Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Lincoln Vintage Vehicle Society

Whilst travelling the country to acquire even more Vintage Things, I was passing by Lincoln and had time to stop at the pioneering transport museum. Many years ago, when I was but a lad, I received a Blandford book of buses as a Christmas present and it contained illustrations of several vehicles owned or preserved by members of the Lincoln Vintage Vehicle Society. I read this tome frequently - well, looking at the colour pictures was more like it - and it seemed to me that something special was happening up at Lincoln. The Lincoln Vintage Vehicle Society, or LVVS, had a special aura about it. It was the benchmark for other enthusiasts whose enthusiasm also got the better of them. From what I could make out, nearly everyone in Lincoln had a Leyland Lion parked beside their bungalow or a Guy Arab in pieces.

Over the years, those self same vehicles occasionally popped up on my radar to reinforce the pioneering status of the LVVS. Visiting the LVVS museum was something of a pilgrimage and I was at last able to see the work of this happy band of preservationists for myself in a snug modern building on the outskirts of the city.

The weather outside was terrible but in this waterproof shed were many old friends that had been plucked from under the cutting torch at the eleventh hour when they could have been lost for ever. That was the kind of last minute heroics the LVVS went in for. There wasn't much space between the items in the collection but this gave the sense that they'd been squeezed into all the available space. And as the rain drummed on the roof, they all felt very safe and sounds and smelt wonderful of grease, oil and paint.

Phrases like "in preservation", "preserved" and "rescued for preservation" ran throughout the Blandford book of buses and my youthful mind conjured up members of the LVVS throwing themselves in front of slavering scrap men. Preservation sounded like a sanctuary for worthy things. But not every worthy thing lasted long enough to be appreciated before those slavering scrapmen - today we call them recyclers - did their dirty work.

The Lincoln Vintage Vehicle Society was founded back in 1959 as a small network of like-minded enthusiasts who wanted to save some of the old buses that at the time were coming to the end of their working lives. They had a little money and a certain amount of space but tremendous enthusiasm for the vehicles of yesteryear. It was their enthusiasm that outweighed the problems. It wasn't a question of value, either. These old wrecks were worth nothing but scrap value and were not yet curiosities. The members of the LVVS simply liked these old buses and coaches so much that they couldn't bear to see them disappear. To most of their contemporaries they must have seemed quite mad. Nowadays this sort of behaviour is almost acceptable and the vehicle preservation is big business but back then it was just inexplicable, laughable almost.

The LVVS were doing something new. Saving old cars had already become socially acceptable. The film "Genevieve" went a long way to achieving this. During the fifties steam railways like the Festiniog and the Talyllyn were being preserved and by the sixties no-one seemed to question this (not that it stopped Dr Beeching axing all those branch lines). By this time, traction engines were rarely scrapped and rallies where they could be enjoyed were rapidly growing popularity. But clapped out commercial vehicles and old buses were just old scrap - weren't they?

Not to people like Vincent LeTall, Sid Twell or Bryan Challand they weren't. Individually they might not be able to buy an old bus and get it home but together they pooled their resources and managed to get them working again.

Bearing in mind what buses were available back then it must have been like having the keys to the sweet shop.

The LVVS quickly set the standard for renovation with its first restoration and continued to raise the bar with every subsequent one. High quality cosmetic states weren't enough, The old buses had to go, too.

The earliest members thought big right from the start. It wasn't just the size of what they chose to restore - it was the scope of what they set out to achieve. They wanted a museum to put all their Vintage Things in and after 3 or 4 years had a three acre site including dry storage. One old bus, an ex-Lincoln Corporation Leyland Lion that had been rescued from Jersey, of all places, was dry stored for 25 years until it was restored as part of an apprentice training scheme. Their attitude was very much save it now, store it and look after it somehow until eventually we'll get around to finishing it.

That's exactly my approach!

Vincent Le Tall also collected Austin motor cars and his collection formed the nucleus for a car collection that's still growing and includes a 1936 18, a 1928 10/4 and 1934 16 Berkeley saloon that once ferried Wilfred Pickles to and from his hotel in the Lake District.

My favourite, though, is this 1937 Ford V8 shooting brake that had originally been owned by the Countess of Yarborough as an estate car on her, er, estate. Obviously a discerning lady, she wondered what to do with this old car when it got a bit long in the gear tooth and decided the LVVS were the ones who could bring it back to life, which they did - eventually. It took them the best part of 35 years to get around to it but a single individual working alone would probably have lost interest in the project long ago and scrapped it. Thanks to the LVVS members, it eventually received the skilled treatment it deserved.

Regular readers will know I have a lot of time for Ford flathead V8s but this woody is a peach. The bodywork is handbuilt and fortunately was in good condition. Rust of the steel body panels was more of a problem so the body had to come off the chassis - welding and wooden structural members don't mix. As usual with LVVS projects, the result was well worth it.

It wasn't long before other items for the collection began presenting themselves to the LVVS and some of them were in very good condition.

Car collecting is not the same as preservation. Car collecting is trendier. You don't actually preserve anything with car collecting, just buy one already done up and brag to your mates down the pub about how much it's appreciating in value. Often, if any money needs spending on it, the Vintage Thing gets moved on quickly. How many times have you heard people say "I couldn't justify the expense"? This behaviour seems to be socially acceptable.

But if you quietly take something apart and begin to restore it often people complain. It is apparently socially unacceptable and can result in the Vintage Thing itself being scrapped despite the initial best intentions of the owner and enthusiast. But thanks to organisations like the LVVS, the benefits of this initially aberrant behaviour are gradually being realised.

Car restoration is quite different from merely car collecting and much more time consuming. Actually bringing some old piece of machinery back from the dead is far more rewarding although not in monetary terms (not something many car collectors understand). The LVVS members might not have been able to justify the expense either under severe cross examination but that never stopped them.

But commercial vehicle collecting is even trickier. Once you've got them, they're so much bigger and require special skills.

In one corner of the shed was an Albion HD55 6x4 lorry that had been operated by Smiths Crisps. The LVVS is currently re-panelling the box van body with the help of someone who served his apprenticeship doing this sort of thing. He'd done a wonderful job and it seems almost a shame to paint over the shiny fresh aluminium panels. I just hope he can teach someone else to do this because that sort of apprenticeship simply isn't happening anymore.

