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  1. #1
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Tales from the (not so very) fast lane ~ part 4

    Tales from the (not so very) fast lane ~ part 4


    Following on from the Valspar Ford Consul in part 3 my next car was a 1960 Mark 9 Jaguar 3.8 automatic. I bought this at the age of 18 or 19 in 1968 or 69. What a car! and less than 10 years old!
    It was bought from the father of a girl friend's girl friend (if you understand my 'drift'). The Jag was bought new by a company based in central London and used as the chairman’s vehicle and if I remember correctly, chauffeured by the person I bought it from. He retired or left the company, buying the Jag from his employer when it was possibly only 7 or 8 years old. The car had some 50000 miles on it and was finished in opalescent grey with interior trimmed out in totally unmarked red leather, complete with lambswool over rugs, magazine rack and two cigar lighters in the centre door pillars and acres of veneered woodwork. Even the tool trays were present in the drivers and passenger doors. Today we are all used to seeing fancy LED lighting in cars and touch screen controls and tend to take them for granted. The Mark 9's backlit blue dashboard lighting was a thing of wonder and worthy of only ever driving at night with its ghostly seemingly ultra violet lighting the instrument panel.



    The Mark 9 was visually in pretty good condition, yet typically as with many British vehicles from this period corrosion prevention was poor and it had rust gradually taking hold on the bottom of the fenders and door sills (and in fairly significant other places as I was soon to find out!)
    I had only been working as an engineering apprentice for a couple of years with my weekly pay packet going up from a lowly £1-10 shillings to £3-00. This was around about the time of the UK's national currency change from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency (£1-10 shillings now being £1.50p) At that time no one realised that this would create the biggest inflationary cycle the UK have ever seen – but that is another story!
    I paid £35 for the Mark 9. That may not seem like a lot of money now – and to be honest it was a really good price back then for the car, however I was to find out that it did potentially need some significant expenditure to enable me to make it road legal once more. It wasn't apparent at the time of purchase that the car had been standing in the previous owners front drive for a year or two completely unused. When I went to collect the car I had managed to find a battery (it may have been two six volt batteries) and check all the essential fluids and putting a gallon of fresh petrol in the car to initially start it up. Well, it started up OK and seemed to be in really good mechanical order, but the exhaust system was so badly corroded it was like paper and promptly disintegrated, falling off in the driveway. I was committed here, having already paid for the car and determined to drive it home (some 2 miles away) so I decided to take a risk and drive it on open manifolds. The aim was to fuel-up at the Esso fuel station close to Hornchurch tube station (now a new apartment block) literally just 250 yards away from where I bought the car. The next thing to happen was 50 yards up the road and one or two badly corroded core plugs in the engine block 'popped' and all coolant was lost!
    I still had full intentions of getting the car home but couldn't leave the car in the street (not being taxed or tested) and didn't really have the option of getting it transported home the following day so couldn't really take the chance leaving it parked in the street. I decided to drive it up to the garage and put some more fuel in and make a 'dash' for home. This was in the days before self service and amusingly the petrol pump attendant didn't even bat an eyelid with all the noise of open headers. This was the era of flower power and hippies and at that time my hair was down to my shoulders and wearing a lime green 'grand-dad' style T-shirt with green velvet bell bottom trousers, perhaps he thought I was one of those hippy musicians. Anyway he fuelled-up the car and I reckoned at worst I would probably need to stop once or twice on the way home to let things cool down – well, I didn't stop, and drove the car home seemingly without any ill effects from running it without coolant.
    Bearing in mind at the time my meagre £3.00 a week wage, actually getting the Jag back on the road took several months. Parts even then were stupidly expensive and only available from main Jaguar dealers. This was before the days of independent car spares shop who would eventually stock parts for all makes of UK vehicles. Effectively it was only lubricants that were available from garages. All servicing parts and spares had to be bought from from main dealers. The only other choice for some servicing parts was, surprisingly Halfords! I decided to make my own exhaust system using two Mini Cooper glass packs (these being the muffler of choice back then), with flexi-tube to go under the rear axle brazed to lengths of straight piping. It sounded fantastic. Just like a well sorted Aston Martin. The Jag's tyres were bald and had to be renewed. I just couldn't afford new 16” x 7.50” cross ply tyres being an 'old' size and difficult to source. As luck would have it an elderly neighbour who lived three doors away approached me and asked if I would like to buy her late husbands 1948 Austin 16 which he had used some years previously as a taxi. This had been stored in her garage for some 15 years and was totally rotted out - but had 16" wheels and tyres. So for the grand sum of £12 I had a set of hardly used 16" tyres. Hmmm - I could tell you about the 'flat spots' on the tyres from standing for 15 years. I could also tell you that they were only 5.25" wide rather than the 6.70" or 7.00" stock size that should have been fitted to the Jaguar. The tyres would almost roll off the rims when cornering hard and were constantly getting punctures. Remember, these were 'old school' cross plies. Still, back then tyres had inner tubes and wearing heavy boots and armed with several tyre levers I could get my puncture outfit out and repair any 'flats'. “What about balancing the wheels” I hear you ask! Probably explains why the fastest speed I ever drove it was 90 mph (due to severe tyre shake!)
    When able to afford it I would drive the car to work which was only 3 or 4 miles away but the Jag still seemed to use half a gallon each way. Must have been something to do with those heavy boots I wore!. Fuel in the very 1960's was only 25p to 30p a gallon in today’s money but still a large lump out of your pay packet. If going out anywhere I would go 'mob handed' with 3 or 4 mates all clubbing together for the fuel. They were not going to pass up the opportunity to go out in such a prestigious car for the sake of contributing a few gallons of Shell or BP's finest were they? Out on the open road the fuel consumption was much better than the sub 10mpg the Jag would get 'in town' and 12/14 mpg was possible. One Saturday evening four of us (Little Dave, Tony York, Jeff Moncrief and myself) decided to go out for a drive and fuel-up fully ready for a trip to Santa Pod Drag Strip the next morning. Accordingly I filled the usual right hand tank up to the brim with fuel and then (to save stopping too often on the journey) did the same with (the up until then unused) left hand fuel tank - big mistake! the bottom of the tank had badly corroded, (probably due to condensation and water in the tank) and we had to watch as the whole tank of fuel gradually poured out on to the garage forecourt. We got to Santa Pod the next day – but only just when en-route the auto gearbox decided to lose top gear so we had to drive to the 'Pod and back in second gear. The noise from the revving 6 pot and glass packs was good though. And surprisingly it actually managed to average 15 mpg on the day! I eventually sold the car for £75 a few months later.
    There were a number of fairly inconsequential cars that followed, things like a 18,000 mile 1957 Hillman Minx for £8.00

