was the best selling car in it's class for most of the time.
The next car Alec was responsible for was the 1964 Austin/Morris 1800, the one you've likely heard your daddies call "The Landcrab". Again this new model was also offered as a Wolseley, the 18/85, and later when fitted with a 6 cyl. engine as the Austin/Morris 2200 and the Wolseley 6. The 1800 followed the design of the Mini and 1100. Transverse engine, front wheel drive and Hydrolastic suspension.
The 1800 range was unfortunately not as successful as hoped for, something that I find puzzling. I've never actually owned a 1800 but I did have the use of one for a period during the late 60's and found it a very capable car all round, I especially liked the spacious passenger compartment. The 1800 range was phased out in 1975 to be replaced by the Princess range which became known as "The Wedge". Yes Gar, just like the one daddy has.
The last model Alec was responsible for was the Austin Maxi of 1969. This should have been a great success. It was a genuine hatchback with an amazing amount of loadspace when the rear seats were folded down, and, another first, the rear seats folded back as well as forward. This meant that when the front seats were fully reclined and the rear seats folded back you had a 6 foot long upholstered platform which made a perfectly usable bed. It had a 5 speed gearbox which was only normally found at that time on much more expensive cars. It was competitively economical for it's class, delivering an average of around 30 mpg. Unfortunately the styling was not to everyone's taste, due in part to using the doors of the 1800. Yes Zebidee, it was what we would nowadays call a Marmite car. Personally, I like Marmite. The original engine was a 1500 cc version of the new "E Series" engine, which in 1971 was uprated to 1750cc.
I ran a early Maxi for 18 months in 1971/2 and never had a problem with it but lots of others weren't so lucky. One major problem with the early Maxi's was the gearchange mechanism. This was a cable operated set up, and unless everything was in perfect adjustment and unworn could make changing gear a matter of guesswork. You knew all the gears were in there, it was just a matter of finding them. The gearchange was greatly improved in 1971 when the system became rod operated. The other major problem was with build quality. In the 1960's the British motor industry was in turmoil with endless strikes and cutbacks and in 1968 under pressure from the government BMC, which had by then changed it's name to British Motor Holdings, merged with Leyland Motors to form British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). Then in 1975 BLMC was partly nationalised and became British Leyland (BL). All this upset led to very poor quality control and cars which should never have been allowed out of the factory were on sale to the public. A lot of problems were picked up by the Agents before the cars were sold, but they could do nothing about poor bodywork and parts and fittings that they were not able to see. Nevertheless Maxi production struggled on until 1981.
In 1965 Alec was given the job of Technical Director of BMC. Although this may sound like a promotion it wasn't a good move for Alec. His strength lay in coming up with new ideas and improvements, not sitting at a boardroom table and getting involved in the production and financial details of the business. As I said earlier, Alec did not like committees, being much happier working with a pencil and sketch pad.
In 1968, he was appointed as Director of Advanced Research of the newly formed British Leyland, and Harry Webster from Triumph became BLMC’s Engineering Director. Alec was probably privately satisfied with that arrangement, as it took him away from the daily grind of corporate management and designing production ready cars and back to where he had the opportunity to use his innovative skills – the kind of role Leonard Lord had originally given him twelve years earlier and which led to the Mini and the ADO16.
In November 1971, Issigonis officially retired from BLMC, with a major ceremony at Longbridge, for which BL marshalled an example of every car for which he had led the design, of which only the Minor was no longer in production. His retirement gift from the company was the largest available Meccano set, complete with a steam engine. Typically Alec made a grandfather clock from it, which kept good time.
Alec did continue to work as a consultant to BL after his retirement but almost always from home, more so after the mid '70's when he was diagnosed as suffering from Menieres disease. This is a problem in the inner ear which affects balance and can also cause a ringing in the ear and partial hearing loss. The effects normally happens in periods of up to four hours, but over time can lead to constant ringing and hearing loss. Despite this he continued working on new ideas, mainly improved engine designs including a six cylinder one for the Mini.
The consultancy agreement ended in 1986 when Alec wrote a letter directly to Graham Day who was the new chairman of BL. In his letter Alec complained bitterly among other things about electronics in cars, designers using CAD systems and not slide rules, and changes in the model designations of the existing Mini. Day immediately cancelled Alec's consultancy agreement.
More importantly, the end of the agreement also marked the end of goodwill payments from the Company that covered his nursing care, and he was forced to move from his home to a smaller flat. He died in October 1988, aged 82.
Sir Alec Issigonis, (Knighted in 1968), CBE (Commander of the British Empire),FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts) Died on the 2nd of October82.
Alec never married and lived with his mother until her death in 1972.
Alec is best remembered for designs that set the pattern for almost all small cars up to the present day. Yes he was stubborn, and self opinionated but his ideas had the mark of a genius. He showed that cars could be practical and pleasant to ride in and drive, and that size was not everything; he defined the template for the small petrol engined car for 50 years, maybe longer, and showed how modest cars could become “wish list” items, attracting customer such as Enzo Ferrari.
During his working life he was often referred to as "Arrogonis" due to his arrogant manner, but I prefer another of his nicknames "THE GREEK GOD".
An interesting footnote brings us back to his family connections. He was able to share his engineering and automotive interests, through frequent tours of Longbridge in the 1960s, with a first cousin once removed on his mother’s side of his family, who later completed a mechanical engineering degree and followed a career in the motor industry. His name was Dr.Ing. Bernd Peter Pischetsrieder who went on to become chairman first of BMW ('93-'99) and then Volkswagen (2002 -2006).
I hope the sheer amount of material in this story, which really only gives the main points of Alec Issigonis's life, didn't cause you to be bored, but it's hard to know what to miss out when writing about such a giant of the motor industry.
The photo's :- 1&2 - Proposed design for Alvis TA 350. 3,4,&5 - Mini prototype. 6 - Austin Se7en. 7 - Mini Cooper Sport 500. 8 - Mini Cooper Sport 55 plaque. 9 - Prof,. Alex Moulton. 10 - Hydrolastic suspension. 11 - Morris 1100. 12 - Austin 1800. 13 - Austin Maxi. 14 - Alec Issigonis. 15 - Alec Issigonis & Enzo Ferrari.
by Brian Allison
Hello again boys and girls.
I hope you've all been good for your teachers, and Mum and Dad too of course, since we last met. It's very exciting now isn't it, with Christmas almost here.
I hear you've been helping Mummy with the shopping Amanda, did you enjoy that? Pardon. Oh, Mummies are like that dear, they don't seem to like passing a shop without having a look inside, do they? What's that? The turkey was almost as big as you. That would be a big one then. Is that so Mike? You reckon the Christmas cake you baked is almost as good as your lemon drizzle one? Maybe if Zebidee calmed down for a moment you might let him have a taste, it seems to be the only way of getting him to sit still is when cake's mentioned.