Some of the trucks from the early thirties had massive petrol engines instead of the big loyal diesels commercial vehicles have today. This 5-litre straight six powered a Leyland fire escape. I was expecting it to be a sidevalve but it's actually overhead valve and it's rated at only 33 horsepower although I reckon this is the RAC rating. This fire engine would do 55 mph despite weighing nine and a half tons. Petrol consumption was 6mpg. I can't help wonder what this engine could do in a contemporary sports car chassis. Maybe someone in the VSCC could try this?

I also liked the AEC Monarch tipper truck in the livery of Bracebridge Mental Hospital. It wasn't actually used for carting loonies around - it was for the coal used to heat the hospital - but I understand that some people have raised objections to this truck appearing in its original livery.

One old bus, this Bristol K5G, had been driven around the world during the early seventies by a group of students in a real life adventure inspired by Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Not wishing to see it scrapped as they became more sensible and settled own to less hedonistic life-style, they presented it to the LVVS who restored it to full working order.

I got talking to the lady behind the desk and she said they use the old buses on services through the city of Lincoln when they have open days in November and at Easter when the workshops to the museum are also open. (Now that would be interesting.) On that day, they will have 25-30 vintage buses in operation around Lincoln. Cornwall's a bit far but I admit I'm tempted. I didn't see anything of the city itself and to see it from the top deck of a globe trotting bus probably can't be beaten.

My favourite bus was the Guy Arab fitted with a Ruston & Hornsby six cylinder air-cooled engine. I'd heard about this machine some time ago. Instead of an elegant Guy radiator, complete with "Feathers in our cap" radiator cap, it had a curious snout made up of louvres. Ruston & Hornsby engines were made in Lincoln and it seemed sensible to Lincoln City Transport to try some one the local products in one of their buses. The result had startling performance for its day but was incredibly noisy. They were popular for their speed and waiting passengers often knew the bus was coming because it was so much noisier than the water cooled variety. Downstairs the bus conductors had to mime. Fortunately, the LVVS adopted this historic machine and stocked up on ear plugs. Deutz engines are air cooled and have a very good reputation. There seems to have been a lost opportunity for Rustons here who were one of the few traction engine manufacturers to adapt to the internal combustion engine. Just think what might have been achieved if they'd developed this idea further.

The LVVS made the headlines in 2007 when they bought an Allegro for 1500 quid. The media latched on to what they called "Allegromania" and adversely criticised the LVVS for alledgedly wasting money but in view of the numbers destroyed on Top Gear it's probably more historic than ever. And it was LVVS money so none of The Sun's business. I've said it before and I'll say it again (Vintage Thing No.23) - the Allegro is a much maligned car so I was surprised but pleased to see one here in Lincoln. What do the media know, anyway? It was also in very good condition.

The lady behind the desk told me that membership is falling gradually and there are some long term concerns that not enough youngsters are coming forward to learn the skills necessary to keep these Vintage Things going. I suppose there generally are less youngsters in our aging population but I would love to know how to panel a commercial vehicle as beautifully as that Albion. The LVVS are not just coachbuilders - they seem to be able to do anything between them.

So what was the vehicle that I would like to take home with me most of all? That Ford V8 woody. I told them so, too, but they said I couldn't have it. I don't mind. I reckon it's in better hands.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Fire Drake Files No.2 - Darjeeling & Himalaya Class B tank engine

I was entranced by film footage of the Darjeeling and Himalaya Railways many years ago and a preserved locomotive from the DHR visited the Launceston Steam Railway over the summer. It didn't come all the way from India for it now lives a life of restful ease in the UK.

What captivated me from then start was an aerial view that must have been filmed by a helicopter of a small but big-hearted little train struggling up the sort of scenery a fantasy writer would like to have imagined. It was obviously working hard but seemed to have lost its way slightly for it went round and round in circles while climbing all the time. It looped around conical hills with an abyss in every direction and sometimes gave up climbing and went backwards - except it didn't go down the hill but lost its way again and, in a cruel trick of fate for a train that must have wanted to freewheel downhill so much, it went up the hill backwards (just like the David Bowie song).

How could a train get so confused?

The Darjeeling train even went down what appeared to be a rabbit hole in its search for the summit, perhaps slyly reasoning that going into the ground would offer some downward relief but - no - it just came out at the other end of the burrow a bit higher up again.

And this was what made me like the Darjeeling & Himalaya Railway so much. As the little train struggled out of its hole, the passengers - all dressed in brilliant white - sportingly leapt off the carriages and ran up the side of the embankment next to the tunnel mouth. Relieved of some of its burden, the little tank engine put on a spurt of speed and rattled round another loop to line itself up with another tunnel some distance above the last one. As it came out of the curve and dug its wheels in to reach the tunnel as fast as it could, the passengers scrambling up the bank must have been regretting their decision to jump off but even from a distance they seemed to be grinning. As the fastest climbers reached the higher track, the engine dived into the tunnel before them. As the tunnel swallowed the train the passengers hurled themselves at the train and somehow they all got back on, even if their friend shad to pull them aboard bodily.

It looked like the happiest railway service in the world. Although built by the British as a strategic objective in an attempt to add Tibet to their empire, the Indians found ways of getting the most fun out of it.

And as the last passengers clapped each other on the back and laughed again before being plunged into darkness once more, I wanted to join them. For how many people have raced a train on foot and won?

So when a Darjeeling & Himalaya Class B tank engine came to Cornwall I had to go and see it. I was too late to ride behind but I didn’t mind because I’d come to just see it.

It’s an odd looking machine with front and rear overhangs almost as long as its wheelbase but I really like it. There’s an enormous coal bunker in front of the cab but a tiny saddle tank between chimney and dome. It doesn’t look big enough for an engine this size and it isn’t – it’s supplemented by a well tank under the footplate and between the frames ahead of the front axle. The saddle tank probably doesn’t qualify as a saddle tank On the DHR, they called them collar tanks. Some engines has extensions to the well tanks ahead of the cylinders to increase water capacity a little further. Some people reckon the added capacity was negligible and that their real purpose was to stop the engine toppling over if it ever de-railed, an important point considering the vertical tendencies of the terrain. To my mind these wing plates are little pannier tanks and, when you consider that the engines ran with tenders as well, the attempt to classify this type of tank engine descends into anarchy.