    100E Ford Prefects, Morris Minors and even an early lowered Mini 850cc with Cooper rims which I fitted twin carbs and 'shaved' and ported the cylinder head . The Moggie Minor that followed had a set of wide steel rims which didn't help one winters morning driving on packed ice and snow. Going around a bend at less than 20 mph the front end 'went' and I hit a Triumph 2000 coming the opposite way a glancing blow. The front offside wing of the Morris was so rusty it just 'peeled' off in the collision, fortunately causing minimal damage to the Triumph. In 1973 another 'big ford'' came along, this time a Monaco red Mark 3 Zephyr Six.

    The first thing I did was remove all the chrome trim and both front and rear bumpers, and spray the front grille matt black. Some 4” wide Mopar like bumble bee stripes in gold and satin black were sprayed on the rear of the car, and most importantly I had the Zephyr's stock wheels 'banded' and widened by two inches and fitted a brand new set of Firestone Wide Ovals. Yep, same name as the American ones fitted new on many USA muscle cars but, unfortunately only a 185mm section. I can still remember that wonderful smell of 'new' rubber. This was back in the period when very few alloy rims were available at affordable prices and wide tyres in smaller diameters were just not made. I was lucky to track down a well used aluminium 12 port Raymond Mays cylinder head complete with twin carbs and free flowing twin exhaust manifolds. I seem to remember paying £35 for the set-up. It was probably off a Reliant Scimitar, AC or similar car using the 6 pot Ford engine. Utilising a pair of Mark 3 Zodiac downpipes and Mini Cooper glass packs (once more – no Thrush mufflers yet!) for an exhaust system. This significantly increased the power output and performance as to be comparable with a 4.2 Jag of the period, although it would regularly blow head gaskets. I also installed leather Mark 2 Jaguar front seats in the Zephyr, not really for the comfort benefits but to replace the front bench seat that reclined back at a crazy angle of about 30 degrees owning to the rear mounting points rusting and collapsing through the floor. I'm not too sure if it is available now but back then I bought a can of spray-on green window tint from one of the American and custom car specialists. It would have been either Custom Maid Ilford, Deals on Wheels Romford, Americar in Southend on Sea or perhaps Woolferace when they had a retail shop at Staples Corner, North London.. The instructions on the can said to “clean all internal window surfaces with alcohol or acetone, then spray tint across the top of the window, letting the tint run down the window surface, coating the window surface evenly in the green tint”. I unwisely chose to use the whole can on the front windscreen. It was quite a dark tint, in fact a very dark tint. So dark in fact that the first foggy winters day and with such poor visibility through the heavily tinted screen I could only follow the tail lights of vehicles in front of me. Embarrassingly I ended up following another vehicle all the way in to his front drive. To get home I had to drive with my head out of the window to see my way forward. The Zephyr was a very early production car, only ten years old but already so badly rusted that I eventually 'broke it' up for spares and scrapped it. There were repair panels available but the Zephyr was just too far gone. I sold the Raymond Mayes set-up for £75 to a New Zealander who specifically came over to the UK to visit family and source tuning parts for 6 pot Fords. At that time there was a very active racing scene in New Zealand using 'big' Fords.
    I had to wait until I was 24 years old to get my first American car. At that time Insurance costs were extremely prohibitive for American cars. I had set my heart on a '57 Plymouth Belvedere parked up in Manor Park on the edge of Wanstead Flats near to where a girlfriend was living. This was the same year car as the red Plymouth in the film Christine, except that this particular one was supposedly an ex Belgian 4 door taxi. Finished in white with red side stripe it was powered by a 3.8 litre flat-head six pot with two speed push button automatic. This was not a fast car and I could have bought this for a bargain £125 but insurance would have been an astronomical £250 (remember, this was 1971/72). The yearning for something with a V8 engine was too much to bear. This was the period when factory, municipal workers and miners were continually striking for improved working conditions and pay and eventually brought down Edward Heath's government. This civil unrest eventually culminated in major shortages of coal for fuelling the power stations. Emergency measures to conserve fuel stocks meant that power supplies were turned off for most of the day for three days of the working week. With all non-essential usage of electricity and gas supplies turned off it was only hospitals and essential users being allowed 24 hour use of power.
