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
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