About Me and my passion- motoring|
Having been born with a little oil running through my veins inherited from my father who is himself a car and motorcycle enthusiast
it was probably little surprise to anyone that I might like them too.
One of my earliest memories is having burned bare legs as a toddler from the red leather back seat of my father's Rover 2000TC, a car that was apparently a great disappointment to him, possibly because it succeeded a 1960s Mini Cooper that he had owned from new prior to having children.
The Rover 2000TC brochure car. A Mini Cooper Mk1 998cc
I also vividly remember accompanying my father to collect his almost new Triumph Dolomite 1850 as a four year old, going with him to test ride a Moto Morini when I was 8, and collecting his brand new Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf when I was 13. The dolly and the 'sud are long gone but he still has his wonderful 1978 Morini.
Triumph Dolomite Brochure Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf Me on the nearly new Morini
One thing that possibly really lay the foundation for my love of all things cars was a brilliant Corgi Carrimore transporter and cars 'gift set' given to me for Christmas when I was just three years old by my grandparents, and I spent many many childhood hours playing with it. It had six great cars in the set: a Zagato Lancia Fulvia, a 3 litre Ford Capri Mk1, a Marcos 3000, a Pontiac Firebird, an MGC GT and a 'Saint' Volvo p1800s. This set and all the cars somehow survived, and I still have and cherish them today, although without the box, and the Capri and Pontiac are a little bit abused.
Most of my childhood drawings were of cars (always with plumes of exhaust!) but I was developing an (un?)healthy interest in motorbikes too, particularly Japanese machines. I was given a Suzuki GS750 brochure in the late 70's and spent many happy hours running up and down my bedroom dreaming of owning and riding such a magnificent beast, although I also really liked the GT750 'kettle' too. At that time I didn't know about 'two-strokes' and 'four strokes' but the GT had four great big chrome exhaust silencers (from 3 cylinders) emitting smoky exhaust, which at eight years old made it one of the best things imaginable, well until the six cylinder Honda CBX came out- and I had the poster on my wall.
At that time I also dreamt of the closer future and spent many hours looking at the Chopper and Tomohawk bicycles in the Raleigh brochure, and a year or two later lusted after the Raleigh Grifter with it's motorbike style twist grip gear selector. Sadly I never owned either, although in the mid' 90's a friend and I seriously considered picking up a couple of cheap old Grifters out of 'Loot' for about a tenner each to ride to the pub on for 'a laugh'. We should have bought them because they are now worth a small fortune...
I have never been interested in sport or ball games and was (and still am) hopeless at them, always preferring wheels to balls. My childhood salvation came in the form of skateboarding which was at it's peak in 1978-9. I was lucky in that all the local older boys were getting into it and I learnt from them, got reasonably good at it and loved every single minute. My brother and I shared a few issues of the now hugely valuable 'Skateboard' magazine and lusted after all the glossy colour printed gorgeousness such as Fibreflex decks, Tracker Trucks and of course Kryptonic wheels. Our magazines got binned by about 1980, but we managed to get our hands on a few choice components before the craze ended and I fitted my original ACS 580 trucks to an old stock 70's Makaha deck and re-issue red 'Kryps' in 2014 to satisfy one of my many midlife crisis's!
In July 1981 I bought my first own car magazine which was the August issue of 'Street Machine' and continued to buy it most months when I could afford it for about 4 years. At 12 years old I found my first issue very exciting- I think there was a Triumph Herald with Wolfrace wheels and Mirraflake paintwork, a 'chopped' Mini van (Andy Saunders?) and a mk1 Ford Escort with a deep blended in front spoiler.
Looking back, that magazine was great reading because even at that young age it taught me that pretty much anyone with practice and advice could change a cars engine, fit alloy wheels, weld bodywork, and even respray a whole car.
Around the same time my older neighbours were mucking about with mopeds and old Lambrettas and I was thinking about bikes again too. I managed to convince a neighbour to sell me two non running Puch Maxi mopeds for £10 of my 14th birthday money. One was a complete basket case but my father got the better one running pretty quickly as he'd probably got sick of watching me pedal it frantically on the stand for days trying to get it to fire. The remainder of my birthday money went on some Ford Capri / Escort Mk1 purple metallic spray paint from Halfords and I resprayed the frame myself reasonably successfully. That Puch provided many hours of pleasure riding up and down my parents garden until I was 15.
I'd manged to save a bit of my car-wash round money and added it to my 15th birthday money and spent it on my absolute dream bike of the time (kind of still is)- a Yamaha FS1E. It came pretty cheap even then, a little abused, but with ace-bars and a Micron expansion chamber exhaust and I loved it!
I sold the Puch for £40 to two 'herberts' and I spent the next year continuing to ride up and down my parents garden after school, only now on a faster and louder machine, much to the delight of the neighbours, waiting for my 16th birthday.
Whilst waiting to turn 16 I did the fizzy up a bit including respraying the tank and side panels in my own adaptation of the then latest Yamaha red top/ silky white colour scheme on the 'just out' RD500LC. I loved that colour scheme then and still do today, lusting after not only the RD500LC but also the RD350 YPVS F1 which came out about 6 months later in the same colours.
