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Homepage. This page: A cautionary tale about the upholstery of a pre-war car igniting while welding repairs were being carried out.

A Ford Model Y's interior goes up in flames.

Roy has kindly sent over a number of stories regarding his time working for garages in the 1950s and 1960s. Here he recalls the time he was put on "fire watch" duty, while one of the other mechanics repaired a rusty Model Y Ford's bodywork. Needless to say, the welder's torch and the car's upholstery weren't a good match, and it wasn't long before the situation became a little (over)heated, as Roy relates:

Welded repairs to a Model Y.

Car catching fire
"For anyone that remembers the pre-war Model Y Ford Eight, it was the forerunner to the E494A Anglia, 103E Popular, and the Prefect etc. These cars were still around in the 1950ís but were starting to rot badly, particularly in the rear wheel arch to floor areas. Welding was commonplace in those days and mechanics were expected to have some knowledge of welding and body repairs. Such a mechanic was given the welding job of repairing the floor to wheel arch sections on both sides of a Model Y. I was about 17yrs old at the time and I was told to sit in the back of the car with a bucket of water and a sponge, to snuff out any fires that might start."
"There were no fire extinguishers in those days - even the bucket of water was sneered at as being a softie. I would remind you that this was not long after the war, when men were men and pretty stupid. I remember the barrier hand cream being introduced to workshops, I think that it was called Rosalex or something like that, anyway it was pink which didnít help its cause, and anyone that used it was automatically branded a p*ff if youíll pardon the expression, and were shunned in the tea room. God knows what those guys would make of todayís society."
"I had to crouch in the back of the car as it was hoisted up on the ramp (this is not a ramp story by the way although it was the dreaded single poster). The mechanic started to weld the rear wheel arches and the smoke and stench was choking me. In those days all trainee mechanics were simply known as 'boy' and this was no exception, "any fires yet boy?" called the man with the torch. "No" I lied, as flames were starting to lick around the upholstered inner arches, but I managed to douse them with the sponge. After a few minutes another call, "I think that thereís a fire boy as I can smell burning" said the mechanic, "no problems here" I said confidently as I appeared to have everything under control."
"Suddenly there was a loud roar, and flames shot up into the car as the upholstery caught fire. My thoughts turned to my uncle Earn' who was a rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber, and I decided to bail out just as the fleecy roof lining caught alight, it was gone in seconds and I dived out of the passenger door and landed on top of the man with the torch. We both made it to the safety of the workshop, whilst others present were putting the fire out. It turned out that the mechanic had finished welding the side that I was watching, and decided to move to the other side of the vehicle without telling me. I got the blame of course, plus the customary clip around the ear and loads of abuse, it was definitely a Del boy chandelier moment. Some of the lads said I should have been sacked for "arson about", but they did have a wicked sense of humour and I miss 'em all."
Thanks for sending the story over Roy!
An example of Model Y, of the type that Roy refers to, parked outside an old garage.
A Ford Model Y at a garage
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more stories like this.

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