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Homepage. This page: A few questions and answers from UJ
Uncle Joe's stories about cars and motoring

UJ & classic motoring

"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 have been featured on oldclassiccar, all of which are true, based on the vehicles that Joe has owned, or worked on, over the years. You can read them on the main motoring memories page.

Uncle Joe's Lincoln Continental

If you have car 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 on the motor nostalgia pages.

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!

Uncle Joe's Ten Commandments!

1: Thou shalt not read thy Car Magazines on company time, lest thy employer make it impossible to continue thy car payments.

2: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's classic car, nor his garage, nor his battery charger. Unless thy neighbour's classic car is a hemi-engined 1970 Plymouth Superbird, his garage has central heating, hot and cold running water, and holds five cars, and his battery charger has boost start.

3: Thou shalt not store thy car outdoors except for thy wife's Daewoo.

4: Thou shalt not deceive thy wife into thinking that thou art taking her for a romantic Sunday drive when indeed thou art going out to look at another car.

5: Thou shalt not love thy cars more than thy wife and children.

6: Thou shalt not despise thy neighbour's Skoda, nor his Hyundai, nor even his Daewoo.

7: Thou shalt not tell thy spouse the entire cost of thy latest restoration, at least not all at the same time.

8: Thou shalt not promise thy wife a new extension to the house and then use it to store thy cars or parts.

9: Thou shalt not allow thy sons and daughters to get married during the car show season.

10: Thou shalt not buy thy wife a trolley jack for Christmas.

Meet Uncle Joe

UJ is a regular contributor to the old car forum here at oldclassiccar, and has also sent over a number of motoring stories set in the 1960s and 1970s. But who exactly is this UJ fella, and what, in the old-car world, makes him tick?? perhaps the interview below will make things clearer!!??!??!

1. What is your earliest motoring recollection?
The grandparents of a girl who lived directly across the street owned what I remember as an Austin A95 Westminster. One sunny, Sunday afternoon in either the late fifties, or early sixties, they took me with her to Ainsdale beach, near Southport. I dont remember much about the beach, but I still remember sitting like Kings in the back seat of that wonderful car.

2. Did your parent(s) own motorcars when you were a child?
No. In fact, as far as I remember, my Father has never even driven a car, let alone owned one! He did own a couple of motorbikes, which he used for travelling to work. My mother did try to drive a car once, but never carried on to take driving lessons or a licence.

3. Were there any family motoring influences?
Yes. There were four really. The most important was my elder brother. We have always been very close, as much friends as brothers. He is really the culprit that got me interested in first motorcycles, and then cars. This might seem strange to most, but another is a paternal Uncle that died as a result of a motorcycle accident two years before I was born. I grew up hearing stories of how he could strip and rebuild car and motorbike engines anywhere, including in the back garden! He became a kind of hero to me. A third was a paternal Aunt. She is also a kind of hero to me. Not only was she the first female driver I ever knew, but also the first female mechanic. An early memory is that of her buying a 15cwt Ford Thames, which she converted to a Caravanette, or Camper as they are called today. Many years later, now aged well over sixty, she bought a Volkswagen Transporter, and using the same tools that she had used on the Thames, converted that as well! During the Transporter conversion, she actually made the newspapers. On a trip into Manchester to buy parts, two teenagers made the mistake of trying to mug her. Both ended up in hospital, one of them in Intensive. I guess that the last thing that they expected was a pensioner wrapping a Porta Potti round their heads. Talk about Iron Lady! The Final influence was the Scotsman that married my second paternal Aunt. He served in WWII as an Army driver, first in North Africa, and later in Italy. The stories he used to tell!

4. What was the first car you owned?
The first car that had my name in the log book was a Riley 1.5, but in a sense it was also the Austin Light 12 that I had restored for my brother a few years earlier. My name was never in its log book, but if you restore a car from start to finish, then I think that you always “own” it in a special way.

5. Of all the cars you've owned, which have been most memorable, and which would you most like to forget!?
In one way or another, all of them have been memorable, but for different reasons. Taking random examples, I used to have a Sunbeam Rapier H120. I always ran it with no air filters on the twin DCOE´s. The sound it made was glorious! When car thieves stole it and blew the engine, it was replaced temporarily by an Austin A40 Cambridge. This was generally reckoned to be under powered, due to the 1200cc `B´ Series engine. But just this lack of power made it in some strange way fun to drive! There are three cars that I would most like to forget, all of them German. A Mercedes 220SE, a Mercedes 220D, and finally a BMW 2500. The thing that connected these cars was the fact that they were all the most unreliable heaps of junk that I have ever owned! They are a waste of space in a scrapyard!

6. Is there any car, either modern or classic, that you still want to own one day?
I can truthfully say that there are not many modern cars that interest me. Maybe something like a Hummer H1, Chrysler 300C, Dodge Viper / Prowler or any Ferrari, but all of these are out of my price range…

As far as classic cars go, the easy answer would be to say any that I haven´t owned. From cars made in England, in the commercial range, a classic pickup, such as a Ford E83W, Austin Devon or A55. In the saloon car range, maybe a Rover P4 or P5. In sports cars, a Sunbeam Tiger 289. From America, in commercials a Dodge Power Wagon, or its military equivalent, the M37. In saloons, a 1970 426-engined Plymouth Superbird, a 1961 Chrysler 300G. If I was looking for something strange, a Gama Goat!

7. Are there any classic cars that you have owned, but regret selling?
Yes, three. I once bought three Steam Traction engines for £30. One got swapped for a Hudson Terraplane, and the other two for two Daimlers with faulty gearboxes. The Hudson was driven directly to the next owner, the first Daimler was sold as soon as the gearbox was repaired, before I had even driven it! The second I did manage to drive for about two miles, before I got an offer I simply couldn´t refuse!

