I just thought I’d introduce myself, I’m the new co-blogger, an wot Roly sez abart me beyin aybl ter spel an get granma rite is a miff….. I’m Bob or Bobbo to most who know me. “That’s odd, Bobbo?” Yeah, let me explain, I live in Italy, in a small town called Malcesine on the North Eastern shores of Lake Garda, I came here for the first time in 1990, met my present partner here, and as Maggie’s Britain didn’t have a lot to offer, I came here to work in 1991, and stayed.
Anyway, about the name, most Italian men’s names end in a vowel, and usually an “O”, Mario, Giorgio, Stefano, Alfonso etc, and Bob, which stops short, doesn’t gel with them and doesn’t slide off the tongue, so it got adapted to Bobbo, and the name stuck.
So, what’s my involvement with Morris and Wolseley cars? Roly too? Well, I’ll start with the story of my acquisition of a 1950 Morris Six, Series MS, which I acquired in 2004, my subsequent joining of the 6/80 & MO Club through which I “met” (via e-mail) fellow member Roly and his wife Caroline who is now the proud owner of a Wolseley 6/80, a vehicle which I also own, but more about that one in another tale.
So, I decided that I wanted to buy a classic car, and after getting permission from she who must be obeyed (She being Jeanie, my Danish partner) started looking on e-bay, originally searching for a Rover P4, in fact I’d still like one, one day..maybe never.
My eyes then fell upon a 1950 Morris Six in the September of 2004 and made several bids on it after ascertaining the reserve price. This I would not normally have asked, but living here in Italy I needed to know
what it was, A – to know if I could actually afford it and B- so that I wasted neither my, nor the vendors time.
He was kind enough to inform me (owing to the circumstances) that the reserve price was £1750,00, so I went to my bank manager and arranged a loan of up to about £2500,00 well, EU:5,000,00 actually as that’s all they’d give me, and then I started bidding and hoping. At today’s exchange rate, €5,000 would be about £4,700 but then it was as above, in fact it worked out at about £2,650 at the time.
I knew the price of a “condition 2” car to be about £1900.00. The car was claimed to be better than “condition 2” as the floors had been replaced and it was advertised as having no rust underneath, there were
just a few scabby bits where the water had got in under the wing piping to sort out and a general tidy up, a split seat seam etc. It certainly looked very nice in the photos, but they always do… Adding a dealer premium of about £350, I supposed that up to £2500.00 was sort of fair, providing the car was actually as good as it
As seen on e-bay in 2004
was claimed to be, so I bid up to my maximum and left it at that being able to do no more than wait for the end of the auction as I couldn’t really afford to go above my maximum bid.
Unfortunately, at the end of the auction I wasn’t able to be at my computer and was outbid by an American lady dealer by £250. A shame really, I thought, as I could possibly have raised another few quid from somewhere, but I lost. Damn. I had also lost out earlier in the week on a rather nice 1955 Rover P4, one careful Vicar owner, immaculate! So knowing how these things go, one moment lucky one moment not, I wasn’t too disappointed although I did think the Morris was an impressive looking beast. Ugly but in a nice friendly sort of way, a bit like Hattie Jaques, no oil painting but stately and matronly, very imposing.
Undeterred I bid on a 1939 Austin Big Seven, which I accidentally won by making a mistake on the e-bay bidding and instead of bidding a maximum of £2500.00 I accidentally bid a max of £25.000.00, so I won it for £2875.00. Well, the difference wasn’t a lot and I could raise the extra. I had previously e-mailed the seller, before bidding, and explained that should I win, it may be a couple of weeks before I could collect the car as I was unable to leave my business unattended until the end of the month, I run a busy bar here at Lake Garda with my partner Jeanie.
A sunset over the lake Feb 2006
This seemed not to present problems until I’d actually won the auction, then it suddenly became imperative to the seller that I paid up and collected immediately! I agreed that I would transfer the money immediately, well, a large deposit anyway, and then settle the rest in cash upon collection, I mean, fairs fair,
I hadn’t seen the car and to pay it all on spec, well, I wasn’t born yesterday. No deal! The car had to be collected within three days.
I Said I could make it within 7 days but that the money transfer would be at least five working days (which is quite normal). No deal! He was moving abroad to the Balearics, and the car had to be sorted out within 3 days. I suggested that he leave the car with a relative to whom I’d pay the balance. No deal! Well, if he’d told me at the start then I wouldn’t have bid on it. We mutually agreed to be positive with e-bay
feedback as it wasn’t my fault, and although disgruntled, I was sort of relieved as I hadn’t really desperately wanted the Seven and hadn’t expected to win it anyway. So, matter closed. Hope he didn’t sell it in the end. Pernickerty Git!
Feeling sorry for myself I e-mailed the seller of the Morris, Martin Howey of Martin Howey Classics, and asked him that should he come across a similarly large car, Rover P4-5, Austin Westy, 4litre R, Lanchester, Daimler Conquest etc, would he let me know as I was sad at having missed the Morris. Lo and behold… verily saith he thus…he immediately mailed me back saying that he still had it. His buyer was apparently notoriously unreliable (she had since been struck off from e-bay) and hadn’t yet contacted him regarding either payment or shipping instructions, and he said that if he didn’t hear from her within 7 days, as he’d e-mailed her many times, he’d either re-auction the car, or, he would be happy to sell it to me for my maximum bid.
I ummed and aaahed for a bit but all things considered, if he re-advertised it I could possibly win it for less than my maximum bid, but it was a chance I’d have to take and could just as easily lose again. £2,500.00 was probably a bit more than it was worth (little did I know how much more) but despite this I decided to go for it and hope that it really was as good as it was claimed to be. It’s certainly a rare and very unusual car and anyone who has met me will acknowledge my motives for buying it, I’m rare and unusual too, a very strange and totally eccentric lunatic and I felt that the car and I were of a kind. Big, weird, unusual and very much the odd one out! A true individual.
Seven days later, as Martin had heard nowt from his buyer, the deal was done. I made a substantial deposit via bank transfer and booked with Tryingair to fly over from a local airport, Verona/Brescia-Montechiari to Stanstead. Montechiari is about an hour and a half’s drive from where we live and the flight was a “Web fare” offer, EU:1.99 plus airport taxes, about EU:22.00 all told. At the time this equated to roughly £15.00. I then had to make my way to Thirsk to meet Martin Howey.
By far the cheapest way of doing this was by National Express. However, my flight was at 22.00 CET from Italy, arriving at 23.30 BST. The coach departed at 06.00 and arrived in Thirsk at 18.00. I didn’t fancy hanging around for 6 hours in the airport and then sitting another 12 hours on a coach! I have had many jobs
in the past, one of them being a Bus/Coach/Lorry driver as well as being an instructor for them, teaching instructors how to do the job as well, so sitting doing nothing for 12 hours on a coach would have driven me nuts (nuttier than usual that is..).
