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Homepage. This page: A selection of motoring memories sent to oldclassiccar.

Keith's motoring recollections.

Keith sent me some emails early in 2007, recounting some stories of cars and other vehicles he came across since the 1960s. First-hand accounts regarding motor transport when these vehicles were common sights on the road, really help to set the scene for cars now regarded as classics, but in their day were simply just a mode of transport. Here are some of Keith's memories:

A 500cc scooter!

"I don't know if it's of interest, but I served my time as an engineer, and at the firm was a guy called Harry Dearden, a bit of a nutter, but a clever engineer. One project he built, in the days of Vespa & Lambretta, was a scooter - the whole thing was fabricated from scratch, it had (I think) 12" diameter wheels and was fairly compact, the BIG difference though, it had a 500cc engine and manual box, and it went like the proverbial, but can't recall it ever got registered, looked fantastic though, often wondered what happened to it."

A tight fit - Austin powered Ford 100E

Fast Ford
"Somewhere in late '50s or early '60s, a workmate, D.W. LEACH, nephew of Jack Leach of Leach's Haulage (Littleborough), had a Ford 100E, in good nick, however, he was disappointed with the sidevalve's performance. Therefore we obtained an Austin A30 or A35 engine and gearbox, from Used Units at Ripponden, and with the assistance of our works manager and fitting shop cellar, we quickly converted it to O.H.V., when completed and proven we renamed the car with a pint and baptised it the FORsTIN, a good apprentice's project, but not for the faint-hearted. I dont know what he did about the legal side, probably nothing, but it didn't matter a lot then, still enjoying your site, and will be for while."

Case dismissed

Towing a car
"My cousin, Ian, moved from Rochdale to Shrewsbury in the late 1960s, where a lot of our family came from. He, being a car & commercial vehicle mechanic, worked there maintaining a fleet of vans for a newspaper wholesaler. The job came with a house, and a workshop to the rear. From time to time he took on 'foreigners' for extra cash. One job saw him towing a non-runner home one day, stopped by the Police, and booked for having a vehicle on the road without tax and insurance - the MOT not needed in those days. He argued the fact that it was a non-runner, nonetheless it went to court. Consulting his lawyer, who asked several questions, he then said 'leave it to me'. They both went to the hearing, with the constable facing his lawyer. First question to the constable, "did you look under the bonnet?", answer "No", th reply to which was "then you are not aware there was no engine or gear box in the vehicle, and as such it does not constitute a mechanically propelled vehicle...". CASE DISMISSED".

How not to tow a car

"I used to work with a welder called Pete Kelsall, he lived on a road that led to a hillside farm in Whitworth, and his wife was a good friend of the farmer's daughter, both in their late 20s. On a bad winter's day, with nobody else on the farm, the daughter rang Pete's wife saying her car would not start, and could she give her a tow. She duly arrived with her Mini, tied a rope to the front suspension of her mate's car, and with no obvious point to secure it to the Mini, tied it to the boot door handle and set off! Peter was non-too-pleased, and needless to say, it failed to start the car."

3 wheeled Reliant van rebuild

Old Reliant 3 wheel van
"Harry, the 500cc scooter man, obtained a Reliant van much like the one shown at Smallwood show, in a bad state. He "sort of" restored it using a fair amount of stainless steel, and making other items that were missing, but definitely not in the style Reliant would have approved of. When done, it became known in the workshop as the mobile hen cote, I leave it to your imagination! Some features I recall: the ignition key - a telephone exchange plug, no internal engine cover, a clear distributor cap (said he liked to keep an eye on the spark) and a home-made stainless steel inlet manifold, (said it kept it cooler).

One day I'm in it with him, passing a lorry, it slowing down to turn left, with another lorry coming the other way. Unfortunately our engine cut out, Harry driving with one hand, the other frantically pulling and pushing all available wires, declared we'll just have to coast a bit, woosh, the oncoming lorry passed, we are still at the side of the slowing lorry, the old Reliant did well to stay upright, in a second all over, the lorry turned into Bowlee airfield (m/ton) and stopped at the gate, so we pulled in. Harry says "do you think we should go and tell the driver what happened?" I didn't think he'd be bothered. We traced the problem to the phone plug dropping out - an exchange operator problem."

Rescuing a Panda

Fiat Panda
"Here is one from Spain. Our Spanish neighbour NINO, had a Fiat Panda when he came from Madrid and bought a house here. He ran it for a while, then decided, despite it running without any problems at all, to recondition the engine. He's a self-taught 'jack of all trades'. To cut a long story shorter, engine/box assy were removed, dismantled, sent for rebore etc, then came back with all relevant new bits.

With a lot of talking, and explaining to neighbours, he began to rebuild the engine and when finished, returned it to the car, a late in the day event. The day after, I had occasion to visit him. When we met, he did not look too happy, when I enquired, he simply went back into the house, and emerged with a box, he took the lid off and showed me inside, my eyes fell to the contents, A BRAND NEW CAMSHAFT - he'd forgotten to fit it. Would you believe, he jacked the car up, bored a hole through the wheel arch, and because ALL the cam followers were up, held I assume, with grease, he got the camshaft in. Just after all this was finished, another Spanish neighbour arrived in an enquiring manner. The Panda's owner was only too eager to explain, and demonstrate his capabilities, so he promptly jumped in and started the newly rebuilt engine, WITH NO OIL IN THE SUMP..."

Thanks for sending those stories over Keith!

Do you have an interesting car-related stories that you'd be willing to have featured on oldclassiccar??? please let me know if so - see motorcar memories for details.

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