by Mike Peake
Becoming part of the family: Poppy is a Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible built 23rd May 1970 but not registered until 9th March 1971, according to the Heritage certificate I’d sent off for.
She was bought new by Mrs Norah C. of Solihull from Archers Ltd, Shirley, Warks. she was then sold to Mrs Rosalind H. of Great Barr, Birmingham in May 1979 and swapped between her and her husband, Mr Reginald H, a couple of times, making 4 previous owners on the V5 before me but I like to think of it as just 2 really. It was this couple that had her restored in 1993. I bought her 21st July 2001.
After our “honeymoon” drive and a night’s sleep I decided that she ought to have a full service. 1 month later (I’d been enjoying driving her too much) I ordered the parts required and did the service. I quite enjoyed myself. I discovered that working on cars can be quite good fun when you aren’t up against a deadline because you need to drive the car to work!
During this month I’d also discovered that it is indeed great fun driving around in an old car with the roof down. Children point at you and other drivers wave or give the thumbs up. I discovered that you can’t go anywhere in a hurry. Partly because a Triumph Herald doesn’t really do “hurry”, but mostly because so many people want to stop and chat about how they learnt to drive in a Herald, had one those a while ago, didn’t see many of those around today etc. All rather nice, jolly, and sociable stuff.
Of course there were also a very few who wanted to tell me how the Vitesse was a much better car, what a lot of low life Trotsky scum the BL workers were that built it and idiots in brand new BMW’s who considered it a personal affront that I was taking up the bit of road that they wanted and because I was in an old car assumed that I would be travelling very slowly, which I don’t! These people, I tried very hard not to biff on the nose.
I knew, that with an old car there would always be a few jobs that needed to be done and I wasn’t disappointed. I noticed that she became slightly incontinent in the oil department and that the original foam padding in the front seats was disintegrating and redistributing itself around the somewhat tatty interior of the car.
So I immediately set about the far more pressing task of taking out the period radio to send it away to be converted to FM and have a headphone plug added so I could play a Discman through the radio too. This was done by The Vintage Wireless Company of Salford. They told me that the radio was a 1968 Motorola so actually older than my car. They also told me that the “below dash” console and speaker housing were also period and original dealer fittings for Triumph and other British cars were really quite rare and valuable. Feeling smug about this, I fitted it all back in and now enjoyed playing period music on my period radio (via my Disc man) in its period housing in my period car. (I use an MP3 player now. I can move with the times!).
The seat belts fitted in the rear by the previous owners were 3 point ones with the shoulder strap coming up from the wheel arch and over the top of the rear seat. Having lived with the car for a bit, this didn’t seem that safe to me. The back of the seats in the convertible don’t seem strong enough for this. I felt that if we were in an accident, the force of the passenger going forward in the belt would cause the belt to buckle/tear the back seat frame which would then impale said passenger as they went back again! As I was carrying my children in it, I thought this would be bad so I had them changed to static lap belts which I deemed, in this instance, to be safer than the 3 point ones fitted. I also had the front original statics replaced with new inertia belts…..and then, rather embarrassingly, had to fit extensions to these belts!
This was the time of the demise of leaded fuel in the UK. Classic “EXPERTS” were banging on about the evils of using unleaded and how it would destroy our engines without the copious use of additives or going the whole hog and getting a full head conversion. It was whilst reading one of these articles of doom that I realised that the unleaded conversion that the previous owner told me had already been done was in fact nothing more than a “magic tube” fitted into the fuel line that somehow “miraculously” converted unleaded fuel into “safe” fuel. So I went the whole hog and ordered a new unleaded head and got my local garage to fit it. I was still in my very stressful job working very long hours and travelling a lot so didn’t really have the time to do it myself and didn’t want to waste valuable driving time. That was my excuse and I stuck with it! (The “EXPERTS” now seem to think it was all a storm in a float chamber and not to bother unless you’re doing high motorway mileage! Hmmmm!)
Over the next 3 years or so, we enjoyed visiting many car shows and driving around the countryside. I continued to do the routine maintenance myself but got professionals to replace the tatty carpets with a nice new moulded set. Replace the under dash mill boards with new Vitesse items (I liked the additional map pocket on them!). Had the steering column replaced as well as the front vertical links and trunnions. (Well no-one told me you were supposed to oil them!) I also traced the oil incontinence to the gearbox. I topped it up and vowed that I would do something about it. So I bought a drip tray to protect our newly brick paved drive.
The one job I did do myself during this time was the hydraulic side of the clutch. The circlip in the end of the master cylinder broke meaning the link bar between the head of the pedal and the piston in the cylinder was flapping about.
So I fitted a seal kit to the master cylinder, removed the gearbox tunnel and fitted new pipe and slave cylinder before bleeding it through from the dubious comfort of the half padded driver’s seat. All without any dramas at all….until my youngest daughter came out to watch and sat on the old (Cardboard?) gearbox tunnel.
I thought it was rather cute and touching that she wanted to be with her Dad. She then decided she couldn’t really see, so stood on and then jumped up and down on the old tunnel which decided enough was enough and collapsed under her. This wasn’t quite so cute and touching, but I managed to resist saying bad words and ordered a new plastic tunnel and decided to replace the worn gear stick springs and bushes etc while the tunnel was off.
I also decided that being on my drive in all weathers wasn’t doing her any good even with a good outdoor car cover fitted. So I rented a lockup from the council a five minute walk from my house.
To be continued
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