Easier and not much more expensive was to travel across London to Kings Cross and catch the York train which departed at around 05.30, getting to York at 09.10 and then the Thirsk train at 09.40 getting there at 10.15. I didn’t however fancy travelling in London and then hanging around Kings cross for a few hours
with a few thousand euros in my pocket. As big and evil as I can look, I’m a friendly pacifistic chap. I’m not at all nasty although I can look very menacing if I choose to do so. I used to be, amongst other things, a semi professional wrestler in the late seventies and through the eighties up until 1988 when knee problems
forced me to quit it. I’m big across the shoulders and am 6ft tall, weighing in at 21st. It’s not all fat but I do have a substantial amount of extra baggage.
Sometimes it’s useful and I can look a bit formidable when it suits me, but drunk or drugged up loonies looking for a victim to mug however don’t usually take this into account and these days, if they don’t have knives or guns, they often have an unpronounceable and incurable disease that you can catch from them just by cutting your knuckles on their teeth when you deck ‘em, so I decided against that too.
View from the back door of our bar
I opted to go to the Europcar stand as I recognised an assistant there that I’ve dealt with a few times in the past. My partner and I run a social/working mens’ club here in Malcesine. Although we have a large membership of townsfolk, we don’t see a lot of them in the summertime as they are mostly hoteliers, shop
owners or restaurateurs etc and are busy running their own businesses, thus we are allowed to open to the public. Me being English and Jeanie, a Copenhagener and both having worked as tour guides and resort reps, we do a good trade with the summer visitors, having befriended most of the local tour guides who bring their
guests to us for English tea, cottage pie, bacon sandwiches etc.
Every now and then I make a round trip from here to Stanstead, hire a car, go to Bishops Stortford which is 11 miles from Stanstead, shop in the 24 hour Tesco’s and stock up on Tetley tea, cheese, sausages, and anything else I can carry within the weight limit for the airline baggage. Think about it, 240 T bags cost around £3.00. We sell a pot of T 4 2 for EU.4.00. The whole trip usually costs around £80 plus whatever I spend on the shopping and I get most of that back just by selling the first 240 T bags! You have to careful these days, it’s so easy to under if you don’t use your loaf.
I digress, sorry, I’m good at that. I have often dealt with either the Hertz people or Europcar, this time Europcar got the trade as they do “one way” hiring, allowing you to drive to your destination, or as near as possible, and leave the car at their nearest depository, which in this case was York station. Perfect. I was
soon on the M11 to Cambridge where I quickly found the A1. Stopping for sandwiches and coffee I made it to York by 04.00 so grabbed a couple of hours sleep. A Fiat Punto is not the most comfortable of cars to sleep on the back seat of but I managed it as I was very tired. At 07.00 I made my way into York centre, filled the car with petrol (very economical) bought some brekky at the buffet, usual British rail overpriced rubbish, and caught the 09.40 to Thirsk. I couldn’t get the earlier train as I had to wait for the Europcar office to open up at 08.00.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I speak to someone over the phone, I build up a mental picture of what they must look like. I’m not usually far wrong. Martin was as I’d pictured him, a little younger perhaps and a bit taller, but basically as I’d imagined. What a nice guy! I’m 47, he’s a couple of years younger
than me and a sports journalist, dealing in classic cars as a sideline. We soon hit it off and chatted as if we’d known each other for a long time. His pastime includes playing electric guitar in a band, which he’s done for 30 odd years, and one of my pastimes is making the things (guitars that is). I’ve done this for the past
30 odd years. I don’t play much, I’m a blues harmonica player, play percussion, washboard, sax clarinet, and am a very bad singer.
We went first to Thirsk market square in order for me to change up some Euros, and then on to Ripon where Martin’s mechanic friend Andy was storing the car. Before bidding on e-bay I’d, as you would, checked out Martin’s “feedback” reputation. Out of nearly 200 or so transactions, he’d only had two complaints and both of these were from sellers, not buyers. Check it out for yourself, look up “user name, ”rosedalerip”” and see for yourself. I felt I had enough reason to trust him to be straight.
When I first saw the car it was a bit of a letdown, but I think that was more to do with the impression I’d built up mentally of what it would be like. I’m not sure exactly what I expected really, maybe I was expecting a 54 year old car (in 2004) to be bright and shiny with gleaming chrome. Well, it was fairly shiny but on closer inspection, the roof guttering over the driver’s side rear passenger door was very corroded where it joined the roof, someone had painted the window frames with black bituminous paint on one side of the car and with silver paint on the other….weird, there was some bubbling of the paint near the offside headlamp and both wings were showing signs of rusting through near the doors. The interior was very dingy and dark and the front seat was split.
However, looking realistically, it was only split where the stitching had given way and after cleaning and feeding would probably re-stitch without problems. The window frames could be re-chromed (although I since found out I could get good second hand ones from the 6/80 club). The door cards, three of which were covered in red vinyl (yeuch!) could be re-covered by myself as I’d recently thrown out a brown leather sofa which my cat destroyed by scratching it to death, I cut out the good panels before throwing it out so I had a good supply
of nice soft tan coloured leather which would dye down to the right shade okay. The rust on the roof guttering could be ground out, as could the wings, and lead loaded, (I hate filler) and true to the advert, there really wasn’t any rust underneath.
Unfortunately, where the bolt on sill and outer floor panels had been replaced, they had been welded up so it would either be a case of stripping them off again or at least drilling holes underneath to let out trapped moisture and then treating with Waxoyl.
The more I looked at it the more I could begin to see the potential in the car, it was tatty but more or less complete and that at least counted for something. The exhaust was said to be new and sounded a bit tinny and the manifold was blowing a bit, not seriously, and it puffed quite a lot of oily smoke upon start up. Not unusual I’d heard- later to find I was very wrong about that, it’s not unusual for them to puff blue smoke on start up when the exhaust valve guides are worn, but I didn’t know that then.
Upon starting it was running on five cylinders and ran a bit lumpy but I put that down to electrics as it disappeared when the engine was revved. The column change was very sloppy but I’ve had loads of old Vauxhalls in the past, with column change and know virtually how to dismantle and re-bush things to tighten
them up. The more I looked at it, the more potential to make a nice car of it I could see, so I did what most classic car buyers do when confronted by a lonely old car that just needs to be loved. Did I walk away as I should have done? No, course not. I went all misty eyed and bought it! MUG!
The oil pressure seemed good, at 50psi, 35-40 at idle (I soon found out that’s not great and it should have been much higher) so I paid up, and after trying unsuccessfully to adjust the front seat, drove off. I was immediately amazed by the terrible steering lock! Absolutely abysmal! The Titanic could have turned a
sharper corner. Having driven trucks and buses, I was used to timing the corners and coming at them from a different than usual road position in order to get round without frightening the drivers of cars coming towards me along the road I’m turning into by swerving onto their side of the road, but at the first left hand corner I turned, I nearly took a tree down on the opposite verge! I soon got the idea though.
