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Homepage. This page: Recollections of working on BMC cars as an apprentice in the 1950s and 1960s.

Memories of an Austin / BMC apprentice in the 1960s.

Brian contacted the site after reading a number of the car-related stories in this section of oldclassiccar. He included some of his own personal recollections of working on what are now called "classic cars", at a time when they were ten-a-penny. If anyone else has interesting stories and memories of being an apprentice at an Austin (or Morris, Wolseley, Ford, Vauxhall etc) garage in the '50s or '60s, please do get in touch. Now, over to Brian for his memories:
"Reading Roy Jones’s memory of servicing an Austin A60, and his recollections on hydraulic lifts, brought back memories of my own apprenticeship days at a combined Austin and Rover dealership from 1958 onwards. I can vouch for his comments on the awkwardness of the element type oil filter, especially on the earlier Cambridges, much less room under the bonnet than on the Farina models. Oil trickling down your arm was just part of the problem, no gloves or barrier creams in those days, and the only method of parts cleaning was a brush and bath of paraffin."
"We had one particular customer with a pre-Farina Cambridge who was a friend of the owner, and consequently got away with staying with his car whilst it was being serviced and not allowing anyone else to drive it. This included driving onto the lift and staying in the car whilst it was being lubricated. One of the jobs involved then that you never see on modern cars was oiling the rear springs. We did this using an air spray gun, resulting in a cloud of oil spray visible from the other end of the workshop and breathable to anyone within a 6ft. radius. No mask, goggles or any of that namby-pamby stuff."
"The one thing you could guarantee about doing this was that when you lowered the lift, an oily window would be lowered and a voice would enquire “You did spray the springs didn’t you?” followed by him driving to the wash bay and you having to hand-wash and polish his pampered steed."
"Roy mentioned problems using the old centre-post lifts, but the later four-post ones were not immune to mishaps either. The lift involved in the following story was a four-post type, which had a threaded spindle in each post, that engaged with a chain-driven nut in each corner of the platform frame. The lift was located in an alcove at the end of the garage facing a glass-panelled wall with a door to the back yard."
"On this particular day I had been using the lift to service a P4 Rover. I finished the job, drove the Rover off the lift, and went about my business, only to be disturbed very shortly afterwards by an almighty crash and total uproar. Going to see what it was all about I was greeted by the sight of an Austin A50, its back end resting on the half raised end of the lift and its front sticking through the glazed wall, sticking out into the yard. When we eventually got the A50 down to earth (via the back yard) and examined the lift, we found that the right-hand front spindle had broken. Fortunately the control panel for the lift was fixed to the rear post, and apart from what must have been one heck of a shock the operator was totally unharmed. I for my part was left contemplating the difference in weight between a P4 and an A50, and imagining all sorts of horrific scenarios involving not just myself but also the aforementioned awkward customer."
Very interesting Brian, thanks for sending your story over, it's great to read these first-hand accounts of living with and working on what are now much-cherished cars, but at the time were still quite commonplace. Shown below, an example of A50 Cambridge.
Austin A50 Cambridge similar to that in Brian's story
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more articles like this.

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