My Story Page 1
Liz asked me “What would you prefer to take home from your holiday, a boomerang or a didgeridoo?”
A tough question, I thought, as I had no intention of taking home either. The moment I stepped off the plane I headed straight to the magazine stand and purchased a copy of Australian Classics. That was January 2003 when we visited our son who was working in Sydney; he was building an IT network system for the NSW police force.
It was the 27th January: National Australia Day in Sydney. The classic car rally in Macquarie Street was attended by almost 1,000 cars of all makes and models, each vehicle better than the last. The quality was something I had never seen before. I was like a kid in a sweetie shop, running from this car to that car, the rows just went on and on.
After about 3 hours Liz was completely bored and decided to cool down in one of the many excellent bars in the area. Meanwhile my attention had been drawn to two different cars: one of which certainly was for sale; and the other I was unsure about - it was a MkVIII Jaguar in black and looked stunning in the southern hemisphere sunshine. I had to wait until 4.30pm, when the owner returned from the harbour area, before finding out the said Jaguar had belonged to his late father, was now in his custody and to be passed onto his son. It was definitely not for sale. “I have a lovely E-Type and Mk2 for sale if you are interested,” he told me. “Thanks but no thanks,” was my answer, and I left.
Plan ’B’ was brought into action at this point. Peter DeMerindol had a lovely Rover which was certainly for sale and I looked at the car a couple of times throughout the day, but really wanted to speak with the MkVIII owner first as I had always hankered for a ’Big Jag’. After all, what I knew about P2 Rovers I could have fitted into a matchbox.
Peter told me that someone from Melbourne was interested in the car. It was for sale to the highest bidder, and with the pound being strong against the Australian dollar I placed my bid and left. I called Peter the next day and arranged to visit him at his home, we spoke for some time before shaking on a deal which made me the owner of a 1947 Rover 16 h.p. Sportsman (I think Sportsman is an Australian name for Sport Saloon).
With the holiday over, and back in Scotland I transferred the money to Peter’s bank account; Peter took great care in sorting out the shipping, insurance, container of which 3 were rejected as unsuitable due to pin holes and faulty door seals! whilst I waited on my new car’s arrival to the UK.
All went according to plan and Tilly arrived into Tilbury Docks on 13th April 2003 after a 6 week journey half way round the world. I often wonder how long this journey took in 1948 when Tilly went out to Australia.
I travelled overnight to Tilbury Docks, with my mate Graham who was swallowing a well known make of caffeine pills and drinking cans of high caffeine stimulants to keep awake. We picked up the hired trailer and went into the docks, sorted out the paperwork and went round to the container. After checking the seal number against the paperwork, we broke the seal and opened the door.
Tilly was exactly as per the photographs Peter had sent by email, complete with car cover to ensure the paintwork never suffered any condensation drips. Graham and I uncovered the car and I took the key from the secret hiding place Peter had left it, inserted it in the ignition and turned it. The SU pump filled the carburettor bowl and when all was silent I pulled the choke out and pressed the starter button. After a couple of turns the engine burst into life. I reversed the car out of the container and drove
onto the trailer.
Graham made an executive decision that when we left the docks and got to the motorway he should take the wheel as I had driven all night. That was at 10.00am as we pulled out of Tilbury. The next time he spoke was when we were north of Birmingham, “Where is all the traffic you told me about?” he asked. The caffeine certainly didn’t work on this occasion.
We arrived home at 11.00 that evening, untied Tilly started her up to remove her from the trailer, and put her in the garage overnight. That was when the fun started as fuel was pouring out somewhere in the region of the carburettor - and straight onto the exhaust! Panic set in and we hurriedly managed to get the car into the garage without any further problems.
Next morning I discovered that the float chamber needle valve had jammed, and after rectifying this I called my local garage to arrange an MOT. I was at the garage by 11.30 and when the examiner was raising the car on the ramp he commented that it had failed before going any further. “Why?” I asked. “I can see a brake pipe leaking,” he commented. I explained the car never had hydraulic brakes and I was greeted with a look of disbelief as he went to check for himself. It turned out to be a flexible rubber pipe for the Luvax system.
The car did pass with a clean bill of health; however the examiner was a bit confused about it not having seatbelts, indicators, hazard lights and windscreen washers.
On the road home I decided to go for a spin and this was when things started to go wrong. I hit a pothole and broke a front spring. I removed the offending item for repair I discovered why it had broken in the first place. There was no oil in the shock absorbers and as they were completely dry inside and out the MOT tester had not picked up on this or the fact that they were indeed as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
New spring on, shocks filled with oil, but leaking, I set off on what was to be my first car rally. I had been as a visitor on several occasions but never as an entrant. Kelburn by Largs is a fantastic setting and the Rovers were out in force on this particular Scottish All Rover Rally (SARR) weekend. I met some of the P2 enthusiasts who were pretty quick to let me know what was and wasn’t correct with my car. This did have an effect upon how I viewed things. Up until this point of time I had the attitude that so long as the car went and looked tidy I didn’t give a hoot whether it was original or not. I knew that my car was not perfect, but Tilly was tidy, very tidy and ran well, so why bother… I did however take heed as to what I was told on my first encounter with other P2 owners and over the next few years have managed to correct most of the few minor items which were non original to Tilly.