Anyway, Amanda helping with the shopping has given me an idea for a story. Would you like to hear it? Very well then, make yourselves comfortable and I'll begin. John! When I said make yourself comfortable , I didn't mean you should use Janet as a cushion, so stop that, now.
Long, long ago. In 1906 to be exact. In a port which was then called Smyrna but is now called Izmir,and is in a country called Turkey, a little boy was born. Yes Gar, I know Jesus was born in a place called Bethlehem, but it's not Jesus I'm telling you about. This little boy was called Alexander Arnold Issigonis but would become more widely known as Alec Issigonis.
Alec's grandfather came from Greece. No Edwin, Greece, the country, not the grease daddy Gar needs to use plenty of in the steering trunnions of his new car. Alec's grandfather, Demosthenis, had moved his family in the 1830's from Greece to Smyrna to work on the railway that the British were building between there and a town called Aydin further inland. Demosthenis was a very good engineer, so much so in fact that he was granted British nationality. So when his son Higson Constantine was born in 1872 he was officially British, and because of this, and the successful engineering works Demosthenis by then had, he was allowed to come to school in England. Constantine married a German lady whose name was Hulda Prokopp and in 1906 they had a baby who they named Alexander Arnold Issigonis, or Alec to his family.
Constantine was very proud of his British citizenship and Alec grew up in a traditional British type of household. Yes, Bev, that probably did mean that his mummy Hulda was the boss, but it also maybe accounts for him acquiring that most British of traits, not suffering fools mildly. When Alec was 13 yrs. old Greece and Turkey, who had never been the best of friends, started fighting. This war went on until 1922, and during the final year of the war the Turks made it impossible for the family to stay in Smyrna due to their Greek ancestry, so Alec and his parents were evacuated to Malta just before the outbreak of a great fire in Smyrna that lasted 9 days. Constantine died that same year, and the now 16 year old Alec and his mother came to live in England in 1923.
Naturally, coming from a family of engineers Alec wanted to be one too and started a course at Battersea Polytechnic. Things didn't go entirely smoothly as Alec failed his maths exam three times. He did eventually move on to complete his training with the University of London, choosing this rather than a traditional University because it allowed students to learn at their own pace. I suppose you could say that it was the forerunner of what we now call, the Open University.
In 1928 he got a job in a drawing office in London. No not now Phil, we'll have a look at your drawings later. This drawing office was for engineering projects, one of which Alec worked on being for a new automatic clutch. The car makers Humber showed a lot of interest but eventually decided not to put the new clutch into production. Although they hadn't used the clutch they obviously remembered Alec, so much so that in 1933 they offered him a job there. He only stayed with Humber for three years before moving to Morris Motors at their Cowley works in 1936. During the three years before the start of World War Two he was involved with designing a new front suspension system which after the war was fitted to the MG YA sports car, and later the new MGA and in uprated form on the MGB.
During his time in the drawing office in London around 1930 Alec had started racing in a supercharged Austin Seven Ulster similar to the one in the photo here.
In 1933 Alec and his friend George Dowson started work on a brand new car which was to become known as the Issigonis Lightweight special. This was an entirely different design to anything known up till then. Instead of a separate chassis the new car was to be of what is known as a monocoque construction. This means one piece, as opposed to having a separate frame and body.
Alec designed it with the intention of saving as much weight as possible, which he did by using the engine, seat and differential as bracing for the body. The bodywork itself was made from plywood with a outer aluminium skin, this was left unpainted to save the extra weight paint would have added. Probably the most interesting part of all was the suspension, again Alec's ingenuity came to the fore here.
Instead of the normal springing arrangement, the lightweight used catapult rubber for both front and rear suspension. No, I think it would have been a little bit stronger than the type you have Mike. Working entirely by hand it took Alec and George until 1938 to totally finish building the lightweight special. True to Alec's design the completed car weighed only 267 kilos about a fifth of which was the weight of the engine.
How much is 267 kilos you want to know John? Well, you know the Rover P4 that Daddy has? That weighs almost 1500 kilo. so that means that the Lightweight Special weighed less than a fifth as much. Needless to say the Lightweight went on to be very successful indeed when it started racing.
During the war years 1939 - 45 Alec worked on lots of different projects including a lightweight reconnaissance vehicle and a motorised wheelbarrow which was intended for use in the jungle. I think your Daddies would probably like one of those when they're doing the gardening.
In 1943 Alec became Chief project engineer at Morris and was already involved in designing what was then code named the Mosquito. This was to be a small affordable family car but with the practicality and features up till then only found in the more expensive makes of car. The work on the Mosquito was being carried out in secret by a very small team, not only because all work was supposed to be for the war effort but because William Morris, who I told you about before, was a man who although he'd been a pioneer himself, was not known for welcoming radical ideas.
Explaining his reasoning behind his design in later years, Alec said he wanted to build a car that, "the average man would take pleasure in owning rather than feeling of it as something he'd been sentenced to," and that, "People who drive small cars are the same size as those who drive large cars and they should not be expected to put up with claustrophobic interiors."
His initial plans for this new car would surely have caused William Morris to erupt if he'd known about them. For starters he wanted to do away with the spring suspension and instead use torsion bars all round. Yes Tony, the same arrangement as on the front of Apollo. The use of torsion bars would also mean the wheels could be nearer each corner of the car, saving interior space once again. He also wanted to use rack and pinion steering, not only because it gave a more direct feel to the steering but because it took up less room.
The wheels he decided should be smaller than those used on previous cars, the reasoning being that the smaller wheels would mean that less interior space would be lost due to wheelarches, with the added advantage of better roadholding. The body was to be a welded unitary construction with all mountings etc. built in. Because of the independent front suspension it meant that without the front beam axle the engine could sit further forward, again saving interior space and also making the car better balanced and so improving the handling. The engine he wanted to use was going to be a flat four water cooled unit.
All this planning was done without the knowledge of William Morris, but with the end of the war in 1945 it meant that the project could no longer be kept secret if it was to go into production. William Morris had intended to restart car production with an updated version of the pre war Morris 8 and when he saw a prototype of the Mosquito said it looked like a "Poached egg." He also objected to the idea of the expense involved in making the new engine.
After a great deal of argument between two equally stubborn characters the board eventually agreed to produce the new car but only with several cost saving modifications. The flat four engine, which meant setting up a completely new engine assembly facility was too dear to produce for a start, so a slightly modified version of the Morris 8 sidevalve engine had to be used. The independent rear suspension was also proclaimed to be too dear and was substituted for a traditional leaf spring mounted rigid rear axle.
