By Holly Bush
Well all my searching for clues about the car and the previous family had drawn a blank. The trail had gone cold, so there was nothing left for me to do but keep the car and wait for someone from the family to come looking for it. Yeah well that's not very likely to happen is it?
I kept the car for almost 10 more years and nothing was done to it during this time. I prided myself in keeping the car clean and dry as I wanted it to stay exactly the same as it was when I first got it. However, after 10 years our garage had become cluttered with various useless items. Boxes were stored inside it, and all around AJC and it was impossible to get her out of the garage and poor AJC became neglected.
She hadn't been forgotten about though..."when will you sell that bloomin Gazelle, there's no room to store anything in the garage, it's taking up all the space!" nagged my husband.
Eventually I let him advertise the car on one of the online car websites but this was purely to stop him nagging me. I didn't have any intention of ACTUALLY selling the car!
Imagine my surprise and delight though when I got an email from Nicholas Webb, the Grandson of the original owner. By some amazing miracle he'd been looking at the car website and spotted the Gazelle with the familiar AJC number plate! Several emails later and we'd exchanged some tales of AJC. Yes his Grandparents had indeed died in 1983 and the car had stayed in the family for another 3 years after that. Nicholas had even driven the car himself and had fond memories of it being in his family. Would he want it back I wondered?
This is the difficult bit because I wanted to make sure AJC went to a good and caring home. Would he want the burden of a rusty 50 year old car? Would he have the garage space to keep it as I wasn’t going to let her go to someone who would leave her sitting outside getting wet. Would he keep the car in the family forever? Oh it was too much to ask surely? The clutch on AJC had also mysteriously stopped working at this time, so the car would need to be transported. Damn!
Well Nicholas DID want the car and he promised to lavish attention on her and keep her forever. He even had his own car transporter with a winch. Wow! Could this get any more perfect? so I let him make the long journey north as soon as he could to collect AJC.
Yes indeed. Nicholas used to have hair on his head!
The day AJC left here was both happy and sad in equal measure. I was glad she had found a new home with the original family, but also sad to be letting go of a car I'd had for so long! All those memories! What would happen to it now?
I'd hoped AJC would pass an MOT with minimal effort, I knew it needed new brakes, a clutch , and possibly a bit of welding for the MOT. A couple of hundred quid or more maybe, and then Nicholas would have a nice old car to enjoy! (Well I could dream couldn’t I?)
What followed next made my nice little dream turn into a bit of a nightmare. Nicholas decided if he was going to keep the car forever, he'd do a proper restoration on it, and to save money he'd do it HIMSELF! Sounds good? Well we were about to open a can of worms...tin worms!.....
Yes a huge rusty mess had been uncovered as Nicholas began the painstaking job of restoring the Singer Gazelle. I was utterly dismayed at this, because I was so sure the car had been a solid little thing. I certainly didn't intend to burden him with a massive expensive project! I won't go into detail about the restoration, as Nick has done that, but I will tell you he had quite a lot of hair on his head when he first got the Gazelle, and now he doesn't, so I imagine he was tearing it out while he was restoring the car!
Many months of VERY hard work followed, and there were times when I thought he'd give up on the car. I badgered him regularly to keep him motivated - I'm not sure if that's one of the reasons he got it finished so quickly, I think he was sick of me pestering him but I actually enjoyed hearing tales of the work being done. it was good to know how much effort was being put into it and I knew the intention was to do it properly so that the car would last for many years to come and provide enjoyment in the future for his children and possibly grandchildren.
After almost a year of constant work on the car, the day finally arrived to display her at a car show and I made the long trip south to see AJC. Wow! Amazing! The wonderful thing about it is the smell - it smells exactly the same inside as it did when I first bought it 19 years ago! Sitting in the car was like being transported back in time to when I was young and carefree. Brilliant!
The car has been restored, but AJC still retains all the lovely character that made me love her so much all those years ago. I guess the memories are even better for Nicholas and his family, as the car has been part of their life for 50 years and now it's back with them again.
Oh, and the nice man with the immaculate Singer Gazelle I met at the car show all those years ago? Yes I met him again recently and told him the story of AJC. He had a tear in his eye when I told him my car had finally been reunited with the original family and restored. He's in his eighties now, and still attends car shows with his immaculate Gazelle. Well now mine is now immaculate too! I got my wish at last!
