By Nicholas Webb
It took me more than a month to repair the inner and outer sills on the driver's side but it was freezing cold winter weather at that time (January 2015).
I managed to buy an O/S/F wing from someone in Hampshire and did a 360 mile round trip to get it. Actually, I bought two front wings but both were second hand previously repaired items and it was only much later that I discovered the N/S/F wing was too badly repaired to use. This was probably the worst £300 I'd spent on the project!
Repairs to the second hand wing were made and it was actually from a later model of Hillman Minx but I already had a plan to use parts from my original wing and the donor car to make one front wing.
An e-bay 'super find' was a new old stock front lower valance from Northern Ireland at £180 and now, one new welder later, I had a good floor, sill, bulkhead, outer wing and front valance. The weather also warmed up, my work was unusually quiet and rather than looking for more work I just spent more and more time working on AJC and effectively welded my way around the car until I was back at the front. The N/S sill was just as bad as the O/S, but it was actually very easy as I just copied what I'd done on the driver's side.
The N/S/F wing really was a nightmare! I had the remains of the original (not much!) and this piece of rubbish I'd driven to Hampshire and paid a lot for. However, there was one more. The very rusty wing still on the parts car, very rusty but never previously 'repaired'. The front wings on these Audax cars are welded on and getting them off pretty much destroys them, but it was this front wing that was probably my greatest achievement as the remnants of three rusted wings and homemade repair sections made one good wing. I could (and possibly should) have bought two new glass-fibre wings, the only other choice was new handmade wings from Ex-Pressed Steel Panels in Yorkshire at £450 +vat each!
Having got this far and with lots of nice chrome parts waiting in the loft there was the paintwork to attend to. Having by now exhausted all 'spare' cash, I could only think of one way it would get done. Like all the rest, I would have to do it myself. I have sprayed complete vehicles in the past but with no spray booth I decided I would be better off to do it in sections.
Spraying a whole car is difficult but spraying one body panel is relatively easy. By the end July 2015 I had worked my way around the car and it was time for our usual one week of the year holiday. Naturally, progress could not be halted entirely and the original number plates were refurbished whilst we were away! SO nice to be doing the detail items at last!
A rather strange thing happened around this time, I can't remember if it was before or after our holiday but when a car has had lots of work there is always the smell of fresh paint and rustproofing products that linger for a while but on the day the interior was refitted, I sat inside it and it smelled exactly as it had done so many years before.
Finally, 10th of August 2015 was my big day. I drove AJC for the first time in 29 years to its MOT test. Me; 20 years old to 49 years old and it was a leap back in time, AJC from 22 years old to 51 years old!
It will never win any concourse prizes and there are certainly things that I could have done better but it it's just nice to have it back.
BIG thanks to its last owner who kept it for so long. Giving away Granddad’s little logbook was a good thing as she kept it because of that... "There's some history with this car!"
by Nicholas Webb
Back in 2006 I got my first computer and one of the first things I did was check all of our previously owned family cars on the DVLA website to see if any still existed. The check on AJC 87B stated that it was last taxed in 2001 and was showing as "No tax" "No MOT" so from that I thought it most likely it had been scrapped at that time. It was a surprise to see it had lasted for so long after we'd sold it in 1986.
One evening in 2013 I was looking at classic cars for sale and clicked on the link for a Singer Gazelle. As the picture appeared and I saw the registration I was astonished to see it was AJC 87B. After several months of emails with the owner, during which I was very pleased to hear that Granddad’s little log book was still with the car, I was offered the car back on very favourable terms so long as I agreed never sell it. The following weekend I made the long journey to Edinburgh to collect it and see it for the first time in 28 years!
There was both good news and bad on seeing it. The good news was that it was complete and generally in seemingly reasonable condition. The bad news was that it was quite obvious that there was body filler in all the usual places and panel gap between the front wings and the fronts of the sills was no longer there. The sills looked as though they had been replaced but the join with the inner sill along the bottom edge was more than a centimetre thick!
Having got the car home I decided that the first step would be to make it into a self-propelled vehicle. The engine was soon running and new clutch master and slave cylinders made it mobile.
At this point I made a very wise decision to load it once more onto my Ford Transit and borrow one of my customers steam cleaner for two hours. By now after much muck had been cleaned from the underside I could see that the bodywork was going to be a big job. However, I decided at this point, that the brakes would be next job, followed by all the chrome plating that required refurbishment. The idea being that if I had spent quite a lot of money on it I'd be forced to continue if I found that things were really bad with the bodywork!