It had been planned to launch the new car in 1949 but the board insisted that it be ready for the first post war British Motor Show of 1948. This put extra pressure on Alec to finish his design for the bodywork. The original prototype was - like almost all cars then - rather narrow, and it wasn't until 1947 when tooling for the new model was well advanced that Alec was finally happy with the new body shape.
He achieved this by adding 4 inches to it's width. Sounds simple but it caused a lot of problems. The floorpan had to have two 2 inch strips added either side of the prop shaft tunnel, the bonnet also acquired a 4 inch raised centre strip and the bumpers had to be cut in half and a plate bolted onto the centre. If you see a really early Morris Minor you will immediately see this plate. You'll see what I mean in the photo.
The new car , now called the Morris Minor was launched as either a two door saloon or two door tourer costing £358 and fitted with a 918cc sidevalve engine. At the same show Morris also introduced the new Morris Oxford and Morris Six which were basically upscaled versions of the Minor. So you could say that Alec Issigonis was responsible for the whole post war Morris range.
I'll tell you what happened to Alec next after Christmas, as I think it must be your bed time now. Remember Santa knows if you've been good and it's not too late for him to send your presents back if you misbehave.
Merry Christmas everyone and here's wishing all your problems in 2017 are Minor ones.
Night, night, God bless.
by Brian Allison
Hello again girls and boys.
I hope you have all been good today. You have? Then gather round and I'll tell you a story about a little boy named William. Yes Klaus, his childhood friends probably did call him little Willy, but doing that with your finger is not funny, so stop it or I won't tell you the story. Right, if we've all stopped giggling, I'll go on.
Once upon a time - 139 years ago to be exact - in 1877 in a town called Worcester, yes like the sauce Phil, Frederick and Emily Morris were delighted when a stork brought them a baby boy and told them he was called William Richard and was theirs to keep and love.
When William was 3 yrs. old the family moved to another town , this one was called Oxford. Yes Babs there is a car called the Oxford. Uncle Graham Graeme has one I think, I'll see if I can find a picture of one for you.
As William grew up he was very good, never cheeky, and always did his schoolwork as well as he possibly could, just like you all should do.
William loved playing with anything mechanical, and when he was 15 and left school he was delighted when he got a job as an apprentice to a bicycle repairer. William enjoyed fixing the bicycles but when he'd been working for a year and had not had a rise in his pay he fell out with the man who owned the repair shop and left his job.
"What are you going to do now?", his father said, "You need to be earning some money at your age.". William didn't know what to say, then looking out of the window he noticed the shed at the bottom of the back garden. "I'll start my own repair business." he said, "I'll use the shed for it."
So William started to repair bicycles in the shed. Besides repairing bicycles he also started to build them too. He bought all the parts he needed, built the bicycles, Put his own badge which showed a spoked wheel on them and sold them as "The Morris Bicycle". William sold quite a lot of bicycles, helped by the fact that he also rode them in all sorts of races from 1 mile to 50 miles long. He was very good at riding a bicycle. Yes, I know you don't need stabilisers on your bike anymore Paul, but William was very good indeed and was champion of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire at that time.
What is it, Val? Yes you are a clever boy, it does say Morris on the chain hoist in your daddy's garage, but that was made by another man called Morris who had a company called Herbert Morris and Bastert. Stop sniggering Rob. No Nigel I did not say a naughty word, Herbert Morris worked with a man called Bastert.
Anyway, back to William. He worked very hard and also started repairing motor cycles in 1901 when he was 24 yrs. old. Soon he did not have enough room in the workshop he had bought and needed somewhere bigger so he moved again to a bigger one in 1902.
William was very ambitious and when he had his new workshop he stated repairing cars too. So by then he was building and repairing bicycles, repairing motor cycles, selling and repairing cars, and running a taxi service. He was agent for Arrol - Johnson, Belize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer , Standard and Wolseley cars. No, not a secret agent Mark, it means he sold their cars for them in Oxford.
After 8 yrs.in 1910 William had earned so much money that he could afford a really big workshop and bought one which he named The Morris Garage. That building is still there and I have a photograph of it to show you. That is a big one isn't it Tony.
With his big new workshop William decided that he wanted to make his own car, so he sat down and designed one. He knew that if he was going to build cars he would need even more room so he bought a disused army college in a place called Cowley.
The new car was called the Bullnose and William started building them in 1913, buying all the parts from other companies because he didn't have the facilities to make his own. Unfortunately he had just started making them when the First World War began in 1914. During the war only munitions could be made and he couldn't start building cars again until the war ended.
In 1919 only 400 cars were made, but William had heard about a thing called a production line which a Mr Ford was using in America. Using the same sort of system production was much quicker and his business boomed. So much so that between 1919 and 1925 he also opened plants at Abingdon and Swindon. In 1925 his works turned out 56,000 cars.
William now had so much money that when he heard in 1927 that a company called Wolseley was for sale he decided to buy it for himself rather than the company. Another man called Herbert Austin, who also built cars wanted to buy Wolseley and William had to pay £730,000 for it.
When William bought Wolseley they were in the process of developing a new car themselves which was to be a 8 Horsepower using a brand new overhead camshaft engine they had designed. Although he still owned Wolseley for himself he used this engine in his new Morris car, the Morris Minor which he started making the following year 1929.
Yes Mike, Uncle Gar has just bought a Morris Minor but not the one I mean. That came a long time before the one Izzy designed, which I suppose should really have been called the Minor mk2. Here's a photograph of that first Minor, you can see it's a lot different. The Minor was a big success and made uncle William even more money.
The next year saw the first car under the name MG which stood for Morris Garages. This was a sports version of the Minor and also sold well.
William was not a very patient man, and whilst all this was going on he was very frustrated because some of the people who supplied him with parts couldn't keep up to the orders he gave them. So in 1923, when his engine supplier, Hotchkiss couldn't keep up he bought the company and renamed it Morris Engines.
The firm who supplied his carburettors, SU, were also bought in 1926.
If you remember I told you before about my first car a Morris 10/4. This came in 1932 although the one I had was a 1934 model, the same year William was made a Lord. I've a photo of that too.
In 1938 he also bought the Riley car company and along with Wolseley he merged them with his other companies which was called the Nuffield Organisation.
Because of his success in business William collected quite a few honours. He was given a OBE in 1918, made a Baronet in 1929,and in 1934 was made a Lord as Baron Nuffield, which was promoted in 1938 to Viscount Nuffield. Further honours included a KGC (Knights Grand Cross of the British Empire)in 1941 and a CH (Companion of Honour) in 1958. So little Willy, as Klaus called him, was now, Viscount Nuffield or as most called him Lord Nuffield.
In early 1938 everyone was worried because of what was happening in Germany. A nasty little man called Adolf was running Germany and lots of people didn't like him and thought he would, sooner or later cause a big fight between Britain and Germany. They were right, but that's another story, for another time.
