by Mark Smith
It’s been a frustrating week. Mildred Mayflower has been stuck in the lock-up. Oh I’ve visited her occasionally and started her up, even driven her out of the lockup but only a few yards. Mildred required her brake master cylinder changed as the brake fluid was finding its way past the inner seals when any amount of pressure was applied to the peddle but she was booked into my local garage on the Friday for the surgery to be carried out. Still, it was frustrating seeing the car sat there and not being able to let her stretch her wheels.
In order to help the time go a little faster and give myself the feeling that I was actually doing something to improve Mildred’s wellbeing, I spent the evenings scouring the pages of eBay for Mayflower related ‘stuff’.
During one such session the thought entered my head, ‘Could I find a set of spare keys?’ I searched for ‘Classic car keys’ and found a site that could supply new copies of all three keys. The company cut new keys to order - just had to supply them with the relevant reference numbers off the individual keys and the quantity required so I ordered two sets as the original keys are now very worn. At around £20 for the six keys and free postage, I thought it was bargain.
On another visit to eBay, I found another site that could supply two ‘Mayflower’ leather key fobs and ordered those too, ready to receive the new sets of keys. The next few days were very exciting waiting for the postman to arrive. Every day felt like Christmas Eve waiting for Father Christmas to call!
On yet another evening visit to eBay I found an April 1952 copy of ‘The Motor’ magazine that carried an article about the Triumph Mayflower so had to have that to put in Mildred’s history folder. I’m still waiting for it to arrive so more Christmasses next week!
I was held at the junction for what seemed like hours but was probably 30 seconds trying to hold the car on the handbrake as I feathered the clutch ready to pull out as soon as an opportunity presented its self. Eventually, things reached the point where the other half of the town’s drivers had decided to take an alternative route for long enough to allow me to turn left and head down to the garage.
I had just finished the last one when my phone rang. I was told the car was ready and if I would like to come and collect it now, I could have a look underneath.
I returned to the garage and was shown the under-side that was in very good condition for a 65 year old car. There were just four small holes that could do with welding at some point but they were all in the inner body sections where the body met the front and rear chassis sections but the chassis was in excellent condition. It looked as though these holes had been in the car for many, many years and I was told that if the car was put through an official MOT using the criteria that applies to a vehicle of this age, Mildred would pass with no advisories.
That is good enough for me. The car was given a safety inspection and the brakes checked on the rolling road where they gave a better performance than those on the Dolomite I had recently sold, not bad for an all-drum set up!
I drove Mildred back to her lock-up and walked home happy in the knowledge that I have a safe car that has many more years in front of her and couldn’t wait for Saturday morning when the plan was that I would take the family out to lunch somewhere local for a proper shake-down and get to know Mildred a little better as well as do a bit of a photo shoot.
Sadly, as Friday evening worn on, it became clear that the forecast for Saturday was grim. Rain was forecast from 11am and predicted to last all day and through the night to the early hours of Sunday, so Saturday was looking like a write-off. The situation only looked grimmer when the rain started around 9am on Saturday morning.
It wasn’t heavy, it was far more irritating than heavy rain, it was light showers interspersed with sunny intervals. The forecast was still showing heavy rain. At least if the heavens opened for hours on end, you knew where you stood but as things were, was it going to pour or was it going to miss us and be sunny? The morning worn on and the situation didn’t change it was still neither one thing or the other. Around 1pm, it seemed to have been dry for an hour and the sun was shining but it looked very grey over Bill’s mothers. What to do? Stuff the weather, lets go for it we said so I walked round to the lock-up and fired up Mildred, we were going for a drive!
After collecting the girls and throwing the camera and tripod in the boot, we headed on to the open road for the first real drive in Mildred since she arrived. We stuck to the original plan and headed to the GCR station at Quorn to park up, have some lunch and take a few photos.
The drive was interesting! As expected in a car of this age, the steering is a little, shall we say vague. Perhaps that is not quite the right word but as the steering does take the car in the direction intended but a straight line is a little more difficult. There is a little play in the steering mechanism but I was told by the garage that it was within the allowed tolerances so I guess it’s just a case of getting used to it.
The gears are surprisingly easy to select as long as you take your time in doing so and not have a flashback to your younger days and think you have suddenly become Paddy Hopkirk! The diving technique does need to be learned but in fairness it doesn’t take too long and you’ll never be going fast enough to interfere with thinking time. If that sounds derogatory, it is not meant to be. Mildred is a lovely car, a car that should potter from A to B. She’s an old lady but a kindly one and we found she puts a smile on the face of everyone who meets her (unless you happen to be stuck behind her in a Ferrari) as we found out after we arrived at Quorn Station.
The GCR was not very busy today. There were no special events on this weekend so the car park that used to be the old marshalling yard was almost empty of visitor’s cars and there were not many visitors wandering about but those that were made be-line for Mildred. We had a number of people come up to look at her and take photos. We also saw people riding on the trains pointing to her from their carriages as they waited for the train to pull out of the station. I saw a few children pointing and attracting the attention of their parents as they stared out the windows and they waved to us as the train moved off.
This little car that was never popular when it left the factory all those years ago and has generally passed the Classic enthusiasts by today, brought a smile the faces of those that saw her today and to myself and the girls that have taken Mildred to their hearts.
As Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac said when he guested as the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ on Top Gear a few years ago, we classic car people are a sentimental lot and he was right. If you are a true classic car enthusiast, you will understand our love for Mildred, just as you will understand the love other owners have for their Allegro or Marina. You might not share that love but you will understand it.
We took a few photos in the sun and then headed in to the Butler-Henderson café for lunch. Sadly, the gloom had descended again by the time we had finished lunch and it wasn’t long before the rain had returned but we managed to take a few more photos.
I moved Mildred to a couple of different locations within the old shunting yard to try and get a few period atmospheric shots before backing her up to the fence that divides the yard area from the railway lines and waited for the next southbound train to arrive which was being pulled by a lovely steam engine called ‘Leicester City’.
The train pulled in and I managed to get a shot with Mildred in the foreground and nothing to give away the fact that the photo was taken around fifty years after steam engines ceased to run on our national networks. By the time the train pulled out of the station, the rain was setting in again and as Mildred’s windscreen wipers are not very good (new ones ordered), we headed for home proud of the old lady and eager to ride in her again as soon as we can.
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