The entire hydraulic brake system was replaced, only the rear drums and back plates remain although the callipers are the originals having been reconditioned. Always a good idea I think, to have single line hydraulic braking systems in perfect order.
Just at the point I was about to start with the angle grinder, I had a spot of luck and a trip to Cambridgeshire was arranged to collect another Gazelle to use as a parts donor. Going to collect it I had the worrying thought of what may happen if the donor car had a better body-shell than “AJC”, but as it turned out it was equally rusty but fortunately in different places. It proved to be an invaluable help and very kindly donated it's near perfect doors and boot lid.
I also sold many parts from it and still have some useful spare parts in storage. It was probably the best £450 I spent in the entire project!
Having now spent enough money to guarantee my commitment, (About £2000) I chopped off the replacement outer sill. What was hidden behind was THE most awful and badly botched up mess I have ever seen in my life. I can cope quite well fixing rust but to have to undo someone else's bad welding on top was very troubling indeed. Without a doubt this was the lowest point in the restoration and I was SO upset I went to bed! (I never sleep in the day unless I'm really tired or ill.)
Later that day I rang Martin, my younger brother, and told him of the disaster. He gave me great words of wisdom and enthusiasm... "Tomorrow go back in the garage and cut out anything that was a previous repair or seriously rusted. Try not to end up with no floor at all if you can, but once you have done that you will get some ideas of how to start reconstructing it". It was also a good thing that I had already invested considerable money and time in it because I would have probably scrapped it if I hadn't!
by Nicholas Webb
It’s now the very early 80‘s. AJC is still being driven by my Dad and so we reach the memorable incident of “Barton Bridge”.
Before I start the little tale, it is interesting to note that Barton Bridge (M63 then, now M60) was actually the first part of the UK motorway construction. Ground works for the bridge approaches were completed several years prior to the Preston bypass. In the 1970's and 80's it was two lanes in either direction and was widened to three lanes, plus hard shoulders around 1987/88. I guess this event was in the winter of 1980/81.
My Dad had been doing his rounds as an environmental health officer (housing) for Salford Borough Council and had turned into an ice covered minor road. He was only doing about 4mph on the hill but when ice was detected nothing could prevent gravity pulling the Gazelle in an undesired direction. Its wayward travel was arrested by a parked car. Fortunately, no damage appeared to have been done to either vehicle but Dad knocked on doors and reported the incident anyway. He then carried on with his work and returned to his office for some pen pushing duties.
By home time it was dark and raining and as he crossed Barton bridge, right at the top, he heard a "CLANG, tinkling noise". Moments later he noticed something rather odd. The passenger side front wing looked shorter than the driver’s side. After we'd all had tea, Dad and I discussed where we could get another headlight bezel from as the minor bump earlier in the day must have dislodged the headlight bezel and that was the cause of the strange noise and 'shorter' front wing. I suggested a reconnaissance trip because it's only ten miles away and there were junctions either side of the bridge.
So Dad and I set off and crossed Barton Bridge, came off, re-joined and travelled over in the direction he had been travelling when he heard the “Clang, Tinkle”. We both saw the headlight bezel right at the top of the bridge lying in the gutter. So, another circuit of junctions and bridge crossings until Dad timed it so there was nothing behind us. With the headlamp bezel in view, Dad quickly slowed whilst I reached out to grab it with only my seatbelt preventing me from falling out if I misjudged it. "I GOT IT! I GOT IT!" I exclaimed clutching the bezel in my fist.
Amazingly, it appeared that it had just fallen off and landed in the gutter without any other vehicles running over it. Usually, I'm all for "Replace everything in poor condition" when it comes to classic car restoration. In this case however, the slightly scratched chrome peak on the headlight bezel has been retained.
Another memory I have of AJC is arriving home from school and discovering AJC sat on the drive looking really down at the back. Alarmingly down at the back! I quickly walked round to see that the boot was full of old house bricks and then Dad appeared looking exhausted and pushing his wheel barrow loaded with yet more bricks. We had the most bizarre conversation with him muttering "Oh bloody hell your back! I was hoping to be gone before YOU appeared!" and me saying "What the hell are you doing? It's only ever carried sandwiches!" I watched in dismay as he drove away and gave him a further lecturing later. "You’re an idiot it's not a bloody mobile skip!".
Dad’s use of AJC was concluded by 1981 and it was returned to my grandparents. Dad had purchased a 1975 BMW 1502 (JBG 519P). It had 13,000 miles on it and, over the next five years, it was subjected to the same nice/nasty treatment as AJC had received!
