Are You Sure You Know What You’re Doing?

Is fettling a lost art?

Author’s collection

In a recent piece on the Austin Healey ‘Fright’, DTW Author, Robertas Parazitas made an interesting observation. “In the post-war period, and long after, Britain was a nation of tweakers, tinkerers, fixers and improvers …. I would contend that it was a practical manifestation of the democratic intellect of the nation’s people, most particularly young working men who would enthusiastically spend their overtime payments and bonuses on carburettors and camshafts, and all manner of other proprietary improvements, for their cherished little Austin, Morris, Ford, or Standard cars.”

Of course, this was not unique to Britain, citizens of the USA and Japan for example have long enjoyed improving things, sometimes to diminishing returns, sometimes very impressively, but I do agree with Robertas that there was something distinct about the British way of doing it, and there was a multitude of firms ready to assist.

Just some of the many companies who were ready to help you fettle – Source : http://www.mk1-performance-conversions.co.uk

In my naive, later teens, I had access to an immobile, upright 1952 Ford Prefect E493A saloon which I decided to modify. To avoid delaying your disappointment, I shall make it clear now that for various reasons it never happened, and the stripped chassis and loose, rusty bodywork were finally disposed of in a way that seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, but that would probably get me an environmental conviction today.

But back to the start of my quest. My guide was a thinnish, murkily illustrated publication ‘The Ford Special Builders Manual’ which offered both DIY and off-the-shelf solutions to taking an extremely rudimentary vehicle, whose suspension harked back to the 1908 Model T, and turning into a svelte, well-handling sportster… no, it’s probably unfair of me to suggest that the author, G.B. Wake, was promising more than his good advice could deliver, and books like this, as well as magazines such as Hot Car and Car & Car Conversions, almost celebrated the fact that you were travelling from a place you should never have started from in the first place. Possibly that is the uniquely British bit I mentioned above.

Each chapter of the book addressed a different item, chassis, suspension, engine, brakes, etc. Regarding the engine, naturally twin SU carburettors were essential. They might be obtained from a scrapyard, but I’d have to invest in a new manifold. An Aquaplane cylinder head was advisable, a simple enough looking casting since the Ford engine was a sidevalve. These sidevalves would benefit from stronger springs and all this work should be complemented, of course, by a freer flowing manifold attached to a straight-through exhaust.

Once I’d done that, and maybe a fair bit more, to the engine, I’d need to think about clutch, gearbox (3 speed) and final drive before moving on to how the chassis would tame all that extra power. First, the U-shaped sections would need to be boxed in to minimise flexing. A Panhard rod could be purchased in an attempt to discipline the rear transverse leaf sprung axle whilst, at the front, there was the conversion of the beam axle, also transverse leaf sprung, into the simple but effective Ballamy independent suspension. You could buy a kit, but with a hacksaw, welding equipment and some basic fabrications, you could turn the beam axle into swing axles. Then, of course, there were the brakes.

With the running chassis complete, it was possible to purchase ready-made fibreglass bodies of varying quality, both in style and construction, but I had no intention of doing that. Minimal budget combined with teenage hubris called for me to ‘design’ and make a sportscar inspired body, but one that could be realised within my rudimentary coachwork skills. In other words, using flat panels. I no longer have my sketches but imagine a mutant offspring of Lotus 7 and Cybertruck, yet with none of the excellent weatherproofing of the former, nor the elegant grace of the latter.

Now all this might sound so basic that you ask yourself why anyone would bother. Even back then I think I knew that my end-product would be hard-pushed to achieve 75% of the dynamic abilities of the family car that I already had reasonable access to, so posterity has no need to mourn this stillbirth. Yet I still regret it never happened. Because, despite the various vehicles I have owned since then, some of which I have made modest changes to, some of which I have grown very fond of, none of them has been truly ‘mine’ in the way that would have been. And, where I failed to tread, thousands of others more energetic than I did. And quite a few others far more talented than I did too – carrying out similar conversions to Austin 7s is where Colin Chapman started.