The important thing about these engines, though, is that they worked incredibly well at their allotted task from 1879 onwards. This particular engine, DHR No. 19, was built in 1889 by Sharp Stewart with 11” by 14” cylinders and worked on the DHR until 1960 when it went to the USA. It was bought by Adrian Shooter in 2002 for use on his Beeches Light Railway at Steeple Aston in Oxfordshire and it often visits other narrow gauge railways.

I understand that a significant amount of work had to be undertaken on the track on the LSR to take this engine. Although it weighs 13 tons, the baby Hunslets that live at Launceston weigh only 6 tons and they make the engine of the toy train from Darjeeling look massive.

In Switzerland they relied on a rack of teeth between the rails for adhesion but the DHR tanks habitually manage to climb 1 in 3 gradients without slipping, so somebody knew what they were doing when they laid out these little engines on the drawing board. Not only were they well designed and well made, they were well maintained, for anything less would not have made such strenuous operation possible.

On thing I didn’t appreciate was that they had a crew of 6. So where did they all go? There was an engine driver and a fireman plus two coal men, one standing on the right hand running plate and the other in the coal box itself. The other two crew were the sandmen. Gravity or steam sanding was found to be never as good as an experienced human hand so two men sat on each end of the front buffer beam feeding sand from a box between them. That’s how the British managed without a rack system.

I think it’s significant that I’d already bought secondhand the Loco Profile covering the Darjeeling Tanks several years before, in the excellent bookshop at the Launceston Steam Railway. This was the only profile available at the time that interested me. My principle enthusiasms have always been cars followed by motorbikes but there are exceptional steam engines that interest me from time to time and the Darjeeling and Himalaya Railway B Class is definitely one of them.

This is the turbo generator set for the big headlamp – it looks like it would do well on my Hillman Imp!

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Nicest bookshop in the west

Is this the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth the nicest bookshop in the west?

My mother and aunt recently celebrated their joint 80th birthday on a visit to this fine town and wanted to revisit this bookshop because it had once been owned by none other than Christopher Robin Milne. They had spent some years of their childhoods living in Ashdown Forest and we were all brought up on Winnie-ther-Pooh so it was encouraging to see the shop was apparently thriving in these hard times.

A birthday shopping spree was inevitable and when my mum enquired if they had the recent biography of the Queen Mum the staff took the time to check the shelves and then opened up the boxes of the latest deliveries to find one. We mentioned our intention to visit Agatha Christie's house and the lady behind the desk (who looked about 21 but assured us she daughters of that age) suggested we left our books behind the counter. "The shop'll be closed at half past five but I'll be here until six," she said. "Just knock on the door round the side and you can pick them up and save having to carry them around Greenway."

She was fascinated to learn that it was their joint birthday and that they were twins so we took her up this kind offer.

The boat got us back to Dartmouth a bit later than we anticipated but as we pulled up at the quay there she was to meet us having arranged with her husband to be late.

"Well," she said, "it's not everyday your both...."

But to reveal their ages seems ungalant to me so I won't. To not reveal this exceptional service would also seem ungalant.

So visit the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth and enjoy their services as much as we did.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Wormton Lamb abroad

Both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb enjoyed a small burst of popularity over the summer and I recently received these photos from Mr Graham Poyntz who chose The Wormton Lamb as his holiday read. Here it is on a balcony overlooking the Amalfi coast. Having been to Amalfi myself, I know what competition there is for one's attention from the scenery so I'm very pleased that Graham managed to drag his eyes away from the view to look at what I've written.

Now that the evenings are drawing in, I feel more inclined to write again, although before I do that I have to do an awful lot of planning. And I know that I haven't publicised my existing books as much as I would like. Regular readers of the old Anarchadia blog will knmow what an uphill struggle this is, especially if you do the obvious things. It seems everyone is doing those and it's easy to get lost in the noise. So I'm thinking about the less obvious ways to do this, ones that I feel more comfortable about than cold calling uninterested editors of local papers. If I'm actively enjoying what I'm doing I can sweep people along. This hasn't really happened yet with my self-publicising efforts.

The way I see it, anything I do next should be fun. That's something I can share.

In the meantime here's another shot of the high life from the Amalfi coast.

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Vintage Thing No.50 - Velocette Vogue

There was a good variety of machinery in the motorcycle ring at the Great Dorset Steam Fair this year and among some very interesting bikes was this Velocette Vogue. I'd never seen one before and afterwards had the chance to look it over outside the marquee as the owner made some adjustments to it.

I really have to hand it to the Goodman family, the people behind what is probably the Velocette singles. If I had to choose just one bike as an example of the archetypal British single it would be the Velocette Thruxton but there is a subtle irony here because this archetypal British motorbike has a name that sounds French and owed its existence to the the Goodman family who were comparatively recent German immigrants and had changed their name from Gutgemann.

Which only goes to show that national stereotypes are dangerous things.

The Goodmans they'd done a good job on their 350 abd 500cc singles but also realised that times they were a-changing. So they had a go at a completely new interpretation of the two wheeled vehicle and even got Phil Irving involved. Mr Irving, or Sir to anyone with a feel for motorcycle rolling sculpture, was the man who contributed so much to the Vincent. But you knew that already.

In fact Velocette had another three goes at a radical new two wheeler that was neither motorcycle nor scooter and after a sort of a near hit (a near hit being closer than a near miss) they resolutely drifted wider of the mark.

The lightweight flat twin Velos always intrigued me but not to extent of aspiring to own one. As a lanky git, anything physically smaller than a 250 is too small for me but I have a soft spot for lightweight 250s. As the old footpeg scratchers would say, “People who ride bigger bikes only ride bigger bikes because they can’t ride smaller bikes properly.” A good small un is at least as much fun as a good large un and, provided I can fit on it (which unfortunately rules Kawasaki KR1s), I adhere to this philosophy.

But enough of my physical limitations.

I like the look of the Velocette Valiant, which was a 200cc overhead valve variant, but feel this ought to be a 250 instead of only 200cc so the Valiant is a nearly bike. I don’t like the look of the Velocette LE "noddy bikes" but, in their defence, they were one of the first motorcycles to impinge upon my febrile infant consciousness because it was an LE that the "big, friendly policeman" PC McGarry number 452 used to ride in the children’s TV programme Camberwick Green. Velocette LEs had absolutely no sporting pretensions but were a brave attempt at building a motorcycle for the "everyman". Velocette nearly succeeded in this aim, probably getting as close to this motorcycling Holy Grail as anyone. And although the engine only had a side valves, it was a water cooled four stroke flat twin when most 200cc alternatives were air cooled two strokes. Such sophistication came at a price, however, and during the fifties the market was becoming increasingly style conscious.

