History in Kent => Life Writing => Topic started by: filmer01 on September 24, 2017, 18:32:57

Title: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on September 24, 2017, 18:32:57
The title refers to my major interests over the years. Rather than tell an absolutely chronological story, I thought to frame it around various strands which may intersect as they unfold, and enable me to add or clarify as I go.

I was born at 23 Maidstone Road, Rainham in 1951, when cars were not that common. However my mother always said that I stood up in my pram (one of those proper Silver Cross types) and pointing to one, said my first word “Car” - much to her annoyance, “Mum” being far and away the preferred utterance.

The “Austin of England” badge on the side of an A70 Hereford usually parked in the then dead-end of Thames Avenue sticks in my memory as we played around it, me in my red pedal car. My sister and I walked up the Maidstone Road to school at the top of Bettescombe Road in an old army camp of wooden huts that I now know had been an anti-aircraft battery. Me fascinated by any cars that we found on the way, a black Ford Mk1 Consul sticks in my mind as well as the Headmaster’s Jowett Javelin.

I started to acquire a modest collection of Dinky toys. An early memory is listening to “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the radio and wondering where these rows of yellow taxis were. My Dinky taxi (Austin FX3?) was yellow, which attracted me to the song, as I only ever saw black ones. I was given this toy to play with when my Aunt visited with her own elderly Aunt in an Austin 10 all the way from Cornwall. The old lady was blind and did not spend any money on the car which was a dull matt green by now and the rear doors were tied together with rope. My 4foot 10.5 tall Aunt had blocks on the pedals.

We moved to Hartlip Hill, on the corner of Breach Lane and the A2, opposite The Tuck Inn transport cafe on April 1st 1958 it was total chaos as befits the date. Who these days would send their children to the new house by bus with the budgie in its cage covered in a cloth?

I now went to school in Sittingbourne. One term at Ufton Lane school, very frustrating because, as was the custom I was put into the middle ability class where I was so far ahead of the rest, never mind the previous basic surroundings, my old teachers had really done well. I quickly started making the 4 mile bus journey alone and noticed a strange car while waiting for the bus home. It was often there, I looked it up, a Facel-Vega, very rare, I was seriously hooked.

Barrow Grove school followed, the Headmistress at the time, Miss Findlay(?) drove a white Morris 1000. An American Nash station wagon driven by the parents of a girl younger than me (they were from Washington D.C.) certainly caught my attention, it had indicators, but white at the front and red at the rear not orange as ours. They did the school run, most unusual then, especially as she lived right next to Gore Court Cricket ground, where the road now runs, and the bus journey was simple.

My father was a lorry driver for NAAFI. His driving licence (the old red one) simply said “All Groups”. He never took a test, learning to drive my grandfather’s Bull Nose Morris Oxford in an orchard when 16 years old. Among other things, he had been a delivery driver pre-war (for International Stores), I still have the instruction book for the Model T van. Although 30years old when war broke out he was called up into the Royal Signals and spent time as a driver for a senior officer for part of the war and at some point had done a PSV course which included taking a double decker bus out onto a skid pan, to his great delight.

I often went with Dad on a Saturday, his half day, being picked up about 5am at the top of Berengrave Lane. If I was canny there would be samples of the cream cakes from the trays in the lorry from the nice ladies at our various stops. There were many, probably on different routes but I mostly remember the coast runs, Dunkirk’s aerials, Canterbury at sunrise, passing Manston watching for planes, Old Park and Connaught Barracks, Walmer and the toll bridge at Sandwich. I remember having to stay in the cab on many occasions, watching a pipe band rehearse somewhere, looking at rows of sand coloured vehicles (ready for Suez?) and most importantly, us driving into Dover Castle through the main gate.

We stopped early one morning and looked in the showroom in Canterbury displaying the latest MG record holder. The difference between petrol and diesel engines was explained to me, and demonstrated by driving through large puddles on the road above Dover cliffs while my father sang “Great Balls of Fire”.

Highlight of the drive home would be a stop at the Welcome Cafe as we left Thanet, it even had a pinball machine.

Etched into my memory is coming down the hill from Judd’s Folly near Ospringe on the A2 on the way home, passing the Doddington turn, and Dad getting quite excited as a little red car came towards us. Our first encounter with a Mini.

However a lorry driver’s wage did not finance a car so he remained a motor bike rider, and when we moved had descended to a Norman Nippy as cheap transport to work. This Ashford built device was to counter the Honda 50s but failed. One of the sit-up-and-beg Fords would occasionally be hired from Greens Garage. Luckily, my grandfather, with whom we lived, felt that he needed better regular transport than the number 26 bus could provide and bought a car, Dad to be the driver.

This was a brand new 1959 Humber Hawk,617 FKP, and when first bought I was small enough that I could sit in the middle of the bench front seat with my feet on the transmission tunnel, a column change kept the gear lever out of my way. My mother called it “Harry” from the character in the song Widdecombe Fair.

Dad subscribed to “Practical Motorist” and did all his own servicing, with my help, of course. I still have, and use, his ramps and Wanner grease gun.

The car was never used to ferry children about unless part of a family group, going to church on Sunday or to the coast. I was in the church choir, but choir practice and Scouts were either by bus or bike, a mile on the A2, pre M2, in the dark in winter. Should have been scary, but I enjoyed it, practising car recognition by lamp configuration, both from oncoming and as they passed me.

Because my father became unwell, he could no longer manage either a Thames Trader lorry, or the Humber so Granddad bought a Hillman Imp in 1963. It was very much the untested mark one with a notoriously weak clutch, hydraulic throttle linkage that would often mean pumping the throttle pedal and an automatic choke that stuck. His did not suffer from the intermixing of oil and water that many did, thankfully. These early ones had a Knock-kneed appearance from the front, as the front wheels were wider apart at the top than the bottom – positive camber. Allegedly this was because the headlamps were too low (there is a legal minimum) and jacking up the suspension gave the small difference needed.

My elder sister had followed her maths degree with a career in early computing, then got married when I was nine. She had dabbled with a scooter but after marriage they bought an early 50’s Hillman Minx. Just to be different, it was left hand drive, reimported from Belgium. Her husband spent many hours under it, even fitting a heater!! I enjoyed this car, because I could sit in the right hand front seat, and wave at other motorists, who saw an 11 year old without his hands on a steering wheel – huge fun to watch their reactions.

The younger of my two sisters started work for the school meals service as a trainee cook when she was 16. When she was 18 or 19 she bought an Austin A40 Somerset. Being in pale blue, it was christened Bluebell. I was allowed to shunt the Somerset to and fro on the drive and generally help with its upkeep. Her then boy friend had a Mini, which she eventually bought from him, and the prospective purchasers of the Somerset turned up earlier than arranged. So I sold them the car, for £25, Di had thought to only get £15, she was so pleased that we split the extra £10.

I had finally got properly mobile a couple of months after my 16th birthday with the purchase of an Ariel Arrow SS 250cc motor bike. My mother was suitably horrified but my father just jumped on it and disappeared for half an hour.

Unfortunately, in the middle of my O-Levels, I hit the rear of a Mini that pulled out of Church Lane in Newington right in front of me, and then stuttered almost to halt. I hit it square on and poked my helmeted head through the rear window, much to the surprise of the driver’s mother in law who was seated in the back. He got prosecuted for Due care and Attention, and I got a full pay out on the bike, and kept the wreck.

An Ariel Leader was found in Upchurch with a duff engine, and the two became one over the summer, a very ugly, half painted, hybrid. I built it in the shed, but then needed two burly guys to help me get it out on its rear wheel, as it had gone in in bits.

During that summer I worked on the pumps at Farthing Corner services. This was attendant service, so Sunday evening shift London bound there would be a dozen people serving and two supervisors taking turns on the till. Needing a light job Dad was working as a supervisor, and we occasionally worked together. What was most fun were the variety of cars and drivers. A quiet Sunday morning might bring the usual pre-war Bentley, whose driver dipped the tank with a carefully calibrated broom handle, then it would get busy with day trippers. You got very canny about Jaguars, those engines got seriously hot, and having “check oil daily” burned into your hand from the dipstick was not a good look, besides being painful. A Morris Isis stands out, a 6cylinder engine stuffed into a 1950’s Oxford, rare then, probably for the best,if the weight of that engine had the expected effect on the already soggy handling.

Hidden petrol fillers were popular, the spring loaded numberplate on a Mark2 Ford Consul being surely designed to remove fingers...

One quiet sunny midweek day, a little white convertible car pulled up, I went to serve it and saw large “NSU” labels on the doors. While I was filling the tank the driver popped the front bonnet to retrieve his coat and wallet, then opened the rear “engine cover” only for it to also be a boot. Hang on, I thought, where is the engine? So I asked, and it was under the rear luggage area, it was an experimental twin rotor Wankel engine, dwarfed by the usual ancillaries of dynamo, starter, carburettor etc. It was installed into the NSU Prinz Spider as a real life test bed for the larger engine to be used in the Ro80 Saloon. He gave me a load of literature about the single rotor usually used in the car, I was fascinated.

At Christmas Dad died. Within a couple of weeks Granddad had sold the Imp, to Green’s Garage along the road. I had to fiddle the automatic choke to get it to go before they came, and we all thought that was the last we would see of 3146 KP. Not so, a few weeks later and it was parked outside my school, one of my teachers had bought it. That was bit painful at the time.

However shortly after this I passed my bike test in Maidstone, and only a week or so later was 17. I had my first driving lesson in the dark that February evening, in a brand new Ford Escort, the first I had even seen, and six weeks later passed my test in Gillingham. The only traffic lights that I found in Gillingham at that time were at the junction outside the bus station, but they were still covered in sacking, and not yet working. The Canterbury Street/Watling Street junction was interesting, gave a whole new meaning to “the quick and the dead”!

Idly talking about it at school, I was offered an Austin Seven that the older brother of one of our class wanted to sell. £10 – how could I refuse? It was an open 2 seater “Special” looking a bit MGish, but it was a car – my car! 
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on September 24, 2017, 20:26:27
Wonderful stuff filmer01,especially liked the budgie story :)
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on September 30, 2017, 18:49:28
Cars – part2

My newly acquired 1937 Austin Seven came with a packing case of spares, one of those large, basic, wooden crates with rope handles, used by people returning to UK after civilian service abroad. It fitted in my friends MiniVan and he followed me home to Newington from Leysdown. A learning experience, first time driving alone, a tired 1930’s gearbox needing double declutch changes up and down, hand signals only, I was exhausted but elated when we finally made it.

Much love was lavished on the car in the following weeks and months, the wheels were repainted silver rather than the dull red that matched the bodywork. This was with the assistance of my girlfriend, who in the style of 1968 had long hair, which she managed to catch in the electric drill. Nothing too major to resolve, but the drill (a Stanley Bridges one – what happened to them?) always smelled of burnt hair thereafter.

It did 55, mph and mpg and I enjoyed my freedom. It only had a drivers door probably in the vague hope of adding rigidity, which the feeble chassis certainly did not! The cable operated brakes were “amusing” there was a cross shaft to which the brake pedal was attached, with the cables for the front brakes in the middle of the car, and each rear brake from the appropriate end. Leaping on the pedal meant that the twist imparted to the shaft brought on the rear offside brake, then the fronts, roughly together, and then finally the nearside rear. Inevitably panic braking meant locking the offside rear wheel as they were only a small step up from push bike tyres with little grip. Great fun was had with old ladies on zebra crossings, especially the one at the bottom of Ufton Lane. The handbrake, a lever looking like it had escaped from a signal box, operated the same cross shaft, and being nearer the middle produced a different sequence and better braking.

Some friends and I went in convoy to investigate a scrap yard on the A20 near West Malling. The elderly owner, collar-less shirt, rolled up sleeves, waistcoat with watch chain, was greatly impressed with the Austin and I was invited in rather than being spoken to over the gate. A Nissen hut with three Triumph Roadsters, and a very early Austin Seven with a serious tree up through the floor and out of the roof, stick in the memory. He told us stories of his past, including, as a child, walking to Gravesend for the 1897 celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

One night, on my way home, having sat at Key Street traffic lights on the A2, I pulled away, noticed the oil pressure gauge flicker upwards and then knock, knock, bang and I coasted to a halt. Three mile walk home, and then back the next day with my sister, her mini and a tow rope. Many of you will be familiar with the instruction to “keep the rope tight”, basically by letting the towed vehicle do the braking. Down the other side of the hill we were travelling faster than it had ever gone under its own power, and with brakes that took three goes to get passed for the MoT. My sister didn’t understand my panic.

I removed the cylinder head, only to find three pistons at top dead centre, two is the right number. The lubrication of these engines was called “spit and hope” whereby oil was sprayed at the rotating crankshaft which caught it in depressions in the crankshaft casting and then it worked its way to the bearings. The jets spraying the oil could block, that would cause a jump in oil pressure from its usual 5-8psi, which is what I saw and without oil a big end bearing had failed. Actually the bolts had failed, one in halves the other bent double, the rest were showing serious stress, as they were almost certainly overtightened. I have one still today, glued to a piece of wood as a momento.

A new learning experience then as I rebuilt the engine, and being 17 opened up the restrictive inlet and exhaust passageways within the engine to get more power. The damaged aluminium crankcase, where the con-rod had whacked it, was gently tapped back into shape, then body filler applied before a coat of shiny silver paint and it was as good as new(ish). Once reassembled we finally got it started by towing it down the road, and then I quickly sold it. £25 for the car and £10 for the spares – result.

