The story of a 'Classic Car'

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I thought that I should put into printed words the tale of my lovely Humber car as a little piece of interest to those who enjoy the sight of cars from yesteryear.

To begin, we must go back to the late 70's. Over a short period of two years, I began acquiring my collection of classic cars and embarked on a spree — made possible as I was promoted and promoted in my career in Littlewoods of Liverpool. During those years, we bought a Clyno of 1926; an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire of 1959; an open-top Humber of 1939; an Austin Healey 3000 (1959); a Wolseley of 1946; a Rover 110 of 1963; my Talbot 105 of 1933; a Daimler Light 20 of 1933; a Singer Roadster of 1937; an MGB open top roadster of 1972; an MGB GT of 1973; a Bentley T1 of 1983 — and the Humber of 1932- registered in 1933.

As you can see, we went mad! The drive, gardens and garages were full to overflowing and many car bits were all over the place. But the tale of the Humber was an adventure. Having seen an advert in Classic Car magazine, I determined to go to see the car. It was advertised as the classic "car in a barn" offer.

At that period I was using the services of one Dave Pinchen who I had set up in business in a property I had in the countryside of Barrownook in Lancashire. He was the genius who got the cars into running order and was a vital part of building my collection. Anyway, the Humber.

One Saturday morning in the summer of 1979, we set off at 8.00am in my Ford Granada Estate car, brand new and a company car — Dave, his assistant Spike, and me — tow ropes loaded, tools loaded — and some food. Off we drove and headed for a place near Boston, Lincolnshire, a lousy place to get to, as motorways did not serve it too well.

The journey took us many hours and as we neared the final destination, we were lost. This is in the days well before mobile phones or Satnav systems. Asking around, we received conflicting directions to this out of the way farm. Eventually we found the place. And true to the story, there was this big Humber, her nose pointing out of the barn door, muck and hay all over the place and on the car. A classic example of how not to present your offer in the best light!

The bonnet was opened and a cup of petrol poured straight into the carburettor. A swing of the handle a good few times — having hooked it up to the battery we had brought with us — and the car fired! Amazing. It had last been used in the early 60s. The tyres were flat but took air and stayed up. The deal was done with the owner — who had never registered the car in his name. The log book actually showed the original owner was a Mr Albert Eilbeck of Wallasey on the Wirral. I am in fact listed as the second only owner! This on a car now 65 years old!

Anyway, £1500 was handed over and the car moves for the first time for years. Dave drives her as we set of to a garage to get fuel in the tank. The car behaves quite well. Fuel in and we trundle off at a steady pace. The day is getting old now and it is around 6.00pm but after about 30 miles the Humber packs up. After many attempts she fails to restart. So the tow rope's attached and we drive on — slowly. The Humber is a big heavy lump.

Getting into a village, the Ford boils up! We stop — and the bonnet is opened. I stupidly take off the radiator cap and am scalded on my arm and forehead by hot water! A right mess I look. We wait until it cools down. By now it is 8.00pm, and we are dirty, hungry and a bit miffed, with oil stains all over us, burn marks on my face, dressed still in short sleeve shirts and shorts. We get going and pull into a pub serving food. Out we get, the Humber still tied to the Ford. We enter and I ask if there is a table free for us. The host looks at us in our mess — and says 'yes' but we must pay up front! As a director of a huge company, it is the first time ever I have been asked for this but when I see myself in the mirror of the toilets I understand just why. We are filthy!

Three meals later and I use up all my cash paying for the meal — just under £20. This after having fuelled up both the Humber and the Ford. But we are set to carry on. Out we come from the pub. A thick fog has set in and there's very poor visibility. Now it is 9.30pm and getting dark at the end of July. We set off with the Humber's lights on — such as they are for it is blessed with a very tiny single rear lamp. The fog gets worse and we end up with Dave in the Humber, me driving the Ford and Spike sitting through my sun roof of the car, getting a better view of the road ahead. As we drive along the tow rope snaps! Having stopped and retied it — now much shorter that before — we trundle on very slowly. No money, no phones, so no chance to ring home. I cannot tell Joan where we are!

The lousy fog gets worse but we find the M1 and head north — slowly. The Humber swings about a bit as I drive and it drags on the Ford. We spot a service station at 10.30pm, pull in, park up as we need to rest. All of us are tired, dirty, cold and hungry. I walk about the car park to get my legs moving again, wondering what Joan is thinking as still no contact with home.

As I walk about- smoking my cigar as I was still doing then — head down and feeling low and out of funds, I spy a paper on the car park, stuck flat by the heavy fog moisture. I look again — and it is a £10 note. Some poor lorry driver has lost it — but I salve my conscience and I keep it. In we go to the service restaurant and order three all-day breakfasts! And make a phone call home.

Now it is 11.00pm. We sleep as well as we can in the Ford. Cramped but we cannot drive in the dark on the M1 as the Humber's lights are so very poor. Early morning and dawn brings a sunny day, so off we go, the Humber close up to the Ford on the shortened rope. As we near to Leeds, the back tyre of the Humber bursts! Original tyres from 1932 and one finally gives up the ghost. The car sways madly from side to side with Dave battling to keep it under control. On to the hard shoulder. We fit one of the twin spares from the wing mountings and slowly, ever so slowly, we carry on. Meeting the M62, we smell home at last, journey on and reach my house in Burscough at midday. Very relieved, very tired, very happy. And a very hot shower, after hugging Joan and the boys.

The Humber showed 58,787 miles in 1958. I now have 60,705 on the speedo. All the miles it has ever done and there in the glove compartment a Mersey Tunnel ticket from 16th January 1958 — cost 2 shillings!

Then some 12 months later and after much restoration involving new ash frames, new wings, new interior linings, new side windows — all made to the same laminated pattern of the 20's — re-chroming of all bright work, re-sprayed, new tyres to vintage pattern etc, etc, the car rolled off in all her glory.

Phew!