And then there was the 250cc two-stroke flat twin Viceroy, which can now be understood as the great grandpa of today's super scooters but back then it was just an expensive oddity.

The Vogue, meanwhile, was a sexed up LE, a modernised attempt at the mythical motorcycle for the masses with added post war pizzazz, a wholesome piece of product design that would be welcome outside every home unlike the rorty black and gold 500s from the same stables. A brand new large diameter spine frame perpetuated the Velocette tradition of good roadholding and steering while the LE drivetrain, which facilitated mass production with its unit construction and shaft drive, was adopted wholesale. Whereas the LE was almost consciously not styled, the Vogue went deliberately in the other direction. With twin headlamps, integral leg shields and well-valanced mudguards, it was of another age entirely.

Are those not fins I see before me? Or behind me, rather?

It was conspicuously trendy even down to the name. I am reliably informed that a fashion magazine was named after it. How many motorcycles can make that claim? Of course, the opposite happened with Harley-Davidson, which was named after an aftershave and range of men's toiletries.

In many ways the Vogue was not unlike the earlier Ariel Leader. Both attempted to move the motorcycle image away from oily-fingered ton up boys but that wouldn't happen until Pops Honda came along with really high volume production and the ingenious "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" campaign.

Looking back, it would appear that, on its introduction in 1963, the Vogue offered nothing more than the two-stroke Leader, which had been announced in 1958. The Vogue looked good but the 50mm x 49mm 192cc engine was not the overhead unit of the Valiant but the sidevalve effort of the LE and produced only 8 bhp. In a bike weighing 270lb that really was not enough. The engineering and finish were good but the glassfibre bodywork and the new frame were to blame for the rotten power-to-weight ratio and 55mph was about top whack. The Valiant put out 12 bhp @ 7000 rpm and weighed 260 lb. With the Valiant, 70 mph was a distinct possibility.

In the five years of production until 1968, when it was dropped, only 400 Vogues were produced. Whereas the LE had a small but clearly defined market niche appealing to mature open minded enthisiasts, the Vogue was too flashy for them and not sporty enough for anyone else. It was also comparatively expensive.

If only they'd had the ohv engine. If only that had been reliably developed into a 250. If only it had the Viceroy’s 250 flat twin stroker. If only Ariel hadn’t answered the same unasked question with the Ariel Leader a few years earlier. If only Velocette had the production resources to embrace pressed steel instead of labour intensive glassfibre bodywork.

This Vogue is a very rare machine. I've never seen another and in my amazement initially got it mixed up with the Viceroy, another attempt by Velocette at a non-motorcycle two-wheeler. This was a kind of super scooter, a full 250 with a flat twin 55mm x 54mm two stroke engine with - now get this - reed valves that reputedly put out 14 bhp when warmed over for hovercraft racing. The owner soon put me right, though. The Vogue had the LEs side valve four stroke twin.

Did Velocette ever try a Viceroy engine in a Vogue? They ought to have done.

That side valve engine should've been the kiss of death to a power crazed motor head like me. But side valves make sense from a packaging point of view for a flat twin because they make the powerplant less wide.

I like the look of the rear wheel's bevel box poking out from the GRP.

And I like the Vogue's looks. An anonymous industrial designer has consciously sexed up the humble LE and done a good job. Could it have been the first production bike to sport twin headlamps? It must have made quite an impact in its day. The still-born 700cc four stroke four cylinder Leader that Val Page designed for Ariel had twin headlamps and it would be fascinating to know whether Velocette knew of this prototype and were inspired by it but I daresay we’ll never know now. Although it's too consciously trendy to be a timeless design, the Vogue almost swings as much as a scooter. But you wouldn't get a mod on one. And you certainly wouldn't get a rocker on one, either.

The owner of this example said the bodywork was very high quality with a little dashboard and cubby holes for storing things. With a generous screen and full leg protection it’s a comfortable ride.

Despite a recent engine rebuild, he still wasn't happy with the way it was running. It sounded quiet to me.

I'm glad this one has survived and can appreciate its rarity. It shows that the Goodman family knew there was an alternative market out there somewhere but the only way they could approach it was their way and, unfortunately, that wasn't the right way.

One final observation - this bike is an H reg, which must make it one of the last to be registered. In fact, if production ended in 1968, it might have been standing around for a bit prior to sale.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Vintage Thing No.49 - the VW-Imp trials special

A number of times over the last couple of trialling seasons have seen me turning up to spectate at a section somewhere only to be accosted by an acquaintance with words to the effect of, "You should have been here earlier, Bob! There was hopped-up, mental Imp that..." And they would go on to describe how it became airborne on the first bump and didn't land until the pilot throttled back just beyond the section ends boards. Or that it had proceeded up the hill on the rear pair of wheels only with the headlamps pointing to the sky.

A quick scam through the programme would prove that there was indeed a big engined Imp in the trial.

However, this very special Imp proved surprisingly elusive. It wasn't until we were signing off at the end of the Land's End Trial this year that I saw this legendary vehicle to a first-time. The crew were also signing of so didn't have much time to talk to them but the driver, Tristan White, gave me the keys to the car and said, "Take as many pictures as you like, do whatever you feel with it."

Through the good auspices of the Camel Vale Car Club, I managed to track Tris down again and last week he came along to our regular gathering of Hillman Imp enthusiasts in Bodmin, which, funnily enough, is Tris’ home town.

The car in question is probably the ultimate development of the VW-Imp trials special. There have been quite a few of these constructed over the years and they seek to combine the Imps tidy dimensions with the legendary mud plugging ability of Ferdinand Porsche’s finest. In their most basic form, they are simply Volkswagen drivetrains shoehorned into the wide but low engine bay of the Hillman Imp, which originally was designed to take a boxer engine.

Back in the early 90s, I once marshalled on a section with Mike Furse, the long-standing membership secretary of the Motor Cycling Club, which is responsible for organising all the long-distance classic trials. He told me that he had a VW-Imp but this was a far more sophisticated machine in that it had complete VW running gear from front to back and was more of a Hillman Imp shell mounted on a VW floorpan. If my memory serves me right, this machine was still extant at the time although Mike said it was very rusty. I'd be particularly intrigued to know if this VW-Imp still survives.