Something with a real roof and a heater for the winter seemed a good idea and a black 1957 Morris Minor 1000, OMO 876, was bought cheaply. I drove this for over 18months, rebuilding and slightly enhancing that engine just before going to University in Birmingham to study Mechanical Engineering. Tony Young and I drove it to Scotland (to see my girlfriend) and back to run it in. Portable radio on the back parcel shelf fading in and out, and drifting further and further off Radio Luxembourg as we headed north up the M1 in the middle of the night.

I had learnt more about cars by practice, maintaining my sister’s Mini, and another couple for her friends. We discovered that her mini, 464 ML, had been re-imported from Jersey and was actually a very early 1959 car. Even so she taught me to do handbrake turns in it! I did clutch changes for friends parents and a few repairs on Ford 100Es that other friends had. The trouble I had with those was that reverse on their three-speed gearbox was where 1st gear was on the Morris – came close a couple of times at traffic lights.

Up to about age 13, I was good friends with a boy who lived two doors down, but we drifted apart, he off to Chatham Tech, me at Borden Grammar in Sittingbourne. One day we met outside as we came home from school, it was his 17th birthday that week and his father had found a Ford 100E for him as his birthday present. I had already passed my test and had the Austin for a couple of weeks, and with a full licence could supervise him with L plates. We drove miles and miles and while he learned were never stopped by the Police. When he broke his ankle I took over teaching his girlfriend to drive, rather scarily in her father’s Hillman Minx. This had a bench front seat, column gear change and the handbrake on the right hand side, so all I could do was panic. Couldn’t do that now, must be over 21 with 3 years experience to supervise.

One night we were woken by our neighbours tapping on our windows (bungalow by the way) as they had seen something going on by our garage, which was at the bottom of our long garden, facing Breach Lane to the side. Thieves had broken into the Tuck Inn opposite, stolen the safe, put it in a wheelbarrow that they found in the orchard behind the cafe, then wheeled it over the A2, down Breach Lane to our locked back gates. These they forced open, then broke into the garage and pulled my Morris out onto the drive. I never locked it when garaged, as I followed my father’s logic that if there were enough tools around to do damage, why tempt fate.

They had evidently got the safe into the front seat (2-door saloon) as it didn’t fit in the boot, then tried to start it. I had fitted a toggle switch on the dash, plain as day, and this interrupted the other side of the wiring to the ignition coil, not the switched side, so that “hot wiring” it would have no effect. The FP series ignition key could be turned with a screwdriver, as could most.

Probably annoyed at the delay they removed the safe, ripping the headlining in the process (never repaired, was the start of many jokes and curious looks). They then set about the safe with a handy pick axe that was in the garage, this woke the two neighbours to our left who turned up armed with pick handles. The thieves made off, the Police arrived with a dog unit, but he was unwilling to let the dog follow them as they had gone onto the railway embankment behind us, and third rails are not dog friendly. The Police borrowed the Morris for a couple of days then returned it covered in fingerprint powder. I actually had to wash it!

My sister’s new boyfriend was a mechanic who loaned her his car for some reason. This was a Ford Zodiac Mk2. Battleship grey, it sat low with wider wheels and had an understated look of speed. This was backed up by a modified engine (Raymond Mays head, unknown, non-standard camshaft, triple SU carburettors and a chromed rocker cover) The uprated brakes were servo assisted and inside it was re-trimmed with two bucket seats at the front rather than the bench seat and a floor change with overdrive. Raise the bonnet to check the oil in a garage and you had a crowd in no time. Unfortunately, before I could have a drive the boyfriend was replaced.

I was at University when my grandfather died. He left me some cash, and I was easily persuaded to invest some of it in a newer car, as the old Morris was not going to take being hammered up and down the M1, usually with the speedo right the way around to the fuel gauge, for much longer. I had joined Birmingham University Motor Club (an unfortunate set of initials) so something more sporty was ideal. A 3year old British Racing Green MG Midget Mk3. This remained standard apart from a Roll over bar. I didn’t compete in much motor sport, but did a fair bit of organising of autotests and 12car rallies, although my first marshalling effort found me needing a tow back from Wales (80+ miles) when a half shaft failed on the Morris.

My sister visited me early on in my time at Birmingham, but her long-suffering Mini got no further back than Coventry when she lost two gears. She limped it back to me then caught a train home. With it in the multi-storey car park at the Student’s Union a friend and I first disconnected the front subframe, then lifted the front of the car over the engine and front wheels and parked it neatly in the space behind. We then took the engine and gearbox out of the subframe, split the two and found that a small bolt had fallen out of a selector in the gearbox. A quick trip down into Selly Oak to Patrick Motors, new 9d bolt, and, as they say in the Haynes Manuals – reassembly is the reverse of dismantling (Note that you swear in different places!). This weekend activity attracted the security guys (called Vops by the students) who were actually very helpful.

Three of us shared a flat for the last two years of our course, one flat mate had started to build an autogyro as a school project. This was fully CAA checked and certificated as it was built, and just needed an engine, usually a modified VW Beetle engine was used. The owner was a member of the university air squadron and learnt to fly in Chipmunk trainers. He came from Gloucestershire and on his way to and from Birmingham had noticed a disused airfield with the runway still in fair condition. He got permission from the farmer to use it for an afternoon and we met him there with the autogyro on a trailer behind a borrowed Land Rover. A hand-held air speed indicator was taped to my car’s offside wing, and then the autogyro tied with a long rope to the roll over bar. We had a (very) primitive two-way cabled intercom, he using his RAF helmet. We had a great time, I had to drive at 50knots measured by a ball bouncing about in the indicator, while remaining straight, with another friend spotting from the passenger seat. It flew, actually it flew rather well, and once the car was in neutral he could actually slow me down and land with the rope tight.

The MG had an abnormal appetite for clutch release bearings, which were actually graphite rings, I changed three of them during my 15month ownership, and got quite good at driving without a clutch, and well practised at removing the engine, as the gearbox sits above the floor in a Midget.

My first summer was spent back home doing workshop training at Bowaters, Northfleet. The trainer was ex-RAF ground crew, and it came out that he had worked on the 617 Squadron Lancasters at Lossiemouth to prepare them for attacks on the Turpitz. Coincidentally my other flat mate’s father had been a navigator on those raids, and a teacher at my school was a Spitfire Photo Reconnaissance pilot for the same operation. Small world.

As with many students I was living beyond my means, so the MG had to go. I did a sort of reverse part exchange, and came away with a SAAB 96 and some money. This 1963 SAAB was the shape that Eric Carlsson had rallied successfully and had a very basic 850cc 3cylinder two stroke engine and many quirky and advanced features. The lever on the floor gave you freewheel – useful in slippery conditions with front wheel drive as when you lift off the power, the driven wheels regain grip. Seat belts were standard, through flow ventilation, aerodynamic bodywork with built-in roll over protection were just a few features, even if some unkind people thought that it looked like an upturned boat, and sounded like a washing machine/Lambretta. Unfortunately the drum brakes on this standard model were prone to fade when used hard, no wonder they did well on rallies, once they were rolling you couldn’t stop!

I bought another for spares, and in the pre-computer records age, would drive the one with the working engine, with the number plates from the one with the MoT and/or insurance. It was certainly water tight, as when stage marshalling a rally we got stuck in a ford that flowed in when the doors were opened, and we spent days getting the water out that was sloshing from side to side around corners.

I spent my second summer staying behind in Birmingham, this kept the flat occupied, but I needed an income. I went and started selling Encyclopedia Britannica, very badly. However I discovered that the other salespeople were generally mechanically incompetent and only too pleased to pay someone (me in this instance) to service and repair their cars. I also continued to put out huge numbers of leaflets using local kids. With Britannia at that time, you got 10% of the sale price and an extra £10 if you made your own lead. A good wage was £20 per week (well it was good to me!) and selling one set of books would nett this on commission, but by getting a good return on my leaflets, then giving them to proven salespeople in return for the £10 lead money, I was doing quite well.

The Australian manager at Britannia loved Jaguars. There was some arrangement whereby a person could take a car back to Oz as a personal import (I presume) once a year I seem to remember. So we went around auctions and scoured the small ads and bought him a 420, a beautiful blue Mk2 3.8, and an early fixed head E-Type. The latter two were taken off by his relatives. He then blew the head gasket on the 420, and I and another Britannia salesman went to Watford Gap services to rescue him and his family. We towed the Jag back with a hired van, I foolishly choosing to ride in the Jag – no power steering or servo assistance for the brakes, hard work. I replaced the head gasket, and had the cylinder head on the kitchen table in the flat to set up the valve clearances.

The non-flying flat mate had built himself a rally spec Mini Cooper S during the summer. With patches of filler and primer it looked a little shabby but was quite quick. A consistent handheld stopwatch time of about 7seconds to 60mph in 1972 was not bad going. I navigated him on a local rally around his home town of Grantham and we did quite well. With the mini given a coat of paint we entered a stage rally around Birmingham. Now all the timed bits were on private land so speeds were considerably up. We had great fun. I had duplicated the wiper, washer, horn and light switches into a panel in the passenger door pocket so Pete just had to drive. We broke the rear suspension, mended that outside a scrap yard, refitted the exhaust a couple of times, and nearly ran out of fuel. Doing 80+ along an old railway line, on the top of an embankment was an experience to remember.

One evening there was a knock at the door and standing there was a young lady who lived in a flat opposite, the owner of a pre-war Morris Eight convertible. She apologised for knocking but had seen various cars around, and was pleased to find that we were all final year engineering students, so could we tell her what was wrong with hers as it was “making a funny noise”. It had run its big end bearings and sounded like a machine gun in an echo chamber. I made a preliminary investigation and found that it had white metal bearings that needed to be cast in situ – prohibitively expensive at the time. However there was an interesting warehouse over at Aston selling all manner of bits and in there I found an almost complete side valve engine, brand new, which being in Birmingham had probably escaped from Longbridge twenty-odd years earlier. It was for an early Morris Minor and cheap, but a few scrapyard visits later we had a working engine. Mary was given the remains of the original engine and told that it must always go with the car.

I scrapped both SAABs when I left Birmingham in a hired Cortina estate.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: JohnWalker on September 30, 2017, 19:48:17
Great stuff Filmer01 - keep it coming.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on September 30, 2017, 20:06:54
Once again brilliant.
  A mate of mine had a mini the floor well of which used to fill up with water when it rained ( it was a very old and very rusty mini) he cured it by drilling a couple of holes in the floor and plugging them with wooden pegs ,when the water got too deep out came the plugs, away drained the water, problem solved.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 01, 2017, 11:29:08
I found a couple of newspaper clippings that my mother inevitably took when ever we got in the local rag.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 01, 2017, 13:20:58
Hmmm, the news paper picture displays correctly if I view it, but rotated in the thread. No idea!

Also I posted four photos of the autogyro, and that posting has simply disappeared - help!
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 01, 2017, 13:34:25
A quick check and the picture size had returned to its default setting. Now resized, I'll try again, but with two at a time.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 01, 2017, 13:35:35
Next two
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on October 01, 2017, 19:35:42
That MG reg would be worth a lot of money in this day and age
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 01, 2017, 20:59:39
I transferred the plate to the first SAAB, but could not sell it for a  hundred pounds. I also had no luck selling OMO 876 a couple of years earlier. Times change.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 02, 2017, 14:43:58
Cars Part 3

Actually this is more like Part 2 addendum, as I realise that I had omitted events and explanations, plus the next bit.

I should make it clear that the autogyro had never flown before. The pilot was therefore even more cautious than I had expected. The thing hanging in front of the shot taken from the air is a quick release toggle for the tow rope in case of emergency. It was also used once, successfully, to give a flight without the downward pull from the rope once up to speed and height, when confidence had been gained in the machine.

The venue for the flights was Long Marston. The edge of the runway was lined with the hulks of what I believe were DUKWs, which formed a useful fence between us and the cattle. Mind you we had to drive along them checking for gaps before we started, the last thing we needed was a cow wandering into our path.

By the way, the pilot’s name was John, the spotter in my passenger seat was John, and I’m also John. That got confusing at times. Too many Johns meant that for many years I was known by my middle name of Filmer, there’s not so many of us.

The pilot, John, was employed by Perkins Engines, and had obtained a Garrett turbocharger which he had fitted to his brother’s Series 2 (petrol) Land Rover. This had a manual waste gate to activate or by pass the turbocharger. On one occasion we went into the Lickey Hills and had a wonderful time with six of us experiencing off roading for the first time. When the turbocharger was engaged the exhaust was through the front nearside bodywork, where later diesel Land Rovers have their air intakes. John’s had an RAF “Caution Turbine Exhaust” triangular sticker around it. On the way home we had a drag off a set of lights with a Hillman Avenger Tiger – horrible car, even worse use of the Tiger name. John backed off at about 50mph and let the (very) disheartened Avenger driver pass as we turned left.

The turbine exhaust was very hot. We once stopped at a parade of shops for some supplies, and as we left had to pause for traffic. The turbo was hot, and as John eased his way forward he saw a gap, revved up to go, and at that time a child walked past clutching an ice cream, turbo exhaust versus ice cream… We left promptly, the screams faded quickly.

We returned to Long Marston in a different context to witness a very early Rallycross style meeting. I don’t think that it was open to the public, we probably got in under cover of one of the Motor Club members who worked as the B L Special Tuning technician for Patrick Motors.  A mini stood out as it had holes about 35mm punched out from all over the bodywork, the strength of which was, I presume, meant to have been replaced by a substantial full cage assembly. It had then been simply covered in masking tape and painted over – badly. I also think that a rally had been cancelled as many of the competitors were in some serious rally cars.

