by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
If you read Part 1, that was the good bit!
As we got going and came to the first roundabout, I seriously thought the thing was going to turn over, the steering was that vague and the weight on the back wallowing about so badly that I thought all four tyres must be flat. When we finally found a petrol station, we filled up and checked the tyre pressures, and to my dismay they were about what we thought they should be, which meant it wasn’t go to get any better, all the way home!!
After going for a couple of hours or so on the motorways at what seemed like a fair pace but turned out to be only 30 mph, I could take no more. I had pins and needles in my hands, my face was wet and freezing and my stress levels were through the roof. I honestly thought if I carried on I would have a heart attack.
The car seemed to want to throw me into every ditch on every camber in the road, and started to wander across all three lanes as soon as I lost concentration for a second. I couldn’t take either hand off the wheel, otherwise I found myself over correcting the sway, and taking out any passing vehicle or road sign that got in the way! How on earth the old boy who owned it used to do the London to Brighton Rally I’ll never know, he must have had nerves of steel!!
I forgot to mention - it’s three speed automatic, which set off fine in first, but had no second gear, so it would scream it’s nuts off until finally finding third and then settle into motion. But as soon as you slowed down to stop it would not tick over and cut out - then take forever to re-start, so I had to keep it running at all cost! Great fun!
So we pulled over at a service station and my brother kindly offered to take over the driving seat for the rest of the journey home. He thought I was exaggerating, but soon found out that something major had to be done to make this a safe and roadworthy car.
I’d like to say my wife Alison was pleased to see me when I got back, but we were so late, and I’d just spent £3500 on an old banger that she wasn’t expecting, that she was actually a bit “miffed”!
The next morning didn’t get much better. When we had a chance to look round the car properly, we realised it was a lot worse than “just a bit rough round the edges”. Although it only had two doors, two wings, a bonnet, and half a roof, every panel had holes and rough repairs that would need to be addressed. The engine was running as rough a pig, the gearbox was shot, the sills and floor were rotten, (despite it having 6 months mot!)
The cab interior was manky, with split seats, ripped headlining and door cards, rotten carpets, cracked and rotted wood dash and door tops, perished rubber seals, no door seals, rotten fur flex etc, and that was before even looking at the camper side of things!
Really the only saving grace with the car so far was that the chrome bright work was in really good shape, nice and straight with very little pitting. This probably gave the initial impression that the car was better looking than it really was - and the fact that it was white, which is a very forgiving colour, fooled us into thinking it would be easy!
So we were at the point where we had a choice to either scrap it, break it up and probably lose most of our money, or go for it and carryout a full restoration job. I know which choice my wife would have preferred, but my brother and I, who still loved the car decided to go for it!
Alison asked me what we were going to call it, and is it a he or a she? After giving it some thought, and discussing several options, we decided it had to be a “He” - it was too big and brash to be a “She”. I then thought about his build year being 1969, the same year as Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, and the NASA Lunar Lander vehicle being called the Lunar Rover. So there really was only one option, he had to be called “Apollo”!
That then gave us a theme for the interior. It was going to be as far away from the sort of interior people would expect to see as we could possibly get. There was going to be no flowers and twee Kath Kidson type décor for Apollo! But it would be many months before we started fitting glittery wall paper, carpets and worktops!
Next time - the restoration begins
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