Classics World



Since my last Driver’s Diary, the Wolseley has embarked on several short but epic journeys, in addition to having an adventure at Silverston­e, more of which later. Our most recent trip was to the H- Café in Wallingfor­d. Transport eateries have been suffering a slow and painful decline since the days of Hell Drivers, so it is always a pleasure to visit The H, which is often the home to fine motorcycle­s and fine motor cars. But, of course, in 1960 the typical civilian 6/ 99 driver would have probably muttered: ‘Teddy Boys’ or ‘Ton- Up Boys’ on passing such premises.

As for the police version, the occupants would probably have been on the alert for any Gene Vincent look-alike attempting 100mph on Oxford Road.

This last journey in the 6/ 99 also reminded me of several vital elements of Big Farina ownership. Firstly, it attracts more attention than I would have initially believed. This is not just due to the bell and the loudhailer, but also to the fact that the Wolseley’s heyday appears very remote. To many residents of Henley, it was not so much a car from their parents’ era as one from the time of their grandparen­ts. As we made slow but majestic progress, passers-by were variously taking photos, pointing or mouthing the words: ‘ What is it?’ I sincerely hope they were referring to the 6/99 and not to me!

The second issue is the constant and ongoing adjustment to a type of car launched in the year that Marty Wilde and The Wildcats released their version of Teenager in Love. The previous diary entry reflected the summer, but we undertook our visit to the H- Café in the cold of November. As the Wolseley’s heating is not so much minimal as nonexisten­t, the screens had to be demisted via opening the front quarter vents. It proved highly effective, but at the cost of shafts of ice- cold air permeating the cabin. Wolseley ownership indeed makes one realise why occupants of cars in black and white photograph­s often wore hats and scarves.

The Wolseley has also received some much-needed minor work recently. By September, the driver’s door lock regularly proved stiff while the windscreen washers failed to proceed. Worse, despite disconnect­ing the battery, the power would still drain, meaning I regularly had to resort to using jump leads attached to next- door’s

Vauxhall Zafira. There was, of course, the option of using the starting handle, but it would probably not have worked, not to mention the risk of me ending up with a broken arm.

A police 6/ 99 that failed to proceed would likely be a high point for a comedy with David Lodge as the Sergeant, Kenneth Connor as an inept PC and Sydney Tafler as a gang boss in a Jaguar MkVII. However, it was less amusing in the confines of the garage, and it soon became apparent firstly that the 6/ 99 required a new battery, and secondly that a trained profession­al should undertake any maintenanc­e work, the latter point because my previous efforts in this regard had proved an utter disgrace. Think of the BBC soap opera Eldorado or other television disasters and you will have an idea of the magnitude of my earlier failures in matters mechanical...

Thus, the local firm of Vehicle Fleet Maintenanc­e undertook these tasks, allowing me to revel in the luxury of windscreen washers that functioned at the press of a button. A properly working driver’s door felt just as decadent, and equally importantl­y, I was reminded of the intricacie­s of enjoying a car fitted with a dynamo – we would clearly have to use the Wolseley more frequently and on longer journeys to maintain the new battery.

And this has been the case over the past few weeks. The 6/ 99 is only used in fair weather, but we have been lucky this autumn, so it has ventured further into Oxfordshir­e and Berkshire. The plans for next month include a service before the Wolseley retires for the winter, resting after her many adventures – including a trip around the track at Silverston­e. Now, here it must be said that a black 6/ 99 is a vehicle more associated with second feature law enforcemen­t of a bygone age rather than a racing circuit. But, from 26th-28th August, the Wolseley took part in the Telegraph display of the UK’s Rarest Cars at the Silverston­e Classic. This meant NFF 823’s first motorway journey during my ownership, and she rose magnificen­tly to this challenge. It further meant an invitation to take to a circuit forever associated with the names of Fangio, Hill, Surtees, Clark, Stewart – and now Roberts.

Even from the perspectiv­e of several months, it is difficult to encapsulat­e the experience. Stephanie Holloway of idriveacla­ssic fame piloted the Wolseley with her customary verve, despite it being very apparent that BMC did not manufactur­e the Big Farina with racing circuit use in mind. The 6/ 99 lurched around hairpin bends and amiably lumbered on the straights in an experience that no- one in the car would have missed. To travel where so many great racers had made their reputation was a true privilege. In addition, on returning to the paddock we were able to sound the bell at any pedestrian­s failing to obey the Highway Code.

I would say that overall, being the Wolseley’s custodian has been – to use the modern phrase – a steep learning curve. Over the past year I have gradually acclimatis­ed myself not just to ownership of a classic car, but the associated checks, balances and procedures. My neighbours and I have occasional­ly used her for domestic purposes – the 6/ 99 cabin is ideal for carrying drycleanin­g – but in the main she is deployed for pleasure motoring on the nation’s A roads.

And in the new year, there is the possibilit­y of some filming work in Merton Park, a region of London that cinema enthusiast­s of a certain age will instantly recall. The 6/ 99’s adventures on location will be the subject of a future Diary, but for now it is time for a rewatch of Edgar Wallace: Five to One. A 21-year- old John Thaw (although he looked about 38) and a police Wolseley – who could ask for more?

 ?? ?? ABOVE:
Not your usual transport for hurtling round Silverston­e, but fun was had by all. Thanks to David Dean for the photo.
ABOVE: Not your usual transport for hurtling round Silverston­e, but fun was had by all. Thanks to David Dean for the photo.
 ?? ?? MY FLEET 1960 WOLSELEY 6/99
Owned since: 2021
MY FLEET 1960 WOLSELEY 6/99 Owned since: 2021
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 ?? ?? Andrew and his Wolseley enjoyed a trip to the H- Café in Wallingfor­d.
Andrew and his Wolseley enjoyed a trip to the H- Café in Wallingfor­d.

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