Because he was so successful in building cars the government asked him if he could build them aeroplanes. You've probably heard about the plane they meant, it was called the Spitfire. William said that if they let him use a new factory that was built in a place called Castle Bromwich he would build them 50 a week. Unfortunately though, after over a year, not one plane was actually finished. The government did not like this, and in May 1940 they sacked William and gave the factory to a firm called Vickers who owned the company, (Supermarine) who had designed the Spitfire. This was the only major blot on an otherwise brilliant career.
In 1952, when William was 74 yrs old he went into partnership with his old rival, the Austin Motor Company, and they formed a new company called the British Motor Corporation. He acted as Chairman of the new company for a year and then aged 75 he retired and handed over to a man called Leonard Lord. I might tell you about him sometime if you are good
William died aged 86 in 1963 he'd seen the birth of the motor car industry in Britain and played a major part in it's development and success.
He left behind him a lasting memory for everyone to see. He founded the Nuffield College at Oxford University and the Nuffield building at Birmingham. He also gave an endowment of £10 million pounds in 1943 to found the Nuffield Foundation to advance education and social welfare.
In 1938 there had been a great demand for what were called Iron Lungs; these were special machines used to help people who had trouble with their breathing. William promised to make and give one to any hospital who needed one, and kept his promise, giving over 1,700 of them to hospitals all over Britain and the Empire. He also gave generously to lots of other causes too.
Taken all round William Richard Morris was quite a remarkable man. He started with nothing apart from ambition and a talent for business and rose to the heights of a Lordship and vast wealth, but he never forgot how lucky he was and tried to help others achieve their ambitions, especially through learning.
So children, if you study hard at school and make the most of your abilities, who knows?, you might be as successful as William was.
Time to go to sleep now. Night, night, dream of your future.
by Brian Allison
Hello again boys and girls, time for another of Uncle Brian's bedtime stories.
I hope you've all behaved yourselves since the last story and not upset your teachers or Mummy and Daddy. I know Alison has been very good because her mummy told me that she had been helping her to bake a cake.
Talking about Sunbeams has given me an idea for tonight's story. So if you all snuggle down I'll tell you about a very special man who helped make Sunbeam cars famous.
Long, long ago in 1879, in a little town called Concarneau, in a country that has been responsible for some of the weirdest cars ever built, and also some of the most advanced ones too a little boy called Louis Coatalen was born. Yes David it was indeed France. Louis was very interested in all things mechanical and when he left school he got a job as an apprentice at a company called De Dion Bouton.
When Louis started his apprenticeship De Dion Bouton were producing steam driven vehicles and it wasn't until 1896 when Louis was 17 yrs old that they started making petrol powered ones. Louis was a very good apprentice and learned everything that he could about how the engines worked and all about how to design them.
In 1900 when Louis was 21 he decided to move to England to further his career and first worked for a company called "The great horseless carriage company".
You're right Phil, it would need to be a big badge to fit all that on wouldn't it? In spite of its fancy name, the company was mainly concerned with making fire engines, and very successfully too, but Louis only stayed there a year and in 1901 he started working for Humber cars in Coventry.
His design for the Humber 8-10 and 10-12 models proved very successful, and he progressed quickly to become Head of Engineering there. There's a photograph of a Humber 10-12 here for you to look at.
1906 was to prove a pivotal year for Louis, for it was then that he met William Hillman. William was a prosperous bicycle maker who wanted to go into car manufacturing. William like Louis was very interested in motor racing and they formed a partnership to build and race their own car.
Louis designed it and they called it the Hillman-Coatalen, Louis drove it in the Isle of Man tourist Trophy race in 1908. Yes Mark, the same place where they have the TT race for motorbikes now, but then it was the cars that attracted most attention. His partnership with William Hillman didn't last and in 1909 Louis felt it was time to move again.
One of the other English Midlands car makers in nearby Wolverhampton was a company called Sunbeam and that is where Louis moved to. The first car he designed for Sunbeam was called the 12-16 and was a terrific success. Sunbeam entered a team race called the "Coupe de l'auto" in 1912, in a place called Dieppe in France. The race was run over two days and at the finish the Louis designed cars filled the first three places in their class which was for 3 ltr. cars.
The first of the Sunbeams was also third in the Grand Prix class. A very, very good result and very good for business because lots of people heard about it and how good the Sunbeams were. A 12-16 also won the TT event in 1914 just before the first world war. That same year Louis became Joint Managing Director of Sunbeam and that only five years after joining the company.
During the war Louis concentrated on designing engines for the new aeroplanes that were needed for the fighting in France, so much so that when the war ended Sunbeam had made a bigger variety of engines than any one other company. Louis was highly praised for his work and considered to be the equal of W O Bentley and Sir Henry Royce in engine design. Yes Phil, that's right, they were the men who made Bentley and Rolls Royce cars.
After the war in 1922 Sunbeam again went racing and again won in the Isle of Man TT race. Then in 1923 they entered a Grand Prix car designed by Louis and a man called Ernest Henry in the French Grand Prix. They won that race and the following year they went back to France and did it again.
In 1923 and '24 they amassed no less than 17 class victories. You may have heard me mention one of their drivers before. His name was Henry Segrave. Very good Babs, he was indeed the same Henry Segrave who held the land speed record at one time.
In 1920 Sunbeam had gone into partnership with two long established French car makers called Clement-Talbot and Darracq forming a company known as STD Motors. Stop sniggering Leigh or you'll have no cake for a week.
During his time at Sunbeam Louis designed the engine for the 1925 land speed record attempt by Malcolm Campbell in his car which he called Bluebird, yes Mark, the same man who raced boats too, held on Pendine Sands in Wales.
Zebidee, will you please calm down. I know Mummy and Daddy have a caravan near there but there's no need to go completely mad. Now. where was I? Ah yes, I remember. Malcolm Campbell was successful in his attempt and in breaking the record became the first man to do 150mph thanks in no small part to Louis's engine.
Do you remember Henry Segrave who I told you about earlier? Very good because he was the next man to benefit from Louis's engine design in a land speed record attempt. In 1927 they had built a car which they called the "1,000 horse power Sunbeam". This had two of Louis's "Matabele" V12 aircraft engines and they took it to a place called Daytona Beach in America to make an attempt on the record.
They went to Daytona because the beach was even longer than Pendine, and yes Paul, the weather probably was much nicer too. They broke the record and whilst doing that Henry Segrave became the first man to drive at 200 mph. So Louis had provided the first engines to do 150 and 200 mph - some achievement.
Besides his expertise at engine design Louis was also one of the first car designers to fit front wheel brakes, and also to realise the importance of shock absorbers and balancing wheels. He's also generally regarded as the first to fit the engine oil pump in the sump.
