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Standard Vanguard Phase Two.
Classic car buffs as we know come from all walks of life, and from a Doctor to a dustman we all share that common understanding of, and interest in old vehicles. I have often wondered what it is that makes such a diverse bunch of humanity suddenly lose all composure when confronted with the old car of their dreams? I have seen grown men leap up and down in pure excitement when the recognition of something old hits, uncontrollably darting forward as if to embrace the metal!
Personally, I had never thought of myself as a 'classic' car fan, I merely liked cars - until I came to realise that the cars that were commonplace when I was young had gradually gone through a sort of 'dying out' phase where they could be purchased in various states of repair for as little as £20.
After that point they seemed to disappear completely, until the few remaining ones still tucked away in garages up and down the country began to re-appear as 'classics'.
Growing up as I did in the 1960's ensured that still I have vivid memories of many of today's classics back when they were still in everyday service.
I can still remember the grey Fordson or Thames E83w van with side windows and black enamel painted wings that used to pass me each morning as I walked to school, or the first time I saw the then new Mk1 Cortina! The car, finished in powder blue was absolutely showroom fresh! I remember standing next to it so close that I could smell the 'newness', and walking slowly around it, only to stop and marvel at those back light clusters - such innovation!
I suppose it's memories like these that inspire our love of old cars in later life and in my case it was also the deed of a certain uncle of mine that used to work as a plasterer.
It was in 1973 that he had been asked to re-plaster and convert an old car dealership which had just closed down, everything had been removed from the building and all that remained was destined for the builder's skip, all that is, except for a large dusty workshop manual that was lying on the floor of an upstairs room.
He picked up the heavy volume, rubbed off the years of accumulated dust and saw the words 'Standard Vanguard II', 'this' he thought, would be given to his 'car mad' nephew.. Yours truly!
That workshop manual became my introduction to the actual workings of old cars, I read of 'wet liners' and castor angles, and looked at exploded diagrams of everything from the steering column to the window winders, - in short I devoured that book from cover to cover.
I remember that I was very impressed by illustration showing the size and strength of the Vanguards separate chassis, and enamoured of the slightly 1940's bulbous American styling, the interior as I recalled being all bench seats and dual tone horns!
Since that time more than thirty years have passed, and my only participation in the world of classic cars has been as either a visitor to the various classic shows, or as an Artist depicting in oil on canvas those wonderful vehicles of a bygone era.. Until now!
They do say that all Artists are a little crazy, and my first venture into the unknown came when I purchased an old Citroen 2cv from a garage that had taken it in P/x and promptly hidden it round the back - such was their embarrassment!
With no more done to it than a service and a lick of paint I set off on a tour of France in the old girl, and come rain or shine that little car never missed a beat.
Emboldened by this adventure, I began to consider buying a classic as a 'hobby car' to use on sunny Sundays and show days, I had intended buying a 103e Popular as I have always liked them and it's small dimensions would just allow it to fit into my already crowded garage.
I scoured the usual sources on a regular basis but nothing seemed to appeal, and it was while on holiday in Cyprus in August of this year that I saw by the magic of the internet. A Standard Vanguard Phase II. Totally original and un-restored, and with no more than a couple of photos and emails to confirm the condition I bought it.
She arrived one sunny day on the back of a trailer having travelled the 300 miles or so from the Devon Cornwall area, which had been her home for the last 52 years.
The logbook shows four owners from new, one of whom I was told had died after owning her only briefly, and the last owner had her for just three years, which means that the two original owners had possibly kept this car for at least 20 plus years each!
My first impression of the car was how well the chrome work had survived, the paintwork is also mostly original but of the curates egg variety, as the passage of time has dulled it in places, but it is a charming confederate blue colour.
As she rolled off the transporter I was aware of my neighbours peering at her from behind net curtains, I also felt another set of eyes on me, and turning around I was met with the smiling face of my wife who gave a big grin and a thumbs up from the bedroom window! Phew!