Having apparently learned nothing about myself, with the stripped Prefect chassis barely cold in its grave – and I mean that literally – I was already looking at a Speedwell catalogue with a view to modifying a VW Beetle, this time with no attempt to rebody. This was maybe more achievable and was more the sort of fettling that Robertas was referring to. In truth I respected the Beetle’s solidity but didn’t rate it as anything I wanted to drive, which I suppose is why I thought it would be a nice idea to transform it.

Speedwell, by then run by the racing driver Graham Hill, offered various VW tweaks, including a Porsche 356B style ‘camber compensator’ which restricted the Beetle, and other swing axle cars, from folding their wheels underneath the vehicle on hard cornering. A test by Autocar, happily republished by Speedwell in their promotional literature, concluded that whereas the ‘more sedate motorist’ might appreciate the more conventional handling, the ‘enthusiastic driver’ who’d got used to the Beetle’s oversteer, might not agree.

I definitely thought of myself as ‘enthusiastic’ so, combined with the fact that loosening up the VW’s engine with Speedwell’s big-bore kit and other bits to give a 6 bhp increase (to be fair that would have been nearly 15%) would have been even more of a hard job than the Ford sidevalve, as well as the slightly inconvenient fact that I didn’t already possess a Beetle, meant that my dream of a Q Car Porsche evaporated as I realised that, with a fair expenditure, a bit more work and a dash of good luck, I could end up with something that had 90% of the dynamic abilities of the family car that I already had access to. But I’m not knocking those who did bother to take their ideas further.

Most cars that attracted the fettling community were those designed for the average motorist – popular, mass-produced cars. Designing such cars in the first place involved finding the commercial sweet spot that left the customers satisfied, without giving them too much. It’s often said today that no-one makes bad cars anymore. Meaning that all cars start well, stop well, go round corners without drama, don’t start rusting with the first shower and try not to hurt you too badly when they crash. Writing that suggests that once upon a time people did make bad cars, but surely no sensible manufacturer ever set out to make a bad car by the standards of their time or, if you are sceptical, to be found out making a bad car.

Though, looking back, I would objectively call the Morris Marina a bad car, an awful car even, since in its original form, even when driven modestly by the average driver, it could in the right circumstances understeer you into the next world. By the time of its gestation, engineering had advanced enough, and certainly at British Leyland, to make such behaviour inexcusable, and many people there must have known this. Armed with that knowledge I would have driven an early Marina with a good degree of circumspection. Today, I would subjectively call any contemporary Citroen a bad car, because they have a glorious heritage yet are now clumsily styled and offer no advantages over their peers. However, I would freely accept one as a hire car and expect it to behave well. Such is progress – except in Citroen’s case.

So there certainly once were cars that, if you wanted to drive them quickly, or even to drive them at prudent speeds in adverse conditions, would have benefitted from some degree of modification. The codicil to this is to ask the question as to how many fettlers have ever carried out substantial work on their cars in order to make them more economical at the cost of performance, or to make them more comfortable and softer riding at the cost of being able to get their tails out? Few, I’m sure.

Most of the young working men Robertas mentions (and I assume some, far rarer women) wanted more power with better roadholding and might often have viewed themselves as the final stage on the production line, bringing the car up to the standard it should have been when it left the factory. For many of them, the satisfaction in achieving that might even have been greater than their need to actually exploit the additional performance to the full.

It must also be said that, like me, some fettlers were not as focussed as they could have been. In my defence I would say that at least I never realised my projects, which with the knowledge I had at the time would inevitably have been half-arsed. But I have a memory of a school friend telling me of the engine transplant of a Riley 1.5 into a Morris Minor that he’d just carried out with a mate at the weekend. We both found it greatly amusing that, whereas the rear engine mounts lined up and bolted down perfectly, the other ones did not, leaving the engine floating totally unsupported at the front.