I went with dad from Gatley to Llandudno to return AJC and we travelled back in the Wolseley hornet, 54,000 miles were on the clock by this point. Dad was to double that mileage before my younger brother took it over as his 1st car.
Sadly, both grandparents died in October 1983 and only 24 hours apart. Syd had been a first World War soldier, he'd done "Fire watch" duty in WW2 and had only ever had one week off work due to illness, Sarah Alice Roberts was extraordinarily good at painting, always so kind and patient with me. I can remember 1 Pen-Y-Gaer as if it was yesterday but I've never been back.
From 1983 to 1986 my mum had AJC as her everyday car and whilst her use was somewhat more benign than Dads had been, it was still kept outdoors and used in all weathers. As ever I helped to maintain it but by now I could also drive it as did both brothers. Its mileage stood at 70,000 by 1986 and mum was suffering from severe back problems. AJC was noticeably deteriorating so a decision was made to sell it. I was twenty years old and had just moved on to my third car, a 1979 Ford Capri 2.0s (NOS 368T). So, a 1964 Singer Gazelle was of little interest to me and it was sold on.
by Nicholas Webb
AJC 87B is a Singer Gazelle. She was registered on the 4th of December 1964 by Red Lion Garage in North Wales for use as a demonstrator. it had its first private owner on the 7th of April 1966 when it was purchased by John Hope Sydney Roberts (24-11-1895 to 14-10-1983) with 5,310 miles on the clock.
Sydney Roberts was my mother’s father and he kept a little log book for every car he ever owned dating back to the mid 1930's (I have all of them). One of the earliest entries into the logbook for AJC was a trip to Bolton to see his second born grandson (ME!).
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of seeing the Singer in his garage. I was car mad even from a very young age and whilst my brothers would be playing with their toys, I would ask if I could go into the garage to look at the Singer. There it would be, gleaming like a brand new car with shiny white paint around the wheel arches. It was never (or very rarely) driven on wet roads and always "laid up" for the winter months. My grandparents also had a maroon Wolseley Hornet mk2 (CJC 207D) which was used in all weathers and allowed for this pampering of the Gazelle.
The Wolseley eventually became my younger brother’s first car and what a thoroughly charming little car it was. It had all the quirkiness of an early hydrolastic Mini with sliding door windows and 'magic wand' gear lever. Sadly though, it appears that a subsequent owner scrapped it in 1994.
In November 1978 My Grandfathers logbook entry reads "Presented to Chris and Rod", my parents. AJC became my dad’s daily driver. It had just 27,000 'dry' miles on the clock and was still pretty much in 'new' condition. My parents had purchased a larger house two years previously and dad had just sold his 1973 Wolseley Six automatic (XMA 787M) which had proved to be something of a "Friday afternoon car" so a free car was quite welcome.
There were some misgivings from my dad;
His biggest “dislike” would be the plastic 'Ambler' seats, until an even bigger dislike was discovered soon after. My dad could never ever remember to move his head to one side after whatever routine maintenance had just been done to the engine and the back of that lovely looking chrome radiator grille that hangs from the bonnet has very sharp edges. I have managed to work on it without bloodying the back of my head but dad never accomplished that. The bonnet was angrily slammed shut on more than one occasion much to the delight of three young boys seeing their father hopping about like Basil Faulty!
Dad did try to look after it though, for several reasons. He'd never be seen in a dirty car. He did not want it to break down (EVER!) and at some point the 'loaner' would be handed back to my Grandfather. Anything my dad borrows is always returned in better condition than when lent (a trait passed down to myself!).
My dad’s hand written notes detail the work carried out between 1978 and 1981 and they are still in the logbook. It tells of items such as clutch replacement and fitting radial tyres. A clock and rear fog lights were fitted as much of dad’s driving was on motorways and there had been a spate of crashes in foggy conditions in the 1970's.
During this period, I was a young teenager and I liked to help Dad maintain AJC. I can remember being about 14 and mum and dad arriving on the driveway after a shopping trip. The car was making an unusual noise as it arrived. I stood and listened, "Don't knock it off just yet Dad, pop the bonnet" I shouted. I listened some more and all the noise was from the front of the engine... "Ok switch off" I said and a wiggle of the fan blades confirmed that the water pump bearing was shot, "Your lucky there Dad!” I said “the seal hasn't failed yet and it's not lost a drop of coolant, amazing!"... "Well done son, I'll get a water pump for it and you can fit it so I don't bang my head on its blasted radiator grille!" replied Dad.
To be continued
Filter by Author
Filter by Month