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37th time lucky: Palladium goes for a drive


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When I got the V5 back for my new Xantia the other day, I totted up in my head what my car history was and was slightly disturbed when I realised it was number 15 in just over three years of driving. I know that's small fry compared to many on here, but for some reason it felt like a bit of a milestone, if only because I've never really thought that I've had lots of cars, but by 'normal' standards I think it's pretty clear I've got a problem.


To mark this momentous occasion, I've decided to take a rose-tinted look back at my various old heaps on here. It's probably of more interest to myself than anyone else, but I've never had photos of them all in the same place before and I can't see myself generating any other content in the near future, so there. I'm also in the slightly unusual situation that I was a member of this forum before I ever had a car, so most of you have seen this all before. Sorry.


Right, casting my mind back to the heady summer of 2012, I was unemployed and had recently moved back to my mum's house to save money (which was obviously a huge success) and frankly at a bit of a low point in my life. I also didn't have a driving license, having taken lessons when I was 18 but never the actual test, which was mainly due to girls, drugs, records and other fun things taking up all my limited attention.

Browsing ebay for stuff to put in the tat thread, I found a scruffy Bond Equipe GT4S at a reasonable BIN. Now, I know these are not great cars. They're probably not even good cars, but I have always loved the look of them. When I was nine, I bought a copy of Autocar from a car boot sale because it had a GT4S road test in, and I used to spend hours gazing at the super-clean press shots of the virgin white car. I figured I had nothing to lose taking on an 'easy project' to get a practical understanding of old cars, and what could be simpler than a GRP-bodied car that unbolts like a giant Meccano set? I actually sent BetaBoy (I think that was his user name?), host of the first Shitefest, to go and have a look at it for me. It was academic really because I'd already decided I was having it.

A few weeks later, it turned up on a beavertail and was dumped outside my house. I rolled it on to the drive and actually managed to get it going for a short period. And that's pretty much the end of the story. I started off with loads of enthusiasm and began to crack on with jobs I had absolutely no idea how to do. GarethJ came down for a day and we tried to sort the electrics out, Seth gave loads of remote advice on the Herald bits, but really it was a doomed project.

It hung around until February 2015, by which time I had acquired a near-complete second car that I dismantled and stored with the slightly optimistic idea of making one good one out of two bad apples. The chap who bought it had never had an old car before, but had restored a few old boats and was obviously skilled enough to take it on. Last I heard from him, the chassis and running gear had been totally restored and he was about to crack on with the body. Good luck!

I still need to scratch my Equipe itch, and one day I'll get a better one. Probably.





Car two arrived in May, 2013. By this stage I had somehow managed to wrangle a job at a respected old-car magazine (still no license! I forgot to mention that in my interview) and was busy re-learning how to drive. There was no question of me buying a Fiesta or a Polo or whatever as my first actual wheels, and for some reason I got fixated on Standard Tens. Prices seem to have risen a little since then, but in the crazy, hazy early 'teens Standards were decidedly unloved and prices were at rock bottom. I saw a succession of nice Tens sell for under £1000 and figured I should grab the first chance I could to get one. Fortuitously, RetroRides denizen Hardcore (Andy) let it slip that his dad was thinking of selling his 1955 Standard Eight. Great! Even better, Hardcore Senior lived just down the road in Worthing. Garycox drove me over one evening and we went round the block in it. I loved it! It was a local car, registered in Brighton as PUF666, but latterly bought by a reg plate dealer who stripped the plate (grr!) and sold it on. It had had a respray in the original colour, but otherwise was pretty much original. I agreed to buy it conditional on me passing my test, which I did a few weeks later.

On the way back home, full of enthusiasm to be behind the wheel of my own car for the very first time, everything seemed right with the world. Then I went over a pot hole and one of the rear leaf springs snapped clean in half. I think this pretty much sums up my relationship with old cars over the next three years.

When I eventually fixed it - in the street, with the help of a couple of mates - I immediately pressed it into daily use. I think it had been mollycoddled before, but I was doing 70 miles a day in it, and it was flippin' GREAT. I can't think of a better way to learn to drive properly, post-test, than a very slow car on crossply tyres. I learned about oversteer quite quickly and had a couple of dicey moments, but it was so forgiving I never managed to actually put it in a hedge.