And there were all those dubious Mini conversions in the 60s and 70s, taking a car that in its basic form was so neat and nimble which, by fitting wheel spacers and wide rims became clumsy and cumbersome. We might have tweaked and tinkered, but we didn’t always fix and improve. Yet some of us never learn and the three questions we hate are “Do you really have to do that” (Yes) “Couldn’t you get someone to do it for you?” (No) and “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” (Er…)

Writing from a Europe that is, for the while and relatively speaking, still prosperous, the attitudes that Robertas referred to are no longer that common. In part this is because even cheap cars are costly enough to run, without pouring more money into them. Back then though, tuning a Beetle was desirable, since a standard zero to sixty time of over 30 seconds meant that you could see a fair amount of your youth passing you by in the gap between second gear and third. For a long time now, manufacturers have been making versions of reasonably mundane cars that go round corners well and possess more than adequate performance for today’s congested roads, so if you wish to buy something well used, affordable, yet pretty fast, you can.

Anyway, the car no longer offers the promise of some sort of adventure that it once did and many people view it at best as a convenience, though one to be avoided if possible, and certainly not an object of romance. Also, people now have so many other things to do – if you weren’t around back then it may be hard to believe quite how few options there were to fritter away your spare time, unless your family liked standing around the piano singing Gilbert & Sullivan. You can argue how much of contemporary choice has any worth, but the fact is that the number of people who will devote their weekends to tinkering with the mechanicals of a car is ever diminishing. Not that resourcefulness has disappeared, but today it is directed in other ways.

And even if you do want to boost the performance of your F56 Mini, what is available today? Crate engines, ECU remapping; in a modular world it’s mostly stuff that other people do for you, and you just fit. Manufacturing techniques mean it’s far more difficult to take apart and re-assemble many parts of the modern car and a lot is out-of-bounds to anyone who isn’t knowledgeable, very well equipped and reasonably affluent. Resourcefulness towards the car is in low demand and, as the number of EVs increase, the options will likely decrease even further.

However, the more superficial, though not necessarily affordable, conversions still attract a following. Scissor doors, quasi-aerodynamic bodywork add-ons, metallic wrapping, it goes on. But all of these are entirely counter to the sort of thing most people did fifty and more years ago. Back then there was always the odd someone who’d plaster the front of a Morris Mini with four rally style driving lights without bothering to wire them in but, usually, the aim was to make the car more usable.

Although they may be executed with enthusiasm and skill, and part of me is justly humbled by the effort that goes into them compared with my own no-shows, today’s modified cars seem quite the opposite of usable, with the possible extreme being the baffling popularity of negative camber where we see the automotive equivalent of a skintight lurex catsuit, topped with a beehive hairdo teetering down the road on 20-centimetre platform heels.

So again, we come to the understanding that the car as an efficient functioning object, which in the days of the Speedwell catalogue would be the end goal, even if it was not always achieved, is no longer paramount. In fact, there is an almost aggressive decadence to these contemporary vehicles. They say the same thing that impractical fashion says, something that the creator may not be able to live up to in their day-to-day life but is expressed in their creation – I don’t want to conform to the constraints of this world, I don’t want to be ordinary, I just want to be different. Back then we just wanted to be faster.

The website https://mk1-performance-conversions.co.uk, although primarily dedicated to the conversion of Issigonis Minis, is a good place to discover or reacquaint yourself with the world of 60s fettling, although catch it while you can, since the site owner seems to have decided to run the site down this year.

24 thoughts on “Are You Sure You Know What You’re Doing?”

  1. Modern cars are very different from the ones you describe here.
    Modern everyday engines deliver power that would not have been possible from tuned engines at that time and they do it because everything is made to formerly impossible tight tolerances (just look at compression ratios of today’s engines which are in the region or above of yesterday’s highly tuned examples) and controlled by ECUs with mapped ignition timing and fuel metering that would have been the dream of anyone with Weber 45 DCOEs.
    Things like fitting a 356 engine into a Beetle aren’t necessary today because you most probably could buy the engine you’d fit as an option anyway.
    That these engines are painstakingly calculated to fall apart at precisely 250.000 kms is the downside of it all.
    Modern cars also have brakes a Beetle driver could not even dream of and there’s not much left to optimise a current car’s suspension setup (no, lowering your car until it nearly grinds on the tarmac and depriving it of nearly all its suspension travel is not a way to improve its roadholding).

