Looking to the rear
I indulged myself with one of my favourite occupations yesterday.
I sat outside the coffee shop with a mug of coffee and a lit pipe and just let my mind wander.
There was a lot of traffic around the village, with the usual idiots causing traffic jams [they’d shoot past a parking space and then decide to slam on the brakes and reverse, by which time several cars had stopped behind them blocking their way and anyway another car had swiped the space]. It was quite relaxing.
I noticed more than one of those electric yokes, noticeable only by their utter silence. Weird. But it got me thinking about cars and the difference between now and then.
Back in the good old days I bought my first car. It was a red Austin Mini [I mention the colour for my female readers as I know that’s how they identify cars]. It was a brilliant little car and it managed to get me all around Ireland, drunk or sober. It did however lack one or two features which I now almost take for granted.
It had an ignition switch, but it was just that – a switch for the ignition. The starter switch was a button on the floor. Beyond that, controls were somewhat sparse. There was a switch for the headlights but I had to kick a button on the floor to dip them. There was another switch for windscreen wipers which did work occasionally. There was also a heater which didn’t work. There was an indicator arm on the steering column with a little lamp on the end to remind me to switch it off.
That was about it.
There was a rear-view mirror all right but no wing mirrors. I decided to go posh and buy myself a mirror which clipped onto the door frame.
Electric windows? What were they? The windows could be opened only by squeezing a button and sliding the window open. That was tricky because there were ferns and moss growing in the slidey bit as the car tended to be a bit damp on the inside. Window winders were a gimmick for the future.
As the car tended to be a bit damp [see above] the windows always fogged up, winter or summer. Someone was kind enough to buy me a do-it-yourself heating element stick-on transfer for the back window. That was really posh! I also fitted a reversing light myself which was really really posh. I had grown tired of reversing into the gatepost in the dark.
In-car entertainment consisted of a sing-song, conversation or, if I were on my own, muttered expletives. I did fit a stereo cassette player at one point but it was stolen.
My car now is the flight deck of a Boeing 777 by comparison. I have in-car computers that control a load a stuff from speed to estimated kilometers to the next fuel stop. It automatically connects me to my mobile phone for calls, or to play my own selection of music [it also has a CD player which I haven’t used yet]. It also chides me if my belt isn’t fastened [my first car didn’t even have seat belts]. It has a reversing camera so I can drive anywhere backwards, should I so wish. In fact the car has too many features to mention them all.
I miss my Mini.
Get yourself a Westfield or lotus 7
I could sort of fancy driving down to the village in a Westfield Eleven! It's a pity it's not really designed for Irish weather?
Long wobbly gear lever.Stuck to the road like shit to a shovel.
Ah, those quotes bring back memories – every part I can identify with, even down to the "stick on" rear screen heater! I found the extra current it drew would exceed the measly output of the Lucas C40 dynamo with the lights on. If I kept in on for too long the battery would run down, signified by the (already dim) headlights getting even dimmer. With the non inertia reel seatbelts (which saved my neck when I put it into a ditch, one frosty night) properly tightened, I couldn't reach the panel mounted switches for lights & wipers, but you could buy some clever extensions which simply pushed over the toggles. The "long wobbly gear lever" once gave my a fright – I made a VERY enthusiastic get away from the lights once, and suddenly found myself with no drive. I thought I must have broken some part of the transmission, but all that had happened was the engine rocked in its mountings when the wheels spun, and the gear lever simply jumped into neutral! Then there were the well-known problems with the ignition system in the wet – I must have tried every suggestion going, including a "Marigold" rubber glove fitted over the distributor & HT leads…
Hah! I used to have exactly the same problem with it going into neutral after a spot of hard acceleration, caused by the mountings. In the end, the mountings failed altogether. I tried starting the car to go into work and there was a loud thump from the front. I checked under the bonnet and found that the engine had fallen out and was sitting on the ground.
You forgot to mention the Constant Velocity Joints? 😈
I had the upper engine tie rod bracket fracture one night. I then had the rather tricky job of driving home without letting the engine be driven by the car. In other words, accelerating and driving at a constant speed was O.K., but I had to depress the clutch as soon as I took my foot of the throttle.