Having driven lots of other 1950s cars since, I can safely say the Standard Eight is a bit shit, but I absolutely loved this car. The best bit was the heater controls, which are switches that move up and down a long thin slot. I soon discovered that this slot was exactly the right size for poking the end of a roll-up in, so I could have a ready supply of fags at my fingertips on any journey.

After a year of hard use, it was a bit worse for wear, The engine had developed a nasty oil leak and the brakes were well in need of renewal. Sadly, I needed to raise some cash quickly to buy car no4, and I sold it, too cheaply probably, to Torsten of this parish, who I think still has it tucked away somewhere. Let me know if you ever want to sell it, Vek.



Excitement builds as car number three comes long next!

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So, I had not long passed my test and already had two rubbish old cars, albeit one definitely not on the road. I somehow managed to last ONE WHOLE MONTH after getting the Standard before my next foray into the joys of elderly motor cars. This time it was all Garycox's fault.

He had spotted a beige Austin Allegro on gumtree, with a bit of MoT and ticket for the princely sum of £200. It was a 1.3 A+, which was worth significantly more than the asking price to a Mini owner. We decided to do the right thing and save the car from that sad fate, and went halves on it.

It was owned by, I think, one of the founder members of the Allegro club, and had only had two previous owners. The first was obviously your archetypal old giffer, who entered every journey he took in the car in a little book, complete with mileage reading. The second was a new driver who wanted a cheap car, and was less kind to it. The enormous dent in the driver's door was their doing. It had a little rust here and there but seemed generally okay, so Gary shot off to Kent or wherever it was and drove it home. We met on the seafront in Brighton that evening, where there was a small old car meeting (where also, oddly enough, I first met the now infamous Panhard Gary). 

Gary (Cox) doesn't actually use a car to get to work or anything, so I found myself using it much more than him. I drove it virtually to Essex the next week to buy some books, and not long after drove to flippin' Doncaster and back in a day when I had to go and drive some Goggomobils and didn't fancy taking the Standard. I later heard that the chap, who had like eight fuggin' Goggomobils and various other microcars, later told (namedropping, soz!) my mate Steady Barker he thought I was "Eccentric" due to my choice of motor car.

Over the next couple of years I did about 10 or 15,000 miles in the Allegro. When the Standard went it became my daily hack, and I went all over the place in it. It never, ever let me down, which is a nice thing to be able to say about perhaps the most maligned car ever built. It's also really comfortable and surprisingly good to drive. I saw an indicated 91mph on several occasions, which isn't bad for an old A-series.

In 2014 my office moved and my drive turned from all B-roads to a straight blat up the dual carriageway, and I didn't want to subject the Allegro to too much of that, so got a 'modern' car (car no6). After a while the Allegro fell by the wayside and was used less and less, but even if it had sat for weeks it could always be relied on to get me out of one of the many "all my other cars are broken" situations I found myself in. Finally, the clutch gave up almost entirely (I got quite good at clutchless changes though, which is a good skill to have I suppose), the front suspension started to droop and I managed to smash the wiper stalk off with my huge gammon-hands. Since then, it's sat on my drive gently gathering moss. Something needs to happen soon, but I'm so distracted with other things it'll probably fester for a little while longer. I still reckon with a fresh battery on it would drive to Scotland and back, if needed.


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Right, one more before bed.


By July, 2013, just three months after passing my test, I had somehow accrued enough cash to buy another car. I wasn't really looking for one, but idly browsing ebay one evening (sound familiar?) I spotted something interesting. Having spent the last couple of years reading all about Bond Equipes and Triumph Heralds, and having been out in Seth's MX5-powered Herald, I really fancied a go at one. I'd always liked the styling, and it seemed like a good back-to-back with the Standard, which of course the Herald replaced in 1959. The car I'd noticed was just down the road in Peacehaven, and had a superb registration plate. I went over and had a look, drove it round the block and made the guy an offer. It was a 1965 1200 saloon that had been re-engined with a Spitfire 1300 lump, but running a single carb, so more or less 13/60 spec. The chap talked me through all the work he had done on the car, which had had a body-off respray with all the running gear renewed. The only fault was a propshaft vibration at higher speeds, but he gave me a quote from a local firm who said they could balance it for £45. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually, quite a lot. The first breakdown happened pretty much straight away. We'd been to Classics on the Common and coming back down the motorway the clutch started slipping. I probably should have just carried on, but we got recovered back home. Not for the last time.

