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It’s not all 0’s and 1’s, you know. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and all that. Many years ago I used to have a proper job that was somewhat less “virtual” and more “physical”. So did Peter. I was more a “piano mover” while Peter was a “piano player”. I used to kick aircraft tyres while Peter used to design turbine blades for Rolls Royce. Funnily enough, the same applied to rugby at school – Peter was a back while I was a forward. It’s been more than 30 years since I last got my hands dirty but when I heard that a friend of a friend, a farmer, had a load of old cars in his barns I couldn’t resist going for a look. The amazing thing is that John isn’t a car enthusiast, but he had (in various stages of decay):

  • A Standard 8
  • A Standard 10
  • An Austin A30
  • An Austin A40
  • A Moggy (Morris Minor)
  • A Spitfire
  • A Land Rover
  • A Triumph Herald

He even has a 1912 Ford Model “T” truck in absolute mint condition! Truth be told, I’m not a car enthusiast but when I was a youngster everybody took cars to bits. Sometimes they even put them back together again. The Standards didn’t interest me – I’m sure they were around when I was a kid I just didn’t seem to notice them. My father had an Austin A35 but it wasn’t a car that I ever really liked. Mind you, I earned a penny a day for plugging his parking lights in every night in the winter and putting a sump heater underneath it. That’s 1d, not 1p, so every week I got 7d (just a smidge over 2.5p). I had an A40 for a while back when I was having driving lessons and that had never really impressed me. As for Moggies, I basically don’t like them and never have, although I know that Peter has a soft spot for them. Someone in the design department obviously thought that 22 gauge mild steel didn’t rust quickly enough and so decided to nail lumps of timber around the body. Now wood has its place in engineering – the Mosquito was a fine aircraft, notwithstanding that it was largely plywood. The Vampire, I believe, was also largely tree-based and that was a brilliant aircraft. But while I’m happy for de Havilland to glue/nail aircraft together out of lumps of old kindling, this does not extend to cars, especially Moggies. Two of my brothers-in-law had spitfires (well, they actually shared a single spit) and I was never really that enthused about it. Maybe that’s because it was a rusting hulk even in 1973. That left a choice between the Land Rover and the Herald. I had a Herald very briefly (about 2 weeks) in 1974 and I absolutely loved it. I loved that you could open the bonnet, sit on the wheel and had loads of room to get at the engine. It could turn on a sixpence (again that’s 6d not 6p) and if you drove in a straight line the handling was great. Of course, going round corners was not to be recommended! Because it has a transverse leaf spring for what is laughably known as “rear suspension”, the back wheels had a habit of tucking themselves in towards the centre of the car if you were brave or foolhardy enough to go round a corner. Hence the expression, “Hark the Herald Axle Swing!“. Unfortunately, Triumph hadn’t deemed it necessary to put synchro-mesh on 2nd gear, which meant you had to “double de-clutch” to change down. To youngsters today, double de-clutching is as much a mystery as pulling out a choke lever on a winter’s morning. It was old-fashioned even back in 1974 when I had my Herald. To change from 3rd down to 2nd you 1) depressed the clutch pedal, then 2) changed into neutral then 3) revved the engine and 4) depressed the clutch pedal again then finally, 5) changed into 2nd. If you were good at it you would not leave a trail of swarf, nuts, bolts and washers behind you.

The big deciding factor in favour of the Herald though, was that it was in absolutely awful condition. I was looking for a project that we keep me going well into retirement so I didn’t want something that was already in reasonable condition, and she certainly meets that criteria!

Thanks very much to Martin from Leeds for rotating this image for me and also for confirming that the blog has at least 1 viewer – that’s almost viral!

So this is the challenge. I reckon it will take about 10 years to get this little baby into showroom condition. Peter will be helping me. He has restored a car before but maybe not one in this kind of condition. Most importantly, he is the only person I know who is old enough to still have a set of Imperial spanners, so I need to keep him friendly!

Can we get her looking like this again?

What is funny/heart-breaking is that less than 6 months ago I decided that I would never need my old tools again (after all, they were all Imperial and in the unlikely event that I needed a spanner or socket they would be useless). I’m at the point in my life where, if my car doesn’t start, I just call the AA – and so I chucked them all away! Spanners, sockets, files, V-blocks, even my valve-grinding swizzle stick (including a tin of grinding paste that I’ve had for over 40 years), the lot went into a skip. I offered them to Richard, our builder/odd-job-man/major factotum but even though he is no youngster himself, he didn’t understand the strange engravings on the tools, like 5/8″, 9/16″. I also think that Richard would never use a spanner if he could get away with an angle grinder!

Even my little tobacco tin of drills went. “Proper” drills, like 1/8″ rather than 3.2mm.

So, the project has started. I hope to document our travails over the coming months and years