My flat mate Pete and I took his mini into the depths of north Wales to watch a couple of stages on the 1971 RAC Rally at Clocaenog. His father was a professional photographer and Pete could take a fair snap. He captured a Datsun 240Z pointing straight at him, a marvellous oncoming shot, except that it was actually travelling from right to left at a considerable pace on the forest track with the back of the car flirting with the considerable drop into the trees below. Roger Clark was equally impressive.

For a change of sport we went to Santa Pod Raceway to see a drag meeting. We were seriously impressed with the bravery of one guy hanging onto a supercharged 1000cc motor bike, and various trick cars. However the engineering of some of the lower orders was open to question. A Jaguar XK engine was fitted in a small dragster, the “fuel injection” to which appeared to consist of a pipe into each intake, which all teed together and were fed from a pressurised tank, controlled by a cable operated tap arrangement independent of the throttle linkage!

The Motor Club kept us busy, social events mixed with competitions. Treasure hunts were huge fun and designed to be navigator training with cryptic clues if you found the right place. I’m biased having been the Champion one year. Twelve car rallies were a step up, run at night, the limited numbers and distance kept us outside the main regulations for bigger events. Mind you they still took a lot of organising, and we frequently went a fair distance before they started. The old OS map 111 around Derbyshire was a favourite haunt.

One of our number, Andy, was doing really well in the Midland Area Autotest Championship. He tried, and failed, to teach me some of the more entertaining manoeuvres so I stuck to designing and running the tests.

We went en masse to see the Italian Job when it reappeared at Selly Oak fleapit. As we left Andy put on a display in his mini worthy of the film and he left the car park to applause, and not only from the club members.

Andy sold his mini and bought an Austin Healey Sprite (very inferior to an MG Midget), only to then be told that he had qualified for the finals of the autotest championship, in the front wheel drive class. He did no more than hire a mini, swop over the wheels and tyres and fettle the handbrake. All went well until the drive shaft constant velocity joint let go. Ooops! No worries, he changed the wheels back, got it towed out onto the M5, and phoned in a breakdown. Probably got compensation!

He had form with hire cars. Ford ran a challenge where motor clubs could enter a team to work on an Escort. Rear wheels had to be removed, various other bits, and then the distributor. Stop the clock. Engine is spun over with the starter, clock restarted, refit parts, start engine and move forward a couple of feet. Stop clock. None of us had an Escort, so Andy hired one, from the dealership putting on the event, and we practised. We knocked out a couple of other teams but in the last round got the distributor in 180degrees out and lost time sorting that out. Still it was a chance to look at the goodies in the showroom which had been supplemented by works rally cars and the new GT70, a very rare bird indeed.

We were heavily involved in the Castrol Quiz, University Challenge format, but motor clubs competing with wide ranging motoring questions. Our team, of which I was never a part, always did well and one year got to the final, question master was Raymond Baxter, and they won.

Fast forward 10-12years and I’m driving home late one evening. I happen upon a motoring quiz on the radio, apparently the final of a series like Mastermind that I had completely missed. That will do for the way home I thought, then on comes the next contestant, and its Andy, who goes on to win.

After Birmingham I went to stay with Martyn, an old school friend and my rally navigator, at Sonning, where he and other students still had a bit of lease left on their cottage. We were asked if we could restore for sale a Daimler DH19 limousine. This was over 18feet long, 6feet tall and over 6feet wide. Very upright and pre war in style. I have never found a reference to this model, but that is what the plate said on the car, and I suspect that it is a DH27 fitted with the smaller 19hp engine, which tallies as I recall that it was about 2500cc straight six, complete with a brass build plate on the side with the name of the person who assembled it. The rear compartment contained a twin seater sofa at the rear, with two fold up armchairs just behind the electrically operated glass partition. The small, arched, rear window had an electrically operated blind.

The front bench seat was leather, with a vast metal rimmed steering wheel, no power steering, a pre-selector gearbox and an imposing view down the long bonnet and huge headlamps. It carried two spare wheels in covers set into the rear of the front wings. The substantial scissor jacks were built onto the car. At the rear there was a drop down platform on which to strap your luggage. It was, of course, black.

A minor detail was that although we had an ignition key, there were no door keys. So initially the residents of Reading were treated to the sight of this huge car pulling up, and half a dozen students piling out of the windows. About the fourth locksmith that we tried made a couple of keys. These were like an old back door key, but had a shallower and more complicated business end.

The steering was appallingly stiff, and we traced that to the steering box. My first year project had been to redesign the power steering of the Jaguar XJ6, which was notoriously vague in the dead-ahead position. It was made by Adwest, who we had visited in the course of the project, and they were the other side of Reading. We went over to see them clutching the lower steering column and box and were really pleasantly surprised to find that the Daimler DC Ambulances made for the LCC and others in the 1950s used the same box, and yes they had one at the back of the stores. A £25 donation to their Christmas fund saw us walk away with it. It helped, but the steering was still ridiculously heavy.

Some re-trimming and a quick coat of paint (not by us) and it was done. The owner wanted it back for a week or so, then asked us to take it to Manchester to the shippers, as it was off to America. Now the owner was a slightly dodgy character in that he was known to be on the fringes of the drugs world, and we wondered if we had just delivered a “French Connection” car.

Part of our payment was a 998cc Mini Cooper, just two snags, it was in Richmond, and the cylinder head was in the boot. We were loaned an Austin Gypsy breakdown truck (think poor man’s Land Rover) and we ended up hanging on to it for a couple of weeks. It was a (crude) diesel, and had a missing tooth from the flywheel ring gear, so that if the engine stopped there the starter could not engage. Pop it in gear, rock it to and fro, try again, usually worked. It was a bit embarrassing with a car hanging on the back though…

We kept the Cooper for some time, Martyn eventually using it as his daily driver. He drove us home to Queenborough after Tony Young’s wedding in Sittingbourne, cutting through Milton, and as we went around a corner there was a bump. I accused him of hitting the kerb, which was vehemently denied. The next day his father suggested that we come out and look at the Mini. I expected some evidence of kerbing, but we both walked around it a couple of times and saw nothing. He then suggested that we get lower, and there was the battery sitting on the ground. The bump had been it escaping from its little cage under the boot. The base was completely worn away, probably by 2” or more at the front and a little less at the back. It was still connected, which why it was still there, the plates flattened together.

Before we left Reading I started to look for a car, something different, but sporty. A Porsche 356 was dismissed as being a glorified Beetle, and eventually I found a Lotus Cortina Mk1 being advertised for £350 (1972 remember), and only a few miles away. The embarrassed owner didn’t have the car there, he had sent back to the garage where it had come from in London, because he couldn’t start it after a few weeks standing. This dragged on for a couple of weeks, then he contacted me and we arranged to pick it up.

When I got there it still was in London, so he put me up for the night and drove me to West London the next morning. It was still reluctant to start, but the mechanics eventually coaxed it into life. I paid him £320 in the end, and drove off through the middle of London on a Saturday morning, back to Kent.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on October 03, 2017, 00:38:25
Talking of rallies I seem to remember back in the 60s there was one called the Grasshopper rally that ran through Kent and Sussex.Is this just my memory playing tricks or did it exist?.I seem to remember a chum of mine entering a moggy 1000 in it and telling me he went through one checkpoint with all four wheels off the ground.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 03, 2017, 18:50:14
I have little knowledge of the rally scene in Kent at that time, but all manner of (often inappropriate) cars were used in the 50s and 60s. It was generally just about having fun rather than serious competition, that came later at this level.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 06, 2017, 14:36:18
 Cars Part 4.

I had a vague idea about what I was getting into with the Lotus. Its worth repeating that Lotus translates into “Loads Of Trouble, Usually Serious”.

It was an ex-works rally car, first registered by Ford in December 1965 as NOO 29C. The bodyshell was pre-airflow, which means that it did not have the eyeball vents at the ends of the dash, which was superceded in 1964, which set the scene of something created from what was around and what was in the parts bin. It had leaf spring rear suspension with a Watts linkage. Body seams were welded, the fuel tank was a huge 25gallon affair in the boot, behind the rear seat, filled from behind the rear screen. All the brake lines, fuel pipes and cables were inside the body. There were two electric Facet fuel pumps in the boot, each switched from the dash and with a fuel tap on the floor by the driver. A heated front screen was a novelty, as was the Twin Halda Tripmaster thingy for the navigator, which we never mastered.

Safety equipment consisted of a roll cage, proper seats, full harness seat belts and fire extinguisher.

Curious items were the umbrella handbrake (it pulled up alongside, and parallel to the steering column) and an additional silencer fitted across the back of the car, which I removed. It was on steel wheels with off road tyres.

It did not like town traffic, and the idle would become erratic in the time it took for the average set of traffic lights to sequence. A blip of throttle and the twin Webers would make as much noise as the exhaust and a steady rumble would resume. The clutch was mighty heavy. However it always started for me, even when under a pile of snow. Get in, switch on the lower power fuel pump, wait for the pump noise to slow (a bit like a mini or morris minor) two full presses on the throttle, then hold a touch of throttle and turn the key. As soon as it fired hold a nice fast idle while you did up the belts. Do Not, under any circumstances touch the choke.

I found some Dunlop alloy wheels with nice road tyres, which made it much more civilised, given that I was now living in Queenborough (someone has to) and working in Snodland. Detling Hill was my daily challenge.

At one point it began to charge erratically, so the regulator was checked and found to be faulty. I wandered in to Lucas on Duncan Road, Gillingham and asked for a replacement, quoting the number. No such part, mate. So I got him to actually come out and look and he agreed that was the number on it. Back in Birmingham we had been to Lucas’s Competition Department (sounds imposing but was a glorified shed up some white wooden stairs) so I phoned them. Much thumbing through lists later it turned out that my car was fitted with a high output dynamo and matching regulator as a comparison to other cars that were being fitted with the early alternators. This feature, he said, confirmed that it was built for the Monte Carlo Rally as an ice note car. Bottom line was just use a standard regulator, should be fine, and it was.

Martyn and I had entered the November Rally run by my old B.U.M. Club (I said they were unfortunate initials!) but the delay getting the Lotus meant a change of plan. We therefore decided to use his Anglia, I would still drive and he navigate. I picked up the Anglia from Reading, and did our usual middle of the night run through central London. When I got to the end of Blackheath there was an old van coming around the roundabout, no indicators used (times don’t change) and I braked to a comfortable halt to let him round. At this point I was hit quite hard from behind with just a short tyre screech as a warning, which enabled me to take the brakes off. The impact took me to the centre of what was quite a big roundabout. I got out and was surprised to see a flashing blue light already there. That was quick I thought, then it dawned on me it was the Police Rover 3500 that had hit me.

We had to wait for the Station Sergeant to arrive, and everyone was very civilised about it. The Anglia took it quite well, probably the only solid bit of the car was the rear, which was now an inch or so further towards the front.

Everyone happy with the paperwork and I went on my way. Only a few hundred yards down the road and the exhaust fell off. So I stopped at the next phone box, called the police and explained. A few minutes later a police van arrived, the driver chucked the exhaust in the back and just said “follow me”. He took off a fair rate, me with open exhaust just behind having a great time. He took me to Clifton’s on the South Circular roundabout where at about 2am a bleary eyed mechanic did a good job of bodging the exhaust back together with couple of new bits.

I don’t know about now, but back then the Met Police were not insured, they had deposited a bond and simply paid out claims themselves. Martyn did quite well I believe.

Our expedition on the Rally was not so good, somewhere in deepest northern Oxfordshire there was a bang and the ignition light came on. A quick look and the fan belt had gone missing. A quick reverse to where it happened, and there it was on the road. But… we were unable to refit it because the crankshaft pulley had lost the front section. They were simply spot welded together, and a properly uprated engine would use one machined from solid. The engine was a bit tweaked, as were the brakes, but this had not been considered. We then reported to the next control so our position was known to the organisers and set off back to Reading, with the heater on, high gear, low revs, no lights if there were no other cars, apart from my pair of Cibie Oscar driving lamps that had been fitted for the occasion.

We made it just before dawn, with a misfire at any speed over about 40mph as the battery slowly died, the windows wide open despite the November chill outside, as the heater tried to keep the engine cool, just.

We never rallied the Lotus. We did a couple of Sector Marshalling roles on a Maidstone and Mid Kent M.C. rally.  That was fun. The first one was around Bicknor, with our finish control near the water tower at the top of Hollingbourne Hill. The second one was along the Military Road from Appledore towards Rye. Out of interest we stopped where we knew the section start was and did a lowish speed cruise along to where we were to man the finish control. Back to the start and this time absolutely flat out, with the engine hitting the rev limiter on the way. Martyn timed it, looked at me and uttered some choice words as we would have dropped a load of time. In the parlance of the day, the watches were “tuned” to make that section impossible to clear.

I kept this for about 18 months, rebuilt the 1650cc engine, the man who rebalanced the engine was mightily impressed when he saw “Cosworth” on the con rods.

I met a Capri on the Paddlesworth Road near Snodland, he braked, locked up and blocked the road, I had nowhere to go and we had a relatively gentle impact. Some months later I sold the engine to one person, the gearbox to another and the rolling shell to a guy who wanted it for grass track racing. I doubled my money by doing this, old cars were just that at the time.

By now I was living in Culverstone, near Meopham. I took over the lease for a four bedroom house with a 3 acre field, 3 Nissen huts and an open fronted shed that could hold four cars. I sublet the other rooms, and if everyone paid up on time, and in full, I lived for almost free. It rarely happened.

