Singer Gazelle

This is the bal­lad of Gary’s Gazelle – an im­pulse buy that led to a full resto

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - Gary Lewis CON­TRIB­U­TOR

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.

Mu­si­cal fi­nale

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.

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