Our clas­sics

Classic Sports Car - - Contents -

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


An evoca­tive for­est drive sig­nals the be­gin­ning of the end for James and his much-loved Austin-healey


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


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

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