Practical Classics (UK)
‘Like CAR S.O.S. but not on the telly’
1965 Ford Corsair Crayford 1500 GT Michael & Becky Spink, Egham
How did you come by it?
MS: ‘I first saw this car in 1988, in the driveway of a chap who had a bodyshop in his back garden. He’d bought it from the original owner when he became too old to drive it, and painted it white. I told him I had to buy it, but he wanted £850 and I didn’t have the money at the time – fortunately he let me pay in instalments, and took my old Mini 850 as the final payment.’
Did you do much with it?
MS: ‘I looked after it as best I could. Every year it needed a bit more welding for the MOT, until it had an engine fire and gearbox failure in the same day on a trip to the Bromley Pageant. I managed to put the fire out and get it to the show, where we repaired a burned pipe, then on the way back it got stuck in third and had to be recovered!
It was taken off the road in 1996, and I had the gearbox rebuilt, but the car eventually ended up in a council lockup for years. It was the only one they’d ever made in black, so I desperately wanted it painted that colour again, and I had an idea that I was going to restore it one day, but I never got around to it. Becky had never even seen it when she hatched her plan…’
Tell us, Becky, what kind of plan? BS: ‘I’d heard a lot about this car because Mike was so passionate about it, and it was about three months before we were due to be married that I had a lightbulb moment and decided to get it restored in time for the wedding. The idea was to do it in secret, without him knowing, and reveal it to him on our wedding day.
Mike’s brother knows about cars and said it couldn’t be done in three months, but I was determined. I didn’t really know where to start, so I rang the Corsair Owners Club and spoke to the Spares Secretary, Dave Walterton. He said, ‘I can’t believe you’re even thinking about doing this, but I’d like to help you!’ So with his help, and the help of Mike’s brother, I built up my contacts from there.’
Was it a big job?
BS: ‘It really was. Every single nut and bolt came apart. The body went off to the sandblasters, and we had to have a meeting afterwards to decide whether it was going to be worth continuing or not – there was a lot of rust. I was suddenly very mindful of the fact that I’d had this car removed from the garage and taken to bits, so it had to work!’
And you managed to keep it all secret to the very end?
BS: ‘Yep! We tucked the Corsair round the corner near the church, covered in ribbons, and straight after the ceremony everyone was given a glass of champagne before the big reveal. Afterwards we went to the reception driving it, with both our small children in the back. We’ve got such wonderful photos of friends and family enjoying it on the day – it was just amazing.’
It’s part of the family then!
MS: ‘Definitely. Our wedding was 17 years ago and I’ve loved the car ever since. I still get emotional just thinking about it. All that work that Becky arranged – it really was such a special occasion.’