I began gingerly using it on the commute again, and due tot eh road speeds the clutch wasn't much of an issue. Then, I was coming home from work one night when the engine started making an almighty racket. I pulled over but frankly had no idea what was wrong. Heroically, Hardcore, Elk and Garycox all came up from Brighton to rescue me. We took the rocker cover off, and discovered a snapped valve spring. The guys managed to rig up the most pikey fix ever, with a jubilee clip holding the valve to stop it dropping, and I trundled home on a fewer-than-normal number of cylinders. I actually managed to fixorate it all by myself, after Seth sent me some spare valve springs, and I was back on the road.

Then the carb started playing up, and eventually it got so bad it just cut out and wouldn't restart. The car got abandoned at my office for ages, then recovered back to mine on another AA truck. Eventually, I got the carb rebuilt (by a moron) but it never really ran properly after that. It had sat around for about a year by then, and I eventually managed to get an MoT on it and quickly lobbed it up for sale, back in October last year.

The couple who came to look at it turned out to have owned it during the earl '90s. It was her car, and he had a wedgewood blue convertible. They met at a flippin' Club Triumph event in the two cars, got married and had a kid! They had to let one of the cars go, and the saloon got the short straw, but they had regretted it ever since. It was totally obvious they had to have it back and I sold it a bit cheaper than I'd have liked, but what a bloody happy ending! The guy even drove home in it, which was quite brave seeing as I had a panic attack just going to the shops in it in case something exploded. I'm sure it's in good hands now, though.

Not one of my better purchases, although I made some money on the set of horrid Minilites that came with it.



You'll have to contain your excitement til tomorrow for car no5

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If it weren't for the Princess I reckon I'd be pestering you about that Allegro 3 right about now.  Best engine, one of the better colour combos and I have a fondness for the late models. Being unusually rational, I reckon one beige gas sprung car is enough for anyone... unless you fancy an ugly Renault that doesn't run and has no history, it's practically got your name on it given your car history.

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The Allegro has been seriously maligned. Mine was comfortable, reasonably fast (1300) and handled as well as any other small car. I liked it ! Also 2 heralds, a '64 1200 and a '70 13/60, both quite competent so long as brakes were left alone during turns . I braked fairly hard on a sharp l/h bend once and it nearly fell over. The 1200 was a survivor too, glanced of the rear of a car in front, went to the right, took a t boning from a Mini coming towards me and hit a tree. It was repaired.

Just hope your history keeps on in the spirit of the unloved.

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Terrific thread, Mr Barrett. Keep it coming (and your spots thread). That's quite a few motors in a short time. If I tried to do likewise it would cause everyone to die of boredom, as it would basically read "..and then I bought another Skoda. It was just as shit as the last one...". Incidentally, you probably know already, but your Standard is on p31 of the book "Ten careful owners" by Steve Speller. It's a collection of photos of old shite he'd spotted knocking around the Worthing area circa twelve years ago.

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Incidentally, you probably know already, but your Standard is on p31 of the book "Ten careful owners" by Steve Speller. It's a collection of photos of old shite he'd spotted knocking around the Worthing area circa twelve years ago.


I had no idea!! I know about that book but have never actually seen a copy. Just ordered one for £2.44 on ebay.


Right, car no5. Late 2013: I was quite happy juggling the four old cars I had and wasn't thinking about adding any more to the stable. Then a friend came over to my office in a car I didn't know he had, a Peugeot 404 cabriolet. Now I had never given these too much thought before. I'd always admired their looks but had never actually seen one in the metal, so I was surprised by what an impressive machine it was up close. His car was actually a late model, with the fussy restyled grille and ugly dash/steering wheel, but it was still an absolute beauty. As soon as he left, me and my editor where online looking them up. Bad news: they're not cheap. Ah well, another one for the lottery win wish-list and nothing more.