    Then you have today’s (sometimes idiotic) type approval regulations that make it very difficult to modify a car without investing lots of money into the paperwork as soon as you touch exhaust emissions or crash safety.

    The whole industry has shifted with their wording. Tuners have become manufactuers and accessory dealers have become tuners.
    Fitting nonsensical spoilers and painting your car in twin-colour pink is called tuning – something that simply makes me laugh.

  2. Thank you bristowfuller for bringing up something that I was considering earlier. Are there any truly bad cars on sale today? I like your example of Citroën, scarcely any better than it’s peers now-a-days compared to the past when a GS was vastly superior to a Mk1 or 2 Escort or Vauxhall Viva.

    But no matter how advanced the most advanced small car of the 70s was, a GS was, as an ownership proposition any current small car is vastly superior in use. Faster, more economical, hugely lowered emissions, better seats, better heating and ventilation (probably including actual air-conditioning), electric windows and vastly superior roadholding on modern tyres-and with ABS braking as well.

    And that’s any small car, from any maker at any price.

    What got me thinking of this was the question posed on the Jalopnik website “What’s The Worst Car You’ve Ever Driven?” and none of the answers said Mk1 VW Beetle, or Triumph Herald on crossplies; both driven in the wet. Or Mk1 Capri 1.3, or any pre E36 BMW on a wet road, or Ford Prefect, or Standard 10, or the list goes on, or any of the dross we used to accept as satisfactory. (And, of course, being a US site, much mention is made of terrible vibrations at speed. Hardly surprising in a country without regular vehicle fitness tests, where people seem unaware of the importance of keeping wheels and tyres in good condition. (I’ve found that any and every car is smooth at speed with properly balanced wheels))

    I thought that I must be turning into a curmudgeon, until I remembered that probably happened a while ago, but the question provides food for thought. Do we not ‘improve’ or fettle our cars, and what do we do when they don’t need it, or we’re not allowed to alter them? As Dave says, all that is left is to ‘tune’ them.

    I’ll leave the question here, I have rust to cut out of a Gamma Coupe.

  3. Great article, seen from a British view this modifying (bodging) old cars was certainly common. I’ve just inherited a box of tools which my Dad tried to service and repair his various Austins. Not included was the book of swear words that were widely used. The problem, in Britain anyway, was the constant affliction of “doing it on the cheap”, bodged repairs or upgrades, usually with the wrong tools.

    For myself, I never tried to make my old cars go faster, any modifications were usually there for comfort: front seats from a CX into a Citroen LNA, dashboard with rev counter from a 104 ZS in my base version… Together with a colleague, we spent many happy hours in the scrapyards of south Manchester looking for bits to keep our jalopies on the road. Instead, I followed the principles of Captain Slow, give the old girl a proper service!

    Now I live in Switzerland, homemade tuning is practically verboten, any modifications you want to carry out must be approved with a certificate ($$) from the manufacturer of the parts to ensure that is suitable for your car. Buying a secondhand set of rims can be a nightmare if there’s no approval for your car, even if they’re the same size! As Dave pointed out modifying “aka tuning” is a mugs game (lowering, spoiler kit, mega stereo, colourful wrap…).

    We look with certain degree of envy towards the various Youtubers freely hacking away at their cars without consideration of regulations, but as I set off across snowy Europe in minus temperatures, I’ll be glad of my properly tested and approved machine to keep me safe.

    Keep up the great work DTW!
    Andrew

  4. Great article, thank you! I have no actual data to back this up so please forgive me, but my impression and memory tells me that car modification as a culture was quite widespread across Europe at the time. Italy in particular springs to mind. Certainly in the 60s and 70s, Italians were enthusiastic modifiers. When I was a small child in Rome, it felt like every other small Fiat was tweaked in some way. There were many artisans all over Italy who could take your 500, 600, 127 or 128; lower it, widen it, tune the engine, prop open the engine cover and turn it into a pocket rocket. I’m not sure the Do It Yourself tuning culture was quite as prevalent as in the UK though. Possibly for a very prosaic reason : Italian people lived largely in apartment blocks, and didn’t necessarily have garages or workshop spaces to operate out of, making ambitious projects much harder to envisage.