Slightly before this date, during the my first Land's End Trial as a competitor, (or was it the first event in the llama?) I noticed a red Hillman Imp with very large wheels in the car park at a control point. Listed in the programme as a 2-litre, it looked like the proverbial mountain goat on steroids. At one point we watched it storm up Cutliffe Lane. It had been built by Martin Harry and was typically driven by his wife Julia. Somebody later told me that it had the back half of a Beetle under its wings but used Ford Pinto power. It was certainly very successful but then disappeared for awhile and in fact I haven't seen it since.

Tristan White's car continues this tradition but instead of Pinto power unit it uses one from a VW Golf. It was built by Terry Richards of Ponsanooth (my voice activation software interprets Ponsanooth as porn sunroof) but the project was funded by Rob Williams who worked for the local Kessells and Riders car dealerships. Tris bought it from Trevor Bailey in Keinton Mandeville five years ago this September and at that stage it had an 1800 Mk1 Golf GTi engine.

This engine later went up in smoke -- quite literally. It began to leak oil prodigiously during a trial until the exhaust got so hot that the escaped oil reached its flashpoint and burst into flames. This couldn't have happened at a worse spot because Tris had just climbed a very slippery grass section and there were very few people and no other cars nearby.

He leapt out and began to unscrew the folding spare wheel carrier over the engine compartment but, by now, the flames had really taken hold and if it hadn't been for the layers of clothing that he wore then he wouldn't go quite badly burnt. Luckily, another trials driver with a fire extinguisher in his car saw what was going on and managed to clear the grassy section in a desperate rescue bid. The fire extinguisher was just big enough to put out the flames and now Tris never goes anywhere without two.

Tris then to have the opportunity to fit a Mk3 8 valve Golf 2-line engine and this now runs on twin 40s holding onto a special inlet manifold with very long induction tracts, the longest they could fit into the available space in fact. The idea of this is to maximise the available torque.

The exhaust system is still quite involved. The curves down from the engine from under the inlet manifold and then runs back to the rear of the sump where it crosses the back of the car before running boards again and then doubling back into a rearwards facing silencer and exits through a cutaway engine cover. This is the original engine power that just about survived the earlier fire and is now more air vent than steel. Engine cooling it's taken care of by a front mounted radiator but it's still important to get hot air out of the engine compartment.

Tris reckons this engine puts out a modest 115 bhp but in a car the size of the Hillman Imp this represents a very favourable power to weight ratio. Torque is anybody's guess that is conservatively rated at "adequate."

The VW hubs have been modified to accept Ford Sierra wheels while at the front the original Hillman Imp hubs carry Skoda Estelle wheels. Again, the hubs have been adapted rather than the wheels.

I assumed that Tris had fitted front disc brakes but he is actually still running on drums. He admitted that the brakes could be better and at some stage he may well improve them but he said that his VW-Imp was not a car to drive quickly on the road. It was built for tralling and it didn't sound like he enjoyed driving it fast on tarmac. "The centre of gravity is so high to get the necessary ground clearance that it really doesn't handle well. But when it's in the mud, it just keeps on finding grip."

The excellent ground clearance gives Tris' car it's purposeful stance, which, to my mind, suggests an all-terrain Hot Rod. It's just as well then that its performance exceeds its looks.

Tris is a very an accomplished trials driver and is currently doing very well in the Wheelspin Trophy. Having been in the lead for part of the year, he is typically lying either second or third. He knows his car quite well now and there is hardly a weekend during the winter when he is not using it competitively. He also has a Troll, a bespoke trials special that resembles a Lotus 7 from a distance, but he finds driving the VW-Imp less tiring. As soon as he's finished an event, he steam cleans his Imp and sprays it with duck oil, which explains how he has kept it in such good condition over the years, despite such a packed competition history. Long may it continue.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Fire Drake Files No.1 - Lumbering engines

Occasionally, I get enthusiastic about a steam locomotive of some sort. Internal combustion Vintage Things are more my sort of thing as they are easier to take home with you and lightness enhances their performance but there is something fine about a steam engine. Steam engines, though, need weight to supply traction. As they are usually made of iron this not often a problem.

A friend of mine is Professor of Ferro-Equinology at the University of Andover and I accompanied him to the Great Dorset Steam Fair this year. Unfortunately, he is not quite as "locomotive" as he used to be due to a gammy leg so had to install himself in a cider tent for health reasons but he has first hand experience of operating steam engines.

Some steam engines have appeared as Vintage Things before now but that is because they represent 200 years (and counting) of Cornish motoring. I think it's time Engine Punk becomes a little Steam Engine Punk in its outlook occasionally so every once in a while there'll be a Fire Drake File on this blog. Internal combustion Vintage Things will still predominate but occasionally (and already) I'll make a diversion (take an excursion even) into the field of external combustion - that's the steam engine to you lot.

The reason I like steam engines is because you can see their engines. Their cranks and rods are exposed. They have fire in their bellies, too, and while their weight turns them into such lumbering great beasts, it's the weight that gives them their appeal. The great Terence Cuneo said that whenever he painted an engine he wanted to get across the sheer sense of weight and when that weight is moving at express speed it is truly awe inspiring.

To start things off, here is a proper job example of a lumbering engine. I don't know much about it, save that the prof put me onto it and if I've infringed anyone's copyright I'm sorry. I just really like this thing.

It's designed to run on tree trunks and looks like it might actually just carry on if it de-railed, which is usually a show-stopper for a conventional locomotive. Who Dynes were and where the pole road went is a mystery to me but apparently it was the first of its kind.

I have an interest in pole road engines because of the Blackman Brothers geared steam locomotive. This was built in 1881 and also ran on wooden "rails". The Dynes engine allegedly pips my possible brethren to the post when it comes to being first, though.

The whole geared steam loco site is really interesting and full of the geared and the weird. The man behind the geared loco site reckons I'm a relative of the Blackman Brothers and I'm quite happy to go along with this. Apparently, the Blackman Brothers were world famous in Snohomish County in the state of Washington but originally came from Maine.

