Friday 23 November 2012


Brand new Veloce book Triumph Production Testers’ Tales - from the Meriden Factory is reviewed in the December 2012 edition of Nacelle.

Long time Meriden worker and ace classic Triumph restorer, Hughie Hancox, describes everyday life in the Triumph Production Testing team from 1960 to 1962. A story packed with amusing anecdotes about the trials, tribulations and fun associated with testing Triumph motorcycles fresh from the production line. Includes guidance on fixing problems still found today on the 1960s models, plus previously unseen photographs of machines restored by the author. This is an intimate and entertaining account of Britain’s most famous motorcycle factory in its heyday. More info.

Sadly, Hughie Hancox passed away in August 2011 just after checking the proofs of this book.

Thursday 22 November 2012


Great to see Nicky West, Rob Stacey, Morris & Splonk having fun on the NEC live stage during the "What's the story?" feature last weekend. The Mini Minor to Asia Minor team were joined on stage by cheeky chappie presenter Mike Brewer (Mr Wheeler Dealer). Mike has recently joined the band of Veloce authors by writing Mike Brewer's The Wheeler Dealer Know How to be published in Spring 2013. Sounds like both books gained some great exposure at the event.

Click images to view full size
Photos from Bauer Media.

New! Mini Minor to Asia Minor - There & Back
By Nicky West. Foreword by Jean Christophe Novelli.
This is the story of an independent trek in a 50-year-old Mini – all the way to the Great Pyramid and back – with no assistance or support crew, to provide much needed funds and publicity for the Willow Foundation. Inspirational to others, the book includes practical advice on the car preparation and documentation required for such marathon drives, along with photographs of the Mini’s preparation and the amazing journey itself. More info.

From THE Master - Everything you need to know about buying, preparing, and selling modern classic cars!

The Wheeler Dealer Know How is written by Mike Brewer, the UK's most well-known car-dealing expert. In a career spanning almost 30 years, Mike has seen and done everything when it comes to buying and selling cars, and having established a successful career as a television presenter, is eager to share his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm.

Telling you all you need to know about buying, preparing and selling modern classic cars, this book guides you through the minefield that is the world of car dealing, and helps you avoid the pitfalls that await the unwary. Plus, with stories and anecdotes from Mike's time in the trade, you'll gain a fascinating insight into the world of wheeler-dealing. More info.


GET 40% OFF ANY VELOCE BOOK* up until the end of December 2012!

This discount code can be used when ordering direct from Veloce, either by phone on +(0)1305 260068, or via our website, by entering the discount code XMAS40 during the transaction.

*Offer closes midnight 31st December 2012. Offer excludes leather and limited editions, Veloce gift vouchers, Veloce apps, eBooks, other coinciding special offers and non-Veloce products. P+P extra.
Offer subject to availability.

Wednesday 21 November 2012


Cedric is probably wearing the same overalls as those he was wearing in 1964 in the photo on page 51 of Steve's book!

Motor Racing – The Pursuit of Victory 1963 to 1972
By Steve Wyatt.

Picking up where the first volume left off, this is a beautifully illustrated journey covering a period of ten years in motor sport. Moving year by year, this book is written from the perspective of a passionate motor sport enthusiast of the day. Features many previously unpublished photographs. More info.

Tuesday 20 November 2012


The millionth Fiat 500 has just rolled off the Fiat Auto Poland production line. This iconic model, launched in 2007 and marketed in over 100 countries around the world – from Italy to Brazil, South Africa to Japan, and the United States to the Middle East – has also been produced at the Mexican plant in Toluca since 2011.

The milestone vehicle is a Lounge version ‘dressed’ in elegant three-layer Funk White and fitted with Fiat’s reliable 69 HP 1.2 engine. It is a unique car like all those produced so far. In fact, thanks to the thousands of possible combinations – combining exterior colours, interiors, engines, fuel systems and equipment – among the million units produced it is really hard to find two identical Fiat 500s.

