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The story of my motoring misdemeanours.
(Another saga awaits, regarding the rest my family's vehicles which I suspect will be just as eventful as mine). It will I think become apparent that this family does not support the current fad to get a new diesel repmobile, shopping trolley or 4x4 annually & keeping the dealer's happy! (Our policy is called "re-cycling", so my lifestyle is "green" after all!).
My motoring life actually started on a 50cc moped, a Raleigh Runabout & it was my first new vehicle reg no. YLG163 (you don't forget the first one!!) way back in 1963, life was cold in that Winter, but the drawback of this form of motoring soon became apparent, this was concerning the opposite sex (all right girls!) strangely enough they did not think that sitting on a cold , wet pillion was up to much, so my turnover was high then. Several long trips were undertaken, Lakes, Devon, Yorkshire etc, it developed my legs doing all that pedalling assistance on any uphill stretch of road..
In 64 a new Raleigh Roma scooter followed, the least said the better, a heap, lets just say I wish I had shares in the RAC at that time!! This was followed in 65 by a Honda 90, this was a "proper" motorbike (at least it looked like a model of one but I couldn't afford that Tiger Cub I lusted after. That bike covered many miles with my fiancée on the back, (trips two up to Devon come to mind, but as this website is run by my son, I will not mention that again!!)
Eventually I got my first car (well 3 wheels but it was a car), in 66 I obtained for £15, RTE128, a 1958 Bond minicar, this at least kept the rain off the aforesaid Fiancee, but my cred. was done no favours when after a couple of hours "chatting" in a secluded lane the time to move on was signalled by yours truly removing the (1) spark plug from the 197cc 2-stroke Villiers, cleaning it & then putting one's size 9 under the bonnet to try & kick start the thing, sometimes it would start, others, it was "out with the plug again!!) It was FUN! (wasn't it??)
The Bond eventually had the decency to expire on a roundabout in the fair (now a City) of Preston, loosing oil to the carrageway, the good old RAC turned up & towed us to a garage in Preston (the old Bond had never been as fast as behind that Landi!!). The kind man gave me a fiver for it & we carried on to Blackpool by train - that however dear reader, is another story (as they say).
I thought that I really should get a full car licence so in 66 managed to pass the test in Sale first time (in a Singer Gazelle Mk 5, remember them?), the shackles were off, I could get a real car!!!
HKL879 a 1946 Riley RMA 1 ½ Ltr. came on the scene (my mate's dad wanted rid of it) for the magnificent sum of £45. A new exhaust later I was on the road, such power, comfort & freedom, I mean, even the heater worked (the fiancée had walked away by then, but then you cant win them all, the country was at my feet!!)
Many long journeys followed, one that I will always remember concerned the Biggin Hill Airshow in Kent, my oppo (his dad was the local funeral director) could not drive my ancient device, soft thing he could only manage his dad's Ford Consul 375 De-Luxe!) so I drove both ways, but on the return nodded off on the M1 & hit the centre barrier a glancing blow. I don't think I have ever been so scared, but that solid old car saved us both with nothing more than a shaking & a scraped mudguard (don't call it a wing!) & we returned home a lot wiser, a lesson I have never forgotten, do not drive whilst tired! The old Riley eventually failed it's "10 year test" (MoT) & was broken up outside the family abode, the engine went to Hartleypool if I recall, & the rest to Race Brothers, of fond scrappie memories, in Northenden Nr Manchester.
A friend then told me about FUT389 a Riley 2 ½ Ltr Roadster that was for sale after it had won an argument with a wooden Telegraph pole, £100 changed hands for this ultra rare machine in 67, a replacement mudgard, radiator & grill & 2 ltrs of "Valspar" brush enamel paint & I was on the road in this rocket ship (or so it felt).