I've heard of two origins for the surname. One is a derivation of Blacksmith. Considering our associations with metal working, that I can readily believe. The other one is that it's a German joke name and derives from "bleich mann" or bleached man. I read this in a library book once but can't remember the source of this nugget - I really like the idea of having a joke for a surname. I am quite pale myself but also have a tendency to become a bit grubby. Apparently, William Morris the arts and crafts bloke had the same trouble. The theory I've heard is that we naturally carry an electrical charge that is opposite to that associated with dirt. You takes yer money and you takes yer choice.

Of course, I'm now really curious to know more about lumbering engines whether built by Dynes, Blackmans or anyone else. Did they ever catch the track alight?

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Sunday, 6 September 2009

A new slant on the term kit car

I saw this display at the Great Dorset Steam Fair yesterday. For those of you who don't already know, this is a vast gathering of Vintage things for steam punks and engine punks alike.

There was a special gathering of Morris Minor LCVs - that's Light Commercial Vehicles. Morris Minors are probably the ultimate light car - a term that was clearly understood between the wars - and the vans and pick up derivatives are probably the ultimate light commercial vehicles. As Vintage Things they're dead certs and it's only a matter of time before I feature them in more depth upon Engine Punk.

But I really like the display.

There's the sprue in the foreground and behind it is the partly built full size kit of a Morris Minor. It's just had its windscreen stuck in and this is being held in place by clothes pegs while the glue sets.

Judging from the rear doors, this one's going to be a van but I imagine the kit allows you to make either version.

There is a subtle point being made here. You can get every panel for the Morris Minor, including those for the commercials. So, there's really no need to scrap a Minor again, just sheer unenvironmental laziness. And having made loads of Airfix kits in my distant youth, I can honestly say that welding full size panels together is much like glueing the 1:32nd scale plastic parts only more satisfying.

I'd like a kit for a Moggie Thou van. This one looks like it's going to be a beauty. And so well detailed.

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Monday, 31 August 2009

Calstock Bike Show 09

Although the weather was much kinder to us this year, I missed most of the Calstock Bike Show for 2009. But I was running late for the right reasons - I'd been in my garage-cum-studio making a Vintage Thing come back to life. More of that some other time.

Anyway, when I pitched up in Calstock the party was in full swing - it was just that most of the bikes had gone home. It was starting to get dark,too.

So I had a look around and it struck me how many trikes there were.

I am ambivalent about motorcycle-derived trikes. They have all the disadvantages of cars and bikes with few of the advantages. I firmly believe that dynamically the single wheel should be at the back and the centre of gravity as low as possible.

These convictions don't stop me liking these oddities, though.

Take this example, frinstance. It's a yellow shaft drive XS Yamaha with an axle across its behind but it's one of those vehicular contrivances that reveal more the more you look.

I fell into conversation with a couple of blokes who knew the owner. Apparently, he was disabled but had fitted an air shifter.

He'd also cunningly fashioned a reverse gear, using a starter motor from a fork lift truck no less. This drove the propshaft via a chain and was tucked right down low. It didn't look very big and it has occurred to me how this installation could be adapted to bike engined cars. The only problem was that it needed another 12V battery to power it but these were mounted down low, too, on either side of the rear axle.

This was just one of many trikes at the show. Some were your rat-trike car-engined survival beastie, clearly inspired by Mad Max and none the worse for that. Others looked like high buck conversions. Some of these lean in corners and I find myself liking these more.

But by then my camera batteries had given out.

But if they allow someone to experience the sensations of motorcycling despite having a physical disability, then trikes have to be a Good Thing. I hope disabled pilots didn't gain their disability through a motorcycling accident but, if they have, then I take my metaphorical hat off to them for not letting this pout them off entirely.

And you don't need to wear a crash helmet to drive one (although I reckon I'd feel happier in a bone dome)

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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Vintage Thing No.12.2 - The Trojan Utility engine again

I often visit the Launceston Steam Railway. It's a kind of drop in centre for the oily fingered and connoisseurs of Vintage Things. Since last year, they've made a few changes to the displays in the workshops. For the early part of the summer the place was closed but on a wet and dreary day last month I dropped in and - lo and behold! - found a cut away engine of the Trojan two stroke engine.

Previous examinations of these Vintage Things offered some answers but raised more questions. A close look at the engine was what I really needed - don't bother looking under the bonnet, it's under the floor.

There's always been at least one Trojan car in the little museum at the Launceston Steam Railway but now there's a van this splendid cut away examples of the extraordinary engines these things have.

But don't worry - no working examples of Trojan engines were harmed or destroyed in making this display. I was assured that the cut-away was produced using a very old engine that had been long abandoned in a ditch and if you look closely you can see how pitted the components are under the Hammerite paint.

I paid this exhibit some close attention and soon came to the attention myself of one of the museum's helpers who knew the proprietor and also owned Trojans. I took the opportunity to ask him some searching questions and now feel that the answers are beginning to outweigh the questions on these machines. Unfortunately, I didn't ask him his name so can't credit him in enlightening my darkness.

Here's the horizontal cylinder block, such a long under square affair that I doubt if the Trojan even featured on the contemporary RAC taxation rating system.

Note the transfer ports and the cut out at the top of the wall separating the cylinders. This is what makes it a split single - the combustion chamber is shared. The cylinder head is detachable and there are threaded inserts in the top of each piston. However, these are not designed to be removed after fitting - at least easily - and are treated with a saline solution such as ammonium sealiac (I think that's what this chap called it). The idea is that they are corrosion welded into place. Consequently, I can't imagine two-stroke Trojan's ever suffering from head gasket problems. Click on the image to enlarge it for a better look.

These are the moving parts of the Trojan engine, all seven of them. What strikes me most is how flimsy those conrods look. They genuinely are designed to bend. Each pair of pistons has a leading piston although they catch up with each other at top and bottom dead centre. By comparison to those tall thin pistons and conrods that look like by Giacometti's idea of a Daddy Long Legs, there is an enormous flywheel of steam engine proportions. It all looks like it shouldn't work but it does and beautifully.

I asked my informant if the Trojan engine had ever been tuned and hes aid only for trials use. "It's a slogger and goes on for ever, albeit very slowly. I'd use mine more often if it weren't for the speed of today's traffic."

Perpetual motion? Not quite but nearly indestructible. Hounsfiled designed the Trojan for extreme economy and reliability and the complication of a four stroke with all their unnecessary valves ruled them out from the word go.