A couple of months later, a 404 Cabriolet popped up on carandclassic at a more realistic, but still out of budget, price. Looking carefully at the photos, it became clear that it was the same friend who was selling it. a quick phonecall and he explained all: he had bought, on a whim, a second car off ebay. It had been in the UK for more than a decade but never registered here, and had been taken off the road a few years prior with engine trouble. If we wanted it then the price was very much negotiable.

We went to have a look the following week, and were totally smitten. It was a little rough round the edges, the interior was a mess and it was filthy, but all in all it seemed solid and, best of all, it was an earlier car with the infinitely more attractive grille etc. After a lot of soul-searching we decided to go halves on it on a buy now, pay later deal. I sold the Standard so we could at least leave a deposit and a few weeks later it arrived on a trailer, at another friend's house, where it would be stored temporarily.

We had loads of fun driving it to the pub and stuff, unregistered and totally illegal with a horrid knock in the engine, slipping clutch etc before attempting to get it sorted out. Almost three years later and the car is now fully UK registered, and is coming to the end of a lengthy and expensive engine rebuild with a 404 specialist in France. Like all Frenchmen, the chap has taken the whole of August off, but he promises it'll be done in September. He has taken a known good engine block, fitted brand new pistons, put a new clutch on and totally rebuilt the troublesome fuel injection system. All that's left is some electrics and small jobs and then it'll be done.

I can't wait to drive it as it's supposed to be. We'll probably smoke around in it for a year and then get the interior done next winter. The best looking and most classy thing I will probably ever own.




Ah, car no6. My one true love. My aforementioned office move had me searching for a reliable modern car to thrash up the dual carriageway, and I spotted a Citroen BX locally for £200. After a sort of comedy of errors trying to get the vendor pinned down I eventually went to see it, and it was a dog. Definitely savable, but needing far too much work. I seem to remember it was a petrol automatic, too. I decided to give it some thought, but wasn't really feeling the mojo. Literally the very next day a certain Cheshire-domiciled Vauxhall-licker advertised on here a BX TXD, with test and tax, for a mere £300. My decision was made. I spent a day on the trains and had a very pleasant transaction with Billy (top seller, would use again) and drove home.

It's a long way from Cheshire to Brighton and I took it very easy on the way home. Straight away I realised what a step up this car was from anything I'd driven previously. Supremely comfortable, effortless to drive, well-weighted PAS and, luxury of luxuries, a working radio!

This car has been owned by about seven Autoshiters before me, off the top of my head I think GarethJ, Dollywobbler and Minimad all had it at some point. The general consensus seems to be that it was a good 'un, and I can't disagree with that. Thirty-thousand miles later and I have still never driven a better car. No car, not even the fully loaded lwb Audi A8 4.2 my gaffer was smoking around in for a while (now with another 'shiter) can compare with the comfort offered by this 25-year old French family car.

I also discovered quite quickly that few cars can match a BX in the handling stakes down a fast B-road, and that a high-mileage old diesel engine in a light, aerodynamic shell is perfectly capable of embarrassing lots of younger machinery in a straight line too. 

I spent a lot of money getting its various foibles fixed - it must now be one of the most lhm-tight BXs out there - and drove everywhere like I stole it. Even various girlfriends with no interest in cars commented how nice it was to be driven in. I like it a lot.

Sadly, a few weeks ago I sent it to have the rear chassis rails welded up at my local Citroen specialist. After a few days of chipping away at it they eventually held their hands up and told me it was 'too far gone' to fix, with new bits of rust being discovered at every turn. He said I should scrap it and get another one. I wanted to cry.

I still don't know what I'm going to do with it. I need to talk to my tame welder and see what he thinks - he likes a challenge. Most people don't understand why I haven't just scrapped it, but hopefully some on here will feel some affinity with my unexplained and irrational feelings towards this most excellent automobile.


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I managed to last seven months before car no7 arrived on the scene. This probably requires a little bit of exposition otherwise I'll look like a nutter.

The magazine I work for has a small collection of unrestored old cars dating from 1909 to the late '50s. This is good, because I get to experience cars I would never be able to own myself, and when they break somebody else pays to have them fixed.