Ignition on, choke out, press the starter and..thrrruuuum. she fired up immediately.
I drove her gingerly onto my drive, my face beaming with nostalgia, I recognised the dials set before me from the long hours spent poring over that old workshop manual so many years ago.
I lifted the bonnet to see the engine compartment, and beyond the two large horns sat the 2,088cc motor ticking over with a characteristic 'hiss' that tells you the choke is still engaged.
A good look round the car told me it was in quite good shape and had obviously been looked after and garaged over the years, the 61000 on the clock was spot on for the condition so is believed genuine.
Now, does everyone do this next thing or is it only me?
Having just taken delivery of a perfectly clean and presentable car, out came the bucket and sponge and a good wash and polish up followed!
Cleaning is a great way of noticing things I find, and while cleaning the Vanguard I took mental notes of those things that I would like to improve or remedy, thankfully the list was short with just some minor bodywork repairs and replacement window channel weather-strips.
Externally a re-spray would transform the car but loose some of the originality, so was left as is.
The interior is great, just a couple of splits in the bench seat cushion but on the whole she has that used worn in but original feel, the dials all work perfectly and from this I saw the oil pressure was also good with no burning oil or leaks either.
Well pleased with my purchase she had yet to pass the second approval test - that of the dreaded teenager! I needn't have worried as our son came home and quickly jumped into her smiling, apparently she isn't the instant fashion/credibility death that my 2cv represents, and so at the end of the first days ownership the Vanguard sat gleaming on the drive as darkness fell.
Insured on a classic policy the next day and it was time for our first outing.
Driving the car is a real joy, the seating position is akin to sitting on my favourite settee at home, the 3 gears engage smoothly and quietly using the column mounted lever, and the brakes are powerful when applied with a bit of oomph!
The steering is a little vague towards modern vehicles but still feels light when on the move which is surprising given the size and weight of the car, and the absence of power steering, the suspension works well too and all in all the Vanguard wafts along rather regally - especially in overdrive, while generating smiles from passengers and onlookers alike.
That evening we drove over to the coast and photographs were taken as the sun set... Ahhhh!
As she was too big to fit in the garage due to some motorcycles and other bits being stored there I thought I would use the good weather to clean up and Waxoyl the underside.
I put her on the ramps and found that the original paint was still showing on parts of the underbody!
I duly treated it to a very liberal coating of wax, ensuring I sprayed into all the nooks and crannies, and once again I was amazed at the size and strength of the chassis.
I also sprayed the boot floor and inner wings, under bonnet area, and anywhere else that I could poke my lance, using over two gallons of the stuff before I was done.
I have used the Vanguard ever since on an almost daily basis with no problems whatsoever, the only fault to have surfaced being a slight oil drip that appears to come from the overdrive unit. She has been totally reliable in all weathers, returns an average of 25 mpg, and has been the instigator of more conversations, smiles and waves than I have ever known.
I would happily keep this car for a long time and could easily imagine a day when it could be the subject of a complete nut and bolt rebuild.
The reality however is rather different, and as Autumn is now upon us I awake to see her covered in mist, and soon frost, then I feel that I am letting her down by having her anywhere other than tucked up in a garage.
Having survived 52 years due to the previous owners care I cannot let her sit and deteriorate whilst in my custody, and for this reason alone I have decided to sell her on.
During my ownership I have had several hundred miles of happy motoring, realised a boyhood dream, and taken my first steps into classic motoring, the Vanguard has provided many hours of pleasure and the memories will last forever. As will the Vanguard if garaged by it's new owner!
More photos of this original 1950s Standard
Thanks for the cracking story Pete!! must have taken a while to type all that in :-) To compare Phase 1 and 2 Vanguards, have a look at the Phase 1 cars on this page, and compare with the Phase 2 publicity photo shown here.
Read about more classic cars owned by visitors to oldclassiccar right here.
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