When Louis retired in the mid 1930's he sold his shares in Sunbeam and bought a controlling interest in the French branch of the Lockheed hydraulic brake company. The money he earned from this allowed him to buy a yacht and a villa on the island of Capri in the Mediterranean Sea.
When Louis died suddenly in 1962 aged 82 while in Paris his fellow designer W.O. Bentley said "He was not only a first class businessman who made (and lost) a great deal of money in his active life with Sunbeams; he had other qualities which I liked even better; he was highly educated and amusing and a tremendous raconteur, and he was dedicated to motor racing".
Sunbeam expert Anthony S. Heal said "He led and inspired others to achieve miracles they themselves would not have thought possible."
So you see children, Louis Coatalen was a man who flourished in a foreign country and showed that with determination and optimism you can achieve great things.
Oh, one more thing before you go to sleep. Louis was a great cake lover just like you all are. In fact he liked wedding cake that much that he married four times. A true Frenchman as ever.
Night, night children . Sweet dreams of Sunbeams racing across golden sands.
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 Brian Allison
I've been promising myself another classic, or "toy" as my ex describes them, for a number of years since being coerced to let my Rover P5 go. Recently this itch has been getting stronger by the day. Each time I went to a show I found myself looking at the beauties there and wondering, A - Which car did I really want, B - which could I afford to buy, and C - which could I find parts for reasonably easily. The answer kept coming back as a P6.
So with this decided I set about scouring the ads.to try and find a suitable car to buy. I knew I couldn't afford a perfect example but felt confident that I was capable of any mechanical work needed, and could make a fair fist of minor body repairs. Bearing this in mind I set about ringing any likely prospects and arranging to view them. Over the course of three months I viewed four that seemed to fit the bill.
The first one was a 2200 described as very sound with excellent body and interior that could benefit from a re-spray. Only an hour's drive away, so off I went. From a hundred yards it didn't look that bad. The could benefit part was obviously an understatement but I still had a good look round. I looked for and failed to find the door bottoms and the interior came complete with a paddling pool and badly worn drivers seat bolster and sun damaged rear seat. Good job it was a private seller, trade description would have had a field day. The next two I looked at, neither less than a three hour round trip, were no better and I was beginning to wonder if the time and fuel were worth the bother. But the itch was still as strong as ever, so onward and upwards. The fourth was another 2200 but two hours away. The photos with this advert really did look good, nice shiny primrose paintwork and apparently no faults at all mechanically.
Well worth a look he assured me, only selling because he was moving back to England, had it four years and never had a problem with it. What wasn't to like ? So off I went, nice two hour drive on a beautiful summer day with the promise of a bit of a bargain at the end of it. When I pulled in to his yard there stood a very shiny P6 and I thought it was my birthday .... until I really started looking closely and very quickly realised that the reason for the shininess was new paint. New, but not everywhere, the roof and boot hadn't been done, and whoever sprayed it hadn't been skilled when it came to masking tape. God only knew what lay underneath.
The next thing I noticed was something I'm still unable to work out. The offside panel gaps were all normal, likewise the offside door panel gaps, but the offside sill stopped about 20mm ( three quarters of an inch in old money) short of the trailing edge of the front wing, twice the gap of the nearside. I measured the sills and they were both the same length and both lined up perfectly with the jacking points. I could find no evidence of accident damage and am still totally baffled as to how this large gap could occur when both wing and door appeared to be positioned correctly. Any theories would be welcome on this. I was about ready to leave it when the seller decided to start the engine to show me how good it was. It sounded like a sack of chisels, due as I soon confirmed to a water pump with as much play in the bearings as a spoon in a teacup. Exit stage left one very disillusioned potential buyer.
I was still monitoring the ads in the fading hope of finding a genuine P6 when one for a Triumph Mk2 2000TC caught my eye. It was described as having a solid but not perfect body and interior, mechanically sound and reliable being used most days. Again almost two hours away but I decided it might be worth a look. I'd driven and worked on the same model belonging to a friend in the 70's and remembered it as being a very civilised, comfortable car, so rang the owner to arrange to have a look at it.
The following day I was about to set off to see it when the owner rang to tell me that he'd just taken a deposit from another buyer. Damn, or words to that effect. Back to the ads. Imagine my surprise when a week later he rang to ask if I was still interested. The original buyer had been forced to back out due to family reasons and would I like to go have a look rather than him re-advertise it. Amazingly the car was exactly as described. I took it for a run and found everything working perfectly, even the clock. The only thing that didn't work was the cigar lighter. The body had been Zeibarted from new and apart from a little bubbling on the front panel to wing seams was totally sound. The seller was a genuine gent not far shy of my own age and a deal was quickly struck over a cup of tea and home baked scones with his equally charming wife. Sitting in the sun chatting with them was the icing on a very good day.
I collected the car today and once I re-educated myself in the use of the overdrive had an extremely pleasant drive home. The car, hereafter known as Betsy 2, behaved impeccably, cruising at a steady 60 on the motorway section of the trip, and handling the far from perfect road surfaces with ne'er a knock, squeak, or rattle. All it needs now to make it ready to show is a polish. Oh, and a EBMVBB1985 sticker for that rear window.
Did you enjoy this blog?
If so, please help us keep the group going - donate or buy club items from our shop. All profits help run the group.
by Brian Allison
Wow ! What a contrast Trinity was compared to Atkinson's. The impression Pete had given me turned out to be true in all respects, the biggest difference being the attitude of Eric, the service manager. Totally approachable , unlike the pompous prat I was used to.
One of the first things he asked me was whether I had applied for a provisional licence, and when I said no, he arranged for Pete to take me in the shop van at lunch time to get it sorted. Talk about making a good impression! Before the day was out I'd got a volunteer to give me driving lessons as well. Pete Schofield was one of the mechanics, known to everyone as Shufty, due to his catchphrase. "I'll just have a shufty at that for you", "Come and have a shufty at this" etc. For our foreign readers I should explain that taking a shufty in England means having a look.
A little background to the staff at Trinity would probably be a good idea about here. There were four apprentices. Harold was a year older than me, Dicky was a year younger, and Pete, known to everyone as Bev, and myself, both eighteen. There were already two mechanics named Brian but I was fortunate that they both already had nicknames, one being Bootsy, after the character in a popular TV show of that time,"Bootsie and Snudge". The other Brian's nickname was rather derogatory and only used when he was not present.
The foreman, Tommy, was an Irishman and prone to lapsing into a broad accent when hassled by us apprentices, which I must admit was quite a lot of the time. One abiding memory of Tommy occurred when I was working under a car over one of the pits. I saw Tommy, who was quite short, well padded, and quite flat footed walking towards me muttering to himself. As he walked down the side of the pit I was able to hear him say " I don't know what we're going to do with that Bev me old dear, I just don't know." It must be said that we really did give him a lot to put up with.
