You know you want a classic, but how to narrow it down? Our criteria were simple: two doors and a V8 engine. So when, while flicking through C&SC, we realised that a notchback Mk1 Mustang was in budget, we were hooked.
There were some who didn’t believe we’d actually buy one, such was the length of the search. I’d rather think of it as a careful, considered purchase; time will tell.
After visiting specialist dealers to get a feel for what our budget would get and for the cars themselves, evenings, lunchtimes and weekends were spent scouring the classifieds. We were determined to buy on condition, of course, although I had a preference for the cleaner, uncluttered look of the non-gt cars. Oh, and I had been seduced by the aesthetically pleasing horizontal speedometer of the super-early models.
It looked as if the stars had aligned when we trekked to north Norfolk to see a 1965 V8 auto – with the bonus of racing stripes. She’d been the subject of a home restoration and, while not everything was standard, the work had been done sympathetically – and, no, we don’t understand the leather bonnet straps either, but we can live with them.
After a thorough inspection and a test drive, a deal was struck. She even had the ‘right’ speedo. And sounded fantastic. Next was the Mustang’s first test, a 180-ish-mile drive home. But first, we plotted a route to the nearest petrol station…
I’m delighted to say that she didn’t miss a beat. Mechanically speaking, anyway. Driving the ‘chase car’ (ie the one that got us to
Norfolk in the first place), not only did I enjoy the burble during gratuitous, grin-inducing drive-bys, but there was also the hypnotic light show when an indicator was on – a job for the to-do list.
But not the first. Being from ’65, it only had two-point lapbelts. This is a car we intend to put plenty of miles on, so we wanted to feel a bit safer in 21st-century traffic with our unservoed brakes. Later cars had mountings for then-optional three-point belts; a call was put in to local specialist The Mustang Workshop, and a pair of inertiareel belts was ordered and fitted.
Next, it was a driveway service, changing the oil and replacing the brake fluid. We’d also noticed that the throttle pedal was coming loose and was missing a spring that holds the foot pad at the correct angle, so that was remedied.
Which still left the tail-lights. Other road users definitely knew
‘Other road users definitely knew we were indicating, but the disco-look wasn’t what we were going for’
when we were indicating, but the disco-look wasn’t what we were going for. After chatting to Roy Holmes at The Mustang Workshop, it seemed the best solution was an upgrade to LEDS from Bright Light Customs. One benefit of this is that you can preserve the Us-style red lenses, but the orange LEDS shine through when you indicate. Installation meant removing a large amount of the interior, but the process proved straightforward and the result is very neat.
And, last but not least, we’ve replaced the flexible sections of the fuel line that had perished.
So after a few winter outings, she was ready for her first – and surprisingly sun-kissed – big trip of 2018, to Bicester Heritage for the Drive It Day Sunday Scramble. And it was with some pride that we noted she received some admiring glances. Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. Not only has my beloved Healey been out of action, but I have also fallen for another.
To be honest, it was a mistake taking the old girl off the road for the winter. But I was haggling with the DVLA about its year of registration and the MOT was due, so it was simpler just to stick it on SORN and sort things out later.
With teenage kids, we often end up sitting in the living room watching some drivel that they want to see about saving kittens in Albania; meanwhile I’m drawn to online car porn, which is how I started my new illicit relationship.
I lived in the US in the early ’80s and had a ’67 Mercury Monterey we christened ‘Moby Dick’ due to it being white and whale-like in its proportions. We once managed to get nine in it going to the beach, three across the front bench seat, four in the back and two in the voluminous trunk! So I’ve always had a soft spot for American iron and on more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to import something, but have never done it and pangs have subsided. However, C&SC’S June issue cover feature got me behind the wheel of a ’67 Mustang 289, piquing my interest again.
I’ve owned the Big Healey for more than 20 years, refurbishing as cash allowed, and must’ve restored or rebuilt pretty much every part, most recently the speedometer with help from Speedy Cables. For the first time since I’ve owned it, I know how fast I’m going!
I have always believed that I shouldn’t own more than one classic because I can only drive one at a time, so with a heavy heart I was forced to face the fact that the time had come to part with a car that has been such a big part of my life. I even got round to clearing out the garage to see if I could fit another car in there for the brief period when I might have two – and I can!
It was time to get the Healey back on the road, ready to sell. As usual it started straight away and, after checking the levels and warming up, I put fresh air in the tyres and went for a drive into the old forests of the nearby Stourhead estate in Dorset.
I love that driving a classic can turn even the most mundane journey into an emotional adventure, and as I roared through the forest it felt like the end of an era. But all good things must come to an end, and after 24 years it’s time for something new – or newer, at least – and American!
Having been without it for months on end while the car was away at the bodyshop, it’s nice to finally be able to drive the Triumph – even if the experience is far from where I want it to be owing to the sloppy drivetrain. It’s also nice to be able to work on the car – something I’d been missing almost as much.