  5. What an excellent article! Well done indeed.

    I admit to purchasing copies of “Car and Car Conversions” in my younger days as did many of my friends. Perhaps because most of us wanted to keep the pretty basic vehicles we had either purchased or inherited, on the road rather than actually improve them.

    My list included a Singer Chamois Sport, Morris Marina – why? and a Ford Cortina Mk 3.

    I had the benefit of a Father in Law who had been a motor mechanic in the army and had access to a garage where he worked on civvy street. We spent most of our time adjusting carburettors, points and brakes so didn’t have much time, or money, for upgrades or additions however appealing they may have been. As I recall a lot of this work seemed to take place in the winter too. Masochists…

  6. An excellent and most enjoyable piece, thank you bristowfuller. I think that the bewildering complexity of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems on modern cars is a huge deterrent to driveway ‘fettling’.

    Back in the late 1970s I was happy to service my first two (secondhand) cars and those of friends with new plugs, points and an oil and filter change, but that was the limit of my expertise and, once I purchased a new car, I then left it to the professionals. Over the following couple of decades, I had the use of company cars, which were untouchable (oficially, at least) and by the time I returned to car ownership in the 2000s, they had become far too complicated for me to interfere with.

    Regarding cosmetic upgrades (I use that word advisedly) I took a (hopefully!) humorous look at that topic on DTW in my early days as a contributor:

    Accessorize!

    1. When I was young I did as much maintenance and repair work as possible on my cars.
      My rule was that as long as it was cheaper to buy the proper necessary tools than to pay somebody else to do the job I’d buy the tools and do it myself.
      Over time I build a large collection of tools.
      At that time many things were for universal use like stroboscope flashgun, engine testers and carbon monoxide testers, which helped a lot to properly adjust (to avoid the term ‘tune’) engines. When everything went fully electronic I even managed to buy one of the large Bosch testers with TV screen for astonishingly little money.

      Nowadays all I use is some software on a laptop to break into the OBD 2 bus of my car to switch off as much of the nannying bells, beeps and lights as possible.
      This software also could be used to switch off the alarm generated when the brake pads are changed (!) but I no longer do this type of jobs.
      The only tinkering I still do is on my (old British) motorcycles which are straightforward to work on as long as you have spanners to three different British standards…

  7. It’s an age thing, mes enfants – and has a lot to do with one’s upbringing. I suspect Dave is a little younger than I am, judging from the engine testing tools he describes; screwdriver, spanner & feeler gauges being all that was available when I started playing with engines. Not only did the cars which a newly-qualified driver could afford to buy require routine checking and servicing of some items on a weekly basis and/or at 250-mile intervals (some even daily), most of us had been brought up by parents for whom the “make do & mend” era of WW2 still influenced their views on paying someone else to do a job which they were perfectly capable of doing themselves. Even assuming they could afford to in the first place.

    And that applied to more things than looking after your car – repairs to the home and most things within it you did yourself and neighbours would take advantage of each other’s particular skill-sets. The “Do it Yourself” mentality, though often now scoffed by those who don’t or can’t, comes from a long and honourable pedigree.

    It is entirely true, though, that the enthusiasm for tinkering with your needed every day car soon wanes – through much of my working, as in paid employment, life I needed a car to start first time every time and the last thing I wanted to do was have to work on it myself. But come retirement and the ability to indulge in a hobby, some of us happily go back to playing with the cars of our youth – or even earlier. Some even play with those strange devices on two wheels. There is nothing more satisfying than rescuing and resurrecting a piece of old machinery that has been previously discarded – and that’s when you’re glad you’ve got a good stash of tools and other junk (it’s stock, dear) in the shed/loft/garage…….

  8. What a delightful surprise, and I’m proud to have been mentioned for planting the idea for such a worthwhile and enlightening article.