I ventured out into the countryside above Ripon in order to get acquainted with the old chap. The speedo wasn’t working but I wasn’t too worried about that. I could count the motorway markers to tell how fast I was going and anyway, I wanted it to get me to Italy, not just as far as Dover so I wasn’t intending to go
much faster than 55mph. Allow me to explain for those who haven’t done it before…motorway marker posts are 100metres apart. If you pass one every six seconds, do ten a minute, then you’re obviously doing 60kph, which is close enough to 38mph. Pass 15 a minute and you’re doing half the speed again, on top. 90kph, which is around 56mph. Easy huh?
I came to a steep hill and halfway up, it ran out of puff and although the fuel gauge was registering full I could hear the petrol pump sucking air and going at it like a machine gun. The engine was backfiring a lot too, especially if I tried to push it faster than what I estimated to be about 50mph. When you spend all day long driving trucks at 55mph you get to automatically settle at around the speed you’re used to travelling at, I drove the big 40 tonners for a couple of years so it’s sort of ingrained. Anyway, backfiring is a sure sign of fuel starvation and although the tank was low on fuel, it was probably also full of gunk, the filter was probably clogged (until I discovered there wasn’t one….) and/or someone had wound the carb jet right in to get it through the emissions test for the MOT. This was unlikely though as it would have cut out on tick over if this were the case.
Well, it seemed to be able to do 50-55mph quite comfortably which would get me steadily down the A1 and M11 to Bishops Stortford (Tescos) and then on to Dover in plenty of time for the midnight ferry (upon which I was booked) with time in hand to sort out a few things. It was after all only just after midday.
I joined the A1 at Scotch corner and filled her up at the services there. What with the fuel additive and the coffee it all came to £68.90! I’m not sure if it was the coffee that was expensive or if it just took a lot of petrol but he seemed to go a bit better after that but still coughed a bit up hills. I tried loosening the filler cap to see of it made a difference, in case the tank breather (assuming there was one) was a bit blocked but that didn’t make much difference. So, gingerly setting my foot in a comfortable position as we reached about 55mph, off we went.
After a bit it became possible to put my foot down a bit up the hills as the fuel pump was beginning to catch up and I was able to give it “a bit of welly”. All six cylinders were coming in quite nicely now and I was beginning to enjoy the torque of the 2.2ltr six, plus there was that delicious transmission whine that you only get from old cars as they accelerate, sounds like a tram.
The car was by now only just beginning to run out of steam near the tops of the gradients. I was just breasting a slight uphill gradient a short distance after Doncaster when the engine started to make a “tinkling” sound which then became a “pinging” then a “clattering”, then……silence. I coasted to a halt, fortunately I was at the beginning of a small slip road and there was a lane which led to a piece of waste ground onto which I was able to coast and avoid being stranded on the carriageway.
I swore a bit and guessed what had happened as the noise was identical to that which my old Lada (yes, a Lada Riva 1200, a great car, couldn’t break it!) and one of my XJ6’s had made when the timing chain had come adrift/snapped. I didn’t know at the time that the “Six- 6/80-4/50” engines have a shaft driven cam but, nevertheless, the result was the same, a valve and a piston had met in terminal coitus, resulting in the cessation of reciprocal motion! It was XXXXXXXXXXXXX’d!
I opened up the bonnet and took off the distributor cap, inserted the starting handle and gently turned the crank. It rotated about 270deg and then jammed. Slipping it into top gear I released the handbrake and gently (really really gently okay?) pushed the car backwards. The crank rotated the same amount, more or less, and then jammed again, indicating that a rod had jammed up somewhere; probably a piston had smashed and broken up, plus other things. I also noted that the distributor shaft was not turning thus confirming my thoughts that the timing chain had come off, although I found out later when I obtained the “back issue” of Practical Classics buyers guide on the Morris Six/Wolseley 6/80 from 1987 that the cam is shaft driven thus exploding my theory.
Malcesine from the castle tower
On a trip down to Italy in 1990, in a Mk2 Escort, a mechanic friend and I actually took the engine out and removed a piston and rod by the roadside, removed the pushrods for the corresponding valves, held the shell bearings in place with a radiator hose clip (Loctited in place) disconnected the spark plug lead from that cylinder and continued on three cylinders all the way from Luxembourg to Italy with no problems. We’d broken a piston ring and to have continued would have wrecked the bore, so we took it out. We bought some new piston rings from a Ford agent in Milan. No problem.
However, my mate Douggie, wasn’t with me, I didn’t have a big tool kit, and the Six engine is somewhat bigger and heavier than a 1300 Escort engine, which I could easily lift out single handed. In my younger years I single handedly took out and put back a 2ltr Vauxhall slant 4, without an engine crane or a rope
and that’s a heavy engine! (Big head) Can’t do it now though. Also, I think the Police would have taken a dim view of it. The French Police never bothered us but there again, I wasn’t in France. So, not knowing quite what to do, I phoned the vendor, Martin Howey.
I expected a fairly cool response (well, he’s a car trader…”Sold as seen mate”) but in fact he was most concerned and extremely apologetic, especially as I’d come all the way from Italy. He immediately offered me a full refund, which I suppose I should have accepted, but, I wanted to keep the car (mad bastard) so he immediately sent two chaps down the A1 with a low loader, to pick it up. Okay, maybe you’re thinking he was probably feeling guilty for having sold me a duff, but, having seen the quality of the restoration work that Andy, his mechanic was doing on some of the cars he had in the workshop, amongst them a Jaguar MKV11, a Triumph Stag (original engine) and an old Bentley from the Fifties, I was sufficiently impressed to believe that the sale of my car had been in genuine good faith.
Andy had said that he had replaced the cylinder head gasket and lapped the valves in and had also explained that these particular engines often had problems with exhaust valves burning out and to make sure I used additives as leaded fuel, although it does exist in Italy, is very difficult to find and there are literally only a handful of outlets in the entire country. He stressed that these engines need regular and careful maintenance so I really don’t think there was any hoodwinking going on at all. It just happened, and that was that.
Martin offered to accommodate me for a bit if I wanted to return to his place with the car but I’d already made plans to meet some friends from Nottingham in order to deliver a hand made resonator guitar that I’d made that summer and Bob (my mate) had seen on the wall of my bar (which is where I hang them) when he and his wife Susie paid us a short visit over a weekend. He’d fallen in love with it and although it wasn’t for sale at the time, I decided to offer it to him for a “substantial” discount, much less than the amount I would have asked for on ebay, (a mate’s a mate…) in order to regain some of my expenditure over the car loan. I’d bought the guitar with me and was due to meet Susie at a large shopping complex somewhere further south along the A1. A phone call later and she was whizzing up the A1 to my rescue. The low loader eventually arrived and I said goodbye to the old thing, ending our short lived acquaintance.
Susie took me back to Nottingham where I had a much needed bath and a beer or six, then, borrowing their computer for half an hour, booked a flight home on the internet. Here, in Italy, with Tryingair (plus a couple of other companies) if they have a spare seat and you turn up at the airport without having pre-booked,
you can usually wait until all the pre-booked passengers have passed through security and then they’ll normally sell the spare seats off cheaply just to fill them, like a fiver for example. Not so in the UK so it appeared. Last minute booking on a half full flight, £135.00 + taxes- thank you! All tickets to be booked on line, no sales at the airport! Kind of put a sting in the tail!
