I’m very lucky and I know it. Not when it comes to gambling though. I lost my first ever week’s hard earned wages at a local point-to-point meet back in April 1980. After working at my cousin, John Wardrop’s garage, Regent Motors in Linlithgow, Scotland for the Easter holidays, Saturday arrived and with a crisp tenner burning in my pocket I headed to one of the bookie’s stands and proceeded to back outside chances, time after time until my last pound note disappeared in a vain attempt to win back what I’d started out with.
I returned to my cousin’s house utterly skint, with a valuable lesson learned. There is no easy money out there. Cousin John did look after me though. He let me loose on an ‘M’-registered Austin 1100, which was already a scrapper but still a runner and when I wasn’t busy, I was outside fiddling with the old heap, convinced that I was ‘souping’ it up. I couldn’t have been happier though. A million quid couldn’t have bought me any more fun as I learned the ways of the world of work.
So to this week I have once again had the privilege of being invited into garages and barns the length and breadth of the country. These are the initial stages of making a new series of ‘Car SOS’ and it’s great to be able to see some of the fantastic machines that have been hidden from view for so many years. Whatever happens folks, I don’t think classic car enthusiasts will run out of cars to work on anytime soon. There seems to be at least one lurking on every street.
While on my travels, I’m missing out on a spot of fun down at my workshop, as we have an extremely rare visitor. Not anything particularly upmarket, but rare none-the-less. It’s a Mercedes 0306D chassis-cab, something I’ve not seen for many a year, especially as it’s a right-hand drive model. The chassis is in remarkably good shape for a near 40-year old truck and apart from a spot of corrosion on the first cross-member, it should be a fairly straightforward restoration.
However, the same cannot be said for the cab, which has rotted in much the same style as its fellow German light commercial, the VW Type 2. The whole of the step area has corroded so that the true construction sequence is difficult to fathom and patterns hard to come by. When it comes to jobs such as this, there are two ways forward. One is the time consuming and therefore expensive for the customer route of painstaking deconstruction, panel acquisition or fabrication and then careful reconstruction.
The other is to find a cab in slightly better shape. This example arrived with a new pair of doors and a few repair panels, but if there’s a chance of finding another driver’s den, I’m not going to pass it up, especially if a rebuild pushes the project beyond the pale. So, it’s a long shot, I know, but if anyone knows of the whereabouts of a cab suitable for a Mercedes’ O206D/0306D, I’d be most grateful, even if it’s overseas. Come on you farmers. I know your barns are stuffed with them.
Recently, I’ve visited a couple of classic car related ventures that I believe are really taking the business to another level. Both are very different enterprises, but the common factor they share is that they are an attraction in their own right, despite being active in the restoration business. On a grand scale is Bicester Heritage. Located at an old air force base in Oxfordshire, here can be found some of the very best classic car facilities in the forms of numerous carefully selected independent businesses, ranging from trimming services, through storage and restoration to an expert in pre-war Bentleys. The buildings are being carefully preserved, thus giving the whole place a wonderfully ‘still in service’ feel and the site is so large that I imagine it could easily swallow up the largest car shows and club meets. Check it out at www.bicesterheritage.co.uk
On a different scale, but still very impressive, is IK Racing and Classics. Ian Kellett has been in the business for many years, but has made the most of a recent move to new premises. Onsite is a fabulously light and airy body-shop, a similar but separate mechanical workshop, painting facilities and a classic car storage facility. However, it doesn’t end there, as Ian also has an indoor classic sales pitch, complete with tin shack office, making it look every bit the bombsite car lot of the ‘Fifities and ‘Sixties. Add to this the showroom come museum, which also has its own top notch café and bar as well as the shop selling everything from vintage and retro clothing to period style pedal cars and suddenly the place becomes a venue. Indeed, on the night I attended, he was holding a classic car show, one of a handful held yearly.
I had expected 10 or 15 cars, a cup of coffee and perhaps a sausage from a barbeque, but what I got was a fully-fledged car show, with vehicles numbering in three figures, a brilliant ‘Fifties style singer performing on a load bed stage of a period car transporter and hundreds of visitors, not to mention fabulous ‘Nook’ ales and a comprehensive and delicious range of food. I also had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with many of the car owners and attendees at what turned out to be a stonking evening. Check his website for opening hours, but I’d suggest you drop in if you’re in the Holmfirth area. The classic car industry just gets better and better.