The road to a tuned Big Saloon is well-travelled, and one of the first modifications many make is the exhaust. I followed suit and forked out for a full stainless-steel sports system from Chris Witor. As well as it improving the car’s aesthetics, I’d hoped the fruitier soundtrack would drown out some of the 2500’s more concerning noises, but I had to wait to find out. I devoted a Saturday to the task of removing the old system and fitting the new, and all went smoothly until I got to the centre section, which fouled on the gearbox crossmember. Spirits were raised by my wife Laura, who lent a helping hand, but even taking a breather for a soup supper on the back seat and returning with fresh eyes didn’t make a difference, and we eventually gave up.
Various Facebook groups have been a big help while working on the car, and this occasion was no different: after I uploaded a photograph, Steve Radley and David Harvey pointed out that the crossmember was on the wrong way round, with the indentation for the exhaust on the opposite side – and that the car was fitted with an earlier A- rather than J-type gearbox. Another day was spent jacking up the ’box and turning around the crossmember, plus fitting a set of Superpro polyurethane bushes, before attaching the rest of the exhaust. Though by now properly hung, it still clanged against the crossmember so the following weekend I changed the soggy engine mounts for new reproductions. This proved a battle, but eliminated the worst of the rattling.
On my way back from driving Julian Grimwade’s 1934 Norris Special for last month’s issue, I called in at ’box and diff specialist Hardy Engineering in Leatherhead, where Bill Hardy gave me a tour of the facility. He also took a look at the spare diff that came with the car and found it to be in excellent shape, with original machining marks clearly visible. All it needed was new oil seals and to be cleaned and re-shimmed, so I left it with him and hope to have it back in for the Reader Run to Le Mans in July.
Determined to make the most of the sun, Laura and I took the 2500 to The White Bear at Fickleshole. All went well until we lost overdrive on the way home, followed by indicators and horn, all accompanied by a burning smell. “Do you think it’s coming from outside?” asked Laura. “Yes…” I lied. The unhappy marriage of J-type loom and A-type ’box is the arguido, but what I know about auto electrics could fit on the back of a napkin and I’ve made no more progress than popping five fuses and scratching my head.
The day before Drive It Day, I popped to Botley Hill Farmhouse, which holds a meet on the third Saturday of every month. It was great to see some local classics, and the car seemed to get plenty of attention. Mine, however, was grabbed by a ’52 Jaguar XK120 that had spent its early years in Nairobi, and sounded incredible as it peeled out of the event – drivetrain clonks conspicuous by their absence.
THANKS TO Δ Superpro: 01823 690281; www.superproeurope.com
With the sun finally making an appearance there is no denying that the Series II, with its African roots, seems to look and feel more at home as the mercury rises. With its door tops removed and flaps open, I chose the Landie as my commuting steed one morning and wound it up in a bid to avoid inconveniencing other slow-lane runners.
As soon as the needle nudged 50mph, though, I noticed a ticking from the engine bay. When the noise increased on the return leg my sprits fell, fearing the worst.
I’d known for a while that the heart of this Land-rover was tired, and that one day it would need a rebuild, but with a number of events and appointments on the horizon, this was not the best time to have to pull it out.
Suddenly, the need to sort the ineffective brakes was put to the back of the list and I investigated – a good job I did, because another drive revealed a new noise initially in motion, but then also at idle.
Fortunately for me, the good folk at Jaguar Land Rover saw fit to supply alternative transport for a week in Cornwall, so I locked up the Series II and set about squeezing the family, dog and half of the clothes we own into a brand-new Range Rover Sport SDV6. It would have dispatched the miles to the south-west coast far more quickly had it not been for a variety of jams, but for a week the Range Rover propelled us up hill and down country lane with ease, impressive speed and ridiculous comfort.
It was great to still be driving something from the Solihull stable, but it was also nice to get back home, clamber into the Series II and fire it up… before immediately remembering how it had disgraced itself in the first place.
One easy job was to replace the failing brake-light switch – only an emergency stop would illuminate the rear bulbs, but a new-old-stock Lucas item was purchased from Dunsfold Land Rover and it soon addressed that issue.
I then played host to a departed friend as my old SIIA, CSF 46B, arrived for a quick visit and for me to fit a replacement water pump on behalf of its current owner, photographer David Shepherd. Port Towers briefly looked more like a Land-rover dealership with all three spaces being taken up by Series vehicles – Ben Field’s SIIA is still present, but nearing the end of its bodywork and fettling.
Brother-in-law Pat, who gladly stuck his head into the engine bay while I replicated unwanted noise number one, quickly pointed his finger at the dynamo and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that a couple of drops of oil into the rear would eradicate the whirring sound. That left the ticking noise, and I suspected the water pump – an original eight-hole early model that we rebuilt in 2016. Removing the fanbelt stopped both the pump from turning and, with it, the noise. But with less than 24 hours until the Series II was due at Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works to celebrate the marque’s 70th birthday, I had to sort the non-existent braking.
Replacing the older rear flexihose did nothing and we narrowed the lack of pedal down to ineffective bleeding. I’d tried ‘back bleeding’ the system before, but with little effect, and had resorted to the old-fashioned ‘pedal pushing’ method, but there was clearly still trapped air. Serial Land-rover owner and restorer Julian Shoolheifer suggested a solution that involved lightly pressurising the hydraulic reservoir in very short bursts.
