Hardly a “classic”, but the First One!
are always memorable, such as one’s first ‘real’ girlfriend. You remember,
the one that finally proved to you that there were reasons for the anatomical
differences. Ah yes, I’ll never forget whats-her-name.
In motoring terms too, you never forget your first ‘real’
car. Mine was a black 1949 Austin A40 Devon sedan, instantly recognizable as a
’49 by the fact that the 1950-51 models had quarter lights. Such brilliant
engineering breakthroughs! A technical tour de force! The new model was such a
step up, and so memorable!
Ah yes, it was 1959 and I was a medical student and the A40
represented two years of work as a night watchman during the week and two years
of working two days every weekend pumping petrol. This lad was not born with a
silver spoon in his mouth. On recollection, I can’t even remember having a
I called the A40 “Gero-nimo” because it made ‘Injun’
(engine) noises, but it did not take long for the A40 to show its true age and
condition and the distance traveled. It folded a piston and I was suddenly a
pedestrian again. My father, bless his memory, bought me an instruction manual,
and at that moment, well by page 14 at least, I became a mechanic.
Removing the cylinder head was not too difficult and the
awful truth was laid bare. To use a very technical phrase, it was knackered! The
wear in the bores was so bad you could practically slip your hand down the side
of the pistons and check the crankshaft bearings. Piston rings, if present at
all, were broken. It was a sorry sight. And so was I.
Covered in a pall of misery, I was walking past the local
garage on the way to the train yet again, when Jack, the old mechanic there,
asked me why I looked so glum. I told him my tale of woe and how I could not
afford four new pistons and rings to fix it, but he suggested that perhaps all
was not lost and he would come and look at it, privately – away from his job
at the garage.
He came round that night, nodded in agreement over the
engine’s diagnosis, and towed the A40 to his home. There, beside the house,
was a tin shed inside of which was a veritable mountain of second hand parts,
nuts and bolts and motoring bits and pieces. Jack had apparently never thrown
away all the parts removed from vehicles at the garage and had brought them
home, for the one day when they could be resurrected. For the A40 and I, one of
those days had come. Jack and his wife, with one twin baby on each hip,
scrabbled through the oily steel and aluminium offerings and came up with four
pistons, with rings, a set of not so bad bearings, a couple of valves and a
(newer than mine) timing chain. What a treasure trove this was!
Every night I would work with Jack, while his wife would sit
on an upturned engine block and watch us while breast feeding her numerous
children (she had nine under the age of seven, so Jack didn’t work all the
time). I cleaned, filed, scrubbed and rubbed while Jack assembled. It took one
week of nights, but it was finally fired up, an (almost) totally reconditioned
engine. “How much do I owe you, Jack?” I asked while A40 purred. “A
tenner’ll do,” was the reply. For ten pounds and the sympathetic nature of
an old mechanic, I was a motorist again.
We need more Jacks in this world, a true gentleman of motoring.
Last week I mentioned the Diablo, which was released in 1990.
For my money this was probably the most flawed Lambo ever built, and the
thumping and banging suspension (or lack of it) probably gave me a bad back for
life. But didn’t it look great! When the Diablo was built, the design and
development costs were reputed to be USD 84 million. I asked who picked up that
bill? The answer was the (then) owners Chrysler.
So to this week. Hands up all those who remember that
wonderful film ‘Gene-vieve’? It was released in 1953 and was loosely based
around the London to Brigh-ton Commemoration run, organized by the RAC in the
UK. There were two cars that were the (automotive) stars of the film. One was a
Dutch Spyker, and the other was Genevieve, a 1904 Darracq. The film was very
popular, and Genevieve became known all over the world. However, with fame there
often comes people who are ready to show something seedy in your past. Genevieve
was not ‘really’ a 1904 12 hp model, but had been built from many
Darracq’s and the radiator was actually from a 15 hp model. But of even more
interest for the film buffs was the fact
that the producer Henry Cornelius wanted a British Lanchester in the starring
role. The question this week is why did he eventually use a French Dar-racq
instead of the British Lanchester?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!
Classic car movement spreads through Thailand
With the classic car movement spreading (Hua Hin, Bangkok,
Pattaya), Classic Cars of Lanna has decided on their very first Sun-day Run
after the monthly social meeting at Chiengmai Gymkhana Club on Jan-uary 5.
According to my source in the North there was a good
attendance (well, immaculate classics like a Mercedes, VW Beetle and
Thailand’s ONLY Triumph Herald convertible graced the car park) and they
decided that January 29 will comprise a gentle tour of the “Samoeng Loop”.
Starting from close to Wat Umong (Daniel and Kelly kindly
offered their spacious grounds, plus tea or coffee from 10.30 a.m.), the route
will go south down the Irrigation Canal Road towards Hang Dong before turning
north west on the beautiful, winding semi-circular Samoeng road towards Mae Rim.
A stopping point along the way is to be organized before they reach Mae Rim,
turn south on the main road towards Chiangmai, but not for
long! A sharp left into Green Valley will get all assembled at the excellent
club house there for refreshments light or heavy as the mood takes us.
There is no entry fee for the January 29 run, but if you are
unable to make it, the next monthly social meeting, will be the first Thursday
in February at the Chiengmai Gymkhana Club on February 2. Further details
available from David, email [email protected]