(C) R. Jones 2013.
The Somerset was a short-lived replacement for the even more upright 'Austin of England' A40 Devon and Dorset models of the postwar years. Although hardly needing another mountain of grease nipples to contend with, I agreed to his suggestion, and pedalled Munich's finest over the Pennines to do the deed. The Somersets owner was after something a little more suitable for the hilly dales, and I think the wheezy A40's puny 1200 engine was found to be too gutless, whereas the Beemer would fit the bill as a characterful and very lively replacement.
So, one windswept day, yours truly and 'er indoors went over there, took the A40 for a short (too short!!) test run, and did the swap. I had a good look over the old girl and she indeed seemed to be in presentable fettle, and I was assured that reliability on the run back over the hills wouldn't be an issue (although in fairness I suspect the car had only been used on very short local runs of late). Mastering a column gearchange came quicker than I'd expected, so we made a start for Cheshire.
In the first 3 or so miles of the journey we broke down 4 or 5 times, the car spluttering to an unseemly halt each time. A short break, and she'd fire up as before and splutter onwards again, though by now the hilly environs were highlighting a major lack of grunt in the engine department (which at best is only 40 or so bhp!). By now the light was disappearing and the rain poured down relentlessly. I had some tools with me, but only a choice selection alas. At first I put the breakdowns to a main HT lead being reluctant to stay in the coil (itself cracked), but I hoped that binding it up with insulating tape would at least get us home. Eventually we gave up the unequal struggle, and freewheeled the &*&*&^* thing down a hill to a garage from where we called the AA man out, having completed no more than 4 or so miles in total. My better half was by now seriously unimpressed, and all my soothing blarney couldn't dissuade her from a billowing outburst of loathing aimed directly at my latest chariot. The AA man arrived shortly afterwards, took one look at the ancient mechanicals, and promptly set to, winching the stricken machine onto the back of his lorry. He had a real good giggle when we explained that only 2 hours previously I'd swapped a reliable 'modern' for this contraption.
Despite all the negative vibes flying around, I was still quietly optimistic that some fettling would get the old girl running as she should. Once the cuddly little Austin was back at the ranch, along with close relatives the A40 Farina and A30, I made a start on diagnosing her woes.
Considerable time was spent tinkering and tuning, with many test runs around the local roads ending in me expiring at the roadside, no closer to solving the mysterious cutting out that perpetuated each run. By now 'er indoors was having none of it, and refused to grace its passenger seat again until I could prove its reliability.
Many many hours were spent delving into the capacious engine bay (plenty of space when compared to my good lady's A30 that is) and this list of items attended to included new points (pitted), plugs (3 were gummed up, one had no gap!), leads (got plenty of electrical shocks from the originals), coil (original had a cracked nose), bobtail (found to be in pieces within the dizzy), condenser, rotor arm (cracked) and a lengthy session of retiming the ignition (plus an oil change for good measure). Finally, after much work, the old girl seems to run ok now, although I wasn't *totally* out of the woods just yet. A few trial runs demonstrated to 'er indoors that the Somerset could now be trusted, and a few successful sorties were made to illustrate the fact.
With my new found reliability looking good, we went for a run out into the Cheshire countryside. Although never a ball of fire, progress seemed to be getting more and more laboured, and after a while a distinctive odour pervaded the cabin, at about the same time that small pires of smoke began appearing from under the front arches. The smell gave the game away - for some reason both front brakes had decided to start sticking, and as such were getting mighty warm whilst I had been cruising along. Fortunately a neighbour had given me his dads old A40 toolroll, to supplement my emergency toolkit that by now I took everywhere with me. Due to the lofty gait of the car,I was able to back off the brake adjusters on a quiet garage forecourt without having to jack the car up. Once adjusted, the journey continued as before, although this latest glitch meant that I had to do yet further work to keep 'er indoors 'on side'.
Now these problems appear to be sorted I began to use the Somerset as often as possible, and its becoming a familiar site around the roads and lanes of Northwich, reminding me of the fun that can be had using such a classic car on a day-to-day basis (even when the wheel fell off!). However it wasn't to last long, and later in the year I decided it was time to part with the old Somerset, sold via ebay to a gent down near Bristol.
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