I've always liked Panhards, so when I realised my office was very much Panhard-friendly it was a relief (some of my other, more idiosyncratic, tastes are not so appreciated). Mutual Panhard appreciation quickly turned into a genuine search for a suitable car for the collection. The prize was, of course, an early, all-aluminium Dyna Z1, but we settled on a steel-bodied Z12 found on Leboncoin, for its striking originality - first paint, untouched interior, low miles and low ownership. It was a revelation. Everything you hoped would be true about Panhards was, and it was utterly reliable, usable and practical transport. People who say they're fragile don't know what they're talking about. We eventually found a Z1, not quite so tidy, but as the ultimate expression of the pure Dyna concept we had to have it, so the Z12 was sold off. We infected our publisher with our enthusiasm and he ended up buying an immediately postwar Dyna X, which he still has and uses regularly. We got to know the local guys in the Panhard club, who were very happy to give advice and work on the cars for us. Through them, we heard of a Panhard 24C that was coming up for sale in Eastbourne. What's more, it was one of just a tiny handful of right-hand drive cars built.

The 24 has long been a favourite of mine - I don't think there is a more stylish mass-produced 1960s car out there. It has all the superb Panhard engineering wrapped up in a shape that looks like nothing else on earth. a mid-60s car, it was outside the remit of the magazine's collection, and with the 404 still very much off the road, we decided to go halves on this one. Some protracted negotiations with the doddery owner and a helpful loan from Mr Santander later and it was ours. 


It made it two miles before breaking down.


As detailed elsewhere on here, things didn't really get much better. It soon transpired that it was, mechanically at least, a bit of a dog. I only did one journey without anything going wrong in 13 months of ownership. Even when it was running right, briefly, it wasn't very nice. The 24C has the low power engine, 42bhp compared to 60 in the top-spec 24CT Tigre version. This one had a replacement engine and gearbox which, after checking the serial number, transpired was from a Dyna pick-up truck, so even with the cooking motor it was hopelessly under-geared. The gearbox itself was horrid, a far cry from the Dyna Z's column shift, which is one of the nicest changes I've ever experienced. 

The problems inherent in the lhd-to-rhd conversion were manifold, and exacerbated by the previous owner's neglect and lack of mechanical sympathy.


After a year of frustration we managed to offload it to a dealer friend, in possibly the best ever deal we got shot of the only-just-running 24C and got an even more unusual but much nicer car (no9) and a wedge of cash in return. I'm still not quite sure how we managed it. 

The chap then managed to get it running to a fashion, put an MoT on it and offered it for sale. No bites. It ended up in an auction, where it sold for almost double what we paid for it. We've since found out the new owner has a rotten 24CT Tigre at home and is going to transfer all the oily bits over to the silver car, which is pretty much the best thing you could do. It should be quite a decent little tool, if it ever gets finished.



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Car no8 arrived a month after the Panhard, around the time I finally sold the Bond. This was very much an impulse purchase but if you know my interests you'll know why I had to have it. It's been detailed in its own thread in here, but this is a re-bodied Austin Seven Ruby with a grp coupe shell by a company called Heron Plastics of Greenwich.

It's one of the best put-together specials I've ever seen, clearly a lot of thought had gone in to its construction, which must have helped it survival when all other examples of this model have long since been scrapped. It had been in Germany for many years, in a large collection of Austin Sevens. I suspect it had a hot engine, which had been removed and put in a more traditional car. A Seven specialist had then bought the whole collection back to the UK, and this was very much surplus to requirements. We got it relatively cheaply, after borrowing some money from a friend. "I've got a £16,000 overdraft, and I'm only using £6,000 of it!" was his response when I asked if he had any spare cash floating about. Thanks Robin, we'll pay you back one day, I promise.

Essentially, nothing has happened to the car since it arrived, but it's safe and dry and one day will make a very cool, totally unique little car.



