By Jim Lodder
The Maxi was very reliable, but not exactly exciting apart from the morning that I pulled into the coal yard at Aberystwyth railway station. ( I went there early every morning to collect the newspapers for the shop ) The front nearside wheel came off and rolled down the yard in front of me! I'd had a puncture the previous day and forgot to tighten the wheel nuts after I lowered the jack. Fortunately I managed to find the errant wheel nuts and fix the wheel back on, properly this time.
As the Maxi started to develop rust patches, one of the downsides of living right by the sea, I decided to smarten it up with a change of colour as well. I bought a product called “Repaint” which claimed that despite being a brush on product the finish was as good as a respray. Oh the gullibility of youth!
I managed to get the use of a large brick building on the caravan site that was used as a workshop during the week, but I could only have it from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. So drove it in Saturday morning, cleaned it, rubbed it down, repaired the rust (bodged would probably be a better description) masked up the glass edges, degreased it and set about applying the Repaint primer coat, which was white, with a large paint brush. Finally finished late evening, locked it up, and adjourned to the pub. I returned on Sunday morning ready to apply the nice bright red top coat (the Maxi was previously a mustard yellow colour) and set off full of confidence with my big paintbrush, the same one I’d used the previous day for the primer. However as I put more and more top coat on it became increasingly obvious that the primer wasn’t completely dry. No doubt I’d put too thick a layer on, and my lovely shiny red colour was slowly turning a very streaky pink! And that’s how it stayed for the next 3 years until it too was scrapped.
The Maxi was replaced with a dark green Mk2 Ford Cortina that came along courtesy of my first wife. I never really got along with that one (the car, not the wife, although she would become ex wife just 7 years later!) I could never get the Cortina to run satisfactorily and was getting mpg in the low teens at best, so quite quickly “moved it on” as they say and bought my second Triumph Herald, this time a dark blue saloon with mandatory white side stripe.
I managed to run the Herald on a shoestring as we had no money to spare and a baby on the way. My newly acquired father in law took pity on his poor daughter and was so concerned about his future grandchild travelling in “that old banger” (he had no taste) that he bought us a “proper car”. However it was a Johnny Foreigner so must remain unidentified here. We went through a few JFs over the next years, apart from a green Hillman Hunter GLS (nice car) and a hand painted blue Mini Van, so there must be a gap in this blog until, post-divorce, I moved on to the Rover P6 3500 V8, via a brief foray with a Triumph Toledo.
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by Jim Lodder
My second Mini was not quite as old as The Bomb – this one (5577 HP) was a 1961 model! Not quite as expensive as a 1959 one these days, but not far off. It was a real bargain though. A bit tatty and rough round the edges, with both front wings in Red Oxide primer, but it was only £35! Another 850cc model, I originally intended to “do it up” but a change of job and a lack of finances prevented this, so I just had to keep it maintained.
Around this time my parents had bought a holiday caravan in mid Wales, so most weekends I used to head for Wales with a mate or two in the Mini, whilst the parents sped ahead in the GT6. They used to do it in around 2 ½ hours, I used to take nearer 3 ½ ! One weekend the exhaust manifold cracked whilst in Wales – I “repaired” it with a baked bean can and 2 jubilee clips. It stayed together as far as Warwick, almost home!
Shortly after this, my parents returned from Wales one weekend to announce that they had decided to give up their well paid jobs, sell the house, and move to mid-Wales permanently where they were going to buy the shop on the caravan site and make their fortunes. Did I want to go with them, or did I want to buy the house and stay there?
With hindsight probably should have done the latter rather than the former, but hindsight is a great thing! So armed with the knowledge that I was going to be living at the seaside in the near future, I sold 5577 HP and bought…………….. an ex British Army Austin Champ!
The Champ was a real hoot, limited to 55 mph despite having a 2.8 litre Rolls Royce engine under the big bonnet. And around 15 miles to the gallon! To get from Coventry to mid Wales required a tankful of petrol plus the reserve in the jerry can on the back; plus it took most of the day. It only sported a canvas hood, no side screens, so the horizontal Welsh rain soaked me through to the bone.