This was a great pose but a trifle thirsty, (I remember stopping somewhere Kendal at this old worlde garage with a hand pump & asked him to "fill it up please" 24 gallons later the poor man looked done in so we called it a truce & settled up). This was the only time I filled it up, could not afford it even at 4/10 a gallon (about 24p), but as is the way with things when one was courting, a heater was for some reason, deemed essential so after some bartering I temporarily swopped my Riley for my oppo's Ford Anglia (Harry Potter fans will know the type!). Despite instructions not to over rev the Riley my oppo did just that in a dice with a Mini & wrecked it. I was naïve in those days & agreed to a part ex deal with the lad's brother for a Triumph Herald 948cc Convertible, this was a serious heap & caused the cessation of our friendship.
At about the same time 3 students (2 mates & myself) brought an XK120 Jaguar roadster for £300, this did not last long due to the petrol bills (even then!) so it found a new home a few months later for £350, but it was fun while it lasted!
We then acquired a red Armstrong Sidderly Tourer with no hood & no engine & yellow spoked wheels!! We extracted a newish engine out of the (scrap) E83w van belonging to one of our number, measured up the mountings exhaust & the 3 foot propshaft required between the Ford engine & the flywheel in the Armstrong, eventually we got it on the road (MoTs werent as strict in those halcyon days!). This car provided rapid transport around Cheshire for our little part time singing group guitars & all, as I said, great days, cannot remember where the Armstrong ended up though! NB I didn't think it would work as a conversion, but work it most certainly did!!
The awful Herald convertible (the one part exd for the Riley) was used when I met the young lady who now, 35 years on, is my wife, but due to exhaust smoke in the cabin on a freezing night leaving smuts over her, it nearly didn't happen (she wasn't impressed on our first date, but the charm somehow won through!!) The Herald was then swopped for a 1953 Austin A30 (mad fool begged me to swop it!!) so A30 TVT 52 948cc AH Sprite engine & all, entered my life.
That A30 taught me about car control with it's liking for oversteer (never quite terminal, but near enough!) Went all over the place in that car with my 2nd Fiancee (the heater never worked though & winters were cold….)
Another mate persuaded me to take on his Mk 2 Ford Zepher (highline) got it on the Friday & found it was a hoot, but didn't want to corner, tyres were found to be bald to the canvas!! I took it back on the following Monday & gave it back in exchange for my 30 quid back!
Sadly, the A30 failed the dreaded MoT & was scrapped, not before I had removed yet another engine outside my long suffering Mother's house, her humour was tested when I stepped into a 2 gallon bucket of old oil & fell over, of such things memories are made, I suppose!
My next chariot obtained for £35 was another Riley a 1.5, (the little Morry 1000 based car) circa 1959 the reg escapes me but was HKL ??? a nippy little number with twin (polished) SUs with the bonnet up it looked the part as well! This car was my wedding transport (complete with stinking fish on the exhaust on the big day) after adventures including removing the aforesaid fish & changing a flat tyre, the riley got us to the honeymoon suite at the West Arms Llarman D C in North Wales. The last surprise she had for the newly weds, was the battery having to be replaced, after that she behaved herself for 2 years until a sad faced MoT person told me that "that car is a death trap, scrap it", not being one to argue-I did, (but kept the beautiful walnut dashboard, Rick (No 1 son) still has some bits of this car.
About the worst car of my life came up then - a 1960 Ford Popular 100e YHP813, dreadful thing that was about the most unreliable, nastiest car to drive & own, that I have owned, mind you it only cost £25 & it was sold on pronto for £35 (last heard of expiring on the Menia Bridge Anglesey, I believe).
Next came a rusty 1963 MG1100, YEH ??? in about 1971 from a mate at work (45 quid this time, where are you now Graham Lee!) it drove really well but a bit smokey, some work was done to this MG, Son Rick will remember the many holiday trips we did in this, eventually it went the way of all rusty cars (particularly 1100s!) this was announced by the rear sub-frame making a bid for freedom & nearly succeeding!) the engine (again) came out & provided some parts (gearbox/head) for my Brother in Law's "Cox GTM" mini based special that he was building (this was a road rocket, but that is another story to be told, along with a Triumph Dolly Sprint engined Saab 99 he built for goodness sake!!) Bits of this MG (Grill & cylinder head are still with Rick (the head is on his 1960 A40!!)
