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.
Filter by Author
Filter by Month