Some fairly mundane cars followed, typically a horrible beige Austin 1100 with matching rust. However, browsing the KM one day I found, went to look at, and bought, a Fairthorpe Electron Minor for very little money. As I had virtually memorised my 1954 and 1960 copies of “The Observer’s Book of Automobiles” in my youth I knew what it was. I was, and am, a bit of a sad soul. These cars had grown out of the “specials” movement and were based on a Standard 8/10 or early Triumph Herald chassis and running gear. It was bodied in fibreglass, open two seater with a pram hood in fetching beige. It was slow, reasonably ugly and quite rare. After getting it home and checking the fluids I went to the petrol station just up the road and while filling it up struck up a conversation with one of the locals who was interested in what it was. He was a known car enthusiast, had previously had a Lamborghini 350 or 400GT. Again old cars were still affordable. By then he had an early Aston Martin DBS, 6 cylinder, ex show car with a pinkish leather interior. Very questionable taste!

How much did I want for it?  Hang on, I’ve only just bought it, but we parted with his insistence on first refusal. Only a couple of weeks later we met again, my enthusiasm literally dampened by the ingress of weather, and his sharpened by it now looking a bit clean and tidy. We parted this time with me doubling my money and him a happy chap.

Motoring News (aka Muttering Nudes) was the weekly paper with the classified ads to use to buy and sell competition and interesting cars. I went after a part-built Ford Escort. The owner was being sent to the Middle East for work at short notice and he needed it gone in a hurry. So a mate from work and I went to see it, I think it was Dorking but maybe not, taking the firms dropside Austin FG (the strange one with little curved windows by your knees) we did the deal. A black RS body shell, with front suspension fitted and most parts to build a Mexico. The truck had a tail lift, we wheeled the front wheels on, wheelbarrow style holding the rear aloft, then the tail lift took it up and we pushed it on. The rest of the bits followed.

We took it initially to my boss’s house near Barming, as he had a nice wide garage, and the rear axle, steering and brakes and fixed glass were all fitted there. Helped at times by his large black Great Dane, Cleo, who did a Scooby Do impression and was under the car with me, licking my face while I tried to tighten the suspension. By now I had modified one of our Nissen huts to make a garage so it was time to get it home. Bob from work, who had helped collect it, drove a 2litre Cortina Estate which he used for towing a caravan, so we did no more than attach the Escort and tow it to Culverstone. I had no instruments so had no idea of speed and was a little surprised to be charging along the M20 passing many other cars, foot hovering over the brake pedal very close to the Cortina. Bob later admitted that for a short period he had forgotten that I was there, it weighed so little.

Eventually I admitted defeat. Whenever I had the time I didn’t have the money, and if I did have the money we were probably in the pub. I advertised it back in MN and got a huge response, the best being a guy from Hoo. I accepted his offer of his Mini Cooper S, with some spares, and cash. Only a few weeks later he turned up to show us the car. Nicely done, but not how I had wanted to do it.

The Mini was wonderful, quick enough and huge fun through the lanes that I used to get to work in Snodland. Part of the pile of spares was the original gearbox, the one in the car was from an unknown source, but used a standard mini final drive, which boosted acceleration at the cost of top speed. 80Mph on a motorway got you a noisy liver massage.

Returning home one night with my friend Mick (the one who used to live down the road and had the old Ford on L plates) we went through the kink on the Gravesend Road just before the Vigo pub, and had a huge slide as we hit some black ice. Keep the power on, do not lift off and most certainly don’t brake. Heart rate still high we crept up to the Vigo where there was a police car parked on the forecourt. I started to get out, but to my surprise, he stopped me. I said about the black ice up the road, to which he replied not to get out, as it was here as well. With that we headed off, hardly able to get traction until around the corner.

So impressed with this performance, Mick nagged me for weeks to let him buy the Mini, showing me ads for interesting cars. In the end he took me see a Triumph TR5, which he paid for, then we settled for a little more for the Mini and we went on our ways. The TR5 was a high speed lorry, huge chassis, and the fuel-injected straight six engine a dream. The previous owner had spent a lot getting the notorious Lucas injection system to work properly.

Unfortunately I tried to fit between a Peugeot and an oncoming Escort, which in doing so made a bit of a mess of all three. I got into a fair splash of hot water for that, and the TR5 was sold off to a workmate who put it in his garage and left it there.

A reasonably clean, white Morris 1000 saloon came my way, as Bob’s neighbour knew it had problems but was mechanically ignorant. The front suspension lower pivots (or trunnions) were worn and needed replacing, I knew the symptoms as mine on OMO 876 had failed, tucking the nearside front wheel up into the wheel arch. It was dark and wet (of course) when that happened, roughly by the Doddington & Newnham war memorial, I was doing alright, I thought I had it all under control as I held it into the bank to slow it down, and then one of the three young ladies in the car started screaming, very off-putting when you are trying to concentrate.

This new Morris served me well, and I got brave enough to try and teach my girlfriend (now wife) to drive. How to start an argument, or what. The usual example that I use is approaching Wrotham Heath traffic lights, London bound, I suggested that she should slow, no response, brake, no response, and with queuing traffic ahead I heaved on the handbrake. Minors can have excellent handbrakes and I had fettled this one with this job in mind. To my amazement, with the rear wheels locked, she calmly applied opposite lock as the rear stepped out on the slight bend, still not braking. We never tried that again, she was packed off to BSM.

The next door neighbours were an older couple, Eddie a plumber from South London, and she a very shy thing that we hardly ever saw. He made a point of finding me one day as his Rover was very sluggish. I opened the bonnet, and with it running there was a very pretty fireworks display from the ignition HT leads. These were the early suppressed ones that really did not last and I ended up replacing them with copper cored ones and suppressed caps. This was a Rover P5B, the fastback, V8 engined, heavyweight flagship of their range. The motor club had been to Solihull and I had seen these built, with an endearing memory of a very large gentleman with what looked like a simple bit of 4x2 wood using his strength to “Adjust” the fit of the doors. Ahh Leyland build quality…

Anyway I was asked to test drive it, which I did once I had reversed out of his horribly narrow drive between the house and our wall. What a beast, no doubt the memory is rose tinted, but I could love one of those today. Sadly so would a lot of other people and the prices reflect that.

One of our inmates came with a non-running TR3. He never touched it and when he moved on simply scrapped it.

Another resident was a New Zealander car salesman. After a while we came up with a moneymaking scheme. If someone wished to part exchange a suitable car, one that his employers would simply put out to the trade, he would suggest that to clinch the deal he could get a little more if they sold it direct to the trader – me. Pete would effectively negotiate the price, all I had to do was turn up and make sure that it was what it seemed, and pay for it. We usually stuck to Minis as they were easy to tart up, and quick to sell. A purple automatic was horrible to drive, constantly changing gear, but made good money. A 3litre Capri was such a handful in anything other than bone dry conditions, we got rid of that before we broke it.

I fell in love with a 1300 Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint. A rather understated dark blue, I could forgive a few of its quirks, like interior releases for boot and fuel cap, but on the left hand side of the passenger seat. However, one wet night coming home I basically spent most of the descent of Star Hill in Rochester trying to get it to point down the road, not across it. It went.

I paid for a pristine Spitfire myself, meaning to keep it for a while. That was until I drove it. It was still on its original Dunlop Groundhog cross ply tyres, and the first serious corner I went around you could feel the swing arm rear suspension deciding whether or not to kill you today. No thanks. I sold it to another girlfriend who had fallen in love with it, and drove in a far more genteel way.

Pete also brought home other interesting cars, although officially he was meant to drive a “nappy brown” Allegro, which, unsurprisingly, he hated. An Ro80 saloon stands out, super to drive, once you get the hang of the semi-automatic gearbox with the clutch operated by touching the gear knob. An early, brand new XJS was a thrill, and a Triumph Dolomite Sprint was a superb mixture of smart interior, understated exterior and good performance.

Then our Rental Agents announced that our landlord, who worked for Royal Dutch Shell in Holland, had died, and his widow wanted her house back. I had accumulated about £1200 in my car fund, being torn between a BMW 2002 Tii, or maybe an old DB4 Aston Martin as I was increasingly interested in what were becoming known as classic cars. I found out later that the definition of an optimist is someone who thinks that they can just about afford to run an Aston. The alternative definition is of a Motorcycle Courier with a pension plan – I actually knew one!

So dreams of a decent car were put on hold and I used the money as a deposit to buy a house.

Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: jimawilliams on October 06, 2017, 22:35:00
Referring to your paragraph below, my apprenticeship was as an automotive electrican in the Medway Towns (Strood) and often had dealings with Lucas, Duncan Road, Gillingham. So I thought my comments may be of interest/curiosity to you.

 
"At one point it began to charge erratically, so the regulator was checked and found to be faulty. I wandered in to Lucas on Duncan Road, Gillingham and asked for a replacement, quoting the number. No such part, mate. So I got him to actually come out and look and he agreed that was the number on it. Back in Birmingham we had been to Lucas’s Competition Department (sounds imposing but was a glorified shed up some white wooden stairs) so I phoned them. Much thumbing through lists later it turned out that my car was fitted with a high output dynamo and matching regulator as a comparison to other cars that were being fitted with the early alternators. This feature, he said, confirmed that it was built for the Monte Carlo Rally as an ice note car. Bottom line, was just used as a standard regulator, should be fine, and it was."

The standard Lucas dynamo fitted to most British vehicles of that period had the model number C40 which had a maximum regulated current output of approximately 22 amps, with a regulator part number Lucas 37563.  Higher performance vehicles had a longer dynamo fitted (C40L) with a greater regulated output of approximately 25 amps.  A function of the regulator included limiting the current output of the dynamo to prevent overheating of the dynamo.  I would suggest that a Lucas 37563 was recommended as the replacement regulator, thereby limiting the C40L to an output of only 22 amps.  Unless your vehicle had significant additional electrical accessories which were being frquently used, the 22 amps would be sufficient.  Lucas at Duncan Road at that time may have been known as "Globe and Simpson" and It could well have been a Rodney Snowden that served you.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 07, 2017, 16:36:28
Your comments have stirred the memory cell jimawilliams. I believe that the modified regulator on the Lotus was intended to give even an higher output, hence its marking was unknown to the good souls at Duncan Road. I do remember that it was very similar to the expected number, but with maybe a digit different. I dealt with (boiler) spare parts for over 40years and all the storesmen that I encountered were quite capable of a bit of what we called numerical dyslexia for one particular sufferer, swopping numbers around. A healthy suspicion that I had misread or corrupted the number was only to be expected.

Having been fitted with heated front and rear screens, four additional Cibie Oscar lamps, as well as the additional loads of fuel pumps and navigator aids there could have been a serious consumption at night on the ice and snow. However back in Kent such prolonged use was unlikely. I couldn't tell you now if the dynamo was even the original, higher output, model.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: smiffy on October 07, 2017, 18:32:03
I remember going to Burton's, the carburettor specialists, to get some parts in the '70s. Were they also in Duncan Road - or is my memory playing tricks?
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 07, 2017, 18:47:20
Talk of Lucas at Duncan Road triggered another memory. The MG would hardly turn the starter one day, but once turned started and ran OK. A bit later it would hardly get the inertia to throw the pinion into engagement with the flywheel, until it turned, and being hot started immediately.

There was a curious whining noise, like a turbine, as I blipped the throttle, then the inevitable Bang! and the engine ran smoothly. I turned the engine off, inspected under the bonnet, but could see no problems. Back in the car and the starter now did not turn at all. As time was pressing on a Friday afternoon I cadged a lift to Lucas, got an exchange starter and got back home to change it. Simple enough. Jumped in, turned the key, no starter and the throttle pedal went to the floor with no resistance - odd.

Back under the bonnet all was revealed, as the really hot throttle cable was poking out of its super slippery nylon outer like a cheese wire. The earth strap had failed and the only earth for the engine was through the throttle cable which in the end got so hot trying to pass the starter current it had simply melted its way out. Change cable and earth strap and all was fine again.

I had a look at the old starter. It had jammed in engagement as the engine started so was spinning at astronomical revs when I hit the throttle. The commutator had basically exploded, and when I slid the access sleeve for the brushes back, lots of little fragments fell out. I quickly slid it back and calmly returned the debris in the new box to claim my deposit back for the exchange.

The best lessons are learnt the hard way :)
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 07, 2017, 18:51:40
Smiffy, they were almost opposite Lucas.

I had got some odd SU carb needles from them I recall - vast stock.

Did they still have a petrol pump outside that the hose had to go across the pavement, no longer in use maybe, or am I in the wrong place, or a few years earlier?
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: smiffy on October 07, 2017, 22:03:43
Thanks for confirming my memory :)

Sorry, but I can't remember any petrol pump outside - not to say that there wasn't, of course. The only one like that that I know of was in Brompton High Street.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 13, 2017, 10:04:36
Cars part 5

When I moved to Larkfield I still had three cars. The Morris, a red mini and a Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible. The last two were quickly disposed of and the Morris a while later when I had despaired of Sally ever passing her test.

I now had the pleasure of driving the spare company van. With a growing number of maintenance and repair engineers, as well as the installers and supervisory staff, covering the times when they needed their vehicles servicing or just backup meant that we ran an extra van, which I now drove. This, for my sins, was a Bedford Chevanne (being based on the Chevette, often known as a “shove it”) and being rear wheel drive, when empty had absolutely no traction in rain or snow.