With six cars on the go, I had no need for any more, and lasted until October of last year before the next purchase. This is when I sold the Herald, so there was space on my drive and money burning a hole in my pocket. Again, a total impulse buy. A fully loaded BX TZD with aircon and all the goodies, local and cheap. The chap delivered it as part of the purchase price. Since then, I cleaned it and put two new Michelin tyres on, and that's about it. It's a solid, decent car but has a lot of issues that need dealing with that are beyond my skill level. I think I should probably sell it to help fund the other BX's reconstruction - if anyone is desperate, £350 will take it, or £200 without the Speedlines (bring your own wheels to take it away)



So, nine cars in to my motoring life, I had a fleet of six mostly non-running old crocks. I definitely didn't want or need any other cars. Ho hum.

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As mentioned above, the Panhard 24C had become something of a millstone by early 2016. In an amazing and unexpected deal, we part-ex'd it for another car plus some cash. This wasn't a long-term member of the fleet, due to car no12 coming on the scene and me needing some quick cash to pay for it, but in the short time it was here I really fell for it.

It's a 1950 Panhard Dyna X, uprated from 610cc to 850cc but otherwise unmolested and original, apart from the roof which had been repainted and a new headlining fitted. Otherwise it had that sort of mellow patina that only ancient French cars seem to acquire. Apart from a tendency to jump out of top gear (just keep one hand rested on the lever when lifting off, no problem) it was great. Really lively acceleration up to about 45mph, which was its natural cruising speed thanks to the early gearbox not transferring the power of the later engine. As much as anything it was a lesson in how revolutionary the Dyna Z was when it was launched in 1954. Panhard went from making 'the world's most expensive economy car' to the world's best mid-price saloon. In comparison, the X is more of a curiosity, although some dedicated enthusiasts do do proper miles in these cars, they are a little too 'busy' to drive regularly.

When the time came to sell it, I was worried we'd be stuck for ages with an unknown (in the UK) curio of very limited interest. Amazingly, a chap called up and expressed an interest. He was very busy, he said, but would send a friend over to have a look. When said friend turned up, it was somebody I already knew. The Panhard, he said, was far too modern to be of any interest to him, but he was sure his friend would like it. A few days later, matey phoned up and asked for my bank details and paid the full asking price without ever seeing the car. I then delivered it to our mutual friend's house, gave him a quick driving lesson and went on my way. I heard the other day the car is still where I parked it, the new owner not having been to collect it or even look at it months later...

I miss it, sometimes, but I didn't do enough miles to really bond with it. What time I spent with it really charmed me, though I don't think it was ever destined to be a long-lasting relationship, and my co-owner never really got on with it. Definitely a high point of Panhard ownership thus far, though




With the 24C gone and the X installed in the shed, we had our profit burning a hole in our collective pockets. This was earmarked for the 404 engine rebuild, but with no end in sight for that, what was the harm in some more short-term fun? French cars really do get under one's skin, so when a beautiful early twin-pot Citroen Visa came up for sale it seemed like an ideal choice. It was in North Yorkshire, but by chance Garycox was working in Harrogate at that time and went to check it over. His photos (much better than the terrible ones on ebay) and honest appraisal was enough to convince us, and we won the auction just under our self-imposed budget. The Visa forum erupted with moaners, saying the price we'd paid was proof that Visas were now out of reach for the ordinary enthusiast...

This little car is probably the best, in terms of condition, I have ever owned. Unrestored, low miles, just lovely. The fragile interior trim was perfect, and could there be a better colour for a car of this period? It drove back from Harrogate to Sussex without missing a beat, and then became a very useful second car for me and my co-owner. When the BX was off the road for a week having work done on the brakes, the Visa happily fell into daily service. Bearing in mind we bought this about a week after the Dyna X, it is easy to see why that car was a little overlooked, when the ultra-capable Visa was at hand. I had some great drives on the deserted country back roads between Brighton and my office, flat out and howling but totally sure-footed and confidence inspiring. An under-rated, undervalued little car full of character, but it had to go. After four months of happy motoring, it went off to fellow 'Shiter JohnDeere, who has since rectified many of its small failings and, I hope, is still enjoying it. I found a box of spares for it in the shed the other day, I'll get them up to you somehow fella.


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Powering through now. One month after buying car numbers 10 & 11, car no12 appeared on the scene. This was something that had come up in conversation a few times and they were very much on the radar, but most were so out of budget as to not be worth considering. It would be nice to have £12k going spare, but it's unlikely to happen any time soon, so just like the 404 C, I didn't expect to end up with one.