To add insult to injury, I had to travel all night, boarding the 22.35 National Express coach from Nottingham centre to Milton Keynes, (or was it Luton?) and from there to Stanstead on the 02.10. Fortunately at the halfway point there was an all-night café with a very good choice of fry-ups. Although I’m a big fat git I don’t actually eat much in the way of fried food but every now and then I make an exception.
Anyway, I needed comforting!
07.30 and we were in the air, usual Tryingair, okay when it’s cheap, but rip off when you’ve paid full price. Coffee £2.00! Come off it! An Italian asked for a Bacon and Egg sandwich. It came, nicely presented (cold mind) in a little box. £4.25! He pulled out a EU:50.00 note. The hostess asked “have you anything smaller sir?” “Yeah, the sandwich!” I called out. It didn’t go down well. The worst bit came when we were approaching Brescia. We couldn’t land because of heavy fog and were kept circling for over an hour. By then nearly everyone was bursting to use the toilets and the hostesses just kept bullying people back to their seats as we were supposed to have the seat belts on. Eventually three of us rebelled and went to the toilets in a convoy, me leading. The threat was, “either we get to use the toilet or we’ll piss here, on the floor!” we got to use it.
After this, it was decided to abort the landing and go on to Bergamo, 20 mins by plane, a good hour and a half by bus. When we finally arrived there, we were herded on to two shuttle coaches which were to take us to Brescia airport where the usual transport services would still be waiting. The coaches went nowhere however as the drivers were not allowed to depart without an airline representative on board. They, seeing that a plane from a different destination was landing, had all gone to lunch beforehand. Eventually, a fellow passenger and I decided to club together and take a taxi to the station and get the train. He had to
go to Verona for a trade fair and I just wanted to get off the stop before Verona, at Peschiera, which is one of Lake Garda’s southern most towns, one of three that has a railway station and where I could catch a bus back home.
Well, EU;15.00 was not expensive for the two of us and so we queued for tickets, only to miss the train we wanted by two minutes due to an idiot student who wanted to know the train times from Berlin to Paris, or something ridiculous. 45 minutes later we boarded a train for Brescia where we had to change to the Verona train, only to miss it as it had departed two minutes before ours arrived. It was at this depressing moment that I discovered I’d left my airport purchases (Softeners for the missus) on the coach and that my mobile phone had run out of power and I couldn’t phone my friend who is one of the local coach operators at Brescia airport in order for him to retrieve them for me.
Of course, when I arrived at Peschiera, I’d missed the bus by 2 minutes! Next one, two hours! I wasn’t going to cough out 100 euros for a taxi, that’s for sure so I retired to a local bar and ordered some sandwiches and a couple of beers, and waited, in a 38°C heat! I eventually arrived home to tumultuous verbal abuse from my old lady, especially as I’d left the liquorice allsorts on the coach.
I sat around and sulked for a few days, licking my wounds which were mostly to my pride and my wallet and then received an e-mail from Martin. He confirmed that a piston had indeed broken up as the engine had dropped an exhaust valve. The bore didn’t appear to be badly damaged and that a light hone would probably clear it. The head also appeared to be intact, just a bit chewed up around the valve seat which Andy reckoned he could put right however a closer inspection would reveal all as they’d only had a quick look. It was agreed that they would store the car for me and that the labour would be free (to a point mind) and I would pay for parts. Any money matters would be discussed later. The only difficulty would be sourcing the parts.
After a while, I joined the MO 6/80 club and started e-mail chatting with Dave Barker and Neville Holmes, both of whom told me that they could supply any parts necessary. I mailed Andy and Martin a few times but it wasn’t possible for either of them to strip the engine in order to tell me which parts were needed
as both of them were busy moving house (separately that is) so I wasn’t able to give Dave or Neville a list of things, pistons, rings, valves etc……. I was actually slightly concerned as to the total reliability of a rebuild by someone “in the trade” thus perhaps not 100% conversant with these engines. After all, a lot of mechanics, with all due respect to Andy, are often inclined to “fix things up” enough to get you there. I intend to use the car on a regular basis, not just for Sunday outings so I started toying with the idea of “dieseling it” or at least, putting a more modern and reliable engine in it which would be easier to source parts for. A Ford V6 perhaps, maybe a Rover V8 (tight squeeze between the chassis rails) a Jaguar XJ6 engine. If I were to diesel it that would have to be done here however.
Diesel engines are easily found here, BMW Mercedes, Volvo, you name it. As soon as a car gets to be a few years old, or gets tatty or dented, the Italians just get rid of them. They’re very “throw away” people. You’ll often find a decent Mercedes or Volvo being crushed for no other reason than the owner perhaps just got fed up with it and traded it in for a new one, the dealer being able to offer a big discount on end of line or last of “last years” models, as he will be able to claim a “cashback” grant from the government for de-registering it and crushing it, thus removing a potential pollution problem from the environment. It’s a similar thing to the system that was introduced a few years ago in the UK, here it’s called “Rottomazione”.
Very few scrap yards exist here for that very reason. As long as you know someone who works in the crusher plant, you can often get them to pull the engine of a good motor, together with the ancillaries out/off for you for a few quid. I could quite easily find a fairly low mileage 3ltre Merc or Volvo diesel or petrol engine and gearbox with alternator, down pipes and starter for around 100euros, no problem. I’d just have to go and get it, and keep my mouth shut.
Nev said that it seemed like an awful lot of work as far he was concerned, and that if I were able to get the original engine down to his place then he’d be able to rebuild it for me to a high level of reliability and not have to mess about with jigging bits together. So I enlisted the help of Dave Barker for that one and shortly after this he went to Pateley, where Andy had moved to, and picked up the car and engine (which had been taken out) and trailered it down to Neville Holmes, dropping the engine at his own home in order to strip and rebuild it.
So far I’ve had a long, enjoyable, and very eventful life and I’ve owned lot of cars. My first was a 1957 MG Magnette ZB. It was actually four months older than me. A Vauxhall Viva GT, loads of vans, Fords, XJ6’s, a Lada Riva 1200 which was a truly great car, I could take all the seats out-except the driver’s of course, and load it up at the brewery with crates and kegs, and it still did 80mph on the dual carriageway, furthermore, it always started and never broke down, I just couldn’t break it!
When it eventually did give up the ghost, mainly because the timing chain tensioner broke and the chain slipped, ending up with the familiar tinkle tinkle bang bang, DEAD! Of valves meeting pistons, the replacement valves were £5, 00 each. It went again after that but was never the same, and when it failed the MOT on a rusty spring hanger two years later, we gave it to the local fire brigade to practice getting accident victims out of, and they kept it for 6 months before it was rendered unusable anymore.