    I have to admit that I didn’t experience the post-WW2 “special building era” first hand, only becoming aware of it through reminiscences in early ’70s Hot Car and C+CC. I suppose my first interest coincided with the Beach Buggy Era, which played an important part in re-energising the British kit car industry.

    These two publications were a constant reminder that this was still the era of the skilled worker, with a level of technical knowledge assumed which would be second nature to a reader who worked in a machine shop or drawing office, but would be baffling to their modern equivalents, whose working experience was limited to the call centre or coffee bar. The will to improve and personalise is still there, but it has become ‘Balkanised’ into an assortment of “scenes”, for those with deeper pockets than their Seventies and Eighties equivalents.

    My other thought is that the spirit of the tweakers, tinkerers, fixers and improvers lives on in the classic car scene, as was amply in evidence at the NEC show in November. The historic car sector is said to be worth about £18 billion to the UK economy, and provides employment for 100,000 people. There is the underlying worry – easily observed at the show – that the constituency is heavily weighted to the middle-aged and older; they have the enthusiasm and money, but will their heirs and successors be willing, or able, to follow on in the face of impending redefinition of personal mobility?

    1. Not just old cars…. go to a model railway exhibition and grey hair (or in my case snowy white) is obligatorisch, young people are usually being led by their Grandads. Which is a real shame as the range and sophistication of model railways these days is astonishing, even Hornby have raised their standards from “just good enough” to “almost the best”.
      My heir has absolutely no interest in following on, so one day my layout will end up on Ebay or worse.
      Andrew

    2. Andrew, you’ll be pleased to know that model railways don’t just appeal to the elderly. My 33 year old son (who works in locomotive maintenance) scratchbuilds a lot of unusual locos and rolling stock, especially from long-defunct narrow gauge lines, and regularly shocks the old guard with his work. They’re amazed that someone so young even knows such things existed, but as Ben says, if he can find the plans on the net he’ll have a go at building it. We used to live just up the road from a big freight yard, and one of his first words was “Train!”
      Or maybe he’s the exception to prove your observation, but that would be sad.

  9. Things are not as bleak as some would have you believe – pulling things to pieces is a basic human instinct; just watch any very small child. The problem with the devices on which we all depend in our daily lives is that they cannot be taken to pieces – and even when that small child succeeds in doing so, the device is irreparable and has to be thrown away. However, show a youngster a device which can be taken apart and put together again, perhaps even be improved on, and you stand a good chance of gaining their interest. There is a growing number of both males & females in the 15 – 25 bracket who are getting seriously involved in the “classic” car scene, even to the extent of apprenticeships. They are even, as I discovered a couple of weeks ago, showing interest in cars of the 1930s, a class which the dealers will tell nobody is interested in. But that just makes them affordable….

    As for model railways, don’t lose hope Andrew – you may yet be pleasantly surprised.

    1. “…pulling things to pieces is a basic human instinct”

      😁

    2. The wheel well of a mk1 Fezza in the dark and in the rain is not a place to be.. and of course, the car had to be roadworthy in the morning. This final brake shoes and pads change was to be my last. My command of foul language was amply demonstrated as was the propensity of nuts to seize when copiously salted. The next car, which will replace a restomod Alfa that is too fast to use legally and still have fun on the road with must be something I can do for myself. The mistress enjoys maintenance by proxy, which diminishes me and makes me miss my spanners. The VSCC will be joined and the neighbours will chuckle..

  10. “…if you weren’t around back then it may be hard to believe quite how few options there were to fritter away your spare time, unless your family liked standing around the piano singing Gilbert & Sullivan.”

    Been there, done that…

    Don’t be too hard on G&S. A certain prominent figure in the British automobile industry was such a successful producer, director and performer of Savoy operas while at university that he was head-hunted by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. He was strongly tempted, but was persuaded by his father to stick with his intended career.

    The proper DTW quiz season is still a few days away, but any guesses who?