I became a victim of one of the favourite tricks within hours of starting work. I was happily setting the tappets on a car, head down under the bonnet when I received an almighty electric shock, causing me to bang my head on the bonnet. When I looked round young Dicky was almost falling over laughing and pointing to the back of the car.The older one's reading this will remember the plug cleaning machines of those days. Briefly these were a means of grit blasting the deposits from the spark plug and then testing them.
The connection for testing was a wire fitted with a crocodile clip which you connected to the plug, then pressing the test button actuated a high tension transformer which, if the plug was ok, caused a visible spark across the plug electrodes. There was a wire leading from the plug tester to the rear bumper and he'd pressed the test button. Much more effective than pushing the horn button, which also happened frequently. This was a regular prank and some days the floor had so many lengths of wire trailing across it ,it looked like someone had spilt a bowl of spaghetti on it.
The high jinks were yet another reason to enjoy my new workplace and I quickly became as bad as the others for it. The management of course frowned on it officially, but as long as it didn't actually harm anyone a blind eye was more often than not turned. Today's HSE would have had a field day.
The change from working on Austins and Rovers to the various Rootes brands was surprisingly seamless by today's standards where it seems necessary to have a tuition course for every new model. Almost all cars of that time were relatively simple with pretty straightforward electrics rather than lots of modules and computer controls.
I started my driving lessons on my third day, Shufty making good on his promise. As I said previously I had a little experience in moving cars around the garage, so already knew about clutch control and steering. The shop van was a Commer Cob and when we'd put the L plates on and were both sat in it,rather than the lecture on where everything was and what it did, Shufti simply said, "Off you go then".
I managed to pull away without any kangarooing and crawled down the road to the T junction which met the main Huddersfield - Leeds road. After a couple of false starts there was a big enough gap for me to successfully turn onto the main road. I was mentally patting myself on the back at how well I was doing when Shufty said, "Don't you think it might be a good idea to change up a gear rather than doing 10 m.p.h. holding up all the traffic." Yea, great idea, but I'd never needed to change gear before. Oh, I knew all about it in theory, but practise was something else again. Thank the Lord for whoever invented synchromesh! I soon got the hang of it and we were bowling merrily along at a steady 30 in top gear.
That's when I felt a sharp pain in my left leg. Shufty had kicked me. "Get your foot off the bloody clutch pedal". Not exactly BSM but very effective. We'd gone about a mile when Shufty told me to take the next left. He got rather agitated when I did as I was told, apparently I was expected to slow and change gear rather than just turn the steering wheel. Not his exact words you understand, but that was the gist of it. Taking notice of his advice I managed to get us back in one piece, and was amazed when he said we'd go out again the following day. True to his word we went out most days and he reckoned I was doing great.
The second week I was there they took a Landrover in part exchange and decided it would be ideal for use as a shop van. The only snag was that the gear box would only select 1st and 2nd gear and was noisy too. Having come from the Rover agency it was decided I'd be the ideal candidate to repair it, so out the box came. I stripped the box completely, laying everything out in order on the bench, found the wrecked synchro hub that caused the lost gears and some very dodgy bearings. I made a list of parts which the stores said they would sort for me.
As it turned out this took them over a week to do, during which time people walked past the bench, picked up and examined various parts, pronounced them totally unusable ( again not their exact words), and then put them back down anywhere but where they were originally. It took me a long time to get that box back together. But the upside of it was that I used a few words in the process that I didn't even know I knew. This much to the disgust of Harold, a country lad who had never been known to utter a single swear word. When the box was refitted the Commer Cob was transferred to the body shop over in Halifax and the Landrover became my learner vehicle and shop van. This had the advantage of teaching me to double declutch as their was no synchro on 1st and 2nd.
Within a month I was due to take my driving test and felt confident of passing first time. The day of the test rolled round and Murphy's law struck again. At the time I was due to leave for the test centre the Land Rover was not back from a breakdown. No problem said Eric we'll get a car from the sales dept. for you. So instead of driving the familiar Land Rover I found myself in a Hillman Minx with just a couple of miles to get used to it. Whether it was me or the unfamiliar car I don't know, but I failed. To say I was sick was an understatement. Fortunately at that time there was no long waiting list for driving tests and I got a new date within two weeks. This time I was determined to pass.
The day of my second test couldn't have been better, Wednesday afternoon, half day closing in Huddersfield then so less traffic than usual. As we set off on the test I felt totally confident, until the tester told me to take a right turn and the indicators decided they wanted a half day too. " Don't worry about it, just use hand signals", easy for him to say, the one thing I hadn't practised! As it turned out it didn't matter anyway and I was the proud possessor of a pink sheet of paper saying I was fit to drive solo. Much back slapping and a drink after work were in order.
If you've read my earlier blogs you'll know all about my love affair with the Rover engine, and it was about this time that I developed an abiding crush on yet another. The famed TS3. This Tilling Stevens 3 cyl., 6 piston,2 stroke, blown, diesel really grabbed my attention. Never more so than when I was stood underneath one having removed the sump. Looking up was like looking at the architecture of a cathedral with beautifully formed supporting ribs, the rocker arms too were sheer engineering art. And the sound they produced was like no other engine I've ever heard.
For anyone interested I've added this link which explains more about this magnificent beast - or just click on the image.
After I passed my test I determined to save hard to buy my first car - easier said than done on the wages we got then - but my fairy Godfather was about to put in an appearance. I've written previously about the youth club and it's leader, David, and how helpful he'd been to the lads with motor bikes, now it was my turn.
I'd often admired David's car, it wasn't new by any means but it had that indefinable thing called character. It was a 1934 Morris 10/4, blue over black, and apart from a patch on the nearside rear quarter where over zealous polishing had rendered the paint almost transparent was in exceptional condition. I'd passed comment on how much I liked it on a few occasions and knew that it had been in David's family from new.
His uncle had been a chauffeur for one of the local mill owners and had been given the Morris as a retirement present, his father had then used it before passing it down to him. About 2 months after I passed my test I turned up at the youth club and was surprised to see David there but no sign of the Morris. When I asked him if he had sold it he said," No, but the back axle's gone and they don't have parts for it so I'll probably have to scrap it."
I hated the thought of an otherwise perfectly good car being scrapped for the sake of a back axle and on the spur of the moment said "I'll have it, I'm sure I can find an axle off something I can fit to it." David liked the idea of the car being kept on the road and said he would give it to me but his father would go mad if he thought he'd given it away so I'd have to buy it. " How much?" "Just enough to be able to truthfully tell him I sold it, shall we say sixpence?" " You're joking." "Not at all, I can look him in the eye and tell him I've sold it, I don't have to tell him how much for."