I know AJC will be looked after and cherished by the Webb family, just like Mr and Mrs Roberts did all those years ago. It's the perfect ending to my little fairy tale!
Look after her Nicholas!
Holly admiring Nicholas's work and looking rather please.
By Holly Bush.
If you've been happily reading the story of the Singer Gazelle AJC 87B, you might be wondering where the car had been living in the years between 1986, when the Webb family sold it, and 2014 when the car was finally reunited with them?
Well most of that time it was living here in Scotland with me!
The lady who'd bought the car from the Webb family had kept it for several years, and during that time it seems, some "botched repairs" had been carried out. There was certainly lots of body filler sticking out of places it shouldn't have been when I got it!
I bought (saved?) the Gazelle 19 years ago in 1997. I'd always fancied a classic car, so when AJC was advertised locally I jumped at the chance to go for a look. I discovered the owner was a young lad who'd just passed his driving test.
Well I wasn't much older than him at that time, but I reckoned I was a "capable and more mature female driver" and I wasn't going to use the car for whizzing up and down the High Street at night - I was going to take the car to some Classic Car Shows and cherish her.
The Gazelle looked to be in fairly good, original condition (apart from all the body filler!). The colour combination of white with a maroon stripe was very nice indeed. The interior was immaculate with lovely thick red carpets, wooden dashboard, and red (fake) leather seats. The smell of the old car was wonderful! So I bought her!
The BEST thing about the car though, was a little handwritten log book which had been passed down with the rest of the vehicle history. This little book became very important, and it's the reason I kept the car.
It had very neat and meticulous notes of every single journey made in AJC by the first owner, Mr Sydney John Hope Roberts. In this book were details of picnics, trips to the seaside, meetings with family and friends etc. Another section of the book had details of all the maintenance that had been carried out over the years. What a lovely little book!
He'd had the car from 1966 to 1983 and it was obvious this car had been cherished and very well cared for during his ownership. Every winter it had been "laid up" as Mr Roberts was a man who didn't like his car being ruined by our British weather!
What followed over the next few years were many happy times for me and AJC. I took her to several classic car shows, and we even won a prize for "Best in Class" Ok, AJC was The ONLY car in that class, but it was nice to win a prize anyway!
Another memory of the car show era was meeting a nice chap with a VERY immaculate Singer Gazelle. I felt SO embarrassed when mine was parked beside his beautiful car. One day I hoped mine would look as nice as that!
Sadly for AJC, instead of trying to get her to a similar condition to the nice old gentleman’s Gazelle, I decided to buy a Campervan and poor AJC got neglected for a while.
It was taking up valuable space in our garage, so my hubby talked me into the idea of selling it and AJC was advertised.
A couple of guys from Ireland responded to my advertisement and they were offering almost double what I'd paid for the car, so I decided to sell AJC to them.
They came over to Scotland with their trailer to take the car away as planned, but just as the cash was being handed over I was overcome with emotion and thoughts of all the happy times the old man had documented in his wee log book and my happy years with her too. What would happen to the car if I let it go? I'd never see it again!
"I'm sorry this car is no longer for sale - I'm keeping it!" I heard myself say. (Guys if it was YOU and you're reading this I'm VERY SORRY to have wasted your time!)
Over the following months my thoughts turned to the intriguing little log book. It was looking more and more likely that the original owners Mr & Mrs Roberts would have died by now, after all they'd bought the car in 1966 and this was 2005. The last entries in the book indicated frequent trips to hospital for blood tests etc and the handwriting was becoming very poor... Oh dear what had happened to them? I had to find out!
What if I could trace some of the original family? I wonder if they'd like to see the little book again, or perhaps they'd like to have the car back with them? Hmm... maybe!
So I did a bit of research. But remember, this was in the days before I had the internet. I went to my local library and searched the phone books for clues.
Armed with some addresses and names I planned our summer holiday that year. It was going to be a road trip in the new Campervan to visit all the places listed in the Log Book, (North Wales & Manchester!) to try to find out as much as possible about the family who'd owned my Gazelle.
Well disappointingly I didn't find out very much on the holiday. The Roberts family had gone long ago from their little bungalow in Deganwy, although one of the neighbours fondly remembered the old couple and their lovely car. Next stop was the address of Mr Roberts daughter in Manchester. Sadly I discovered the family had moved away a few years before and I had no other way I could think of to trace them. My little dream of reuniting AJC with the original family had come to an end.....or had it?....
To Be Continued......
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