Various Fiats and a Renault followed. I’ve probably had about 25 or so different ones cars I and not any particular one a favourite, apart from the Viva GT which was very memorable for a lot of reasons. My daily runabout was a 1972 W115 Mercedes 220D diesel automatic for quite a few years, but this decided to blow its injector pump during a trip to Stuttgart, I got there, but had to return by train. I used the MS as my daily driver until Feb 2007, and then my daily driver became my 1951 Wolseley 6/80.
However… there’s another couple of episodes to the MS story, so bear with me and read on.
Hi All, again,
Dave Barker, after collecting the engine from Pateley, spent a load of his spare time stripping everything down and then delivered the head to Nev Holmes (6/80 & MO Club Technical Advisor and current Vice Chairman) for crack and pressure testing, which was done by Ron Woods, an engineer friend who is also related to Nev I believe. Nev also fine honed the bores as the broken piston had left slight scoring on the walls of cylinder No5. The head had already had some sort of valve inserts fitted in the past and was not only a bit chewed up but was also cracked in one or two places and although it held up okay under pressure whilst cold, it couldn’t be guaranteed to hold when hot, so we ummed and aaahed for a bit not quite sure what to do, series 1 VC22 heads being rarer than rocking horse manure in the UK.
Dave eventually came up with a solution. He had a good series 2 head fitted with stainless steel valves with oversized stems (which meant that the original exhaust valve guides could be reamed and re-used), that he’d acquired from someone who’d given up on a project, and as he had the relevant manifolds and bits, he was willing to sell me the whole lot and get Nev to fit it all together. Dave rebuilt the bottom end for me (don’t forget that I live and work in Italy so there wasn’t anything I could do from here) and fitted a full set of Hepolite + 30thou pistons (as it had been rebored a while ago) and new con rods, a matching single piston and rod weren’t available to replace the smashed and bent one so it had to be a whole set unfortunately, new main and big end bearings, new seals etc. reconditioned oil pump, and he also modified the sump to take the AC Delco filters that cost far less than the usual ones and work just as well as the originals.
Nev was a bit busy and didn’t have so much time on his hands so the rebuilding of the bottom end was left to Dave. The bottom end and head were delivered to Nev in the end and he finally timed it all up and completed the assembly (at least, that’s how I understand it to have been). The next question was, how to get the engine back in. Pateley or Harby? It was finally decided that as Ron would be trailering Dave’s Police 6/80 to Andy’s at Pateley in order to do the A posts, he would pick up the Six for the return journey and drop it back at Nev’s. Dave and I shared the cost and killed the two birds with a single stone. I think that’s when Nev had a laughing fit as his words to me when we met were “I honestly don’t know what possessed you to buy it…..” and then burst out laughing, as he is apt to do quite frequently.
Dave and Nev got the engine in and running but there was a lot to do, the series two exhaust manifold is different from the series 1, it’s a different shape to start with and the outlet is lower so the exhaust down pipe had to be shortened otherwise it would have hit the ground over bumps and dips, the carb was leaking like a sieve, the distributor had all the wrong bits in it, all the brakes were either seized or leaking at the cylinders and the handbrake cables were chock a block. The gearbox had hardly any oil in it and neither had the steering box, which was probably why it was so stiff. Andy had probably taken the fuel pump and battery off when he took the engine out, but, he’d “forgotten” to put the bits in the boot so Nev had to put another pump and battery on. There had been a FULL tank of petrol too! The tank doesn’t leak and so I can only assume that he drained it for transit when he moved premises from Ripon to Pateley. It was empty anyway. I was a bit annoyed about that! The fuel pump and battery I can forgive but all that lovely “go juice”.
Nev greased everything up, filled up where needed and then took her for a spin. “Ah got down the road an put me foot on’t brakes an it frightened the bloody life outa me, there weren’t none, ah thought ah were gonna hit ‘t bloody wall!” those were his words. So he replaced most of the wheel cylinders and seals, put me some new-ish brake shoes on, I can’t remember how many, he did say, he also replaced one handbrake cable and freed the other one off, tightened up the rear hubs and then it was ready to go.
This all happened whilst I was making my way there, which in itself is a story and a half………. I’d planned to start out on Weds 23rd Nov 2005 and fortunately everything went according to plan. I have some really lovely friends in Nottingham who have frequented my bar quite regularly whilst on their holidays and are the folks that rescued me the previous year when I was stuck on the A1 near Doncaster. Flying in to Stanstead from Verona/Brescia with Tryingair was the cheapest option and also the easiest for me under normal circumstances, but Easyjet go to East Midlands from Venice/Marco Polo airport, so I booked that, as the journey from Stanstead to Nottingham takes longer than the trip from Malcesine to Mestre. (The mainland part of Venice) I took a bus to Peschiera at the south of Lake Garda, where there’s a railway station, and caught the train to Mestre.
The train was an hour late (who says Italian trains run on time?) and by the time I got there, as it kept stopping for no apparent reason- the driver must have been taking lessons from BR- it was getting desperately close to the end of check-in time. Thank goodness for Italian taxi drivers. My driver had a VW Passat turbo diesel automatic. Shift? My goodness. I’ve drunk Guinness and prune juice before now and that shifted pretty quick, but nothing compared to this. The driver would have put Schumacher to shame, and he was safe too! I’m an ex driving instructor myself and I know when I feel safe with someone. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and had I not been in a rush I’d havehappily paid a bit extra for another ride!
I made the check-in okay, sat down for a couple of well needed sandwiches and a drink and then we loaded up and off we went.. Good flight, nice staff. My mate Bob met me at the airport (another Bob) and asked me what I felt like eating as Susie his wife was working until 21.30. “I’d love some fish and chips” I said. So he took me to Harry Ramsdens. Forgive me, I couldn’t resist it, I beat the Harry Ramsdens challenge! I ate the lot! I’ve got the certificate to prove it too! Pig or what?! Long live fatguts! Bob, as he has an office at home (he worked at the time for Infineon which is a division of Siemens, he designs computer chips, a clever bloke) only had to work from home for a couple of days and so he offered to take me to Harby to meet Nev.
We left at about 07.30 on Thursday morning (24th Nov) and were just five miles from Harby when the turbo charger on his car, an X Type Jaguar diesel estate, packed it in. He’d had the turbo replaced a couple of weeks back as it had been sluggish, but this time the bearings bit the dust, we could hear them screeching, and clouds of smoke poured out of the exhaust. We had no choice but to limp along slowly, trying to find a position where we could get a mobile phone signal in order to call for help and finally made it into Harby by the time we got one. Bob switched off quickly and we sat waiting for the smoke screen to disperse.
I phoned Nev, who was only about 50 yards from where we had stopped, so Bob left another smoke screen and we limped into Nev’s yard. When Bob switched off, it wouldn’t, it went faster and faster running on the engine oil it was sucking up from the sump through the turbo bearings. By the time I’d got him to put it in 3rd gear and stall it, the big end bearings had clattered themselves to bits and Nev appeared like a phantom in the fog wearing a huge grin. “A bit buggered up that is!” he said, bursting out laughing and wafting the smoke from his face with a huge hand.
