Luck of the Ir­ish

New Zealand Classic Car - - Readers’ Writes -

Ithought you might like to hear of my Herald-own­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the 1960s. Hav­ing owned my Mor­ris Mi­nor for sev­eral years in North­ern Ire­land, it was look­ing a bit sad, so I spent a week of evenings af­ter work at a friend’s place, where we did some panel beat­ing get­ting it ready for a re­spray the fol­low­ing week. On my way home that last Fri­day night, I missed a bend on a typ­i­cal nar­row coun­try road and found my­self and Mi­nor in the mid­dle of a field! In mit­i­ga­tion, I will say it was a rot­ten win­ter’s night, with rain belt­ing down as only it can in Ire­land. I found the gate to the field and drove the Mi­nor back out onto the road again, and from there to home, feel­ing very un­happy.

It was still rain­ing the fol­low­ing morn­ing, Sat­ur­day, so I drove out to the Rover, Land Rover, Vaux­hall, Bed­ford agency where I worked as a young mo­tor me­chanic, so that I could have a long look at what­ever dam­age had been in­flicted to the Mi­nor the pre­vi­ous night. Most of my hard work had been un­done.

Then I saw it. Stand­ing, drip­ping rain wa­ter in the mid­dle of the work­shop floor, a 1964 Tri­umph Herald 1200, in Litch­field Green and Se­bring White. It was im­mac­u­late. It had been traded in that morn­ing for a new Vaux­hall Viva. Joe, the sales man­ager, came over and ex­plained that the Herald had been owned by a schoolteach­ing cou­ple from Larne, which is a port for the Stran­raer Ferry cross­ing to Scot­land. The car was only four years old, this be­ing 1968 or ’69. The rear seat had never been sat on, the ash­trays had never been used, [and] the in­te­rior was per­fect with its red vinyl seats. I had to have it!

As I did not have enough cash, Joe ac­cepted the Mi­nor as a de­posit, and we filled the HP agree­ment, it was mine! Joe put a cou­ple of pounds’ worth of petrol in the tank for me, and off I drove. It ran as sweet as a nut. It was at the first stop sign I dis­cov­ered that the Herald didn’t have syn­chro­mesh on first gear, whoops. That Sat­ur­day night, I set off for a drive to the coast, and, upon en­ter­ing a sharpish bend a bit too quickly, I braked on the apex and then dis­cov­ered how the rear wheels tucked in at the bot­tom, caus­ing the rear end of the car to hop side­ways, ex­cit­ing to say the least … It was a steep learn­ing curve.

The fol­low­ing night, Sun­day, I drove down to Belfast, where I met up with some friends. Af­ter an hour or two, I set off on the 30-mile trip back home. Driv­ing along York Road with the heater on, all was well with the world, un­til there was a bang which made me think I’d been shot at, this be­ing the start of ‘the trou­bles’. There was a shower of sparks from the near­side rear cor­ner, and then the car started to wob­ble all over the place. I pulled over to the edge of the road, got out, and had a look un­der­neath. The out­rig­ger com­ing out of the chas­sis which se­cured the shaft that held the rear sus­pen­sion up­right in place was so rot­ten it had bro­ken away from the main chas­sis and was drag­ging on the road. I had a roll of sin­gle-core wire in the boot for spot­lights I was go­ing to fit, so I tied one end around the bro­ken out­rig­ger and pulled it tight around the pas­sen­ger door han­dle to keep it off the ground, and very slowly drove home.

On Mon­day at work, I got it up onto a hoist and had a look un­der­neath, it wasn’t a pretty sight. At first Joe, the sales­man, was re­luc­tant to get in­volved, as there was no war­ranty, but he even­tu­ally agreed to have the out­rig­ger re­placed. I helped with the work to keep the cost down. A few months later, I re­placed the other side. I con­tin­ued to drive the car for the next cou­ple of years, re­pair­ing as nec­es­sary, but the Herald’s death knell came as I was again driv­ing home one night in the rain, I felt my feet get­ting wet! Upon ar­riv­ing home, I lifted the car­pets and found the driver’s floor, which was ba­si­cally an open-top box, had rusted away on three sides. That was the end. De­spite all the drama with the car, I loved it, the en­gine re­ally was un­break­able and never gave me one mo­ment of trou­ble. Sadly, it didn’t like all of the salt that was spread on Ir­ish roads in the win­ter or be­ing ex­posed to the coastal salt air 365 days of the year.

I love what has been done to An­drew Cowsill’s Herald, and I wish him all the health in the world to en­joy it; the only ad­vice I’d of­fer him is never take it to Ire­land. The only other thing I can say to ev­ery­one else is, avoid buy­ing a car on a wet day!

If the Mini’s new owner would like to get in touch, I can give him a me­mory stick with the black-and-white photo that is at­tached, taken by one of my work col­leagues. I was an am­bu­lance of­fi­cer in Dunedin at the time, and we worked closely with the traf­fic guys and ru­ral Min­istry of Trans­port traf­fic of­fi­cers in their PAX Vaux­halls, Corti­nas, and on Nor­ton mo­tor­cy­cles.

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