    Disillusioned when I had finished my engineering apprenticeship and following a several week national strike by 'blue collar' local authority workers which helped them to successfully secure salaries higher than skilled 'time served' engineers I decided to change career and went to work as a trainee branch manager for a retail electrical store group and started earning a higher wage with (at the time) better prospects. My grandfather loaned me some money to put towards my first 'decent' car, a 1964 Daimler 2 ½ litre V8 saloon.

    This was a low mileage two owner car, once again in opalescent grey and red leather interior. Staggeringly I paid £375 for this car. It may not seem a lot now, but in 1971/72 that was serious money. The first thing I did was remove the silencers, cut them open, completely remove all the baffling and have them welded back together again. I was disappointed though as it didn't really sound much louder than the stock exhaust. With its 'mini' Hemi engine it was a superb, smoothly driving car for its time, and with a set of oversized XJ6 tyres the braking and handling was very good. I really should have been more concerned though about an oil pressure that barely ever crept above 20 psi even when the engine was cold. The engine eventually self destructed and 'threw' a couple of con rods. Yet again with the Daimler being seven or eight years old I was at the mercy yet again of a failing and extremely expensive dealer network for spares. There were not any non-franchise parts specialists around like there are now. In the end I had to source a used engine from a breaker yard. This cost me £100. I fitted it, and yes it ran fine – but oil pressure was only about 25 psi. So a little later - exit the V8 Daimler.
    By now Norwich Union had just introduced 'sensibly' priced insurance rates for Classic American cars, so enter the 1965 Ford Galaxie Hardtop.
    Images of the car and me.
    So called 'Hardtop' as although it was a 4 door sedan it didn't have central door pillars in between the front and rear doors. When the windows were all wound down the sides were totally open like a two door pillar-less coupé. Originally up for sale for £225 the seller refused any offers I made. Unbeknown to me until after I bought the car – later in the same day I first viewed the Galaxie a couple of pikeys had also been to see the car and did the old trick of swapping spark plug leads around, presumably saying to the seller something along the lines of “Ere mate the engine's got somefink wrong wiv it, we'll make you a offer and take it off your 'ands” (which the buyer obviously refused) I decided to go back and take another look at the car and perhaps try a slightly higher offer. The seller mentioned that a couple of people had been to look at the car the previous day and that it hadn't run properly since then. Fortunately the seller had taken me out for quite a long test drive in the car the day before and it ran perfectly then. I was convinced the missin' and poppin' was nothing serious. Anyhow he sold it to me for £175. The pikeys trick had actually worked, but for me - not them!
    The pale metallic blue Galaxie was only nine years old and an a ex-Belgian 'minimalist' specification car. It had a 190 HP two barrel 289 cu in small block with manual three speed column change gearbox. The only options were the powered drum brakes and steering. And there was something wrong with the brakes. They were drums all round, but the brake servo seemed to be overpowered. Being a bit of a lazy driver and generally preferring an automatic transmission I had the habit of 'coasting' the car out of gear up to traffic lights etc. With the over-active brake servo the slightest touch on the brake pedal would lock-up front and rear brakes and with no seat belts send any passengers crashing into the dashboard. The 'trick', it seemed was only to apply the brakes when the car was slowing down and 'in gear'.
    One of the first things I did with the Galaxie (as you would!) was to throw away the single exhaust, buy some Thrush 'straight throughs' and make up a twin system with exhausts exiting each side in front of the rear wheels. Nice and noisy and sounding like a 'proper' car!