“I reckon you’ll need a breakdown truck, the phones this way, you can’t get a good mobile signal out here. Come in an we’ll have a cup of tea”.
So this was the famous Nev. What a nice bloke. I met Helen too, she’s a lovely lady. Ron Woods was there as well, what can I say, all of them, really nice folk. I can’t think of any more superlatives. Fortunately for Bob his car is a company car and was under a two year warranty so it was just a question of calling the Jaguar service agent, who then called the RAC to tow him away. Why is it that the RAC always send a
bloke with a van first, who arrives in about an hour, scratches his head and sucks his teeth, then calls for the tow truck which takes another hour? Why can’t they turn up with the low loader in the first place? We did after all tell them the engine had seized and blown the big ends! Why don’t they listen?
Bob got a courtesy car from Jaguar the same afternoon, a lovely new grey saloon. The Jaguar diesel engine at the time was basically a refined version of a Ford Mondeo engine so no shortage of spare parts there, it was definitely a new engine job in this case however as the one in his had really had it! Shuffled off its mortal coil and gone to meet its maker. Snuffed it! Good job for him it is a company car otherwise it would have been an expensive favour taking me to Nevs.
Back to the Six….
Nev told me in no uncertain terms that I’d bought a crate. Martin Howey (Martin Howey classics. E-bay dealer name rosedalerip) basically bought it as it was, had a few things sorted out, MOT’d it and sold it on so he wasn’t to blame for the bodges on it in any way. You may wonder why I keep defending him but he’d been really good about things and went well out of his way to help, especially as the documents had got lost (I found them in the end) and he really pulled his finger out to help in whichever way was possible so I have nothing but praise for him. Basically it was the biggest bodge up job Nev (and I- now I have experience with these vehicles) had ever seen, “However” he said, “take your time with it and undo the bodges and it’ll be a decent car if you work at it” so that’s what I set out to do. He said that if I’d contacted the club before buying it they’d have had a look at it first and told me not to bother. I appreciate this of course, and it’s an age old story, but…. I didn’t know what a Morris Six was until I saw one (mine) and when I did see it, I wanted it. Martin could have just re-advertised it and I’d have had to have taken my chance on the auction again so getting someone to look at it first wasn’t really an option. Well, you live and learn I suppose but to tell the truth, I’m not a bit sorry. A bit out of pocket maybe, perhaps more than I needed to be, but never mind, you can’t take it with you when you go can you? I wanted THAT car, and I got it. End of story. Yer pays yer money, yer takes yer choice. Or what?
We went down into Nev’s yard (what an emporium!) to the old chap. Nev just had to tighten up the rear hubs and check the back axle oil level and he’d be ready to go, more or less. There was a trailer hitch fitted, and because of this I’d bought a trailer on e-bay from a chap in Leeds, which was to be my next port of call. Only problem was, no lighting socket or wiring. I could have sworn it was there when I first took possession of the car but obviously my memory failed me on that one as there was no evidence of it ever having been fitted or having been removed, the tow ball was there though, so Nev took me to Saxilby to a mates place where they sell caravan fittings, in order for him to get a piece of angle iron with which to make a battery clamp and where I could buy the relevant socket and wiring.
This all being sorted I took her for a spin to a local filling station to put some petrol in it. It was then that I noticed that the dynamo wasn’t charging. Nev’s a great mechanic and body shop man, but on his own admission, no electrician. So we adjourned to the local pub with Helen for a nice lunch and a couple of beers. Thanks Nev. After this we fiddled about for a few hours and in the end it got too dark to continue. I’d spoken earlier in the day to Dave Barker, for the first time actually, as he’d phoned Nev to see if I was there. I have a hearing problem and so I try to communicate by e-mail wherever possible as I tend to rely quite a lot on lip reading when I’m chatting. Phone conversations can sometimes go over my head a bit. I have bad tinnitus, plus I’m 80% deaf in one ear so one thing coupled with the other on a bad day can be a real problem. Especially on the phone.
Dave however was intending to come down to Nev’s on the following Saturday morning, so leaving things in Nev’s hands to call Dave again and tell him to bring a spare regulator with him, I got Nev to drop me at Newark station where I took the train back to Nottingham and spent the night, and the next day with my friends and returned on the Saturday morning. Dave in the meantime had e-mailed me again and suggested that as he was coming down, and he had a tow hitch, if I were to give him the address of the chap in Leeds he’d pick up the trailer for me and bring it to Nev’s in order to save me some time. Nice of him, or what?
So, Saturday came and I met Dave the Bark for the first time. Very appropriate surname. The guy’s “Barkin’” alright “Barkin’ mad!” What a lovely man, he’s as crazy as me! No wonder people call him “Crazy Dave”. I took to him straight away. A real “Anorak”. Meaning, to those not familiar with the term, one who is so fanatical about a petsubject that he/she can quote technical details from memory all day long and is quite happy to talk shop all night/day/week, usually applied to train spotters who can be seen shivering on railway bridges in the snow, wearing an Anorak with the hood up and with a manic gleam in the eye. (I hope you’re laughing as you read this Dave, if not I’m in trouble).
Well, get me talking about old cars, wrestling (real wrestling, Clive Myers, Steve Grey, Johhny Saint etc, not this American show biz stuff) or guitars ( I make them ) or a whole host of other things and you’ll soon get fed up with me, I’m an Anorak too! Dave’s my sort of guy, I could sit and talk to him infinitely and not get bored. He’s maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, and, admittedly nor am I, but we got on very well and we’ve since spent a lot of time together. His intelligence is phenomenal and to underestimate him is a big mistake.
I’ve been a member of many car clubs in the past but have never before come across the high level of support and camaraderie that I’ve found in this one. With a chap like Dave (who co-founded the club along with Roger Tennyson) at the top, with his never ending enthusiasm and apparently obsessive love for his hobby it’s not a surprise that the club is a success. I’d certainly never have got this project off the ground if it weren’t for his help and the car would probably still be sitting and rotting in Pateley waiting for someone to source engine parts for me. I had a great laugh with Dave and what with Nev’s caustic comments and my mad (Milliganistic- Spike Milligan was my hero) sense of the ridiculous we had a bit of fun together.
Dave decided to get stressed out a bit and (unusually for him) some choice words flew around but in the end, and after a bit of fiddling, he put a different regulator on the car, started it up and a great cheer was raised, as we had a charging circuit! Dave then wired my trailer lights up; I hooked it up, and off we went for a spin. I was taking it easy and treating the old car with kid gloves.
“I’d like to drive it” said Dave, so we swapped. He put his foot straight down, “No problems” he said it’ll do 60 without doing any harm”. The pistons were/are still slapping quite a lot as although the engine block had been re-bored, this must have been some time ago and Dave had been reluctant to do another re-bore out to + 60 thou as this would have added another £300-400 to the bill which was already approaching the four figure stage considering what I had to pay to Nev as well, and a set of + 60 thou pistons weren’t available. Nev did me a favour and didn’t charge me anywhere near what he should have done, nor did Dave that’s for sure.
