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
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!
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.