Car no12 is a 1929 Ford Model A Tudor, a lhd French assembled version, that had been stored for decades but had been got running and driving with little effort. It was advertised on PreWarCar, and although I didn't twig at first it was being advertised, at a reasonable price, by somebody I know. When I dialled the number on the ad in my phone, his name popped up - bizarre.

Anyway, he is a great collector of Veteran cars. He probably has the best collection of early motor cars in the world, and had not too long ago added to his stable a very early, unique steam car built in France in the 1890s. The car had been discovered, bricked up behind a wall in the old Terrot motorcycle factory, along with a Peugeot Quadrilette, a Vintage Charron, a Model T truck and this Model A. He couldn't bear to leave the other cars there, so bought the whole lot back too.

Although he had had lots of other interest in the Model A, he very kindly agreed to hold the car for me, and knocked a sizable chunk off the asking price, too. With a short-term loan from a friend, until the Dyna X could be sold, we headed back up to Harrogate for the second time in as many months, with a trailer and our friend Robin along for moral support. We loaded up the car, after driving it on to the trailer - a good start. The vendor showed us the other cars he'd dragged from the same place. Robin immediately made him an offer for the Charron, which to me looked like a loosely assembled pile of scrap metal.

On our way back, we stopped off at Longstone Tyres and Dougal fitted a new set of rubber to the car, without taking it off the trailer. Very impressive. Typically, this turned in to a bit of a session (he had just returned from France with a van load of Pineau des Charentes) so we left much later than hoped. I think it too something like 20 hours all in, but we got the car back eventually.

Since then, we have amassed a huge quantity of bits, including a freshly rebuilt Model B engine and have got the car UK-registered, after a long and fruitless battle with the Model A Club's dating committee. The Vintage Hot Rod Association eventually supplied the necessary paperwork - thanks Neil. 

Soon the car is going off to have a new roof put on, new floorboards made and fitted and little bit of welding to the rear floor. At that stage it will be watertight, at least, and with some actual seats fitted should be driveable. We've found someone who can remanufacture the unique, French market only jazzy art deco seat fabric, and are going to go 'full Voisin' and deck out the whole interior with this stuff - headlining, door cards, everything. We might even put a Voisin mascot on the front... The outside will be left looking exactly as-is.

Although it looks bad, there's actually not too much to do to make it into a usable car, so hopefully next summer it will be on the road, if not actually 'done'


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Something like a week after collecting the Model A, I accidentally bought car no13. Several months earlier, I had heard of a collection of cars and motorcycles that would be coming up for auction from a deceased estate.

The chap was a bit of a hoarder, who knew the antiques-dealer partner of one of the ladies in my office. He had been asked to help sell the collection off when the guy got crushed to death under an old tram he was working on (!) For whatever reason, the auction house that got the deal was not a car auctioneer, but a provincial antiques sale room who had never had a motoring sale before.

Word got out about the bikes, which included an early Harley, but the cars were mostly porridge, mostly in bad condition and we didn't expect they would do very well. On the day of the auction, we went down just to make sure nothing went too cheaply. There was a couple of things we had our eyes on, but 'Only if they're very cheap'.


We bought three cars.


The first was a 1930s Crossley Ten, a rare car and in pretty nice condition, with an original interior and very little rust. Knowing that, despite them being pretty unloved, these things make around £10k in decent nick, we were pleased to walk away with this for £1800. The next lot was a 1959 DKW 3=6, engine dismantled in the boot but totally rust-free and again with superb original interior and what looked like the original paint. Nobody was interested, so another £1800 won that too.

Having bagged the cars we actually wanted, way under our imagined budget, we were ready to leave, but in the interests of journalistic curiosity stayed on for the rest of the cars. Lot 22 was a 1956 Reliant Regal Mk2 van, a rare survivor from a tiny production run. It had obviously had some restoration in the past and looked pretty good to me. I've always wanted a three-wheeled Reliant, but I wasn't too fussed if this one shot out of my price range. An earlier girder-fork Reliant had just sold for nearly £4k, and this one looked much nicer in my estimation.


