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!
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