So for sixpence (two and a half new pence) I became the proud owner of a car eight years older than myself. I arranged with Eric to borrow the works Land Rover, towed the Morris down to Trinity, and again with Eric's blessing put it in the basement where I could work towards getting it back on the road.
Next time :- Will I get the Morris back on the road? And if I do, how?
by Brian Allison
After the launch of the Mini, and the subsequent excitement it generated, life at Atkinson's settled down into a familiar pattern. Work four and a half days, Wednesday at tech.
Monday and Wednesday evenings at Tech. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday evenings at the youth club continuing my education into the mysteries of the fairer sex.
Saturday lunchtime was occupied by the now almost obligatory couple of pints in the Sportsman's Arms opposite the garage. The rest of the weekend usually consisting of sleep and further research as per the youth club.
As I mentioned, I was now 17, and a fair number of the lads I knew had bought motor bikes which they rode to the club. I personally had never been tempted down that road, having had enough experience with push bikes and playing rugby to know just how vulnerable the human body is to collision damage. Four wheels and a bit of sheet metal to offer some protection seemed a much safer bet to me.
The Huddersfield Corporation at that time was well known for it's progressive thinking re. youth clubs, and was willing to provide funds for any scheme they deemed worthwhile. They also had a number of full time youth workers who acted as youth club leaders, the one at mine being David Brook. David noticed the activity with the bikes and suggested, if I was willing to take on the job of supervising it, that he would approach his bosses with the idea of setting up a workshop so we could work on the bikes indoors.
All the lads thought this was a great idea, and thinking it stood little chance of success, I told David to go ahead. I was absolutely amazed when about a week later David asked me to make a list of what tools I thought would be needed, and would I take on the job of writing to the various bike makers to see if we could get them to supply some service sheets, posters etc. I agreed to do that while he saw about getting my list filled.
Within a matter of a few weeks we had everything we needed to work with, a designated workshop area, tools, literature from all the makers I'd written to, and enough posters to fill most of the wall space. I look at how things have changed and can't help feeling sad that this sort of thing would never happen today. Lack of funds, and 'elf and safety alone would probably prevent it, let alone the lack of interest shown by the vast majority of todays youth.
" Enough of the moaning, you miserable old so and so ", I can hear you all saying, " Get on with the story."
The workshop idea was a great success and my only regret was that it was almost unknown at that time for girls to have motor bikes, certainly none of our members had one. Apart from that it was very satisfying to be doing something I enjoyed and knowing that it was helping other cash-strapped lads to keep their pride and joy on the road.
I mentioned 'elf and safety earlier and although we tried to keep it as safe as possible accidents, thankfully mainly minor one's did happen occasionally. The only one that required hospital attention was an attempted finger tip amputation. This came about as we were rebuilding a Francis Barnett after a fitting new piston rings.
All was going well until some idiot decided to have a feel into the exhaust port at the exact same time that someone else decided to lean his elbow on the kick start lever. The new piston rings did a very fair impression of a scalpel removing a slice from the finger tip, fortunately not far enough up to hit the bone. David took the unfortunate victim to the hospital, which fortunately was only about a mile down the road, while the owner of the bike asked me if the blood would do any damage to his engine.
I fully expected the workshop to be shut down but in the event, presumably because there was no lasting damage to either the victim's finger or the bike, the incident went completely unmentioned from any official quarter.
I found Tech. to be quite entertaining at times too. One incident was brought back to mind recently when someone posted a photograph on the Facebook page showing him using a Dial Guage. Precision stuff !
One of the classes at Tech was entitled Workshop Practice and was taken by a chap called Dave Ainsworth. Dave was a typical Yorkshireman, with no airs and graces, told it like it was with no messing about. One of the projects was to make a set square out of a square sheet of steel. When we'd all finished sawing, filing and riveting Dave inspected each in turn, making appropriate comments.
"Not bad" meant nigh on perfect, "Could be better ", meant near enough, and the odd "Rubbish" got thrown in for good measure. One unfortunate got the "Rubbish " comment and asked why that was. Dave said the edge of the blade was miles out, to which the lad objected, " It's nobbut a cock hair out". Surprisingly Dave didn't reply, instead walking over to a bench and picking up a micrometer, then walking back to where the lad stood. Unzipping his fly he reached in and produced a pubic hair which he then measured with the micrometer. " That son is what a cock hair measures and that square's a good fifty out by my reckoning."
At work I was still unhappy about not being able to use the shop van for driving lessons despite repeated requests, and my appeal for a transfer to the commercial workshop where I could do some practical work on diesels also fell on deaf ears. Then just after my 18th birthday in April 1960, fate took a hand.
I was on the bus going to work one Saturday morning when I got talking to a lad I vaguely knew who was also an apprentice mechanic. Pete was about the same age as me and told me he had passed his driving test a few months ago and was hoping to buy a car very soon. This prompted me to tell him my tale of woe. I'd be banned from here if I repeated what he actually said, but in essence he considered it ridiculous.
This led to us comparing our respective conditions, Trinity Garage itself was a purpose built workshop and showroom facility with a Rootes agency, unlike Atkinson's which had just evolved over the 50 years or so they had been trading, hence the one pit, one hoist layout. That was one tick in the plus box for it. The staff worked alternate Saturdays, not every Saturday as we did. Pete was paid more than me, not a lot, but more. They supplied and laundered your overalls. They worked on both cars and commercials, so gaining experience on diesels. And most important of all they actively encouraged the apprentices to learn to drive using the shop van at lunch time.
Pete also said that the service manager, Eric, was a great boss to work for, and that the foreman Tommy, though a pain in the a..e at times, was OK really. All in all it sounded like paradise to me, and I told Pete just what a jammy so and so I thought he was. His response was to suggest that instead of going in to work, why didn't I go with him, have a word with Eric, and see if I could get a job with him.
As I said previously I was now 18, and as such classed as an "Improver", basically meaning I was capable of doing routine work on my own, not requiring the full time supervision of a mechanic. I was not an indentured apprentice so there was nothing to stop me moving employment.
When we arrived at Trinity, Pete took me to the workshop office and introduced me to Eric, who then introduced me to Tommy. Eric especially couldn't have been nicer, totally different from his priggish counterpart at Atkinson's. He seemed genuinely interested in why I wanted to move and understood my reasons for wanting to. He was quick to point out that I would be required to attend Tech; no problem, I was already doing so. After showing me round the shop and me being delighted with what I saw, he then asked me if I'd like to start there in a fortnight's time ? Would I !!!
So it was with a definite spring in my step that I walked into Atkinson's almost an hour late. And who should be stood by the clock when I walked in but my pet hate. "What's this. You're an hour late and walk in like you own the place.", "I had to go somewhere before I came in.", "Well, it's just not good enough and it had better not happen again", "Oh, it won't, I'm giving two weeks notice." The look on his face was priceless as I walked to the bench and got my toolbox out.
