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Uncle Joe's stories about motoring

An overloaded 400E pickup story

"Uncle Joe", a name used to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent,) has kindly volunteered his own motorcar and motorcycle memories. A series of stories will be featured here at oldclassiccar, all of which are true, based on the vehicles that Joe has owned, driven, or worked on, over the years.



If you have similar stories that you'd be willing to share with the world, I'd be happy to feature them here too, using an alias if you'd prefer!!

I've always enjoyed reading people's firsthand recollections of cars, and their foibles, in years gone by. Stories similar to this can be found on the main Motoring Memories Project page, which can be found here.

No-one at oldclassiccar necessarily agrees with, or condones, the events in these stories, and opinions given are not those of the site editor, but of the contributor!

Hard at work with a small Ford Thames

This story took place during a sunny summer week many years ago. There may not be much motoring in the tale, but it does prove one thing. Cars were better before!

The father of a friend, who we used to call “Sheeney” had bought a large piece of land that had once belonged to a Colliery. Or Coll-ill-erly, as they call it in southern parts. But then again, they-cawnt-tark-proper-like-wot-way-do-it-north-con-thi? As Sheeneys
Ford Thames 400E pickup
father needed help clearing this land, we were called upon to help with a particular job. This was the rather heavy task of removing the railway lines that once upon a time had carried the laden coal wagons. Our payment was to be that he would give us the lines and sleepers. For us this was a little gold mine. There is always a market for sleepers, and railway lines are good scrap! To help us, we enlisted the help of a friend, who we always called “Marruh,” mainly because he had a Ford Thames 400E 15cwt pickup, which was just the thing for carting scrap. He agreed readily, partially because he was due in Court a couple of weeks later on driving offences, and as he said “the money will help pay the fine!” We decided to start the following day.

Bright and early the following day, Marruh turned up in his scruffy Thames, towing behind it his large Pemberton caravan. The caravan provided a sharp contrast to the Pickup, as it was in absolutely perfect condition. In the cab with him was my girlfriend, Ally, and his girlfriend Jay. Sheeneys girlfriend joined us later. As Marruh said “ If we are going to be working hard, we had might as well be comfortable!” I wasn´t quite sure what he meant by that! However, I soon found out. It proved to be a brilliant idea.

We got to work, cutting the rails into suitable lengths with a cutting torch, and loading them onto the Thames, using a Caterpillar that we had borrowed. The girls would alternate between sunbathing, bringing us drinks, and preparing food. When we considered that the Thames was loaded, we lads piled into the cab, and drove away to “weigh in” the rails. On the first trip, we noticed that the Thames was handling a bit strange to say the least! The usually heavy low speed steering was very light, and at 30mph or so, the whole vehicle was “squirrely.” When we got to the scrapyard, we found out the reason for this. The rear springs were hitting the rubber bump stops! No wonder. The weight of the scrap on that first run proved to be just over 9 (yes, nine) tons! I think that we were a little overloaded!

We got into a routine for the next few days, with the lads doing the work, and the girls taking care of “home.” This included filling the Pembertons water tank so that we could all have a shower. In the evenings, we would walk the quarter mile or so across the fields to the nearby pub. We were never out late though, being so tired after our exertions. Eventually, the job was finished, and we tallied up. Believe it or not, that little Thames had shifted no less than 240(!) tons of rails. Without a single problem! From sunbathing every day, the girls had a good suntan. We were also brown, but I think this was rust! And we were all a lot better off financially.

Marruh did go to court, and did use some of his gains to pay his fine. At the same time, he got disqualified from driving. However, being the character that he was, this did not keep him off the road. With some of his share, he had bought a pony and trap.

On the same night as his Court appearance, he drove up to the pub that we had been frequenting, wrapped the reins round the bus stop railings, walked into the pub, and ordered ”four fingers of bitter!”

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