I had little input as regards the vehicle purchases, but often managed the sales. For this I took home the vans, de-signed them (we had early sticker sign writing), cleaned them up and advertised them. Selling four or five Escort vans would only mean one advert in the KM, with one van outside my house, the others hidden round the corner in front of my garage. As they were sold the next took its place and so on. All cash transactions, from which I earned a nice commission.

A Morris 1100 served a purpose when Sally finally passed her test.

Sally got promotion that involved being able to travel around Kent to various SEGAS offices, and needed a reliable car. I went and saw our van supplier and got a part exchanged Hillman Hunter Estate for a sensible price. This was fine until the clutch started slipping, so I changed it, regretting the decision once I found out how heavy the gearbox was, in the cold and dark, knowing that it had to be finished to take her to work in the morning.

We went on holiday to Yorkshire, swapping my van for one of the Surveyor’s Datsun 180B saloons. This had a terrible wheel wobble between 65 and 75 mph, so out on the motorway you either had to keep dodging the lorries or elbow your way along the outside lane. Once in the depths of the Moors, I tried giving it some power halfway round a sharp bend, intending for the tail to come round. No. Terminal understeer as it charged straight at the dry stone wall. Didn’t try that again.

We went up tracks and into deserted places, and had to filter out some of the photos when we got back so as not to incriminate myself. We covered the Moors and Dales, doing silly mileages, often chasing the crew filming “All Creatures Great and Small” around the area. We fell in love with the Dales and have returned many times.

Bob had added to the value of the company car and got a Ford RS2000, white with the blue lining. It was not long before talk turned to rallying, and we went marshalling a couple of times. Eventually we did a local rally that ended in a Cafe out on the Marsh. The last couple of sections were around the Marsh, lots of straights, then tight corners. The navigator can, to some extent, control the driver’s pace by the way he calls the corners. A right angle corner would be called as a “90 right” say, and if you were on the ball a distance given. If the driver seemed a bit hesitant then the distances would be called shorter, and the bends shallower so that they didn’t slow too soon or by so much.

As Bob and I went along these last sections I was over calling the bends like crazy as we seemed to going very quickly. At the end I asked why he had speeded up, that was easy, the brakes were so hot that they had faded away and he stopped using them most of the time. When we got out to go into the cafe the smell was horrendous.

After a close encounter with a tree root while nipping between marshalling controls on a later event we decided to pack it all in before we broke something serious – like me, for instance?

Sally and I moved to Grafty Green to a cottage with an acre or so of land so that she could keep her horse “on site”. At work it was decided that I should drive a car rather than a van, and I was reluctantly given the Granada 2.8 Ghia that the boss’s wife had been driving. I had borrowed it a few times so knew what I was getting. The lady in question was very short, barely 5 feet, so vision out of cars was often an issue. When I first knew her she drove a Citroen DS23 Pallas Estate, a huge beast. I drove it home from the office one winters evening. Heeding warnings I opened the door and adjusted the seat back a few notches before even attempting to climb in. The DS had an impressive single spoke steering wheel which she set low and if you just jumped in, the combination of seat and steering wheel could be damaging to your delicate anatomy.

The brake “pedal” was a rubber button on the floor (luckily in the right place) about the size of a halved tennis ball. It was connected to some really powerful brakes, and the power steering was hugely assisted. That combination saw me stop well short of the junction at the end of the road, and nearly drive over the kerb. Being dark the swivelling headlamps got tested – very strange experience to start with. Both the Lotus and Cooper S had four auxiliary lamps, the mini two driving lamps in the centre with two fog lamps set at an angle at each end. This gave light over more than 180 degrees but until you get used to it, rather like the DS, you think that someone else is coming at a junction.

Anyway, back at the Granada, it had a basic 3 speed automatic gearbox with an annoying habit of dropping into second if you tried to accelerate past someone at motorway speed, then immediately changing back up – grrr! We took it on holiday into deepest Wales, and as I was now paying for the fuel I drove like an absolute granny. Filled the tank, quick calculation, about 24-25mpg. Driven like a loony (as usual) it did 22-23mpg. Back to normal then. I showed Sally the Abergwesyn-Tregaron mountain road remembered from my university rally days. It was best described as unsuitable for big, soggy, Granadas.

The handling in the snow was entertaining. Being an automatic the driven wheels give no resistance when the power is removed, so if they start to slip easing back on the throttle can often restore grip and maintain motion. I never got stuck in it, despite a 4mile trip through the lanes from the A20 to home. I did, however, manage to simultaneously knock the snow off the hedges on both sides of the lane on a few occasions.

I had parked the beast in the drive one night, and walking back from shutting the gate, noticed a light from under the bonnet – odd. Opening the car again I raised the bonnet to find flames. A quick jug of water put them out, but courtesy of that oil fire I now had a five cylinder engine. It was decided that I and the other employed director could have new cars, and we were set a price limit. I moved the Granada on through my trade contacts for shifting cars that needed more than a quick buff up. I was then loaned the boss’s wife’s current car to spend the weekend looking for a new car.

Her high-speed handbag was a Porsche 924 Turbo. The turbo was a bit slow to kick in, there was lag and it wanted medium high revs, and very unsubtle in its entry, easily able to catch the unwary. This coupled with a gearbox layout that put 1st (of five) opposite reverse took a bit of getting used to. The boss hated it, give him his XJS any day.

I quite fancied the small BMW, but their pricing structure meant the small 4 cylinder engine with power steering was easily within my budget, or the larger 6 cylinder engine with no useful toys or extras. All radios were extra. They could sell all they could import so no deals whatsoever. The test car was, of course the 6 cylinder with everything on it.

My entry in the Porsche impressed the local Ford salesman, but he also would not get the price down on a Capri 28 Injection far enough to be below the budget. However, I found out that we were due to replace two estate cars for the installation supervisors, then a saloon for the Commercial Surveyor, with possibly two more estates to come shortly after. Another Ford dealership then did the deal with a Capri and two Cortina estates and it was in stock, in blue (actually blue and silver), and without a test drive it was mine.

I loved the Capri, yes it had its faults, the non-optional sunroof being the greatest, as you developed “Capri drivers stoop” to avoid its contact with your head over bumps. But it was otherwise practical, the boot was fine and the roadholding transformed from the 3 litre that we had a few years earlier. Performance was good, mine was an early one, so had a four speed gearbox (which I broke under guarantee). It could, and did, do 100mph in third if you weren’t careful. I calculated the rev limited top speed to be 131 mph using gear ratios and tyre rolling radius information. It served us well for three years then I parted company with that employer and with three others set up on our own. I missed it.

The new venture meant a return to a van, now a Mk1 Astra diesel. They were an OK workhorse. When we employed additional staff, I graduated to a secondhand Vauxhall Carlton Estate, sign written to match the vans. Its sunroof was not quite water proof, icy melt water down the back of your neck at 8am is not good at all.

A nasty winter convinced us of the need for a 4×4. I bought a short wheel-base Shogun. It was handy for towing horseboxes as well, but on a wet M25 with mud and snow tyres, quite terrifying knowing that your stopping distance was huge and every other driver kept diving into your carefully preserved gap to the car in front.

I also towed a friends old Formula Ford 2000 race car for him, which we kept in our garage for a time. That meant a few days at Lydden for free and whole different perspective on racing. Not for me though.

Meantime my eldest sister asked if I would look at a car that a friend of hers had in a lock up in Rainham. A green Triumph was the only information, and I had hopes of an old TR. It was a 1970 Triumph Vitesse 2litre, the Herald based, six cylinder saloon. It had not run for a couple of years but was I interested, of course. A sensible amount of money changed hands and it was mine. Pump up the tyres, check the oil, put a few gallons of fresh fuel in, connect the jump leads, and it started. I came back the next day, and drove it home. Putting it in my newly created garage was a thrill. Checking the irregular tickover not so much. In the end I took the cylinder head off, and there was a burnt out valve.

That evening we had guests, and they wanted see what I had got in the garage. When it was revealed it turned out that one of them was actively looking for a Vitesse, and so a deal was done, and I never got to play with it, or put the cylinder head back, that went in the boot.

I had learnt that if you had sales contact with Mr & Mrs Public, it was best not to look too flash/prosperous with the car that you arrived in. I ran an early VW Jetta for some time as a company car. Originally bought as a temporary stop gap, it was practical, had a secure boot, and economical. I sold it to a local with over 130,000 miles on the clock, and he nearly doubled that.

Meantime Sally had become a Land Rover driver, firstly with a grey 90 Station Wagon. This was petrol, and so thirsty that it only had about 125 mile range. Even so it went to John O’Groats with the whole family aboard. A friend had found us a roof rack that was almost an architectural work of art in aluminium tube, an offset walkway that lined up with a rear ladder made it very practical. The boys hated it, especially if you turned up at school in it. Very Uncool, but you could always find it in a car park.

A leased Audi A4 was the Jetta’s replacement, an excellent daily driver. However it did not survive being barrel rolled into a telegraph pole by my eldest son. It actually took the impact impressively well, there was a straight panel left afterwards, the rear offside corner!

Meantime the same friend who had found the roof rack, bought the 90, and we found a Defender 110 turbo diesel. This, equipped with a dog guard meant the dogs in the back, luggage in the middle, us in the front. Someone had spent money on this vehicle, the front seats were replaced with Recaro buckets, re-trimmed in Land Rover fabric, and the rears were high backed items. A fancy CD player was under the rear seats, and the windows were darkened. We went all over the country in this, Yorkshire was still a popular destination, staying at the same B&B, as they were happy for us to turn up with two German Shepherds. We kept it for many years.

A VW Golf VR6 was suitably under the radar, a Golf is a Golf to most people. However it was a real performer, but with torque steer in abundance. Its party piece was to join the motorway from the slip road at 50mph in third, and if you weren’t careful by the time you needed fourth it was doing 100mph in the outside lane. I owned this car and the company paid for my business miles, but changes to tax meant it would cost me to drive it, so it went.

Another VW, a Diesel Bora was next, again a modest looking car, but with excellent on-road performance, but also economy, and being the Sport version a bit of extra comfort. Unfortunately my wife did not beat a Renault across a cross roads early one morning on her way to the gym. I always held that going to the gym was not a sane thing, especially at 6.30am. The impact removed the rear axle from its mountings, and did lots of other violent things to the poor car. Amazingly the insurance company had it rebuilt, but I did not want it back and part exchanged it for an even more mundane Ford Focus.

The Focus was a 2litre turbo diesel and so was still quite nippy, and again kept me on the right side of everyday cars when visiting potential customers. One even said that he was pleased that I drove a sensible car as the surveyor from a rival company had turned up in a brand new Mercedes. Brand new vans and second hand cars was always my motto.

My wife, used to her much beloved, and greatly missed, Land Rover Defender 110 drove the Focus through a puddle that was nearly a lake. Unknown to most of us, many modern diesel cars have low air intakes to get cold air, so she sucked water in, which being incompressible basically bends things inside the engine. To my amazement the insurance company paid out a total loss as water damage. Thank you Direct Line!

Meantime as a bit of a toy I had bought a Mazda MX5 so that became the daily driver. It was noticeable that I got comments from customers, usually favourable, but they were noticing what I was driving. At the end of last year, when I could no longer be comfortable getting in or out of it my eldest son took it on.

I had previously bought an MBG GT to replace the Vitesse as my “toy”. I rebuilt the front suspension and upgraded the brakes. Adding a rear anti-roll bar made the whole thing feel much more modern. I used it for a few years, then the overdrive gave up, and lacking the time to repair it, it spent the winter in the garage. My eldest son wanted to fiddle with his car and asked if he could move the B. No problem, but it has no brakes. He interpreted that to mean that it had 1960’s brakes, but I meant that it had NO footbrake. He hit the corner of the stable. I sold it as it was, I had lost enthusiasm some time before, especially when trying to get a better fit for the doors, which saw me taking an angle grinder to the hinge.

I vowed that with the next car I would not have to put somebody else’s dodgy work right. I had been going to kit car shows for some time, but was constrained by my wife’s opinion that a replacement for the MGB should also have at least 2+2 seating. Considering that we hardly ever went out as a family in the MG, and once the boys were larger than the legless dwarves that the BGT was designed to accommodate, that constraint disappeared. I am not good with paint and trimming so although a 30’s touring style of car appealed, (think Morgan look-alike) the work didn’t. I had broken up my brother-in-law’s Cortina Mk5, and kept the engine, drive train and suspension. I rebuilt the engine.

In the end I was allowed to go for a more basic high speed bathtub type, the genre based upon the Lotus Seven. After a bit of looking around I bought a “comprehensive” kit from Tiger Racing to build a Tiger Cat.

A Sierra, with about 5minutes MoT left, was sourced for pennies, and ripped to pieces on the drive, and the useful bits cleaned up and put away. The scrap man dealt with the rest and the unwanted Cortina bits.

Unfortunately life got in the way and after a couple of years the Tiger ended up (as many kit cars do) under a dust sheet in the garage, which now doubled as a company stores and workshop. When we moved, it then spent time (3 years) in two barns before coming to our next home, and its brand new garage. I had driven the car briefly on the private access road to a garden centre on its trip to the first barn.

Even with it now at home very little progress was made until I boldly/foolishly decided to write about it as a spur to actually working on it.

Every two months I now write an article of about 1000 words with a few photos about my progress, that form part of a series in “Complete Kit Car” magazine under the heading “Running Reports”. My main challenge now is having to take a design from before the introduction of SVA (single vehicle approval) and adapt it to satisfy the much more rigorous and closely specified IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) standards. A very thorough test and inspection, lasting a few hours is also required to ensure compliance. Some quite major reworking of previously finished aspects of the car are now required. My lathe skills have been rediscovered as I try to find engineering solutions rather than simple bodge jobs.