    1. I haven’t the faintest idea who that might be, but I’m intrigued!

  11. Oh happy days – I remember when stage 1 tuning was remove the hubcaps and the (engine driven) cooling fan…
    Yes, I put the swing-axle front suspension on my 8HP Anglia, but by then I’d built a 10HP(1172) engine for it, with help from the Ford Special Tuning book, which is still in the attic somewhere. By the time I changed to a Triumph Herald I could afford to source a second-hand electric cooling fan, along with disc brake conversion, wide wheels, special rear spring, Spitfire engine (which I naturally stripped, measured, and rebuilt myself, even though it only had 22k on its’ clock). I even built my own manometer, to balance the twin SU’s.
    It was surely Ford who ‘spoilt’ the party, by offering you cheap cars with a choice of engines – 1300 with a Ford carb/1300 with a Weber/1600 with a Ford etc.
    My Herald was the only car I ever ‘maxed’ – took it to the 6500 rev limit in top on a slight down gradient one night. These days the roads are too busy, and cops too tech-laden, to use the performance modern cars are capable of.

  12. I think the tinkering instinct is alive and well, but it doesn’t really apply itself much to physical items any more. Very few people build their own hifi or radio gear nowadays either, because the off the shelf stuff is so darn good.
    I would suggest that, of those do enjoy messing around with things they can grasp, many now enjoy using 3D printers and home laser cutting gear to build stuff.
    As for the rest, rather than working with material of any kind, they are funnelling their creativity into software. This is where hobby engineers now spend their time. And professional programmers frequently work on their own time on passion projects, rather as Chapman worked on his initial after his aircraft industry hours…

  13. “Not just old cars…. go to a model railway exhibition and grey hair (or in my case snowy white) is obligatorisch, young people are usually being led by their Grandads.”

    Not just model railways either…if you really want to see a Gathering Of The Greys, try a high-end audio exhibition. The sort where there are amps, speakers and turntables selling for crazy five and six figure prices. The last one I went to was bereft of anyone under about 60. I guess it’s all about disposable income. But it’s crazy – these men (and they were ALL men) are obsessing over and spending huge sums of money on audio equipment to “get that extra 0.005% of ultimate audio fidelity”. Of course, by their age, their hearing has almost certainly degraded way beyond the point where they can even hear the difference…

  14. How happy I am seeing once more DTW linking cars and car culture to overall social behaviour and the way it changed along the past decades.

    How holistic are the diferent views presented here, and how it makes me feel good.

    Void of interest but unavoidable to me to refer to are the mods my father made on my early years family car, a 48bhp 1098cc mustard yellow Escort mk1: adjustable and rechargeable Koni’s all round, an aditional leaf on the rear springs, rectangular foglamps inserted on the grille and, of course, front bumper central section cutted off … all round unassisted drum brakes were left untouched, however: as he had a heavy trucks driving licence, almost every touch on the brakes was mated to a double-declutch down gear, which made us feel on a rally stage most of the time

    Another grey hair comment, but at least I refrained myself from starting on H0 trains and Class A valve amps 🤭

  15. “…..hearing has almost certainly degrade….” Speak for yourself! Knee joints, on the other hand…..
    Gustavo’s Escort (I think the official description was Daytona yellow) strikes several chords. A few years earlier I brush-painted my Heinkel black and stuck fake basket-weave plastic on the side panels (well it was the sixties) but it soon peeled off so out came the paint brush and a tin of purple paint (all good paint, from Mason’s where a friend’s mother worked). Finally it was black all over, stick-on front number plate, rear engine cover discarded in favour of a motor cycle-type rear number plate & mudguard.

    It’s too cold in the garage today to fettle a Jowett so I’m now going to attempt to set up my new Mac mini and transfer data from the old one. This will entail nicking the small tv from the kitchen to use as a monitor for the old machine while I do battle, probably ending up talking to a friendly Apple technician somewhere in the world. Vicki in Alabama drew the short straw last time……. But does this count as fettling?

    Oh, bfore I go – don’t knock G & S; the finest subversive satirists of their age!

    1. Heinkel bubble car or Heinkel scooter (or rocket powered aircraft or moped with cast magnesium frame)?

  16. Domestic bliss – or more likely targeted marketing, from Hot Car October 1978:

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