    The Galaxie was a great car for going out with 'the lads' as it would comfortable seat six people, (or eight at a very tight squeeze). I remember a girl travelling in the car in the front with us becoming hysterical and screaming when we were travelling down Seven Kings High road one evening and noticing the speedo reading in excess of (what appeared to be 100 mph). I 'forgot' to explain to her that it read in kilometres (rather than miles per hour)!
    I later managed to buy my first pair of new 7” x 15” Woolferace 'slot mags' to replace the stock rear wheels and tyres ( I couldn't afford the front ones as well!) and decided to take my recently widowed mother on a holiday touring Mid and North Wales in the Galaxie. Amazingly for a 'full sized' car it averaged 23/25 mpg over the holiday and hardly missed a beat. Some of those mountain lanes with dry stone wall were tricky in such a large car and we came back with a few 'scars' to the bodywork. Anyway the desire for more 'performance' was beckoning and it was time to move-on from the Galaxie sedan to a 'muscle' car.
    Next episode ~ from 1968 Rambler Javelin to Vauxhall Firenza 2300 and on to yet another Ford Galaxie

    Note ~ all images are internet library photo's - strip of three Galaxie photo's are 'real'.
    Last edited by roscobbc; 03-11-15 at 10:56 PM.

  2. #2
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Brilliant! reckon I just cant really conceive the rust problems y'all have...sounds as bad or worse than back east here.
    The Galaxie looks pretty cool - my Godparents had a similar model save for theirs being maroon over black, 352 and auto. A 2 door version is actually on 'my radar' right now, but should I procure one, best leave it home when I come over - stone wall scrapes!?! ouch...

  3. #3
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Quote Originally Posted by malamute john View Post
    Brilliant! reckon I just cant really conceive the rust problems y'all have...sounds as bad or worse than back east here.
    The Galaxie looks pretty cool - my Godparents had a similar model save for theirs being maroon over black, 352 and auto. A 2 door version is actually on 'my radar' right now, but should I procure one, best leave it home when I come over - stone wall scrapes!?! ouch...
    In some of the more rural areas narrow lanes are bounded by dry stone walls. Only seen in areas where there is an abundant supply (as seen on the Isle of Man TT) - they are often flint bearing rocks (like in Wales) which are not very forgiving - and being single track lanes without passing places challenging when another vehicle comes from the opposite direction....................!
    Last edited by roscobbc; 04-11-15 at 03:18 AM.

  4. #4
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Fantastic stuff! It appears that most cars of that era rusted badly due to poor rustproofing. The Japanese, and even more so, the Italian's being even worse! They would disintegrate before your eyes.

  5. #5
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    My laddo has just bought a year 2000 3.2 XJ6 with 85K miles and other than the leather upholstery needing some hide food it could be easily be 5 or six years old. Back 'in the day' a 15 year old car was unlikely to have survived. A 10 year old car was definately an old banger and close to being scrap yard material.

  6. #6
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Agreed. I came close to buying an XJ6 a few years back as there were some really nice examples out there, well over ten years old and in amazing condition. I only opted for an S-Class due to the economy of the diesel engine and the bargain price from my old boss. It was around 12/13yo at the time but drove like a brand new car even with starship milage!

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