That work continues.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 15, 2017, 21:52:41
Trains and bits

I have vague memories of watching the signalman at work in the old signal box at Rainham, the traditional large levers being easily visible from below. It seems that this was a favourite place to take me when very young so that I could watch the signal box activity, the level crossing gates being (manually) operated, and of course, best of all, the steam locomotives.

A Hornby Dublo 3 rail train set, a simple oval with a siding, fixed to a board so that I could easily play with it, appeared when I was about four. My oldest sister, her best friend, and the friend’s boyfriend were going out on a Sunday afternoon, but my father was trying to master the uncoupling rail, and show me how to use it. The boyfriend and Dad spent so long playing with this that the outing was abandoned. Excellent priorities!

The train set grew, but once it outgrew its 8x4 board I never had a place to have it set up for more than a day, which I found hugely frustrating. My only Aunt had married late in life, and her husband provided even more track and rolling stock from his nephews.

When we moved to Hartlip Hill in 1958, I was excited to find that the railway ran past the bottom of the garden. A seven year old was not consulted about the new house, the day we moved in was when I first saw and explored it.

The line was the recently upgraded section between Rainham and Newington, now with four tracks on the embankment, and a signal by the bridge over the lane down the side of our garden so many trains stopped there. A copy of “The Observer’s Book of Railway Locomotives” was purchased with the next Christmas book token (remember them?). I still have it. My bedroom was the only one at the back of the bungalow, so I had full view of the tracks, and the night workings as the old tracks were replaced by continuous rails, all arc lights and welding sparks – wonderful theatre.

The embankment was covered with lupins, probably escaped from someone’s garden, and the usual vegetation control was to burn the bank.

An infrequent, but imposing, sight in the morning was The Golden Arrow hauled by a Bullied Pacific, often one still with its streamlined outer. Much as I enjoyed this spectacle it meant that I was late for the bus if I didn’t get a move on real sharpish!

It is worth noting that after a while you really didn’t find the trains intrusive at all. It was only when they were not running that you suddenly realised that something was missing.

An early visit to the Bekonscot model village, with its extensive O-gauge layout was inspiring, I so wanted an outdoor railway, so much more practical than the RHDR that I had ridden many times.

My friend two doors away was less enthusiastic about model railways than me, but being a later arrival to the interest, his was a two rail layout. We even worked out how we could run a track from him to me. The first stage was to lay a cable between us. I say cable, but it was a seriously long collection of every bit of electrical wire that we could find – the resistance must have been huge. Our electrical knowledge found wanting, the scheme was (sensibly) abandoned. I did buy some two rail track and a couple of points, intending to create a small layout and fiddle yard, and a couple of early style GWR coaches were made into more realistic replicas. Time and other interests did not permit it to go further.

Finding out that my church choirmaster actually had a live steam model locomotive really got my interest. He had a portable section of raised 3.5” track, about 100feet long and gave rides at Church Fêtes and the like. By the time I was about twelve I was helping at these events, setting up, taking the money and acting as general dogsbody. I eventually got to drive.

In order to understand driving better I spent time at Mote Park driving the track there, where the necessity to manage the fire, water level and steam pressure were completely different to just shunting up and down a short, straight track, although that taught you a lot about stopping distances and reversing.

Graham had actually built two locos, an 0-6-0 tank engine “Vera”, and then “Bantam Cock” which was based on the Gresley V4 2-6-2 of the same name. Vera was rarely used as it was a poor performer, alright for the fête shunt, but around Mote Park it could easily run out of steam on the way up the hill. Being modelled as a tank engine it had relatively large cylinders, and small wheels and boiler, hence it used steam faster than it produced it, unless carefully managed.

Bantam Cock was great to drive, and with its outside Walschaerts valve gear, looked the part as well. Even the injector picked up easily.

Through my early teens I devoured books on locomotives and railways in general, but found that I was drawn to the Great Western. Isambard Kingdom Brunel became an early hero, and through my contact with the model steam engines I learnt to understand their workings, and be able to interpret the drawings. Curiously, at school I could not take Technical Drawing as it clashed with Physics, most odd, but then the grammar school wanted to produce academics rather than engineers. 

We went to real locomotive works. Ashford and Eastleigh were a bit disappointing, but Swindon, still repairing proper locomotives, was stunning. We actually went to Crewe, the highlight of that was turning the corner to find “Evening Star” standing there, sadly not in steam. Breathtaking.

I kept Vera in my workshop for a while, doing a bit of restoration and maintenance. I tried, unsuccessfully to persuade my parents to let me put up the fête track down our back lawn.

I acquired a small lathe for £5, but spent over £30 getting a decent chuck. Using it I intended to build “Juliet” an 0-4-0 tank engine. I opted for Baker outside valve gear and made a start. Then, only a few months later I discovered motorbikes and girls at about the same time, and the engine didn’t get a look in!

Since then I have usually got to have a snoop about whichever preserved railway was near the holiday destination, and will try to return once again to the North Yorks Moors Railway. I have photos of both our Land Rovers under the Ribblehead Viaduct a few years apart, and my wife just could not understand my need to peer over the bridge into the gloom to see Dent Station, windswept and spooky even on a summer’s evening.

For some years my mug at work was one from the Wensleydale Railway Association.

I gave my old train set to my nephews, and to my joy and amazement, they gave it back a few years later. I still have it, and fully intend to get it out and working once more. It sits, in the same wooden, wheeled box, under my bed, just as it did 50years ago.

My teenage consumption of information (thank you O.S.Nock, L.T.C.Rolt, and others) meant that one evening in the mid 1970s we (the inmates of my rented house) were watching Mastermind, and one specialist subject was The Great Western Railway. I scored more points than the contestant. Smug, or what. I couldn’t even hope to do that now.

My younger son was taken with railways, thanks in no small part to the Thomas the Tank Engine TV series, which I always admired for the model making. I made a layout for him (might have been for me though!)  and my late father in law gave us some Hornby 0 gauge tin train rolling stock, which 25years ago got me £200 of credit in the model train shop as a part exchange. Chris still has it all boxed up, he also intends to play again.

On one of our various family visits to K&ESR we had stopped off on our way elsewhere to have a quick look at Wittersham Road, and as I watched a loco get under way I realised that the fireman was my old choirmaster, the creator of Bantam Cock.

From time to time I still have a look at garden railways, of all gauges, and wonder if I could finally create one. It needs to be dog, cat and duck proof, which adds to the challenge.

My natural inclination towards things mechanical was certainly enhanced by contact with model railways, which attracted me to the remote control not only of the trains, but points, signals and later a better understanding of the basic electrics required. However I still find electronics to be more akin to witchcraft, I have been referred to as a nut and bolt engineer.

The real engineering required to build and maintain the live steam locomotives, and the background of the huge figures who made the real thing, all drew me in, and it was no surprise that I studied Mechanical Engineering at university, even though by than I expected to work in the motor industry. We were, after all, only a few miles up the Bristol Road from Longbridge and there were some close ties between the Department and BL.

However, 1972 was not a good year to be seeking a graduate engineering position in the motor industry. Very few were being taken on, I was quite keen on Girling (brake makers) who were developing anti-lock braking. However I didn’t like the “feel” of the place at all. I therefore came back to Kent, my mother had moved back to Rainham earlier that year, and I stayed there for a while.

I was in the running for an interesting job with a haulage company. They wanted someone who would learn the business from the ground up. Starting with getting an HGV licence (they already ran tuition courses) and then through each department, all under the guidance of the owner and founder. It got right down to when they wanted me to start, and then the anticipated funds from a training initiative were withdrawn and that was that.

So I answered an ad in the KM and went for an interview with a heating company, the boss of which had the same qualifications as me, in a trade almost noted for the lack of technical training. I took the job of running the spares and service department, and basically ended up doing that for the next 44 years in one form or other. Almost got the hang of it...
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on October 15, 2017, 22:14:10
Enjoyed that filmer01 especially the reference to the GWR, a tip of the hat to the great George Jackson Churchward is in order I think.
Did you ever visit the garden layout at Warden point?

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/do-it-yourself-railway/query/Sheppey
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 15, 2017, 22:21:34
No, never visited, didn't really go to foreign places like Sheppey until later, my sister, however, went to the Sheppey Tech - the strange purple tinged females!
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 31, 2017, 16:35:04
I have found some old photos of my visit to Eastleigh.

30073 was a USA Class 0-6-0T shunter quite different to what I was used to seeing.

41294 was an Ivatt 2-MT Class 2-6-2T from the LMS probably why I took the picture
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 31, 2017, 16:42:20
Two more internal shots, resized a little this time.

I'm not sure when they were taken ( with a cheap Kodak Instamatic) there are no clues on the pictures, negatives or Boots folder, but very early 60s is pretty certain.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 31, 2017, 17:02:34
This is the cover of the 64 page guide to Swindon from my visit, again early 60s. In the back of the guide is a ten page fold out map of the site, with an 1848 version inset. I have scanned a section of it, hopefully resized it will still be legible.

The cover price of the guide was 3/6d, but that is overstamped "Gratis".
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on October 31, 2017, 18:29:58
Found a couple of East Kent Gazette clippings of the portable track at fetes.

Borden Fete is 1965 - the year determined by the results of the baby competition names checked through Find My Past  :) :)

Wakeley Road paper is dated 17 June 1966
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on November 04, 2017, 18:45:49
Guns and things part 1

I am part of the generation for whom Cowboys and Indians was the default game. At an early age I therefore had the hat (black, with yellow fringe) and a pair of revolvers in holsters and loose bullets in loops around the belt. A Winchester style rifle came next, although I think that Winchester didn’t make them with chrome barrels and white plastic fore ends and butts! Rolls of caps (bought in little round white cardboard boxes) could be consumed at a rate that my pocket money could not afford.

The budding engineer in me was fascinated by the mechanisms involved in these and other weapons, especially bolt-action rifles and revolvers. I started to pick holes in the western films of the day, simple things like counting the shots fired. Still a worrying habit.

I was definitely NOT allowed an air rifle or pistol. I was given a bow and arrow and target when our neighbours emigrated to Australia and decided not to pack them, but it was not really quite what I wanted.

At University there were rumours of the rifle club, but I was too busy with the motor club to investigate.

I mentioned to Bob (my workmate and rally driver) that I found guns interesting, only to find that he had previously shot target rifle. We found a local club, nominally Ightham, but they actually shot at Borough Green, and joined.

Ightham Rifle and Pistol Club shot in a redundant quarry. The clubhouse was an old prefab divided into three. The club area was the largest, then there was a narrow room for the prone rifle firing points along the long side, with flaps cut out at low level, so that you shot from indoors to outside. A similar arrangement with stable doors at higher level served the pistol section, shooting at right angles to the direction of the rifles. The range was only suitable for .22LR rimfire weapons. The rifles were shot at 25, 50 & 100m, the pistols at 20m.

I have seen odd comments and question marks next to the existence of “Miniature Rifle Clubs” in some village histories. The members were shooting what are now referred to as small-bore rifles usually with a bore of 0.22inch. These were quite miniature when compared to some earlier military rifles of 0.45inch calibre, or even the later standard 0.303inch. These larger rifles are known as full-bore weapons.

The club’s own rifles were old BSA 12/15 Martini action, and quite small framed. They also had a later BSA Mk2 Martini, a much heavier and relatively modern weapon. After a while shooting the Mk2 under tuition I started to get the hang of it, and shot a series of 5 or 6 cards (each target card at 25m has 10 separate aiming marks) in order to obtain an average. Setting an average is effectively setting a handicap against which your actual score (gun score) is selected on an impressive chart (probably use an app on their phone these days!) which gives you your adjusted score. Therefore all levels of proficiency can shoot against each other using adjusted scores.

The usual form of competition was by post. The members of a team would all shoot their cards by a specific date, and their competitors in that division of the league, would also send their cards to an independent marker. Marking can be done by eye, but a gauge is used (and sometimes a magnifying glass) to help judge the close ones. Rifle scores are outward gauging, so if you touch the line between, say, the 9 and the 8 rings, you score an 8. Pistol, by the way, is usually inward gauging, so you get the higher score.

A gauge looks suspiciously like an unused pop rivet, it is put into the hole with as little pressure as possible and the skirt is the deciding factor. In the upper divisions appeals were quite common and argued loudly!

Having a new, and rapidly improving, shooter in a team was a bonus. They will soon consistently shoot better than the average previously declared, and even after that season’s competition the average from that should still not really reflect their likely scores in the next one.

All rifle competitions were shot with open sights, no magnification allowed except for prescription corrective lenses. The rear sight is a simple peep sight, a small hole the size of which was very much a personal choice. The foresight a choice between a post type or the usual ring type. These vary in the thickness of the ring as well as the aperture, some prefer to have a small, tight, fit to the aiming mark, others followed the alternative, allowing more light around the target. Coloured filters are used in the rear sight to give a sharper contrast, different colours for differing lights. We shot under floodlights on winter evenings and daylight in summer and Sunday mornings.

Our Rifle Captain not only entered me into a couple of postal competitions, but Eley (cartridge makers) were celebrating their 150th anniversary in 1978, and they ran a huge series of competitions for the various disciplines for which they made ammunition. The early rounds were shot at 25m on a postal basis using adjusted score, and then the final was held at the NSRA Annual Shoot at Bisley at 50m and 100m. I made it to the final, but, totally unused to such types of competition, didn’t shine on the day. An excellent experience.