Dave and Nev assured me that the noise would settle down after a bit and although the slap wouldn’t go away, it would run a bit quieter after a few thousand miles which would give me time to save up for a re-bore to +60. So, I shook hands all round and drove back to Nottingham. No chance of falling asleep in this car. What with transmission whine from the diff and the gearbox, piston slap (louder under load) plus the fact that most of the sound deadening material had been stripped out by previous owners, deaf or not, no chance of dropping off, at all!. Admittedly, when it gets really warmed up and I’m cruising along at about 55mph it’s reasonably quiet-ish but I’ll have to do something about the diff whine one day.
On Sunday at 11.30 I set off for Eastbourne, my home town. I was actually going to stay about 15 miles north of Eastbourne, where the “Merrydown” winery is situated, at a friend’s place in Horam. Everything went just fine until I passed over the Queen Elizabeth bridge over the Thames on the M25. I began to smell a strong niff of petrol and, pulling over, found that the “Banjo union” where the petrol pipe goes into the carburettor float chamber had loosened and petrol was shooting all over the shop, all over the exhaust manifold too. A right Niagara of nafta. (nafta is Italian dialect for fuel-usually meaning diesel though ) I was lucky, I could have had a major fire on my hands.
I tightened it up with a mole grip that I’d relieved Nev of, and then continued noticed that the regulator had packed up again. I shot off onto the A22, and as luck would have it I ended up behind a National Express coach which was going to Eastbourne (I saw the destination on the front as I gave way to it at a roundabout) so I followed it fairly closely and was able to get to my mate’s place on side lights alone. Once there I put the battery on charge overnight and the next morning went to see my dad who lives locally. He’s had countless Morris Minors and Oxford series 2’s and, like me, has spent a lot of time being skint and having to cobble things together in order to keep them running. If anyone knew how to sort it, he probably would. Give me an alternator and I’m fine, give me a dynamo and regulator and I haven’t a clue. I’m learning okay?
Dad swore a bit and fiddled for a couple of hours, like you do, and then phoned a mate who runs a garage in Ticehurst. They couldn’t help us but suggested the Morris Minor centre at Stonegate. We drove there and begged help. The owner uhmmed and aaaaahed a bit, scratched his head, sucked his teeth (why do they always do that?) then found a new one in its box, off the shelf. Fitted it on. Perfect! £131.90 Exchange! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX heck! Still, problem solved and peace of mind gained. Phew!
Next problem was the mixture. It’d been running very rich and so I leaned it off a bit. I never learn…. shouldn’t have touched it really, after this I wasn’t able to get it to run right at all until I finally got it to Italy and rebuilt the carb with a refurb kit from Burlen fuel systems, £70! Then the fuel pump started hammering away like a machine gun and neither dad nor I could work out why. The smell of petrol coming into the car was traced to a loose float chamber cover, duly tightened and sealed but the pump continued to hammer away.
Dave B. phoned me at my mates place to see how things were going and after I’d explained the problem he said it was probably the non-return disc valve in the pump outlet, which I duly took out the next morning and de-gunked. This had a marked effect but I still couldn’t get it to tick over without pulling the choke out. I tried making the mixture a bit richer again but this didn’t help either. I eventually set the tick over a bit high and left it at that for the time being as time was tight and I had to get to Folkestone for the tunnel train that very evening.
It was now Thursday afternoon and I departed from Horam at 14.00 hrs. I was in two minds whether to go via the coast road for a bit of nostalgia, or head up towards London and on to a more direct route.
When will I ever learn? I went the pretty way and got held up in Hastings at road works. I had to pull the choke out to keep it going when my foot was off the gas pedal, and then sat and watched the temperature gauge climbing up to 90, then 95 (Dave had kindly fitted a sender to the header tank and a capillary type gauge inside). At last I got clear of the road works and she began to cool off a bit, then I got stuck in a huge queue at some traffic lights. I’d just made it through on amber and got a quarter of the way up a steep hill when it cut out!
Fuel vaporisation! Four letter words flew, plus a few fives and sixes too. When I get a bit …… annoyed…. I tend to swear very loudly in Italian. I’m not being egoistic by saying this, it just comes naturally to me as I’ve lived in Italy for the past 22 years, 15 years at that time, and Italian is the language I spend most of my time speaking as all my close friends are Italians. I only really speak English with Jeanie my wife and even then some of the time we speak Danish as she’s from Copenhagen. I’m not as fluent with it as with Italian but I usually understand what she’s saying to me even if I don’t have sufficient vocabulary to reply every time. Danish is handy as although quite a lot of the Italians speak English, not too many of them speak Danish so if we want to speak privately and not be eavesdropped upon, we use that.
Italian however is a great language for swearing in, it has a good ring to it and the advantage at that particular moment in time was that not too many Italians were likely to be wandering around on the streets of Hastings so I wouldn’t have offended anyone with my vehement accusations and speculations of the parental lineage of the designers of an engine that gets so hot so easily. A young woman passing by pushing her infant in a buggy said to her friend “he sounds like my granddad, he swears just like that”. Fortunately for me she apparently didn’t speak Italian (I asked her) so she didn’t know what I’d said, I think she’d have been a bit shocked if she had.
So, I poured cold water over the petrol pump body and disconnected the fuel hose from the carb, switched on and ran half a gallon of fuel into a plastic bottle to help cool it off, poured the fuel back into the tank, reattached it all and tried to start it again, only to have all the lights go down, accompanied by a burning smell when I tried to operate the starter, which stubbornly refused to budge. I put a spanner on the commutator shaft and it turned freely but wouldn’t budge when I pressed the solenoid button. The fuel pump still battered away like a jackhammer but being stranded at the side of the bloody road again was getting to be too much of a familiar habit so I grabbed the starting handle and wound it up. After several exhaustive attempts it coughed and roared, and we were off again! Phew!
I finally arrived at Folkestone and was put into the queue, next train 15 minutes. I unscrewed the petrol pump outlet union and was just in the process of cleaning the disc valve again when I dropped the spring clip down inside the chassis rail and couldn’t get it back out. Bother, or words to that effect. Dave, in his wisdom, had given me a spare petrol pump so although it meant I’d miss a train, I changed it. The trains are every 35 mins anyway so there wasn’t a problem. As I had starting problems we let everyone else load on before me so that I wouldn’t hold anyone up if I couldn’t start up straight away at the other end but in fact it cranked over really easily and went on the first or second pull when warm every time.
What a lovely experience going through the channel tunnel! We loaded up, I listened to the announcements, stayed in the car reading the service manual for the Morris Six, and then noticed that we were actually moving. I nipped out to the boot, grabbed a pork pie from my shopping bag, a bottle of ginger beer, consumed them and next thing I knew, we were in France! The whole passage can’t have been twenty minutes. Smooth too. Funny thing, when I booked the trip, a one way ticket to France with a camping trailer cost £125.00, even off peak. A return journey “shopping trip” cost £75.00. Does that make sense to anyone? I naturally booked the return trip and just didn’t return.