I lost count of the number of times during the next two weeks that Norman asked me if I was sure about it, until, having explained my reasons for the umpteenth time I finally said with all the cockiness of youth, "Well, if you don't know why by now you're even dafter than I thought you were.", with which I walked away. I quickly regretted saying that, he was alright really, he just had a total pain for a boss.
So before I left Atkinson's I made sure he understood that it wasn't him I had a problem with. He even came for a drink on my last Saturday morning there and we parted on good terms.
So I left Atkinson's behind me and started at Trinity the following Monday. Nice clean airy workshop with painted floor with lined out bays down each side, go down the steps in the bottom right corner to an open area with a bench along the wall and then simply walk into one of three pits.
Down another flight to the basement used for parking the tow truck and any other vehicles as need be, and a proper little canteen. The contrast with what I was used to was immense. I knew I was going to be happy here.
Next time :- I'm let lose on the road to terrify the other drivers, develop a love for another engine, and get my very first car.
by Brian Allison
Last time if you remember I'd just bought a genuine WW2 staff car. No, not really but the attention the camouflage painted Vitesse attracted would have been hard to beat even if I had. It never failed to elicit comments wherever I went in it, one or two that could be repeated in polite company but far more that couldn't. Being blessed with skin that matched my head these usually ran of me like water off a duck.
Apart from the comments I found the whole Vitesse experience really satisfying. With the 2lr.engine in fine form it had a very respectable turn of speed, was pretty comfortable ride wise and had the usual Triumph wood dash to admire when not making forward progress. All in all not a bad place to be at all. Bit like a Ford Scorpio really, you can't see the outside when you're inside. I did have a few hairy moments finding out just how far you could push the back end before it cried enough, but apart from that it handled pretty well.
One unfortunate and to my mind unwarranted effect of the paintjob was the attention it attracted from the boys in blue. For a car that was supposedly meant to blend into the background it did the exact opposite with them. If I wasn't pulled at least once a week it was a rare thing.A typical exchange would be along the lines of.
" This your car Sir?. "Yes.", "Name and address please Sir.", "Brian Allison etc.", "On official business are we Sir?", "Pardon?", "Just wondered where the war was that you were in such a rush to get to." or another favourite, "Suppose you thought I wouldn't see you". Everyone a gem!
Must admit though that after many roadside MOT's they seemed to finally realise that everything about the car was totally legal and ceased to harass me on anything like a regular basis.
During this period the firm opened two new readymix depots, one in Manchester close to Belle Vue, the other in Preston. Brighouse being the nearest group garage we took on the responsibility for these two as well. The workings of corporate minds has often led to much head scratching on my part, and this was just one such occasion. Even with the new motorways Manchester is about a 30 mile trip, and Preston about another 20 or so miles further. So a breakdown in Preston meant it was hardly going to be attended to very quickly. However, as they say, ours not to reason why.
The mixer trucks we had were all fitted with Ford 4D donkey engines that drove the actual mixer drum and these and their drive accounted for the majority of call outs we got. A common occurrence would be a call saying a driver had got on site with a load and the donkey engine would not start or had suddenly stopped. Now a lot of the time this would be a genuine problem caused by the starter motor or wiring faults, but on more than one occasion I arrived to find the donkey engine completely seized. First check was to dip the oil. In every case the oil level was near enough correct, but unlike any diesel engine I've ever worked on the oil would be a lovely translucent coating on the dip stick. Of course the driver checked the oil according to his check list that morning.
In a case such as that the drum was totally immovable and the main priority was to get the concrete out of the drum before it set. This was achieved by removing the inspection hatches on the drum and calling the local fire brigade to find out where we could go for them to wash the concrete out with their power hoses. A messy, expensive business and all for the sake of five minutes. The usual punishment for the drivers was to have to get into the drum with a needle gun and clean away any concrete still stuck in there, it must have been hell for them with the dust and noise but I bet they never failed to check their oil levels again.
What the hell has that got to do with Cortina's?, you may well be asking. I'm coming to that.
About a couple of months after the theft of my Cortina I was called out to a breakdown at the Manchester plant. Exiting the plant and stopped at the T junction I spotted a really good looking Mk2 Cortina in the approaching traffic, same red as mine had been. Looking on enviously as it got nearer and passed by I was amazed to see it was identical, right down to the number plate. Unable to follow it due to the busy main road traffic I drove instead to the nearest phone box, called the police and reported that I'd seen a stolen car and where.
Not hearing anything after a couple of days I called the insurance co., told them the tale, asked if they'd been caught, and if they had could I buy the car back. It turned out that they had recovered, undamaged in Manchester a few days after they issued me with the cheque, and rather than offer me the chance to buy it back they'd put it in the auction. I'll refrain from saying what I called them bit it certainly wasn't complimentary. They say every cloud has a silver lining and that was certainly true about my cloud. Unfortunately the silver lining was to the benefit of the lucky sod who bought a pristine Cortina at auction.
The only Cortina I got to drive for a while after that was the MK 3 company car of Jack, the manager. The first time I drove it on the motorway I was appalled at the handling. At speed it developed a motion on the front suspension rather like a corkscrew, almost as if it wanted to turn over on alternate sides. Jack reckoned it had always been like that from new and that the agents reckoned it was nothing to worry about and quite normal.
Whilst on a trip to Thomson's, the mixer manufacturer, in Bilston Wolverhampton to pick up spares the gear lever came off in my hand and had to temporarily refitted with a piece of wire tying it into the gearbox turret, which did nothing to improve my rating of it. It also suffered from paint peeling from the front wing noses that had to be repainted under warranty. All in all I thought they'd have been better sticking with the MK 2.
Another strange fault that occurred on a Ford was the case of the Area Managers MK1 Granada. This was a V6, 2.5ltr model. He rang the garage and told us that he'd been driving along when he heard a bang and the car stopped dead. When we looked at it the engine was seized solid so we decided to strip it and see what had happened, and here comes the weird bit which we never got a satisfactory explanation from Fords for although they did provide an exchange engine free of charge which to our minds spoke volumes.
The cause of the abrupt seizing was a cylinder liner that had fallen down and fouled the crankshaft. Which was rather strange because as far as we could find out the Essex engine didn't have liners but was bored directly in the block. Strange but I assure you totally true. We could only assume that a liner had been fitted to salvage a block that had some fault when initially bored.
As I mentioned earlier in this series we also had two Ford D1000 tippers and I'm afraid that they also did nothing to enamour me to the post MK2 Cortina Fords. I'm sorry if that offends any fans of the blue oval but it is my honest assessment of that period, although I did have a Mk4 Cortina for a short while and found that perfectly adequate if a little uninspiring.
Filter by Author
Filter by Month