OUR CLAS­SICS

Our old Nick has fi­nally sent away his beloved Fa­rina to get its in­te­rior re­paired – more than two decades af­ter it was vi­ciously at­tacked by fun-lov­ing van­dals

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - Nick Larkin EDITOR-AT-LARGE

Larkin's 21-year-old love af­fair gets some at­ten­tion, while David Simis­ter and Richard Bar­nett have also been busy.

OWNED SINCE June 1983 MILEAGE SINCE LAST RE­PORT 0 TO­TAL MILEAGE 74,361 LAT­EST COSTS None

What were you do­ing on 8 May, 1995? Most Brits were out en­joy­ing a Bank Hol­i­day, spe­cially ar­ranged so we could com­mem­o­rate 50 years since Vic­tory in Europe Day. It meant rare bursts of pa­tri­otic fer­vour, flags fly­ing ev­ery­where and veter­ans telling their sto­ries along­side sad dis­cus­sions over the cur­rent state of the coun­try they had risked their lives to save.

At a ve­hi­cle work­shop just out­side Stam­ford in Lin­colnshire some un­de­sir­ables were stag­ing their own one-sided war – or at least at­tack – with knives and paint. Un­for­tu­nately the tar­gets were sev­eral clas­sic cars – in­clud­ing my beloved Austin Cam­bridge.

I’ll never know why they picked on it but it didn’t seem a ran­dom act of van­dal­ism. The per­pe­tra­tors knew how to cause max­i­mum dam­age by slash­ing seats where it would hurt most, and spray­ing their rat­tle-can paint for ef­fect. It was said that there had been a grudge against the garage pro­pri­etor. Two of my cars, a 1962 Vaux­hall Vic­tor and the Cam­bridge, had only been in there overnight pend­ing MoT.

The at­tack was re­ported in Pop­u­lar Clas­sics where we were over­whelmed with calls and let­ters in­clud­ing the words ‘hang’, ‘string up’ and ‘birch’ – and the read­ers weren’t jok­ing. Even I was shocked.

By an in­cred­i­ble stroke of luck, some­one had a re­place­ment bench seat for the Vic­tor, in the cor­rect colour and base model spec, but there was noth­ing for the Cam­bridge (al­though a reader in Canada kindly sup­plied some door cards).

It was a sad day for my love af­fair with BMC’s Fari­nas. I had been over­joyed to find this one in good con­di­tion in 1983, driv­ing it tri­umphantly back to my home at the time in Sus­sex from Bed­ford. Al­though to­day th­ese cars are uni­ver­sally con­sid­ered to be among ‘the finest au­to­mo­biles ever made’ (© N Larkin), not ev­ery­one thought that at that time?

Un­for­tu­nately the old girl, orig­i­nally reg­is­tered 26 OTC, had been an early vic­tim of reg­is­tra­tion num­ber plun­der­ing but I found a rot­ted out A55 with a short MoT and my car be­came 412 XMH.

The car fea­tured in sev­eral pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing a shoot with an as­pir­ing glam­our model in the Swin­don

Evening Ad­ver­tiser, an ad­vert for pen­sions and, of course, many a piece since in Clas­sic Car Weekly.

It’s lived with me in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try, was used for oc­ca­sional Sus­sex com­mutes, was to be the bridal trans­port for a wed­ding that never took place (no, not mine), and was an ob­ject of de­ri­sion and ironic amuse­ment from my late mother.

A year or so be­fore the van­dal­ism, a col­league bor­rowed the Cam­bridge and failed to se­cure the bon­net, which made a bid for free­dom. The car got a repaint by a Mercedes-Benz spe­cial­ist.

I still used the Cam­bridge, even with slashed seats, but for rea­sons I’ll never know I ended up putting it into stor­age. The years went by and I had other cars and other things in life, and sud­denly the Cam­bridge was ap­proach­ing its 50th birth­day. So, through an MoT it went, fol­low­ing a set of new tyres.

Though the van­dal­ism did af­fect me, this was purely be­cause of the point­less­ness of the at­tack. Noth­ing liv­ing was af­fected, and all you can do is sort mat­ters out as best as pos­si­ble, in my case over a mere 21 years.

Writ­ing a fea­ture on Aldridge Trim­ming led to a long dis­cus­sion on the sub­ject of the Cam­bridge. Some time later the car was driven to the firm’s Wolver­hamp­ton premises, an event­ful jour­ney thanks to an ab­sorbent car­bu­ret­tor float. The chaps there are now hard at work re­viv­ing an in­te­rior that should’ve been res­cued more than two decades ago. I’ll keep you posted!

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Even in a Larkin car, the in­te­rior shouldn’t be this rough. The orig­i­nal rear seat plas­tic had been sliced through. Nick never got around to do­ing the re­pairs – un­til now. Horse­hair and leather, one of Larkin’s favourite com­bi­na­tions – Aldridge Trim­ming is now hard at work un­do­ing the dam­age to the dis­tressed Austin Cam­bridge’s cabin. The photo that ap­peared in Pop­u­lar Clas­sics re­port­ing the at­tack in 1995. Plenty of the mag­a­zine’s read­ers sug­gested bring­ing back cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for the cul­prits. A rather youth­ful look­ing Nick on one of the few oc­ca­sions he man­aged to spirit the Cam­bridge out of stor­age – for a trip to its name­sake to mark the car’s 50th an­niver­sary. The Re­nault 19 was Nick’s brand new com­pany car when this shot was taken, The Re­nault might have been quicker but it has long been out­lived by Long­bridge’s finest.

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