8. Have any cars been a real disappointment to own or drive?
The BMW and two Mercedes in question 5!

9. How different do you find motoring outside of the UK?
A lot of people in England think that it is driving on the right that is the big difference, but the first thing that hits you here in Sweden is the lack of traffic. Its is very much as I could imagine it was in England in the fifties or early sixties. Another difference is distance. Its common to drive a round trip of maybe 200 miles just to get a cup of coffee or ice cream, something almost unheard of in England. One distance related problem is also garages. If, for example, you take the ferry from Germany to Trelleborg (south of Sweden) and take the motorway north, the first motorway services is about 100 miles later! Here, if you ask how far it is to somewhere, it´s common to get the answer in time. The lack of traffic makes this possible. The other thing that is different is that Sweden is very strangely central. In an hour, we can be in Denmark. In three, Norway, in four, Germany!

10. What are the main plus points (in your opinion) of the classic car(s) you run now?
Bragging rights! My current classic is a 1970 Lincoln Coupe, one of only 3073 built. The 7.5 litre V8 allows it to accelerate quicker than my yardstick, an E-type Jag. At 70mph, its quieter than a 5-series BMW. Not many modern cars have more than 500ft. lb. of torque. The sheer physical size of it gives easy access and therefore maintenance. A favourite quote is from a Lincoln employee at the launch. Looking under the bonnet, he asked ”haven´t we left something out?” Although I will admit, the weight of certain components negates this to a certain extent. When did you last see the following text in a workshop manual? “When removing the inlet manifold, it is advisable to use a lifting device such as a hoist”!!!! If you are driving a 5000lb plus car, especially one that uses the bumpers as jacking points, do you know what you can say after a crash? I won! Finally, there are the extras. 4 speaker stereo. ABS (world first, I believe), proper Air Conditioning. Self levelling rear suspension. Electric windows. Sounds more like a modern car, doesn´t it? The final things that I like about it are headlight covers, and the optional rear lights that I recently fitted. These give three sets of three rear lights, now sequential, on each side. A total of 18 rear lights!

11. Are there any so-called classics that you wouldn't touch with a bargepole?
Yes. Anything from Germany, anything from France, and most Volvo´s. Most Volvos mean every single one apart from PV´s and Amazons!

12. What is your opinion on 1980s cars being labelled as 'classics' and eligible to take part in classic/vintage motor events?
I dont think that they should be. In some ways, I feel embarrassed calling my 1970 a classic. It just feels too young somehow. But if you have to look for a cut off date, I would say 1973. Here is my reasoning behind that. When I first became involved with classic cars, there were two classifications. Veteran, which were cars built prior to WWI, and Vintage, which were cars built prior to WWII. In other words, the end of each era was classified by a major event or change. In the late 60´s, the expression Post Vintage started to be used for vehicles made after the war. This expression was soon changed to Classic. Irrespective of the expression used, to follow the logic of the earlier classifications, a major change or event must be sought. I believe that this came about between 1972 and 1974. If you look at cars from the 1800´s until this time, there is one thing that connects them. The fact that they became more powerful with each passing year. But then, shall we say around 1973, environmentalists had gained enough political influence to cause governments to introduce emission control legislation. This meant that, especially on American cars, but also European, power output was reduced.

13. Are there any current new cars that you'd tip for future classic status?
I´m going to name two, with the motivation that the first of a new breed almost always becomes a classic. First, the Volkswagen Golf, because that was the first real Hatchback, and secondly, the Chrysler Voyager because that started a whole new class of car altogether, the People Carrier.

14. Which era of car interests you most of all, and why?
The era that started at the end of WWII, and ended in 1973 with emission control. I think that this was when cars finally became really practical things for the common man.

15. What type(s) of car most/least interest you - eg saloons, sports cars, commercial vehicles, and why..?
I find that every type of classic vehicle interest me for one reason or another, no matter how big or small, or how many wheels they have.

16. What do you like most/least about the hobby?
Without doubt, what I like most are the people that are involved with older vehicles. Over the years, I have met people from many different countries, cultures and religions. I can call many of them friends, simply because of the thing that we have in common, vehicles. What I like least are the people that take things too seriously. This is something that includes this group that moan about originality. A few years ago, I exhibited a vehicle, and one of the judges started moaning that it was not original due to the fact that I had replaced some Phillips screws with Posidrive. To be truthful, there is no such thing today as “original.” What exists is “as original” or “to original.” Anything else is total BS! As long as it can be brought back to standard condition, its OK by me. In other words, dont do any body mods!

17. Based on your experience, are there any recommendations that you would give to someone considering a first restoration?
In my eyes, the first restoration is always special. But I think that there are several things that should be considered. Get as much advice as possible. One of the things that impressed me about this website was the sensible information. Then, when you are deciding which car to purchase, think as much with you head as with your heart. Buy something that is common, complete, and relatively easy to restore. If I knew then what I know now, then my first restoration would have been some kind of Light Commercial. There is a practical reasoning behind this. Generally, they are cheaper to buy and restore. If you fail, and some do, then you haven´t lost as much money as you could have. Then there is the practical factor. It´s easier to persuade the other half that you should keep a light commercial because “we can always use it to get that new furniture, darling.” You dont need to say that its also going to be perfect to drag home your next restoration!

To read more nostalgic stories about motoring in years gone by, including the scrapes that UJ got into with various old crocks, have a look at the motor car memories page.

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