Bidding got up to £1500 and the hammer came down. Cheap, I reckoned. The next lot was a rough MGB GT that made a solid price. Then the auctioneer made an announcement. Due to an error with the commission bids, lot 22 would be offered again, this time with no reserve. Do I hear £500?

Fuck. I have never, ever heard of that happening at an auction before. I still don't really understand it to be honest. Somebody put their hand up. So did somebody else. Do I hear £650? yes, yes you do! 

So, somehow I had 'won' the thing for less than half the original hammer price. I'm still confused. Anyway, with premiums and VAT it still came in at a price modest enough for me to pay with my debit card...


Pretty pleased with myself, we got the Deek and the Regal delivered to the office a few days later. The Crossley went straight off to a new home in the Cotswolds. through trial and error, we managed to get the Regal started. I drove it round the yard. It was terrifying. We did some more fine tuning and actually got it running quite nicely. I drove it up the road. I thought I was going to die. I drove it home, the most horrific car journey of my life. I was sort of smiling the whole way back though.


We tidied up the paint a bit, gave it a good clean and chucked it up for sale. One trip home and back was enough for me. Eventually, after lots of timewasters ("Can I pay you in monthly installments?") a young guy from Holland said he wanted it. He came over with his parents on their family holiday, and paid up the full asking price and towed it away behind their V8 Rover SD1. Heroic. 


The only car I've made any real profit on, so far. And it's gone to a good home.


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Can no14 will probably be familiar to some of you. A couple of months ago, Sam Glover emailed me to ask my advice on a Panhard Dyna Z1 he was thinkig of buying, a car I happened to know quite well. I told him to go for it and, stupidly, asked what would be doing with his dismantled grey Z1... Why do I do it to myself?


Anyway, a little while later this thing was deposited at the office. This car has a bit of a chequered history. It was imported by British Leyland when they were studying aluminium monocoques and stressed alloy construction techniques. They studied it, did a load of stress tests on the shell, took it to MIRA, where it was tested for free because they didn't have a Dyna Z in their records, and then dismantled by BL apprentices, for reasons lost in the midst of time.

This is how it has stayed ever since. It was owned for many years by a long-standing member of the Panhard club, who stored it in his coal shed. Sam picked it up from him a few years ago, on the basis he couldn't afford a Z1 in running order. Sam has obviously done better for himself than I have, because now I'm in the same position he was ten years ago, and by the same logic I figured this one could be put back together for much less than it would cost to buy a runner. We'll see.

The first steps towards roadworthiness should be happening soon. It needs all rubbers and bearings replacing, and we should have a parcel filled with the suspension rubbers arriving in the near future. The wheels are about to go off for blasting and painting, and we'll get a new set of Michelin Xs from Longstone. The suspension will be cleaned up, re-rubbered and re-bushed and then it will be bolted back to the car, which will be on its wheels for the first time since, at least, the early '70s. Watch this space.

Since we're not going to paint it, or give it a fancy re-trim, I think it probably looks worse than it is, seeing as the two main major expenses in a 'restoration' are being side-stepped. Once the car is back on four wheels we can start bolting bits back on - at the moment the only way to move it is by lifting it up and carrying it, and with doors, windows etc the weight would be too much. As it is, two of us can just about lift the main body unit up and walk around with it. Aluminium rules, ok!




So, what have I learned from 15 shit old cars in three years? Very little, clearly, if the photograph above is anything to go by. I have slightly less money than before I started, but I do now have some 'appreciating assets' to my name. The 404 WILL be on the road this year, and the Model A shortly after, budget permitting. The Heron and Dyna will take a little while longer, but will both make interesting cars when they're done. 

I've still got a long list of 'must owns' to tick off, so who knows what the next three years will bring.


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Truly jealous of the Panhard, some of the most beautiful cars ever made. There was one on the A34 at Newbury when I went down on the 8th.



Roger that. Like the two stroke Saabs, a modern interpretation of a Panhard with some really advanced tech would be great compared to cynical shite like the Audi A1 and BINI.

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Some fantastic unusual motors in here.


Having grown up in Sussex (although west of you) and being around VHRA people I'm increasingly wondering if you know some of the guys my dad builds cars with. If you need any parts they've got a barn of odds'n'sods stashed, certainly for the Model A, just drop me a PM.

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