I never had any bother with them – or the rubber bush type inner driveshaft joints. Considering how I drove (i.e. thrashed) it, that is rather surprising!
I had a Renault 6 for £400 and it was indestructible. One day returning from Kerry I pulled the gear lever back to get into fourth and the damned lever just kept on coming. I got the car stopped with the dashboard mounted gear stick now lying against the back of my seat. Checking under the bonnet I discovered the gear stick ran from the dash, across the top of the engine, (a long pole type thing), and then kinked down behind the grill. Whatever connected it there to the gearbox was gone. So I got some wire from the boot, slipped it through holes at the end of the pole and similarly to two holes on the gearbox casing and then used a pliers to twist it all into place. It worked a treat and I was soon back motoring.
Two years later I sold the car for £520, (the guy wanted it badly), and the gear lever was still held on with wrapped wire and still working. God be with the days. I ate, drank and stank in it.
I used to drive a Renault 4 van [supplied by work – not a vehicle I would buy myself]. It had the same gear lever arrangement. The whole vehicle felt like it was held together with string and chewing gum.
I have just about finished the rebuild of a Morris 1000, which is intended to become the household 'second car', keeping just one newer one for long journeys and the Morris for local trips to the shops etc or if the missus and I need to go to different places at the same time. Now we are retired it doesn't have to cope with poor driving conditions, if it's nasty outside we stay home. It does have wind-up windows, and a heater, but almost everything else is similar (or mechanically identical) to the Mini. The simplicity is such a joy!
Make sure you keep the lower front suspension joints well lubricated! Those of us of a "Certain Age" will remember seeing a "Moggie" broken down, half way round a corner, with the inside wheel sticking out at an alarming angle…
Ah! You did remember the CVJs!
You've been at the whiskey again! The Morris 1000 was rear wheel drive, and devoid of CV joints. The front suspension problem I mentioned was due to a peculiar type of swivel joint, which (as I understand it) is basically a large nut and bolt. This winds up and down as the front wheel is turned left or right by the steering, and is fine as long it's in good condition, and properly lubricated. If it isn't, the thread eventually wears so badly that it can jump out of engagement, leading to the wheel sticking out at an angle, and the lower wishbone digging into the road surface. This nearly always happened when going round a corner, and the wheel hitting a pothole. As the "Spring" is a torsion bar acting on that lower wishbone, this joint is always in tension, rather than compression like the majority of vehicles. The company I once worked for ran lots of Minor vans, and the workshop supervisor claimed that it was usually possible to jack up one which had broken down, at the side of the road, and re-engage the thread thereby allowing it to be driven (VERY carefully) back to the yard for a proper repair…
What luxury you guys had, my first was a 1958 Wolseley 1500, cost me a tenner, it was a rusty shed. But I rebuilt it, engine, body, interior and that £10 taught me more than I needed to know about cars.
My current motor has more cameras than the BBC and more computer power than took men to the moon, but it's still not got the sense of satisfaction from a successful journey that the old Wolseley delivered.
I bought a 1958 Mini in '68. It was No. 680, a very early production one, when they were still having minor modifications done – noticeably mine had a short straight gear-stick rather than the long, cranked one mentioned above by GK.
Many happy hours were spent in it, and many young women were attracted by/to it (which of course, was the idea!). It was red, like yours, which the ladies liked.
That's interesting – the later Mk11 Mini's had a shorter gear lever operating through a remote linkage, rather than the long lever going straight to the gear box. Maybe they didn't consider spending the extra to begin with? Rather predictably, for British Leyland, the same linkage was used on the later Allegro, Maxi & Princess cars. They just made it longer, and mounted it on very soggy rubber bushes, hence the sloppy gear selection. I replaced them with the ubiquitous circular rubber exhaust mountings, which made a huge difference…
I knew a man who was at a mart in Cork where he bought a calf at a bargain price. He unscrewed the front passenger seat and put it in the back, behind the driver's seat, and then drove from Cork to Nenagh with a calf beside him – in a Mini.