I had shot at this final with the club’s Mk2 Martini as I was used to it, and for the weeks leading up to the final no one else was allowed to use it so my settings for the sights did not get messed about. I had, by this time, my own firearms certificate, and had bought a secondhand rifle, an Anshutz 1411 Match 54. An older style of this very successful single shot, bolt action, weapon, but as I had hardly shot with it, I left it at home and went with the BSA.

A couple of us started shooting pistol as well, which was not common, most shot either rifle or pistol, and some degree of rivalry and banter went on between them. I bought a Browning semi-automatic pistol and started to achieve reasonable scores. The usual pistol disciplines were “precision” which was a small target with quite close scoring rings, or “Standard Pistol” which was a discipline using three targets, best described as Slow, Timed and Rapid. Five shots were fired, twice in each sequence, in 150seconds, 20seconds and finally 10seconds. Targets were changed between each pair of sequences. Even 10seconds is long enough to fire five fairly controlled shots – or so I would tell a novice if I was coaching...

In my time at Ightham I would describe myself as a fair pistol shot, and a reasonable rifle shot. I once had a rifle average of nearly 98 for 25m where the whole focus is on taking every shot as exactly as the last, but I preferred the greater challenge of the longer distances, especially the 100m, but that was only shot in conjunction with 50m, although 50m was the Olympic distance.

The combination of 20shots to count at both 50 and 100m is called a Dewar course of fire. The 50m target has two aiming marks, five shots on each, the 100m target is all 10 shots on a single aiming mark. A spare target is also provided to enable the shooter to sight in, especially important when changing distances, my Anshutz sights needed to come up 9 clicks of the adjuster from 25 to 50, but another 45 to 100m. Forget to check the sights and you are in for a surprise!

Prone rifle shooting is all about precision and speed does not really enter into it for this type of competition. I became a marker for a couple of divisions of the local league, and then a national one. Our postman must have been impressed as every two weeks I got a pile of A4 sized envelopes, one of which bore the House of Commons crest – yes there is a range underneath it!

Shoulder to shoulder competitions are when a team visits another range and the targets are shot together, quite literally shoulder to shoulder. Ightham shot in a local league and it was quite revealing to see other ranges that went from a glorified shed in the woods through a village hall that you approached on foot through a virtually unlit churchyard to some that were very nicely appointed. A certain workers club shot in their hall, the front of the stage swung up in sections to reveal the target holders, and you shot from the floor at the other end. The temptation to pop one through the piano was almost too much!

Once a year there was the club Disc Breaking Competition. For this black painted boards were set up at 100m and 6 fragile white discs about 50mm diameter were hung on pins. It was shot in pairs, drawn randomly, as a knockout, the first one to clear their discs went through. There were some really competitive types around, using post foresights carefully sighted for ease of aim. However one gentleman always did well, it just suited him. He was, as usual, on course to win when he just could not clear the last disc, and a relative novice was set to beat him. At this point the whistle went to cease fire, and the reluctant disc was retrieved to show him that it was wood, and had been hit more than once. A re-shoot was a white wash and he went on to win – again.

The finals of some postal competitions were held at an open shoot at the end of the season. Major shoots have plain cards set back behind the targets, so that if someone shoots at the wrong target (easily done and quite common under the stress of competition) the angle of the cross shot will reveal the culprit, and which shot it was so that it can be removed from the scoring.

The usual rifle shooter’s excuses list revolve around The Wind, The Light and The Ammunition.

Wind is a problem with low powered rifles over longer distances and a close eye has to be kept on the flags used as indicators. With light variations that is where filters and adjustable rear sights can help. Ammunition, you get what you pay for, so buy the best that you can afford if shooting competitively over longer distances.

When shooting shoulder to shoulder and at open shoots, the excuses list is rapidly expanded to include interference from the shooter next to you, who may belch, fart, sneeze, swear and a whole lot of other distracting things. The old Mk2 Martini had a very powerful eject that if the spring loading was “helped” by a particularly sharp snap of the lever downwards, the case would fly out and bounce off the shooter at least two away. They can be quite warm.

At the end of one of these open competitions teams of three were asked for a sweepstake fun shoot. It turned out to be a disc breaking competition and with most never having done it before we trounced all comers, and all three claimed the last disc as we shot in unison. Happy days.

Some of the more serious shooters also shot full bore pistol and full bore rifle. Pistol was shot at Stone Lodge at Dartford, an Olympic standard range for small bore rifle and pistol and full bore pistol. Some of the pistol ranges were equipped with two banks of turning targets, intended for the small bore rapid fire discipline. However it also enabled us to shoot properly timed sequences for Standard Pistol as well as Police Pistol (intended for revolvers) and Service Pistol (intended for semi-autos, but possible with a revolver).

To join in I bought a brand new Smith and Wesson Model 19. This was a 4inch barrelled, .357 Magnum revolver with target hammer (wider spur) and target trigger (wider). I opted for a .357 as it is stronger than the standard 38Special upon which it is based. Confusingly they are actually both the same calibre (0.357”) the magnum case being a little longer so that the greater potential power could not accidentally be loaded into a standard 38Special.

Generally we would shoot with lightly loaded 38special ammunition with “wadcutter” bullets, which are lead cylinders to punch a neat hole in the target. The base was usually funnel shaped to expand into the rifling of the barrel and get as much accuracy as possible. The light charges also went some way to help the soft bullet engage the rifling rather than being forced through it and stripping the lead away.

Buying factory ammunition is not a cheap hobby, therefore most pistol shooters reloaded their own full bore ammunition. This is not without potential hazard, but with a rigid work method and routine the risks can be almost eliminated. It is a long winded process, of several small and repetitive steps.

A loaded round of ammunition consists of four components. The case, usually brass, into the centre of the base is pressed the primer which is a very small explosive charge which when struck then ignites the propellant that burns very quickly producing gas at high pressure to force the actual bullet out of the case, along the barrel and onto the target.

Using previously fired, empty, cases the first thing is to remove the spent primers. A reloading press holds the case and a hardened pin is pushed down through the hole in the base of the case (through which the ignition of the charge takes place) and pushes it out. At the same time the case enters a die that squeezes it back to its original diameter, as it will have expanded due to the internal pressure when fired. The case is then cleaned, the primer pocket by a small hand held wire brush, and the cases can be put in a vibrating container with a mild abrasive such as crushed walnut shells.

A new primer is then pressed into place CAREFULLY, this is an explosive after all. Generally the case is then given a slight flare to its mouth so that the bullet will enter easily.

Then the really sensitive bit, the propellant. Various powders are available, and they range in texture and the speed at which they burn. Therefore for an accurate target load a small quantity of a fast burning powder was used. Very careful measurement is needed, for instance I used to use between 2.8 and 3.2 grains of Bullseye powder in my target ammunition. One Grain weighs just under 85 milligrams, or one 7,000 of a pound. These minute weights are weighed on a small, but very accurate beam balance. In practice an automatic powder measure was used, a sort of sophisticated version of my mother’s tea measure from the sixties, which when adjusted correctly gave the precise amount required each time the lever was operated.

For peace of mind, and safety, I used trays that held 50 cases. Each case was picked up, the powder measured into it from the machine, and then replaced. Every ten the charge was weighed to check that nothing had changed. Once the tray was full it was carefully examined from oblique angles to check the level of powder, hoping to spot any double charges (not good!). As soon as that was done the bullets were lightly placed into the cases rather like stoppers.

Back in the press, the bullets were seated to a set height, wadcutters flush with the case end, and a light crimp (the top of the case squeezed in) applied to grip the bullet. A quick wipe over and they were packed into boxes ready for use. With adequate supplies of tea, I regularly reloaded 400 rounds on a Saturday afternoon.

Bullets could be purchased commercially, or some other shooters cast their own using various mixtures of lead and similar metals, old printing type was highly prized. I often traded lead obtained from the day job for finished cast bullets. The heavier loads possible with the magnum cases used different powders and at the factory level of charge, semi-jacketed bullets. These have copper bases and part covered sides so that the heavy charge still makes them engage the rifling. Some larger calibres need fully jacketed ammunition, especially for semi-automatic pistols.

There was a saying that some shooters reloaded to shoot, but others shot to reload, such was the almost infinite variations of powder type, load, bullet type, weight and intended weapon that it was a hobby in itself.

An Enfield T4 rifle in 7.62mm NATO military calibre was bought secondhand in good condition. These rifles were built using Lee Enfield bolt actions (mine was dated 1949), but with target woodwork a heavyweight barrel and target sights. Mine was also fitted with a ten round 7.62 magazine which was slightly unusual.

Although we shot mainly for fun, there were internal competitions and the occasional more serious shoot. At short notice I filled a space shooting for Barclays Bank against the Navy, we won. At my favourite distance of 600yds my average was 95-96. The bull at that distance is about a foot diameter.

Although we could hire a marker (most often teenage schoolboys) to work the target in the butts and signal the score, we usually did it ourselves, taking turns. The communication between firing point and butts was originally by ancient field telephone – the sort that you crank a handle to ring the other set. Also seen on daytime antique and collectable TV programmes. Due to the background noise (at both ends) there is a message code to save explanations. The most common one was message four – a shot has been fired but not marked. Two common reasons, either the marker was asleep/eating/drinking/talking or you shot at the wrong target! With over a hundred targets on Century Range cross shooting was so easy.

I never tried reloading full bore rifle ammunition even though my press could cope with the long cases. Although expensive high quality British Army, Radway Green (RG) 7.62mm Sniper Grade (Green Spot) ammunition was always available and many cheaper options for less important shooting. Many serious competitions required you to use the issued ammunition.

We kept our fired full bore rifle cases, and small bore empties and every few months they would be taken to the scrap man along with any pistol cases that had split. I often did this as I already went with any scrap copper and brass from work.

I had a phone call from Kent Police one morning at work, asking if I had been responsible for selling the company Granada that I used to drive. It turned out that the trader had fixed the engine, and sold it on to a Royal Engineers Officer. He gave it good clean and was startled to find a few empty rifle and pistol cases in the nooks and crannies of the boot. Now a serving officer would not only know what they were, he would also know that he is forbidden to possess even empty cases.

He therefore reported it and the information was passed to the police. Unfortunately for the trader, he was Irish (in 1981 the IRA were still very active), and someone added up 1 and 1 and made an awful lot more! An early morning raid followed, so by the time I was called he had been at the Police Station for a few hours. When I was asked if I knew about any cases (in a tone of voice that implied that of course I wouldn’t) I simply gave them my firearms certificate number, easily remembered as it was 33999, and an apologetic policeman made his excuses and rang off. We still sold the trader cars, but I think the deals were probably not so good…

At my busiest I was shooting at Ightham on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Then in the winter for the shoulder to shoulder league every two weeks on a Thursday evening. Once a month we had a Saturday afternoon at Stone Lodge for full bore pistol, and once a month down to Bisley to shoot full bore rifle and maybe a bit more pistol.

When we started our own company, such was the need to concentrate on that, that I found that I was dropping out of competitions despite having taken over as Pistol Captain, and in the end faced a decision as to my future in shooting as my firearms certificate came close to its renewal date.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: conan on November 04, 2017, 19:32:31
A fascinating post filmer01, I never really took to shooting except for the occasional foray with a keeper friend of mine shooting pigeons for the pot with one of his spare 410 shotguns. I did however take up archery for a while but found it a bit elitist, being expected to wear the club colours and so on when all I wanted really was to go to the ground and loose a few ends as a way of relaxing, I had no real interest in getting a handicap sorted out and so, although I was fairly good at the sport I left the club after a year, shame really as I enjoyed it.
  On another note (and slightly of topic) you mentioned caps in a roll, I remember another use for them was to make cap bombs go bang.

(https://i.imgur.com/5XoUcjNl.jpg)
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: 80sChild on November 06, 2017, 13:18:50
I remember those too when I was a boy.  :)

I seem to remember having a small red one at some point (like the one in the top-right corner of the picture).

Can't remember what happened to it though...
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: AlanH on November 07, 2017, 09:30:27
"forbidden to possess even empty cases." WOW. I knew things had been tightened up a lot but didn't realise the authorities had become so paranoid they banned even empty cases!
When I used to shoot over the marshes at Higham and elsewhere when I could, a 12 bore shotgun license cost 7/6d for a year. No questions asked and available from any PO. I don't think we needed one for an air rifle which many of us had back then before graduating to a shotgun..
When I came to Oz in the early 70s we could buy guns of all kinds at the local shopping centre and again no questions asked.
What an absolute mess the world has become from the world we lived in 60 years ago when a lad with an air rifle or shotgun was not looked upon as a possible mass murderer.
I don't shoot now but my son does (or used to before he married the witch....) and he has to have so much security for anything related to shooting let alone the guns which the cops inspect before he can get a license.
Pity the crooks who cause all the trouble don't care about the rules.....
Happy shooting if you can.
AlanH.

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19908.0;topicseen
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on November 07, 2017, 11:17:20
We occasionally shot at Milton Ranges. Watching some of the squadies made you wonder about barn doors, they were so inaccurate. Because of the rules about separation and different distances, on one occasion we were asked to stay at 200yds. So we started shooting pistol from a prone position, using heavy loads. More accurate than expected, but we were asked to stop, as they were cautious about even that amount of separation.

At the end of the session they all had to line up in front of their lorry, and, one at a time, individually stand to attention, salute the officer in charge, and yell out “I have no live rounds or empty cases in my possession, Sir!”

Made us giggle as we lumbered past each carting a small arsenal back to our cars.

