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Homepage. This page: Working on a customer's Austin A60 at the time of Daily Mail inquiries into garage practices.

A routine service of an Austin A60 saloon.

This group of memories, centred around the servicing of a classic Austin Cambridge saloon, was sent over by Roy, following on from his earlier recollections of working in a 1950's garage as a mechanic. This page jumps forwards to the early 1960s, and describes one afternoon where he and a colleague were tasked with servicing an Austin A60 saloon. Roy takes up the story ...

Hairy moments in the workshop with an Austin A60, 1962.

"After submitting an article regarding the dangers of misusing single poster ramps, this evoked more memories from the fifties and early sixties. Not to be outdone, the four poster ramps could be just as hazardous as the two-posters. I remember working on a four-poster ramp in the early sixties when, after a bad day in the workshop, we suddenly realized that there was still an Austin A60 to be fully serviced and we had only a couple of hours before the car was due for collection. A full service in those days was a bit different to today, and the older generation would remember having to grease all the steering and propshaft joints, plus changing axle and gearbox oils; tight or seized kingpins were commonplace and they often had to be freed-off and greased as part of the service, which also included a full engine service."
"There were virtually no disc brakes in use at the time, so all the brake drums had to be removed, cleaned out and adjusted, and the road wheels changed around which had to include the spare wheel which was fitted in a pan underneath the Austin's boot floor. All in all this was a lot of work for the time allocated, and most mechanics will tell you that sods law prevails when you are working against the clock as things do not go according to plan. I seem to remember that the oil filters could be a problem as they were on the A55 Cambridge previously, they were of the element type and had a double sealing ring that 9 times out of 10 would not give problems until occasions like this situation. As we were pushed for time, another mechanic and myself decide to double up on the service, it was decided that I would work under the bonnet whilst my colleague carried on with rest of the service which meant raising the ramp to its full height with me straddled across the front of the ramp. I think that I drew the short straw as in those days an engine service could take longer than most entire services on todayís vehicles if done correctly. In those days the tappets were usually the first thing to check before running an accurate compression test, followed by the ignition and carburettor services, and other things like adjusting the fan belt and topping up all the levels which included the steering box and idler."
"I was well engrossed with the job in hand and had almost finished. Forgetting where I was I leaned back to stretch my back and stepped backwards into thin air, I remember it seemed a long way down and I landed squarely on my back and shoulders and also took a bang on the head. My mate wasnít at all sympathetic and all he said was "why didnít you use the ladder?". I was 22 years old at the time and I cannot imagine surviving a fall of that nature without serious injury had it happened in later years."
"There is a further conclusion to this story, the Daily Mail newspaper was running an anti-garage campaign and were urging their readers to mark things like oil filter casings and road wheels so they could check to see that they were not being ripped off. This did not go down too well with the reputable garages. As an engineer, if something like a casing has been marked then it made sense to put it back in the same position as it had obviously been marked for a reason. Despite my hairy moment we managed to get the car finished on time and the customer took the car after moaning about the bill. It was a service voucher job (remember those) and the price was fixed at something like £12-10s in those days, which was slightly more than the average weekly wage so I suppose it was deemed quite expensive."
"We were having a well-earned tea break when the customer came back with the car, absolutely fuming and accused us of not having rotated the road wheels. Apparently he was a Daily Mail reader and had marked the offside front wheel secretly and claimed that the wheel was in the same place. With the seeds of doubt now sown he was querying the fact that it was possible that the wheel had never been removed at all. My colleague assured the customer that the wheels had definitely been rotated, but he was having none of it. After we'd had the "heads will roll" speech which was nothing new he stormed off. However to his credit he returned the next day and was very sheepish, as it turned out that he had put the car into his garage the opposite way around so that his marked wheel looked to be in the same position. He gave us ten bob, which was almost the price of his service, and we enjoyed a good relationship after the incident, I canít print what we said about the Daily Mail though."
"Hereís another short story involving the ramp - like in most workshops and service bays customers were not allowed to wander around for insurance reasons. There is always someone who thinks he is a special case and is convinced that rules were made for everyone except him. Again this was during the early sixties and I canít remember the make of car, but I was fitting an exhaust with the ramp raised to about a third of its height capacity. Mr Self-Important customer strode into the workshop to give me the benefit of his advice on how I should fit his exhaust. Alas I never got to hear what he had to say as due to the position of the ramp, he walked head first into the same bar that I had been standing on when I inadvertently fell off previously. We had to call an ambulance as he was concussed and I never saw him again thankfully. The moral is - donít tangle with a ramp as they fight back."
Once again, thanks for the story Roy, its always a pleasure to read first-hand memories of working on now-classic cars back in the day, such as the Austin A60 Cambridge. The photograph below shows a typical garage scene of that era, albeit with a Morris Oxford rather than Austin A60 being attended to.
Classic car in an old garage during the 1960s
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more stories like this, including one from a former BMC/Austin cars apprentice in the sixties.

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