Here in Italy it’s, for example, EU:6.00 to go to Verona on the bus, that’s 65km away from my town, and it costs EU: 6.00 to come back. Not like with British Rail, £14.50 one way and £15.50 return. In that case it should be £7.75 each way! I never did understand the philosophy of it all. The way the Italians do it makes far more sense.
Off I went from Calais and stopped just before Liege in Belgium, it was about 23.30. I’ve slept in a few cars in my time but I must say, there are few as uncomfortable to sleep in the back of as a Six. I’m 6ft and fat, so I was very cramped. I managed somehow to sleep until 07.30 and was back on the road by 8.00. I’d had a check up on the internet before I left England and had discovered that from Lyons southward all across France and into Italy it was very bad with snow so I went via Germany and Austria instead. It’s roughly 300 km more but I didn’t mind as I’d be avoiding thesnow.
All went well until I arrived at Frankfurt where I encountered a sudden traffic jam and everything came to a halt. I must have miss-timed something because I managed to stall the old thing and couldn’t start it on the handle again. I quickly pushed it to the side of the motorway (again) and opened the bonnet to see what was up. Loadsa petrol! Flooded. The cops suddenly appeared like mushrooms (one minute nothing, next, there they are) and sat behind me with their lights flashing and were actually very intrigued by the car as they’d never seen one of these before. They were even more surprised when I told them how old it was. The younger of the two policemen said “It’s beautiful, I do so love old cars” They offered to give me a push but I declined, not because I didn’t want the help but because I’ve pushed it a bit myself and know how bloomin’ heavy it is! “No” I said, “it’s okay, I’ll just dry the plugs off and he’ll probably go again” the cops sat there for ten or fifteen minutes whilst I fiddled around and then they were replaced by another unit.
By this time I was getting exhausted trying to crank it and had just asked the police if they could phone someone to tow me off the motorway, to a hill maybe where I could run it down and bump start it, when I gave it a last try. It caught, coughed, let out a huge cloud of black smoke, and then we were off! The police escorted me out into the traffic and then followed me for a good bit before passing by and waving goodbye. Nice folks. This was another reason I’d decided to go via Germany as the Germans are usually far more sympathetic towards old cars and the drivers thereof. The French are sort of okay too but out of personal experience the Germans are far more helpful and far more likely in the event of a problem to tow you off to their house/garage, call a few mates round, and try to get you fixed up whereas in France they’re more likely to give a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and turn away. I was a HGV1 international driver for a few years and I’m speaking from experience.
Anyway, after this small mishap things seemed to settle down a bit and although the mixture was still not spot on at least it didn’t stall anymore, I finally (when I rebuilt things) found the mixture problem was being caused by the fact that the vacuum advance system wasn’t working, mainly because the diaphragm had disintegrated and was causing a massive air leak into the induction manifold, causing it to run weak, no wonder it did an average of 29mpg!
The rest of my journey was relatively uneventful. The temperature behaved itself, even up the hills to the Europabrucke at Innsbruck. I had good weather all the way until I was 10km before the Brenner pass. From there on, into Italy and down to Bressanone it was very bad, heavy snow. From there to Bolzano it was clear and from Bolzano to Rovereto it was bad again. After that it just rained. If you take the Rovereto South/Lago di Garda Nord turning from the A22 Brennero motorway, I live about 20 minutes’ drive from there, at Malcesine sul Garda. I arrived home at 02.00 on the Saturday morning. All in all I averaged about 29 miles per gallon which led me to think it was running lean. For the size of the car and the weight, plus a trailer full of goodies (shopping and spares) I know that’s very good as they usually only do about 22mpg, maybe 25 on a run if you’re lucky.
Was it worth it? Well, considering the nice new friends I made, Ron, Nev Helen and especially Dave Barker (at the time, of course, many more now), plus all the kind help and support I’ve been given, despite the dosh I forked out (which wasn’t a lot considering what it really should and could have been) I’d say an emphatic YES!
I love the car and so does the missus.
Next day, (Sat 3rd Dec) at about midday, a young chap who helps out behind the bar “Maxi” came in for a few hours and so Jeanie and I walked down the road to where I’d parked. I still had the trailer locked on so I’d had to park a bit out of the town, just a few hundred metres out as it’s only a small place. Before she saw the car I said “Bear in mind he’s an old chap and isn’t posh and shiny, he’s like a poor old scruffy dog that nobody loves that’s been left out in the rain and needs tender love and care” It’s best to be like this with my missus as she just loves animals (me too) and if she can relate to things as if they have personalities, like animals that need help, then it’s not so hard to win her over. Oh the wiles trials and lengths we men folk go to, to gain approval from the “little woman” the word of whom is FINAL and can spell the end of a project in one fell swoop huh?
Jeanie caught sight of the old boy and her eyes lit up,(relief) she walked round to the front and said “aaaaaw!” which is her way of saying “ooooh or ohhhhh” as you would when seeing something you really like. “Is this our next Susy car?” We’ve always had names for our cars, my 1972 Mercedes was called Mr Merc, my old Austin Metro was Min and my London Taxi (awful thing to drive long distances in) was called Mr T. Our little Fiat 127 was Phyllis, or SY-Phyllis when she broke down, which wasn’t often actually, but all the cars that we’ve had that were special to us have been called Susy. This one however was definitely a male, so I said “No, but we’ll think of a name”. It’s so nice to have the female of the species approve. This means she won’t mind me spending time (and money) on the old thing or get jealous.
I sat Jeanie inside, and cranked it up and then we went for a short purr around the town. There really is nothing like the sound of a six. (Apart from the sound of a V12) As we rumbled along, Jeanie sat there smiling from ear to ear and waved like the queen at everybody as all heads and eyes turned in our direction. I then stopped outside our bar and everyone inside came out to goggle! Felt like a king I did!
Yeah, it was worth it. I had lots of things to do, some niggly little jobs and a couple of big ones too. The A posts needed doing but Dave B. and Andy in Pateley were apparently working on that one to try and produce a pattern part as this would also be of interest to MO owners as it’s basically the same body shell. The suspension bushes were in need of replacement; they were sort of okay for the moment but needed doing soon. The starter needed sorting out sort out. I took it off and gave it to a local chap (retired) who took it to an auto electrician he knows, who skimmed the commutator where the carbon brushes contact, it had worn concave, and checked all the wiring, it cost me €65,00, just over £30 at the time, and has never given any trouble since.
Eventually, after running it for a year, I came into possession of a Wolseley 6/80, and the MS was taken to Germany to see what could be done to it, if at all. This is all for another time as it’s a long and involved tale, but quite an eventful story. I’ve still not got the MS back, after almost 6 years, but it won’t be long now-I hope. Next time I’ll talk about something technical for a change.