Next was the first of what I term my "proper" cars (i.e. not held together by rust & no bribes req. at MoT time!). A 1966 Volvo 121 END622D with a beautiful engine that was not the usual slightly "tappetty" variety, the body was not perfect but the black vinyl interior was, this car was exchanged for £475 in 1973 (a fortune to me then) but I ran it without drama for 6 years, only needing new wings, "I roll" appears on so many family photos & I can say that it never let us down, a great advert for Volvo!! My wife Ann, took a long time to forgive me for selling it but it being a 2 door was getting a bit small in the back for (2) growing lads, so a change was needed! One 121 adventure was on a "12 car rally" that we ran from work, I managed to insert it into a fence which woke up my so-called navigator (asleep!!), we had to get out of there quick (but did go back to the Farm later & own up - I fixed the fence & the home brew came out at the farm, who says honesty doesn't pay!) Ann also had some early driving lessons on this beast, she passed her test on a Metro (enough said about that)
A mud brown (sorry Rose Taupe!) Morris 1000 was obtained for the usual peanuts (very cheap) & after a novel repair to a back door using an old computor case for the aluminium patch riveted to it's lower edge, it was on the road, unfortunately Ann found this was no match for her mini, so it went (for a small profit!)
Next up (for the boss) was a red Morris Mini Countryman (no wood) for Ann's delectation, in time the 848cc lump was yanked out (becoming a habit this) & a 1098 unit inserted, all I can say to that is "thank the Gods of motoring in those happy pre Prescott days that speed cameras had not been invented"!! Ann ran this for some years until it moved on to a student friend & the last I saw of it a 1430 lump was in & was used for terrorising the good citizens of Didsbury Nr Manchester (serious student haunt!), until it ended it's day by being T-boned by an errant motorist.
Ann then acquired her Uncle's Austin A40 (one owner from new) complete with all documentation, (that journey from Devon to our home in Cheshire took about 9 hours with a top speed of about 40MPH & oil fill ups at every Motorway services en-route!! Unfortunately Ann hated it "it's got a mind of it's own, it doesn't steer where I want it, not like my Mini was". This reputation didn't dissuade Rick (No 1 son) from learning to drive & passing his test on it in 1987, the examiner hadn't even heard of Austin, philistine!! Rick still owns 820 FTT & is restoring it to it's former glory. Further grief was inflicted by a rather nasty Metro HLE to replace the A40 (in theory) this device was unremarkable except for the number of times Phil (No 2 son) inserted into various hedges, ditches etc around the back of what is now runway 2 at Manchester Airport, No 1 son also abused it I recall loading it with Ford Prefect axles that overloaded the poor thing. That car also had engine swops (stage 2 MG Metro) due to heavy right feet of aforesaid No 2 son & ended up being written off in a ditch (again!) & put out of it's misery!!
Next up for me it was another Swedish delight! This time a 144S (twin carbs & all) this was fairly rapid way of getting about, but somehow the "feel" wasn't right (didn't seem like a Volvo, bit daft I suppose). SNE 57K lasted about 4 years though, before the charms of a 1979 Saab 900 Turbo 5 door (LHD) OND 411W from the Company car pool, won me over, 2000 smackers changed hands & she was mine with the Transport Manager's words ringing in my ears "Its your problem now". £2k for a 2 ½ yare old Saab Turbo with all the gizmos was a steal!!
That car was a revelation, I had not had anything so b!!!!!y quick, it's only vice seemed to be an unhealthy appetite for front tyres, (very expensive!!!). Despite the power/torque, reliability was great, who wanted a new yawnmobile when you could have this hoot for two grand, not me!!! I seem to recall frightening the local Saab club area chairman by demonstrating almost terminal understeer climbing out of Broadway, Works; full power & hairpin bends don't mix too well, but we survived!! Some mild tweaking was initiated later by yours truly after suffering the ignomy of being passed by Brother in Law's Saab 99 1850cc, I found the exhaust valve had burnt (apparently common on this engine). Opportunity taken to do some "gas flowing" & waste-gate resetting, result even more shove, that car was really a hoot, (can anybody show me a car on which the clutch can be changed so easily & quickly?). What a wonderful design those pre GM 99s & 900s were! Said brother-in-law's 99 received a Dolomite Sprint (yes still fwd) engine, in order to redress the balance a little!