This was about 1981.
Title: Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
Post by: filmer01 on November 26, 2017, 18:30:00
Guns, Part 2

As my firearm certificate renewal got ever closer, I contacted one of the organisers of the local pistol league, thinking to maybe just do a bit of pistol rather than the full-on everything that I had done a year or two before.

As it happened, his club were off to Bisley that weekend, so, slightly reluctantly, I went. A few rounds at 600yds and I was hooked again, so I became a member of the Maidstone Home Guard (1944) Rifle Club.

Ightham was also a club that came from the old Home Guard, practising and competing against each other. Early on in my time at Ightham the armoury was behind a shop in Ightham Village, where it had been since WW2. They even had their own version of Private Pike, who had shot as a lad in the Home Guard and still shot into the 1980s.

When the Home Guard was stood down in 1944, many of the units continued to shoot and became the basis for rifle clubs post war.

Maidstone HG shot indoors on a narrow 25m range at the Grammar School. Pistol was accommodated with a trestle erected at 20yds. Regular fullbore rifle at Bisley, and pistol at Stone Lodge resumed, but at a lower level, more casual shooting and just a few competitions.

A year or two later and the club secretary resigned, having ceased to be a regular shooter some while before. The Secretary usually holds the club firearm certificate and has responsibility therefore for the weapons and ammunition, although club officers can transport them and supervise their use. Reluctantly I agreed to fill the vacant position. I therefore found room for another, substantial, gun cabinet and various weapons.

I had earlier sold my Browning .22 pistol and upgraded to a Unique DES69, a French pistol designed for Olympic Standard Pistol. During my time with Maidstone I also acquired a Smith & Wesson Model 52. This was a 38special semi auto, designed specifically as a target weapon it would only chamber wadcutter (flat nosed, seated flush to the case) ammunition. This worked best with slightly more powerful loads than the revolver, there being some energy lost in operating the mechanism.

Lastly I bought a Colt .45ACP Gold Cup semi auto. This was a target version of the famous military sidearm. It also required me to have additional reloading equipment to suit the different calibre. More fun with infinite variations of bullet, including fully jacketed, and slower burning powders.

With these additions, as well as the club weapons, the local police firearms liaison “suggested” that I should have a decent alarm system to supplement our two German Shepherds. All the shooting gear (guns and ammo in steel boxes with serious locks) was in a small cupboard, which itself had a slightly reinforced door and a quality deadlock. It now had its own dedicated alarm circuit.

The .357 Magnum revolver remained my favourite for its simplicity and accuracy. Shooting at Stone Lodge one evening, I was just starting to pack up when I realised that I needed to shoot one more competition card. With a tad of bad grace, grumbling away as everybody else was getting ready to leave I put up the card.

I had already put away my spotting scope, and to save time just left the bench flap (like a pub bar flap) up and shot the first five. With the naked eye there were nines, an eight and a seven - rubbish. It was late, I was tired, shooting in the dark under lights, so I just reloaded and fired the last five almost casually.

Immediately I finished I started to pack up and someone else went and retrieved the card. When I was asked to sign it, I said just mark it and record it and lets get home. Then Andy suggested that I look again, and he witnessed it. Hmm that seven was an eight, the eight was a nine, and the rest were tens!

97 out of 100 my best pistol score ever – I still have the card somewhere, it used to live in a clip frame in my office, but the glass got broken. I also have the first rifle 100 that I shot, an external postal competition card, returned by the marker as a memento.

In the box of bits and pieces handed over from the previous secretary were a couple of journals. One detailed the early years of the Maidstone area small bore rifle society from the start of the first world war. The gentleman writing this was resident at Somerfield Terrace, now part of the Somerfield Hospital. The intention was to provide basic skill at arms before entry into the services and many additional ranges appeared, often attached to Pubs either physically or as homes for their teams. The usual give away is a long, low building. The two hobbies really should not meet.

A mention was made of shooting in the upper floor of what is now the Carriage Museum, and I have often thought to see if any evidence survives.

The records continue into the inter war period, with full bore rifle shooting taking place in an old quarry at Tovil. The advent of the Home Guard effectively took over the sport.

Post war there were Rifle clubs all over the place, in Maidstone there were clubs shooting at various Paper Mills, Rootes, Tilling-Stevens, Haynes and many others.

I also became a member of GEC Rifle & Pistol Club, but although I rarely shot in their indoor range, I was a mid-week regular on the outdoor range. This was behind the main hanger of Rochester Airport, and accessed past Medway Aeronautical Preservation Society’s wonderful sheds. The range was 50m small bore rifle, shot from a covered slab of concrete – think bike shed without the racks. Very strange sensation to be halfway through a competition card and a plane, or the Air Ambulance would take off just above the sand bullet stop brick support wall in clear view above the barrel. Another one for the excuses list…

Excavated at a lower level was the 20m pistol range, for small and full bore pistols, complete with turning targets. As one was above the other, either rifle or pistol could be shot, but not together!

A constant theme had always been the occasional Fun Shoot, where no official competition took place. I have previously mentioned the disc breaking, and we did a pistol version, just once as the discs were about the size of a Polo Mint, and nobody could hit the darned things. We had shot our .22 rifles at 200yds at Bisley one cold winter afternoon and found them to be surprisingly accurate.

Another winter at Bisley saw Maidstone with an array of unusual weapons that we all had a try at. A Brown Bess Musket, hugely long and unwieldy, a couple of muzzle loading, black powder, Enfield 1853 pattern 0.577” rifles, that were surprisingly accurate, but slow to load. As well as a couple of 0.303 Lee-Enfield variants, an early one, still my favourite, and a WW2 number 5 Jungle Carbine that was, shall we say, best at short range.

Previously we had been using the Gallery Ranges at Stone (I think our usual turning target bay had stopped turning) so there were other shooters mixed in with our lot. I had finished my card and was idly watching someone I had never met before shooting a flint lock pistol.  Realising my interest he showed me the piece, and after the targets were changed suggested that I might like to shoot it. Damn right I would! He loaded it, explaining his actions as he went, then went through the drill if it didn’t fire. No flash, just re-cock the gun and try again. If it happens again the flint needed adjusting. A flash but not firing (literally a flash in the pan), hold aim and wait in case there is a hang fire. If not, then the flash hole needed pricking out (to enable the flash from the pan to travel to the main charge) and the pan primed again.

So I held this thing, with a grip like holding a walking stick, pulled the flint back to full cock (from the “safe” position of half cock) and squeezed the immensely heavy trigger. Click! Nothing happened. Recock it, try again, a flash, no bang, so I stood there for about 10 seconds holding aim, then he poked about a bit and reprimed the pan, and I tried again. A flash. Ah I thought here we go again, then with some delay a gentle woosh turned into a long steady push on my arm totally different from our usual sharp recoil, as it fired. The owner’s efforts had scattered shot holes around the target, I took great pride in hitting a Nine, thanked him and gave him the gun back. How on earth did we gain an Empire with weapons that tricky?

I had a “slot” on my licence for a while that enabled me to buy a Black Powder pistol, but I never did. possibly put off by the gent at GEC who turned up, put on a disposable overall and gloves (with hood, as seen in all forensic investigations) shot his replica Colt pistol, then stripped off the overall and gloves into the bin and went home to an hour of gun cleaning. John Wayne never had that problem in any film that I saw!

We once met a group of four young men from Gloucester who had decided the night before to come to Bisley to try each others guns, and literally had a Cortina boot full of just about everything. Full bore semi-auto rifles were still permitted, but to our amazement one of them produced a Bren gun. He had just bought it and this was the first chance he had to shoot it. When questioned as to how he had got this on his licence it seems that he simply listed it as a self loading rifle made by the Brno small arms company of Czechoslovakia. We were astounded.

As the afternoon went on we continued chatting, and were offered a go with the Bren. It had the top mounted box magazine, and the simple instruction was to hang onto it as the action made it “walk” forward. It was rumoured to be very nice to shoot, and our brief encounter confirmed that, with good accuracy at 300yds.

When we had finished, the owner showed us how good he was with it, then pointed out the catch that in military use gave fully automatic fire, which I believe also had a 3shot position. Either way, to demonstrate that it was disabled he flipped it over, took aim and fired. Luckily the range was by now fairly empty and nobody else appeared to have realised that it had just gone, briefly, full auto. It was hastily put back in its case and carted off to the car.

At Ightham, because of the shoulder to shoulder league, we knew many of the other local clubs, and on one occasion were invited to try some of the local TA equipment. This was literally enlightening with light intensifying telescopic sights we were shooting at targets in virtual darkness. They extended an invitation to a few clubs for their open day shoot at Milton Ranges. We were firing .22 training anti-tank guns, and the old 7.62 SLR rifles, the actions of which sound terribly tinny when wearing ear defenders.

There was a “closest to the middle” competition onto a blank target at 200yds with the marker waving an arrow on a stick to show the fall of shot. The unkind tried to shoot the arrow, and were quickly dissuaded. With only minutes to go I held first place and our rifle captain second, but a TA Sergeant had to wrest some glory from the civvies and just managed to win at the very end.

A falling plate competition was the team event, where each rifle club, police and service unit had four or five shooters, each with a randomly allocated SLR with a full magazine. Against the clock who could knock over the metal targets scattered across the range quickest, two teams at a time. The trouble was the SLRs sights were all over the place and by the time you had worked out where to aim you had to be economical with the ammunition. If only we had taken our old bolt action rifles we could have shown them how to do it with ease. The Met Police won.

Highlight of our year was the Pistol AD event (so called as it was Pistol 92, Pistol 93 etc.). This was held over a weekend at Bisley with huge numbers of competitions, exhibitions and what I can only describe as a shooting oriented cross between a boot fair and serious professional stalls, all set up on the half acre green space at the centre of the camp. If it was legal you could buy it, and although a pistol meet, the offerings covered every aspect of shooting.

However, many of us felt that there was becoming too great a move towards the “practical” disciplines, mainly pistol. At their worst they were almost like playing cowboys and indians with real guns – an exaggeration of course, but a bit too quick draw and moving about for my, Olympic based, tastes. However, when on a range, keeping your pistol with you in a holster was more about ensuring that no one else could pick it up, than playing Dirty Harry. One range officer was moaning about this as a “yoof” thing to one of our more senior members, who, as we got onto the firing point, removed his 38special revolver from his shoulder holster…

However, after the horrors of Dunblane the writing was on the wall. I will not dwell on the arguments for or against the pistol ban, it happened, it was politicians and civil servants taking what I saw as the easy route, and at a stroke many people lost a sport, a hobby and for others also a livelihood. Those included the leather worker who made pistol belts and holsters through all aspects of range operation, gunshops etc., mostly small, specialist businesses.

The consequence of the ban was the hand-in.

Pistols were either surrendered for a generic (low) fixed fee, or against a suitable gunsmith’s valuation. There was a tariff for just about anything to do with the sport. Being organised by civil servants, probably with no knowledge of which they wrote, the other eligible items were full of anomalies. The simple concept was sound, if it could be used for other things or aspects of shooting, then it was not eligible. However with reloading equipment, unless it was “pistol specific” it was not included. The problem was that reloading rifle ammunition was a very niche hobby compared to the relatively huge numbers who reloaded pistol, and most of us preferred the safety and “feel” of stronger equipment which was capable of loading both.

In common with many others, a group of us went for a last blast, shooting anything and everything that we had, trying each others guns and attempting to use up our ammunition.

Some moved their guns to continental clubs rather than surrender them, and a regular Eurostar trip kept them happy. This did not appeal to me. Others faced a dilemma over historically significant or special weapons. Hand them in and argue for their value, have them de-activated (ruining them for what they were, and their value) or sell them, probably through a dealer to a collector abroad to keep them used and appreciated.

The actual hand-in was quite well organised. I went at the appointed time to one of the old Police Houses behind Maidstone HQ, and met two of the familiar firearms personnel. I had two because of the quantity of equipment that was involved with the club and my personal items. I went in my wife’s Land Rover 90 Station Wagon, the rear of which was filled to window level.

I handed in pistols, holsters, speed loaders for revolvers, magazines for the semi-autos, empty cases, bullets, reloading consumables and much more. I kept my pistol belts, very thick (7mm) leather, lined and with sturdy brass buckles, they were intended to be worn over your normal belt and clipped to it, but with a couple of extra holes drilled through them they still hold my jeans up very effectively.

I subsequently had a serious spat with the Home Office who tried to cherry pick what to agree to accept and for how much. I had ended up travelling a fair distance to a dealer who was prepared to value my guns. The Unique was the problem as they were uncommon. It was valued at £710, but the Home Office wanted to give me the basic £150, while agreeing to the other valuations. A few letters later and slowly increasing offers, I was awarded the full amount. However my reloading gear was rejected, despite having adaptations specifically for pistol loading. Again a few more letters and I was partially successful as I got a simple reloading press with a fixed 38special case holder accepted for the basic compensation – which was more than I paid for it.

My main reloading equipment was sold for a fraction of its worth to one of those going the continental route.

The aftermath was quite strange. I was seriously annoyed at what had gone on, a little lost without some of my sports and hobbies, but understanding of the concerns that prompted it all.

A year or so later and I had a health issue that prevented me from shooting prone rifle for a while, and I resigned as Secretary, donated my .22 rifle to the club and sold the Enfield and my rather nice shooting jacket to another club member.

I kept my firearms certificate open with a .22 semi automatic rifle for vermin shooting, but I’m not much of a hunter and eventually that was sold and in 2015, after 38years I did not renew my certificate.