This is the ballad of Gary’s Gazelle – an impulse buy that led to a full resto
My 1960 Singer Gazelle IIIA has recently returned to the road after a two-year restoration. Finished in the very rare, short-run Rootes colour of Cloud Rose, it’s one of only two known examples in this shade. Rumour has it that in 1959/60 they couldn’t shift them out of the showrooms, as this raspberry/pink colour was probably not regarded as a suitably masculine hue for the pipe-smoking, trilby-wearing male motorist of the day.
My family association with Singer cars goes back to the early Fifties when my late father, George Lewis, was an apprentice with the company prior to and after his national service in the RAF. So when this Singer came up at the right time and price, I had to have it. Bought from a classic car dealer in Warwickshire, it was a runner but needed work.
I soon discovered that a Singer Gazelle with the registration number 855 CKL is no stranger to your magazine – or at least to the magazine that PC incorporated, because it was featured on the cover of
Popular Classics in December 1995. However, some research has revealed that the car I own is not the same Gazelle featured back then – although ‘both’ cars were owned by the same owner, it’s a long story that still needs a few gaps filling in.
I also soon discovered that my heart had ruled my head when I bought it, because it required far more work than I could ever have imagined. I took the plunge and went for a complete resto. I did 80 per cent of the restoration myself, including lead-loading, using many of my father’s old sheet metal working tools. Only the most difficult welding and paintwork was left to others.
Despite being a long and difficult restoration, I enjoyed it. I would say the most time-consuming part of it all was putting right the many wrongs that had been inflicted upon the bodywork. Crudely-made patches had been welded in, then
tons of filler just slapped over the top. This was the state of things I discovered on the sills, floor, doors, wings – everywhere basically. Fortunately my father was a superb sheet metal worker; I learnt a lot from him and all his old tools came in very handy. I made all the repair sections and lead-loaded them once welded – something I picked up from him.
A big challenge throughout the whole process has been trying to find out the car’s past history, as it came with very little paperwork. I have only managed to contact one previous owner out of the five it’s had, who unfortunately couldn’t shed any light on things like mileage and its registration number. As to whether 855 CLK is the car’s original number, I don’t think it is – but I would love to find out for definite. If anyone can help on this, I would love to hear from them. The best part of the whole thing was seeing the car back from the paint shop – that and getting it to run properly on its twin carburettors as it’s the rare IIIA model. The icing on the cake was being asked if I would display the car on the Singer Owners Club stand at this year’s NEC Classic Car Show in November, so do please come along and say hello.
One of my other interests is music – I sing with a number of big swing bands, hence having a Singer for this singer makes perfect sense. We recently performed a concert and dance at the RAF Museum Cosford, where my late father was stationed many years ago. I got to the gig by Singer, of course. I live about 15 minutes from what was formerly the old Ryton factory near Coventry, where most of the Rootes cars were built. Proudly driving my Rootes car past the site where so many were manufactured is a source of great happiness – and knowing that I have rebuilt the car myself makes it even better.
Gary’s dad during his Singer apprenticeship.
LEFT Same car, same registration number. Or maybe not.RIGHT Gary’s still trying to solve the car’s history mystery.
Wings needed some serious metalwork.
Sills and wings finally repaired and in primer.
Gary’s dad’s old tools came in very handy.
Now that’s complex metal origami.