The chassis was described to me as an open punt and the petrol filler is in the middle of the bonnet. It lacks any sort of seal so - no problem - Hounsfield put a water drain tap on the petrol tank that feeds the carburettor by gravity. There is then a long induction tract that must enhance the Trojan engine's torque characteristics even more.

Hounsfield almost deliberately defied convention in so many ways with these cars but wisely ensured they looked reasonably normal, at least from a distance. That way the punters weren't put off. Wasted space was not so much of a consideration as extreme economy and reliability.

Apparently, he made more money out of a design for a folding camp bed for the British Army. I reckon he's one of the unsung heroes of British automotive design.

The old van in the background is something of a film star. It appeared with Derek Nimmo in One of our Dinosaurs is missing painted a different colour as a laundry van. And - no- this Trojan was not the dinosaur in question.

It's always interesting to look at someone's vision of motoring for the masses. There's something very egalitarian about Leslie Hounsfield's Trojan. I look upon it as a kind of English Model T Ford. They were contemporaries and both were unconventional in their approach to putting the world on wheels. In a parallel universe Laurel and Hardy might have driven/smashed up a few.

I asked about the later supercharged version, the engine drawing of which had intrigued me so much right at the start of my investigations into all thing Trojan. Were any of these tuned?
My informant couldn't say. He thought not.

"There must easier ways of going quickly," he said. "They were terribly thirsty, though, and had a very distinctive sound. When the Perkins P3 diesel was offered as an option, demand for
the old engine almost finished over night."

So, while the original oh-my-God-the-conrod's-are-so-spindly version has no sporting pretensions beyond a successful career in classic trials, the jury's still out on the blown variety.

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Friday, 28 August 2009

The Buzzcocks at The Hippo in Plymouth

Time's flown by since this gig on the 14th August and I've been very busy doing other stuff but - the memory is still fresh in my mind of a great night out at The Hippo. The crowd was much larger than that for Sham 69 but much smaller than that for Stiff Little Fingers. I thought the numbers of people were perfect, especially as they seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as me.

Support act was ThE bUs stATiOn LoONiEs, who are world famous in Plymouth for their problems with the Caps Lock key on their word processors. They are also the prime movers behind the Plymouth Punx Picnic, which unfortunately clashes this year with the Great Dorset Steam Fair. This is an annual thing and having seen what fun can be had with just one local band, I'd like to see what a dozen or so can manage.

That Chris Wheelie, with his kilt and hot water bottle sporran, was thought a but scary by some of our party but gradually even the most respectable pillars of society got into the scene and most of us ended up in the mosh pit. Steve and Carolyn were first, though, and Carolyn felt a tooth loosen when somebody accidentally jabbed her with an elbow. She's alright though. Steve meanwhile must rode the storm like an old hand nut was covered in bruises the following morning.

I joined the mosh pit when The Buzzcocks came on and really had a good time. I managed to avoid any injuries and the set passed in a merry blur. All too soon they were playing Have you ever fallen in love (with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with) but judging by the reaction of the nband they really enjoyed playing to such an enthusiastic crowd.

But best of all for me were the numbers of attractive young women who decided that hanging on to me around the edge of the mosh pit was a good idea.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Tartuffe by The Miracle Theatre

Is it cheating to see an open air theatre company perform in the tent at Sterts?

Not when the rain on the roof falls so hard they have to shout! These hardened open air performers regularly defy the elements but I worry about them hurting themselves when they perform their stunts on a slippery stage. At least we were able to see them in the dry.

And stunts there were aplenty in this adaptation of Moliere's play. The costumes were old time but the delivery was contemporary and according to my friends who know about such things the Miracle Theatre's interpretation is unlike any previous versions. That's what Miracle Theatre do - they re-vitalise already popular plays and turn them into something quite extraordinary, ultra-mundane even.

I particularly liked Holly Kavanagh's portrayal of Marianne's pathetic attempts at suicide when faced with marriage to Ben Tyson's Tartuffe, who was a very dissolute and slippery character. Ben gave Tartuffe a sort of louche bendiness as he rode the punches of outrageous fortune.

The finale was well rehearsed chaos - it takes a lot to do a fight and escape scene on a small stage and keep the audience guessing what's going to happen next. It all turns out well but - without spoiling things - watch out for the bendy ladder!

I believe their tour ends this weekend so if you get the chance go see 'em.

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Friday, 14 August 2009

The King of Prussia Cove

When I heard that The King of Prussia Cove was being performed at the Minack Theatre, I leapt at the chance to see it again. Only a few days after seeing Gonamena, I was revelling in another aspect of Cornish history. The King of Prussia Cove was that rare kind of a man -- an honest free trader who understood how much his customers relied upon him. Although he flouted the law, he was an honourable man fell foul of a bored and unprincipled noblewoman.

But everything works out all right in the end and this particular performance was brilliantly handled and very funny.

I'd seen it before when performed by the Kneehigh Theatre company at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth over 10 years ago and was delighted to hear it broadcast on Radio Four with many of the original Kneehigh cast. Tim Smit subsequently chose the haunting song that rhymes Poseidon with beside ‘un as one of his Desert Island Discs. This performance by Rough Coast therefore had a lot to live up to but it is difficult to see what better setting can be found for a rumbustuous play about smuggling and the spectacular Minack Theatre.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that one of my sister’s school friends was descended from the very same Mrs Stackhouse who caused so many problems for The King of Prussia Cove. And this time around, I understood the references to Pistol Meadow in the opening song.

Pistol Meadow was the scene of the terrible shipwreck when the bodies of many soldiers were washed ashore on The Lizard. There were so many of them, the local people had to bury them in a mass grave to stop them being eaten by wild dogs and the many years afterwards it was said that there were no dogs on The Lizard peninsula for they had been purged from that part of Cornwall.

Pistol Meadow is supposed to have an air of overwhelming melancholy but having been there on a summer's day I can't say that I felt this. Neither did my aunt who, had she been born a generation later, would definitely have been a Goth.

Our night's show was the last night for The King of Prussia Cove but I cannot believe that this Nick Darke play won't be shown again. There were some subtle changes from earlier performances, if my imperfect memory can be relied upon, but the outcome was pretty much the same -- the upright and incorruptible preventative man was eventually bought by The King of Prussia Cove and his gang.

