ELEANOR – BACK TO LIFE

John likes his A60 so much that he’s given it a name. Now he’s vowed to re­store it. Yet again...

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - LIVING WITH CLASSICS - JOHN LAKEY CON­TRIB­U­TOR

OWNEDSINCE May 1984 MILEAGE SINCE LAST RE­PORT First re­port TO­TAL MILEAGE 500k LAT­EST COSTS £1000

Iadd the stripe in Snow­berry White, which was how the car was for most of my younger days un­til the restora­tion colour change.

Steve has al­ready started work and re­ports that she is rustier than ex­pected, but not be­yond re­pair. As the pic­tures show, he’s well on with the rear arches. His next job is to strip the dash­board and tackle the bulk­head rust. This is a com­plex weld­ing job which, if I were not so at­tached to the car, might have made her un­eco­nom­i­cal to re­pair.

Mean­while, if any­one has any good – or even new – A60 doors I’d be very in­ter­ested in hear­ing from them.

After some pre­var­i­ca­tion, I’ve de­cided that I want to keep Eleanor and use her again so I’ve dis­patched her, via the ever help­ful Dave at JSD Clas­sic Trans­port (0113 232 0048, www.clas­sic­trans­portuk.co.uk) to BMC ex­pert Steve Turner to be sorted bod­ily and me­chan­i­cally. The ba­sic spec will be a re­built Ma­rina 1800cc en­gine, taller back axle and brake servo. The MG Magnette in­te­rior (which has now been in there longer than the Cam­bridge orig­i­nal) will stay but the body will prob­a­bly even­tu­ally re­vert to her orig­i­nal fac­tory colour of Grampian Grey, although I will al­most cer­tainly at about 4am in Gran­tham ser­vices. Do­ing the same trip about six months later when the trees were bare, we parked up in the same space at about the same time only to see Eleanor’s ‘I wish I was in Greenall Whit­ley Land’ brass keyring glint­ing in the head­lights un­der a nearby hedge. I still have it to­day.

I re­stored Eleanor in 1996-97 and changed the colour to BMC Orchid and Black –re­ally an A55 MkII scheme – and car­ried on us­ing her reg­u­larly. How­ever, hav­ing not clouted any ma­sonry since 1984, I man­aged to dam­age both doors on a low bol­lard at Peb­ble Mill one night in around 2009 and never had the time or money to fix them. I car­ried on us­ing it with dented doors and ever in­creas­ing rust. On in­spec­tion more re­cently, how­ever, get­ting a new MoT looked un­likely. The rear wings, bulk­head and doors had all rusted. She started on the but­ton though and a change to sil­i­con brake fluid years ago meant that the brakes weren’t seized on, ei­ther. of Live Aid un­der­neath her, rust-proof­ing and lis­ten­ing to the event on the ra­dio, then had to have my head shaved to re­move all the gold Ham­merite (it was cheaper than black) from my hair. She broke down at my Un­cle Spen’s fu­neral and had to be push-started by un­der­tak­ers in frock coats and top hats, and fol­lowed at least five RAC ral­lies around the UK, in­clud­ing one where, in a snowy dark for­est, I re­ported her as stolen, only to spot her while be­ing given a lift out of the stage by the mar­shals. While liv­ing in Ip­swich I com­muted in it – some­times twice a week – to visit my first se­ri­ous girl­friend in Durham, a 650-mile round trip. By that time Eleanor had an ex- Su­per­stock 1750cc en­gine run­ning a We­ber and she slurped her way up the A1 rapidly but ex­pen­sively. On one A1 trip, said girl­friend, Chris, lost the keys ’m ashamed to say that the only car I have with a name, Eleanor the A60 Cam­bridge, has lan­guished un­used since 2012 while I dealt with other is­sues. Although she’s been sit­ting in a dry garage, time and reg­u­lar use have not been kind so I de­cided that it was time to re­store her. Again. I bought Eleanor for £150 just be­fore my 17th birth­day to learn to drive in be­cause dad had put me off buy­ing a rusty but work­ing As­ton Martin DB5. Yes, re­ally. Im­prac­ti­cal, he said. Can’t in­sure it, he said. Hard to re­pair, he said. He was right of course, but I do some­times wish I’d been a bit more of a wil­ful teenager.

The idea was to use the A60 to learn to drive in, then – ahem – prob­a­bly banger-race it. It was cheap be­cause the in­te­rior had been eaten by a large Al­sa­tian, so I fit­ted the grey MG Magnette MkIV in­te­rior she still has from a scrap­per and re­placed the rusty pas­sen­ger front wing with a glass­fi­bre one – the first re­ally big job I ever did on a car – about a month after my 17th birth­day. Within two weeks I had clouted that same fi­bre­glass wing on school friend’s gatepost and thus fit­ted my sec­ond fi­bre­glass wing…

Eleanor and I bonded, how­ever, and the car was my main trans­port un­til I got my first Opel Manta. She towed my rac­ers, car­ried the kit for a mate’s band with all the seats re­moved, and once drove from Ip­swich to Black­pool with a full-size Dalek on the roof. I spent the whole

Steve gets crack­ing with the welder.

John strips out the in­te­rior prior to the A60 be­ing col­lected. friend, not the Mus­tang in Eleanor – named after a school – after her first restora­tion in 1997. Gone In 60 Sec­onds

BE­FORE One of the rear whee­larches cut out. Nat­u­rally, the rust was worse than feared. AFTER The fin­ished whee­larch sec­tion looks a lot bet­ter than the old cor­roded metal.

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