Once settled in my caravan with the Champ proudly parked outside, it started to unexpectedly earn a living! The slipway down to the beach was quite steep, with a bit of a drop at the bottom during low tide and the beach was mostly shingle. Once word got round that the Champ was mine I started to get lots of people asking me to tow their boat trailers down to the sea, and subsequently back onto dry land again, for a bit of “petrol money”. Turned out to be quite a lucrative hobby.
Plus on one occasion I dragged a stranded Vauxhall Cresta off the beach – never did get to the bottom of why the owner thought it was a good idea to try driving onto there in the first place though. Of course I soon found out how much fun could be had actually driving the thing in the sea! As it had a 5 speed box with a transfer box that selected forward or reverse motion, it was possible to drive as fast backwards as it was forwards. Changing gears whilst reversing was a bizarre experience!
Inevitably within a few short years the body tub disintegrated because of the salt water and the poor old Champ got scrapped. In the meantime my Dad had bought an Austin Maxi that then became my daily transport. It was an early one, with the cable operated gear change……………
by Jim Lodder
The Herald was a very different animal to the Mini when it came to driving! After the go cart handling of the Mini, cornering like it was on rails, the Herald’s tendency to tuck those rear wheels under and try to catch up the front end was quite a frightening experience. I mostly got used to it, but could still get caught out on wet bends!
Although the girlfriend (now officially fiancée) couldn’t understand why, I immediately began to personalise the Herald just as I had done with the Mini.
I made a centre console from aluminium, covered in black vinyl, that sat on top of the gearbox tunnel and housed a radio and an 8 track tape player. Speakers fitted into each front footwell trim panels. The radio aerial was a fibreglass whip thing, mounted on the rear offside wing and clipped in a big arc to the front of the rain gutter. Occasionally it became unclipped, and whipped around quite dangerously!
I also had fake sheepskin seat covers, topped with matching front headrests that slipped over the seat backs. Weird! One evening whilst parked up in a multi storey car park whilst I was at a night club, I returned to the Herald to find that someone had got into it, stolen the seat covers, headrests, and radio aerial and then locked it again! They left all the 8 track tapes and the £3 / £4 in loose change in the tray on top of the tunnel. Thieves with bad taste I think!
Around now, for reasons lost in the mysteries of time, the girlfriend / fiancée became the ex girlfriend / fiancée. Her mother never did like me! To celebrate my new found single status, 4 mates and I set off for Minehead in the Herald for a weeks jolly holidaying at a caravan park.
Around halfway through the week, as we were cresting a rather steep hill, we came to a sudden and immediate stop. Opening the front end of the Herald we were met with a pool of oil on the road, and a con rod sticking out of the side of the block! Curses! At the bottom of the hill we spotted a traditional garage / petrol station so we jumped back into the Herald and coasted into the forecourt.
The sympathetic owner allowed us to push the car round the back into his compound, on condition that unless we removed it within a month he’d scrap it for spares. We got a bus back to the caravan park, finished our weeks holiday, and went home on the train.
The following weekend, my long suffering Dad and I drove down to Minehead in his GT6. It had a towbar fitted to move his speedboat around, so with an AA approved tow rope we proceeded to tow the Herald back home, me sat in it and concentrating 101% on braking and turning. I was completely exhausted by the time we got safely home.
Then one particularly rainy evening, on my way home from the pub, I went into a sharp right hand bend far too fast, and made the classic Herald mistake of lifting off the throttle half way round. The rear end inevitably spun round, and the car left the road, spinning sideways down a grassy bank until a large oak tree stopped it by getting in the way of the front nearside wheel.
Fortunately I was shaken but unhurt, and there was no one else around, so I managed to pull the dented wing off the still inflated tyre, got back in and somehow managed to drive back up the wet grassy slope onto the road, and nursed the car back home. In the cold light of the following morning, the true extent of the damage became obvious. The bonnet was really damaged beyond repair, so that came off first, to reveal a slightly repositioned front suspension unit, and a decidedly redesigned steering rack.
Still don’t know how I got it home that night! Fortunately I had a mate who had a 1600 Vitesse bonnet going spare, but it was in blue. And I got a second hand steering rack from a scrappies, although I had to remove it from the donor car myself. Those were the days of proper scrap yards!
I took the steering rack, wrapped in old newspapers, home on the bus, to many odd looks! Having rebuilt the Herald, I flatted the blue Vitesse bonnet and managed to press the rather useful paint spraying uncle into action again. But this time he also provided the Conifer Green paint!