Whilst I was enjoying the Saab, a workmate was giving me the usual "it will have to go, the wife is sick of it", the subject being a very dilapidated Mk Spitfire with wire wheels, it had been subjected to the start of my friends idea of "restoration", this meant removing all sorts of vital bits & not noting their position, purpose etc. Another delightful discovery is where he had been storing all the old engine oil he had drained from his motorbike & Ford Corsair (of all things!) in the Spit engine, it was overflowing, literally!! This heap, I decided after dragging it home behind the Saab, was too far gone for me to attempt, so I did what any good dad would do, passed it to No 1 Son Rick, thus starting the downward spiral into old car insanity that he now suffers from, poor soul, but he is having a great time now I must admit, I think his old fleet is about 7 or 8 & keeps growing, what have I done!! However I digress, after much heroic work (including a tow past a Police car with yours truly at the helm with no doors!!) the Spitty was used as stylish student transport around Stafford. (NB. We never did get our collar felt, the Police lads had a sense of humour!)
Back to the Saab, after some 6 years rust was appearing & on a trip to buy Ice cream of all things in 88, my other half decided to stop at a car dealer (well trained!) who just happened to have a very smart silver 82 Sers: III Jaguar XJ6, ANE 100Y, the deal was done to exchange the Saab hooligan for the swish Jag (according to certain related persons who should have known better, I used to go to sleep in this, a bit of a dodderer I believe, totally untrue of course!) the slight downside was that it brought out the "yellow streak" at work & elsewhere, unlike any other vehicle I have owned, strange but true but I loved it anyhow! (Another Sers III comes later in this tale of a moneypit, this time a V12!)
This Jaguar towed our caravan all over the UK until the autobox failed (this entailed a somewhat "hairy" descent into a pub car park at the bottom of a steep hill & an even more hairy drive back to our caravan in the back of a 4x4 shared with finest Welsh sheep! (You must admit you don't get this excitement with a new yawnmobile GTi XXXXL Ghia) Talking of which I (sort of) succumbed to my company Vauxhall Cavalier Estate, I brought this useful tool but only kept for about 6 months (to b!!!!y modern), so it went to a Mother & Daughter team who spent the entire evening trying to decide wether they wanted it or not. Eventually they passed over the readies after my unsubtle hints (yawning & saying that I had an early start next day & was going to get shuteye) was glad they took it as they were the only people who responded to the ad!! But if they had persisted they could have had the thing for next to nowt, I was that fed up!!
The Jag saga (continued) the AA came to the rescue & 500 quid later a new 'box fitted, then the Jag announced a liking for antifreeze in the pistons, by squirting an eyeful at me when the engine was turned over with the plugs out!! A lot of cussing (have you dear reader, ever tried lifting off a Jaguar head, it is bl!!!!!y heavy!). This car lasted 7 years in my hands & was despite the problems mentioned a credit to Sir William Lyons & Jaguar Cars, but fuel being the cost it was, a smaller engined device seemed a good idea, accordingly the Jag was traded against a black BMW528ISE auto, this looked mean & moody in it's diamond black paint & black sports interior I fitted a stainless sports exhaust, so it sounded mean too!
The problem here was (A) Ann hated it (colour) & (B) it didn't tow too well so it only lasted 2 years & was traded against my ultimate vehicle (& still is if rust free), a Jaguar Sovereign Sers III V12 C400 HFR, costly to run but what an experience! I spent a lot of money on this, but it was a labour of love (corny but true) mainly putting right previous neglect. I believe that these vehicles are the most beautiful on our roads & in the metallic red, that mine was, it looked fantastic! (What was that I said about needing a smaller engine, this baby was 5.3 Ltrs!!) It was complex but serviceable at home (just) & again we went all over the country in it with the 'van (no holding anybody up with the 'van on the back with that!). the only thing that wasn't up to current standards, was the ventilation, (she misted easily) but so what? Many happy hours were spent at local Classic Car Shows where she got many favorable comments, but a parting of the ways was approaching, again!!
