by John Simpson
Moving on a few years, about 1970, and the introduction of the Citroen GS. The first models were equipped with a flat four cylinder air cooled of 1015cc and were fitted with cambelts, something of a novelty! They were a lovely little car and fitted nicely in the middle of the Citroen range of vehicles, selling for just over £1000 they proved very popular.
I remember working on a GS, I was going to change the front inboard brake pads and reached into the car to start it up and put the suspension on full height, they were hydro-pneumatic like the DS, but the customer had left it in gear and the car started off across the workshop with me hanging on to the 'B' post trying to stall it before it ran into the wall, which I managed, phew!!
Also I can't be the only one to have drained the oil out of a car and refilled it without putting the sump plug back, messy!!
One of my jobs was cleaning out the pit, which used to flood regularly, and it was common for the rest of the lads to put the pit boards back and drive a car over, trapping me, we used to get up to all sorts of tricks, bolting tool boxes to the bench, making and throwing water bombs and setting fire to rags mechanics used have in there boiler suit pockets, don't try this at home, it's very silly and dangerous, especial if the rag had petrol on it!!!
1974 and the first Citroen CX's arrive in the country, a totally different car to the DS and I always thought a backwards step, the early ones had an enormous steering wheel and no power steering, they also got through front brake pads at an alarming rate! I went on a technical course for the CX at Citroen's British headquarters in Slough and with other trainees we were able to lift the body off a CX in 20mins, never did it again at work.
Going back to when I bought my first car, around 1972 when I was 19 years old, it was a 1966 Vauxhall Victor 101 Estate, it was a bit rough and ready, but I went miles in it, a special fitment was a mattress in the back, say no more!
Also about this time I started racing a Ford Anglia 105E on the grass, I used to buy the shells from the local scrapyard for £15 each, but I had to remove the interior, glass, fuel tank and engine, but I could keep the gearbox.
The engine I used was from a Ford Consul Classic, 1340cc with modified head and Weber carburettor, off a Citroen DS, the crankshaft was a hollow cast assemble not suitable for high revs, but I regularly used to take it to 7000rpm and it lasted several seasons. It was fun for a few years but I met my future wife so it had to stop!!
Next time, the Citroen dealership loses its franchise and turns Japanese!!
by John Simpson
After I'd been employed for a while, and gained a bit of confidence, my boss, Mr 'R', gave me first big job to do on my own - strip a V8 engine out of a Plymouth Fury. This was something I could get stuck into, learning all the while. Suffice to say that another mechanic, Dougie, reassembled it!
By this time I'd got my own tools which consisted of Britool A/F, Metric & Whitworth ring & open ended spanners, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer etc., in a barn type tool box, how much did it cost? The princely sum of £19 11s! A bit different to my toolbox today, full of Snap On tools, worth about £10,000!!
A job I remember working on a Reliant Regal, changing the brake master cylinder, which is located under the vehicle, similar to a Morris Minor. It was over the pit with the front wheel on two pit boards and me working underneath, I needed to get at the brake pipe union, so without thinking pushed the car forward, crash bang wallop! You've guessed, the front had dropped down the pit causing slight damage to the fibre glass body!! Another telling off!!
While working on a Citroen Dyane I had an embarrassing moment. It was stood outside the workshop doors, gently ticking over. I opened the bonnet and revved it up, panic it lurched forward pinning me against the doors, I shouted for help and it caused much amusement with my work mates.
Some Dyanes were available fitted with a 'Trafficlutch', which was a second centrifugal clutch much like a lawn mower, which enabled you to drive in traffic without depressing the clutch when stationary, so I'd left the car idling in gear and when I revved it lurched forward!!
Baitstrand of Kirton - that was the name of the garage I was working at - were well respected in Citroen circles and we used to get cars from all over the country coming in for their annual service, which took a full day to complete.
We also had a lot of customers from the RAF (there are a lot of RAF bases in Lincolnshire) with their DS's which most had purchased in Germany. I got to meet some very interesting people.
by John Simpson
I was 15 years old when I started work. My first wage was £2.16s (£2.80!) per week - the labour rate was 19s (95p) per hour. Unbelievable, but true.
Every morning I would sweep the workshop floor before being given another task. One such job was greasing the wheel bearings on Mr R's boat trailer, a straightforward enough but messy job. He used to keep his boat in the back of the showroom; a Parker 505 I think it was.
Eventually I was 'allocated' to a mechanic, Mick who was about 25 years old. He taught me a lot in my first year. My job usually involved changing oil and greasing. I remember one incident when greasing a Citroen DS using a power greaser, the customer was watching me working when the gun slipped off the nipple and hit him, covering his jacket and trousers! Whoops - another telling off!!
It was quite common for customers to come into the workshop (Health and Safety?) and watch us working on their cars. This is something that's missing today, because we'd build up a good rapport with our customers and it helped to talk to them to find exactly what their problems were. Today’s service receptionists don't understand and are unable to communicate it to the technicians.
In 1969 I was signed up to a 4 year apprenticeship and I started day release at my local technical college. Now I wasn't the best student at school, but excelled at college due to being interested in the subject. Once a month my boss used to quiz me about what I'd learned. He expected a lot but when I got my exam results his expectations were realised with me gaining distinctions in my exams and gaining my City & Guilds certificates.
We were a Citroen main dealer, selling new and used Citroens, one of my messy jobs was removing the wax off new cars using a rag soaked in petrol - no steam cleaners back then - it was a terrible job.
After a while as well as dewaxing new cars I was allowed to help with pre delivery inspections. This involved well, checking everything really, all nuts, bolts etc. As well as fitting seat belts, number plates and radios, fitting roof mounted radios aerials to the Citroen GS's involved removing the windscreen! Doing a P.D.I. correctly could take all day!
Keep looking, more to come.
by John Simpson
It all kicked off on Monday 16th September 1968 - a date firmly embedded in my memory -when a young, naïve 15 year old boy turned up for his first day of work at his local garage, (whisper this!) a Citroen dealer!
I was wearing a white boiler suit, which caused much amusement and leg pulling by the other mechanics.
Anyway down to business; my very first job in the trade that was to become my way of life for the next 49 years at least (still on the spanners!) was to get a Standard 8 started. It had broken down on the forecourt at the weekend; the boss, Geoffrey Rennoldson was a fearsome but fair man. He handed me a socket and told me to remove the spark plugs and clean them.
I duly did as instructed, refitted them and went and told Mr 'R' (that's what staff called the boss) it was done. He came to the car and tried to start it but no luck. He tried again, again no luck.
Mr 'R' came round the front of the car to look under the bonnet and wasn't happy with what he saw. "You haven't fitted the plug leads boy!!" he exclaimed. I replied " Sorry Sir, I didn't know which way round they went!". Anyway with the leads fitted, the car started. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the day was spent with a broom sweeping the workshop floor!
More tales from my life in the motor trade when I can remember them!
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