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Saturday, 8 August 2009

Vintage Thing No.48 - the Allegro All-Ego

It was while surfing for information about 1750 cc Allegros in connection with my recent post about the Austin Allegro Equipe and I discovered the Allegro All-Ego. I don't have a television and I don't read The Sun newspaper so the exploits of the All-Ego had passed me by. It seems to have gathered a certain amount of notoriety in its short life for it recently went to auction and realised a heady £5500 on 29th October, 2008.

And having posted about it fleetingly on the Engine Punk Litmus blog (for I reckon it demonstrates hands on rolling sculpture better than anything), I feel sufficiently well-disposed towards it to claim it as a Vintage Thing.

The All-Ego was built from a 1977 1100 cc Austin Allegro by the legendary car customiser Andy Saunders. He accomplished this feat in three days in December 2006 for a television pilot programme called Juice My Lemon, described by Saunders “as a cross between the American programme Pimp My Ride and The Benny Hill Show.”

As motoring lemons go, the Allegro could be the best. Or would that be the worst?

The result is very similar to something that I had once thought about. This idea had been provoked some years ago by the acquisition of a very rusty 1750 cc Allegro. This particular example was a four-door saloon with a single carburettor so not as desirable as the Austin Allegro Equipe that I featured recently on this blog.

In fact, the only thing to recommend this particular car was its 1750 cc engine which will ran quite well. The body was badly dented and the boot floor rotted out completely, since some hay bales had been left in it and they had decomposed entirely, taking the steel with them. When it came to collecting this Vintage Thinge, I hooked up some strops for my neighbour Andrew to tow the car onto his machinery trailer only for the rear towing eyes to pull off . In the end, we put the strop through the holes in the boot floor and dragged it onto the trailer that way.

Andy Saunders has beaten me to realising this idea. I first became aware of his work when he exhibited a severely chopped Mini at a classic car show held in the Cornish Coliseum at Carlyon Bay. He also showed a weird and wonderful creation based on a Citroen CX that looked like a manta ray (the fish not the Opel) swimming through the ocean.

He doesn't do any preparatory sketches, he just dives straight in and realises his ideas in 3-D. Most people who do that finish up binning the result but Andy’s certainly got a gift and must have made his metal work teacher ever so proud.

Andy has been dubbed an "automotive alchemist" for turning base things into gold and is featured on the Car Design News website.

Max Girardo, Managing Director of RM Auctions European Division, described Saunders' work as as rolling works of modern art, which is close to the rolling sculpture interpretation of Engine Punk. "It is drivable art in the truest sense", he added.

I'd like to know how Andy chopped the windscreen down. I know somebody in the Citroen Specials Club who achieved a similar effect with a laminated screen and a grinding disc. He said he covered himself in padding and wore a big pair of gloves and several pairs of safety goggles that simply applied the grinder to the glass. Instead of shattering as he expected, the windscreen proved surprisingly easy to cut down. I don't think this would work with toughened screens.

I once worked with someone who cut down laminated screens for coaches and he told me that he made the first cut -- which is Rod Stewart would tell you, is always the deepest – with a conventional glass cutter. Another cut would then follow it carefully in exactly the same place on the other side of the glass. The next stage involved pouring methylated spirits on the glass and setting fire to it. This had the effect of burning through the plastic inner layer. Bearing in mind the size of coach windscreens, I think there would have been awful lot of people involved in just holding the screen to work on it.

Or maybe this guy was just taking the piss.

The Allegro All-Ego is mounted on 17 inch alloy wheels with low profile 195/40 tyres. With so little sidewalls to flex on these tyres, the ride could be quite harsh but I imagine that, without the glass and the rear seat trim, the All-Ego is quite a bit lighter than the original saloon so this might not be a problem.

The auction description credits the 1100 cc A series engine with 80 brake horsepower, which seems optimistic, and a five-speed manual transmission, which sounds suspiciously unique. The only transverse five-speed A series powertrains lived in Austin Maestros following a deal with VW that allowed Austin Rover to at last provide a fifth gear for the smaller engines in its ranges.

The curved rear lights are from a Fiat and I think the colour scheme really suits the car. Apparently, another 150 hours were spent after the show was taped to finish the car off properly. This fits in with what I know about Andy Saunders who has the reputation of being something of a craftsman. I imagine he was happy to rise to the challenge of the show yet wouldn't want anything with his name behind it to go out onto the road without being properly sorted for the All-Ego is fully road legal. That is very interesting to me for presumably it didn’t need to go through an SVA test…

At £5500, this is probably the most expensive Allegro you will never see. Somebody, one day, might pay this amount for a concours standard Vanden Plas or even that Allegro Equipe that was on eBay earlier this month, once it's been fully restored.

The All-Ego is giving me ideas again. I still have that old 1750 Allegro in my little paddock, next to my garage block. The engine still turns over and -- whisper it -- I have acquired a spare cylinder head and twin carburettors for it, again through the good graces of eBay. I would have to weld up the boot floor before we could tow it out of my little paddock. And I don't think Andrew the tractor man would be interested in helping me get it out with one of his tractors after what happened last time. He hates this particular example although he views my white Allegro 1300 Super with a certain amount of wry detachment.

But once I get this old brown saloon into my workshop and fire up my MIG welder, who knows what the result might be? Andy Saunders – he would know.

Photos from Serious Wheels

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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sham 69 again

I saw Sham 69 again last night and they were better than ever! The atmosphere at The Hippo was excellent and I think the Shamsters responded to a crowd who were eager for a good time. And leading the revellers were my friends Steve and Carolyn. Carolyn's usually the punk rocker of the two but Steve had been on the Stella and having lost his inhibitions set about loosing everyone else's.

He dragged me and Carolyn down to the stage for the support band Russel Can't Drive. Although these guys messed about a lot, they were actually very tight and I enjoyed their set. They did a cover version of a song that's really bothering my mate Gary. He recognised it but not enough to really place it. He's now on a mission to identify it and can't rest properly until he can.

Russel Can't Drive may not be able to drive but they rock and are on tour soon. Catch them if you can.

Sham 69 have been playing for years and their experience shows. They know how to work a crowd but they do so effortlessly. One day I'd like to hear them play Unite and Win again as this is one of my favourites, a real rebel rousing foot stomp.

And the tickets were only a credit crunch busting 8 quid! Now that's what I call music and good value.

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