By now I’d had enough of the Herald, especially as it had never really been my choice, but that of the now ex girlfriend. So it was duly sold, and replaced with …………….. a red Morris Mini Minor!
by Jim Lodder
A long time ago, in a city far away, this 17 year old had just spent 4 days in hospital after coming off his motor scooter (Italian, so not to be identified here) on his way to the school 6th Form. Not my fault by the way, although the scooter was a write off.
So the parents agree that he will be safer with four wheels, plus his car driving test is imminent. Having had to resort to the bus to get to school, which admittedly was considerably easier in those days; just walk to the bus stop and wait for the next one to arrive; I used to come home every afternoon, turn the corner into our road, and hope that there would be a nice shiny Mini Cooper S parked outside our house, bought for me by my generous caring father! (He was actually neither of those things, but that’s another story).
Having passed my test first time, the nice Co-op insurance man (who else remembers the insurance man calling each week to collect premium instalments?) explained patiently that there was no way on I’d get cover on a Cooper S, why didn’t I aim lower and get a basic 850cc Mini? Sensible chap!
So trawling the classified ads in the evening paper – Thursday was the car ads night – I found a 12 year old Morris Mini Minor in beige with a brown roof – registration 659 BOM. Several previous owners but seemed to be in reasonable condition, and £135, which was the equivalent of around 10 weeks of my wages at the time.
Of course, back then a 12 year old Mini was just an old car. Now of course, realising that “then” was 1971, that 12 year old Mini was an early 1959 model complete with floor mounted starter, dog leg gear stick and floor mounted dip switch. Worth a small fortune now, but sadly I suspect long gone to the great scrapyard in the sky.
Shortly after getting the Mini several mates and I came back from the Racing Motor Show with lots and lots of stickers – Castrol, STP, Esso, Duckhams etc etc which I proceeded to cover the Mini with! I thought it looked really cool; my manager at the bank where I worked was less impressed and asked me to park it out of sight of our customers.
Over the next year or so 659 BOM (affectionately known as “The Bomb”) provided regular service with only the occasional breakdown, usually during heavy rain. Anyone who’s had an early Mini will understand why!
Then one day, on the way to the girlfriend's house, I lost all gears except reverse. The nice AA man towed me home, and at the weekend my Dad took his brand new Triumph GT6 Mk 3 out of the garage (it only usually came out at the weekends) and we pushed the Mini in backwards. To cut to the chase, bonnet off, front subframe unbolted, we lifted the front of the Mini and pushed the body to the back of the garage. Engine and box separated, we rebuilt the gearbox on the garage floor over many long evenings and weekends with guidance from the Haynes manual.
Whilst sitting on the garage floor with the ‘box at my feet, I began to ponder tidying up The Bomb. So off came all the stickers and the paint was flatted (mostly to get rid of all the adhesive residues). Now at that time I had an uncle who worked at Standard Triumph as a paint sprayer, whilst my dad worked at Massey Ferguson as a maintenance electrician. So when The Bomb finally hit the road once more, it was now Tractor Red with a matt black bonnet and boodlid (and a few new stickers!)
Sometime later I added a black vinyl roof, bought as a kit from the girlfriends mother’s Kays catalogue at 50p a week! I used to spend every Saturday morning at the local scrappies, climbing through the wrecks looking for anything I could add to the Mini. I got lucky one time with a newly arrived Mk2 Jaguar and along with the switch panel I took most of the gauges as well. These I fitted to a plywood dash panel in the Mini along with other toggle switches, most of which did nothing! I also fell lucky when someone I worked with at the bank, who also had a Mini, offered me a set of five reverse rim Mini Cooper S wheels that just needed a repaint. For free!!
The Mini provided a further year or so of fun transport, including holidays to Wales and Cornwall (that journey used to take over 12 hours!) The girlfriend and I slept in it on a Welsh beach once, did “other” things in it (it is possible in a Mini, but only if you’re young and flexible) and generally had good times with The Bomb.
However, the girlfriend decided one day that “we” needed something bigger (she didn’t drive) following our recent new status as “engaged”, so the Mini was sold and I bought a C reg Herald Estate in Conifer Green with a white stripe. But more on that next time!
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