In July 1985 I turned 16 about 5 days after leaving school and had a great summer riding the fizzy. Over the next year I changed the (big bore) cylinder barrel, piston and small end bearing more than once, replaced the bent front forks, steering bearings, tyres and so on. I also bought my next bike, a 1982 Suzuki GS125ES in red complete with a rare full Pichler fairing from my elder brothers friend in preparation for my 17th birthday.
The Suzuki was cosmetically smartened up, had new Metzeler tyres and an 'Alfa' (made by Micron) chrome exhaust, looked very smart and felt pretty grown up with it's electric starter, cast wheels etc compared to the fizzy.
World of work and motor vehicle studies
In September 1985 having decided not to take my place at art college I started work on the YTS at a multi franchise (including Subaru, Lada and Reliant!) garage working initially in the parts department. I attended college one day a week studying for City and Guilds in motor vehicle technology. I hadn't much enjoyed school, but as I found the college curriculum quite interesting I excelled at the exams and after 2 years had passed parts 1 and 2 of the City and Guilds and started on the IMI technicians course.
At the end of the YTS the garage took me on officially and I worked as an apprentice mechanic mixed with the parts department, but had exposure to the showroom and service reception too. After 2 and a half years I was practically running the parts department but the long hours were playing havoc with my social life, the IMI course was becoming more challenging and I was lured away by what seemed like the glamourous world of electrical retail! My garage bosses were a bit upset and offered to double my very low salary and promised I'd be parts manager within a few years but I couldn't see my future there.
In hindsight I would have probably loved art college, but I have no regrets about going to work in the motor trade, I learned so much about vehicle maintenance and repair, the motor trade and life in general, and got to drive lots of cars!
Bikes to cars
I rode my Yamaha FS1E from 16- 17 years old without incident right through the autumn and winter with about a 14 mile return journey to work at the garage every day. At 17, now legal on an L-plated 125 and on one wet October morning however, I found myself and the Suzuki sliding down the road having braked hard on wet leaves. We both had a few bumps and bruises but were very lucky to have escaped any real physical harm. Mentally though, it put me off and I decided I'd rather have a warm car. I started driving lessons and bought my first car about a month later.
My first car was a 1974 Mini 1000 in olive green. It somehow had a new MOT and extensive plating in the foot wells! It cost about �300 and came with nudge bars and a Moto-Lita steering wheel- I couldn't wait to paint the roof black and the body red to make my own 'Italian job' mini. This I did after learning how to (sort of) gas weld, putting on new A-panels and a rear valance panel.
I continued to ride the Suzuki to work and drive the Mini with 'co-pilots' (any 17 year old friend I could find with a full licence in those joyous days!) until I passed my driving test at first attempt in March 1987 when the Mini took over full time, complete with an 'awesome' 50 watt Audioline radio cassette, slightly illegal Colonel Bogey musical airhorns and no hub caps.
I crashed the Mini in a country lane about three weeks after passing my test- luckily no one was hurt- as they say in Thomas the tank engine.
Still aged 17, I sold the slightly battered Mini to a friend (who still has the Mota Lita wheel) for about �100 and pulled my life post office savings to buy my first proper car, a 1980 Triumph Dolomite 1500HL with overdrive and twin carbs for about �1150, starting a life long series of buying, owning and maintaining cars I couldn't really afford!
1987 to present
Since the Dolomite in 1987 I have bought, owned, run, maintained, restored and sold numerous cars and digested many many car, classic car and motorcycle books and magazines.
In the early 90's I decided to learn how to spray a car properly using a spraygun and compressed air. My first proper restoration involved some gas welding and respraying the entire front end. I read up about spraying technique and cellulose paint/ thinners mixes and hired the welding gear and the compressor and spraygun.
After gaining more confidence on my next light resto' my father kindly invested in a compressor for me to completely respray my brothers Volvo Amazon which took an awful lot of paint.
In the mid 1990's my father and I co-built a kitcar from a fibreglass body tub and a rolled donor car, with me responsible for all the paintwork duties.
As the years have rolled by I've restored a few more cars including a Mini 1275GT I bought when they were still cheap for it's numberplate which I have put on a number of my cars since.
I've had a few new cars which had to be serviced by a dealer for the sake of the warranty, but other than that I have done pretty much all the servicing and repairs on my own cars and many friends and family cars over the last 30+ years.
I still have my 'modern classic' Alfa Romeo that I've owned, improved and cherished since 2001. I've had the engine out three times and have replaced too many parts. The Alfa and I did get to appear together in a magazine article which was published just in time for my 40th birthday, and the car even managed to share the magazine's front cover with John Lennon and Stirling Moss!
I returned to biking in 1997 after a ten year break, completing a CBT and direct access course to gain a full unrestricted licence. I now own a modern classic 1989 model Yamaha FZR600 which I restored including respraying the frame. Me and the FZR have also appeared in print in a 9 page feature in early 2014 in a motorcyle magazine.
I've been involved in driver training since the 90s and now run a number of websites including the Alfa Romeo enthusiasts site Alfisti.co.uk since 2000.
I love cars (and bikes), especially classic/old ones, and I love talking and writing about them too, and as a 'frustrated motoring journalist', I'd love to write freelance too, perhaps for magazines or websites either about my own experiences or reviews of cars and motoring products. Feel free to contact me!