Ann had another heap thrust on her when I decided that a suitable replacement for the unlamented Metro, was a Mk III Escort, this was suitable boring but suffered from quite the most horrible gearchange (it was ok when I got it at first), so the Boss never drove it. A clapped fiesta was obtained by Rick from which was extracted a sound gearbox, even this failed to improve matters so the old Ford went to that person I have a long term relationship with - the local scappy!! (NB That didn't stop someone putting it back on the road, another story!)
At about this time No 2 Son (Phil) foun an immaculate BMW 520! That had a clapped engine, no probs, £150 changed hands & my garage was full of engine being removed to be replaced by a 2.3Ltr unit found in a crashed 323I. This went straight in & after some fettling it hit the road & with it's bigger engine, was quick!! Despite No 2 Sons reservations about the provenance of the engine that car ran for a further 2 years & and was sold on, tough cars BMs!! I have finally decided that there will be no more of this sort of thing in my garage, getting too old!!
Being the fickle person I am however, a silver BMW 535I appealed & after much nattering at home & yet more arm twisting of the dealer, she was purchased from the profit from an ISA payout (remember them!!) I had 2 hotrods now, one would have to go & the Jaguar it was, it went to a happy lad in Ashbourne via the internet.
Fortunately the Boss loved this one & it was a real hoot with 3.5Ltrs providing the shove, great fun! (Always get the "Boss" on-side, it makes mechanical operations in the kitchen, so much more acceptable (Ann still draws the line at using the cooker for drying paint etc!!) The Beemer provided fast, fuel efficient, reliable travel for about 4 years, great fun on an airfield (no speed restrictions there!) but one day I walked past a Dealership next to my work & saw my current steed.
I must admit now that Mercedes Benz cars have never really appealed (with a couple of exceptions), one of which is the 1979 - 92 S Class saloons (the bigger engine the better), the vehicle I had spotted was an immaculate 89 500SEL (long wheel base), one owner, full history, full leather & 43K verified miles, at just under £7K it was well priced, after further agonising & more negotiating (should be good at it by now!) I acquired F475 XCW, my first Merc. The faithfull Beemer was advertised on the 'net & went to a satisfied chap on the Isle of Wright.
Good as the Mercedes is, I wanted something "old" again as well, so when out walking the dog in Goostrey in Cheshire, I spied a black Moggy 1000 Pickup looking a bit unkempt, I thought "that needs a good home". The Moggy was eventually procured for a very low price & towed home behind the Merc. The Moggy had a special pickup section as it had been made for a small Yorkshire Brewery to carry 6 pressure casks of their finest nectar! This body was made entirely of alloy with a wooden drop down tailboard. I kept this a while but other things started to encroach on my time (an old airfield, another long story for another time!) so it was passed on to a friend in exchange for some work on one of my fleet. It now is owned by a local Publican who has inserted a 1700cc Sherpa van engine in it for goodness sake, must be a hoot though, if he ever wants to sell I might just be tempted to give it another home.
Now I had started (slightly) to become a bit more sensible regarding running costs, so why then buy a car with a 5Ltr V8? Apart from not allowing any "government" to tell me that I must buy a sub 1Ltr runabout or be priced off the road, with the Merc's low mileage & history it seemed an ideal candidate to convert to LPG as it would last a long time. This fuel runs out at about 32 -37p a litre & is clean burning, so in I went & had the job done & have got a Merc with Corsa running costs (for fuel anyhow), I honestly say that 14 months later I have no regrets & the system paid for itself in 12 months (i.e. I am now reaping the savings). Please inform your insurance & the V5 changed to "dualfuel" & you are covered. (Always use a licensed fitter, obviously!) This car is now with me for a long time! Anybody want transport for a wedding (or room for a dance?)
To conclude this tale the Boss (Ann) now has a Vauxhall Corsa auto (blue rinse shopping trolley) but a great little tool that costs pennies to run & not much more to buy in the first place!! That concludes my little tale of a life that has been full of fun, I have met a lot of wonderful people through this hobby (that grew out of firstly not being able to afford anything new & now it is my choice to stay with oldies!)
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