It took an hour – Pat armed with an Eezibleed and a spare tyre, me underneath, spanner in hand – but eventually I had a Series II whose nose would dip under braking and a firm middle pedal – the minimum requirement for the trip. Despite the water-pump noises, my patinaridden Cinderella made it to the ball. Happy birthday Land-rover!
THANKS TO Δ Jaguar Land Rover Δ Julian Shoolheifer Δ Patrick Richards
I always regard Drive It Day as the real start of my classic motoring year. When the third Sunday in April comes round it’s the nudge I need to get in a proper car and enjoy it. You can drive anywhere, in your own time and on your own route, and all day I saw classics out and about. But if you latch on to an organised event you can meet other classic people and look at other nice cars, and our friends at Hagerty Insurance always lay on a fun do.
This year their Touring Assembly started from the massive Jaguar Land Rover Classic works on the old Sunbeam-talbot site at Rytonon-dunsmore, where they make brand-new D-types (yours for £1.5million) and hand-built V8 Land Rover Defenders (£150,000). The route took us across Warwickshire, Oxon and Bucks through picture-postcard villages, past stately homes, along old bits of the Fosse Way and down the one-in-six gradient of Sunrising Hill, scene in Edwardian days of tough hillclimbs in the other direction.
The 120-car entry was eclectic: Bristol 405 to immaculate early Vauxhall Viva, BMW Z1 to immense Ford Ranchero, with authentic sacks of farm produce on the pick-up bed. Ryton is 103 miles from Chiswick, so the AC was nicely warmed up when I got there for the 8am start. It went like a bird the whole day, apart from the clutch pedal falling off. ACS have lovely cast-alloy pedals but the shaft is only held on by a split-pin which, fair dos, had lasted 57 years. I could still work the clutch, and when I got home a new split-pin fixed it.
The Zephyr-engined Aces use the standard Ford mechanical fuel pump, but I have fitted an electric pump to fill the float chambers when starting. Otherwise the battery has to churn away until the mechanical pump has squirted enough fuel into the three big SUS. Once under way it should be turned off – otherwise the two pumps are working against each other – but I forgot until I smelt the whiff of the carbs flooding. In future I’ll have to remember to turn it off.
At the finish at Bicester Heritage there were scores of motor clubs enjoying Drive It Day. I counted 27 Fiat-abarth 595s in serried ranks. My two favourites were a lovely Sunbeam-talbot MKIIIA convertible in that factory metalescent grey-green, which suited it perfectly, and a superb MG 18/80 saloon, one of only three left with this body, bought new by famed motoring artist Gordon Crosby.
Each winter I get Sean Mcclurg to spend a few hours running a spanner over the AC. Absurdly, it has 37 grease nipples, eight of which you’re meant to visit every 500 miles. That means if a gentleman is driving to the South of France with his lady and breaks his journey at an appropriate hostelry, he has to get down on his knees with the grease gun before he changes for dinner. But it’s worth it for that pin-sharp handling.
‘A gentleman has to get down on his knees with the grease gun before he changes for dinner’
Basking in the sun at Bicester Heritage’s Sunday Scramble on the first of hopefully many days out this year
Above: Brands Hatch on an Arctic November day was a good excuse for a drive Left: LED rear lights should cause other road users less confusion
FORD MUSTANG RUN BY Lizzie Pope OWNED SINCE October 2017 PREVIOUS REPORT n/a
An evocative forest drive signals the beginning of the end for James and his much-loved Austin-healey
AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000 MKI RUN BY James Mann OWNED SINCE 1994 PREVIOUS REPORT May 2015
New three-point belts have been installed
Finally you know how fast you’re travelling!
Time to prepare the car for its next owner
Triumph saloon lines up alongside Vitesse and MG Midget at Botley Hill Farmhouse in Surrey, with Rover P5B Coupé behind
Spare differential was checked by Hardy Engineering and should only require light fettling
Rear bench the perfect place for a picnic
TRIUMPH 2500TC RUN BY Greg Macleman OWNED SINCE June 2017 PREVIOUS REPORT May 2018
New sports system replaces pea-shooter
Engine mounts allowed excess movement
Old bushes substituted by Superpro items
RUN BY Martin Port OWNED SINCE September 2016 PREVIOUS REPORT June 2018 LAND-ROVER SERIES II
Full house, as a familiar friend pays a visit
New-old-stock hydraulic brake-light switch
Helping to celebrate 70 years since the first Landrover made its public debut; inset: polar explorer Ben Saunders (left) and marine biologist Monty Halls rely on Land-rovers for their global travels
Range Rover Sport provides a luxurious alternative to the Series II for a trip to Cornwall
Two Zephyr-engined cars together. The Reliant Sabre shares the same Ford ‘six’ with the 2.6 Ace. Right: attractive cast pedals back together again
Lovely ex-gordon Crosby MG 18/80 at Bicester alongside its humbler Morris companion
Greedy SU carbs need a good squirt of fuel to start – but then turn off the electric pump
AC ACE 2.6 RUN BY Simon Taylor OWNED SINCE 1965/1991 PREVIOUS REPORT Oct 2015