A genuine expression of style and character, the Fiat 500 is an all-Italian invention created to satisfy everyone who loves to have fun and go anywhere behind the wheel of an exciting and charming car. Always a great ‘player’ in international markets, the Fiat 500 was recently revamped with the arrival of the 2013 range – hatchback and convertible versions – introducing six brand-new body colours, two new versions (Street and Colour Therapy) and other style details which enhance the fun-loving pop spirit of this iconic model. A genuine expression of Italian style and personality, the range today includes two versions (saloon and convertible), six trim levels (Pop, Pop Star, Colour Therapy, Lounge, Street and By Gucci) and five engine versions (1.2 69 HP, 0.9 TwinAir Turbo 85, 1.4 16v 100 HP, 1.2 69 HP EasyPower and 1.3 MultiJet 16v 95 HP).

The Fiat 500 has achieved major records in its segment thanks to its Italian design and the most sophisticated technology, as embodied by the revolutionary and multi-award-winning TwinAir engine. With more than 40 awards won internationally to date, the new car has proven since its launch in July 2007 that it is not merely a super-compact city car, but an authentic platform upon which Fiat is building a whole family of cars with technology and attention to detail worthy of a higher category.

It is not by chance that the Fiat 500 has introduced many innovations and achieved important records in its segment. It was the first to offer seven airbags as standard; the first car offering a range of over one million possible customisations; the first car only 3.55 metres long to win a prestigious 5-star EuroNCAP crash safety rating; the first car to offer the advanced ESP system with all its engine options; the first car to offer 100 original specially designed accessories; and the first Fiat Group car to be powered by the revolutionary two-cylinder TwinAir engine family.

The new products also arrived thick and fast: Abarth 500 (March 2008), 500 by Diesel (September 2008), 500 Pink (June 2009), 500C (July 2009), Abarth 500C (March 2010), 500C by Diesel (June 2010), 500 TwinAir (July 2010), 500 Matt Black (September 2010), 500 two-tone (December 2010), 500 and 500C by Gucci (in April and August 2011, respectively).

Since the day that it was first launched, the Fiat 500 has captivated both the public and international critics alike. Launched at the end of 2010 in the United States and produced at the Toluca plant in Mexico, today the Fiat 500 is the leader in its class. In October it marked its eighth consecutive month of growth.

Taking a closer look, sales of the Fiat 500 in North America have increased by 109%, while the Cabrio version marked an increase of 21%. In total, more than 73,000 vehicles have been registered in the North American market since 2011, of which 42,000 were registered in the first 10 months of 2012.

If we consider the European market (EU27 + EFTA), in 2008 the Fiat 500 achieved the 13.9% share record and the following year it recorded top sales volumes: approximately 186,000 units. An interesting fact: the Fiat 500’s forerunner of 1957 – with more than 3.4 million units produced until August 1975 – took four years of production to reach 180,000 registrations.

The last piece of data confirming the roaring success of the 500 is the Official Fan Page on Facebook ( It has collected about 300,000 visitors from around the world, a global community of enthusiasts who interact daily with the proposed contents and share opinions and images on the model that more than any other inspires warmth, style and maximum freedom of customisation.
Source: Fiat

Fiat 500 & 600 - The Essential Buyer's Guide
By Malcolm Bobbitt.
The essential guide to purchasing a baby Fiat, which allows both the novice and accustomed Fiat enthusiast to appraise a potential purchase with professional confidence, identifying what to look for in order to acquire the right car at the right price. With Malcolm Bobbitt's concise and easy-to-follow guide, packed with sound advice and backed up by specially selected illustrations, the route through checking a car's provenance is made so much easier. This is YOUR passport to joining the Fiat community and a must for any potential small Fiat owner. More info.

Thursday 15 November 2012


A team of gym members from East Sussex have today smashed two Guinness World RecordsTM for the number of people inside both a classic Mini and a 2012 MINI.

28 flexible ladies crammed their way into the MINI Hatch at Potters Fields Park, London as part of the eighth annual Guinness World Records day. The team broke their own previous record of 27 people, which they set in Eastbourne last year.

The ladies made full use of every inch of space available in the MINI, including the dashboard, the footwells and they even managed to squeeze four people in the boot.

As soon as they celebrated their first record the ladies dashed off to the ITV studios to attempt the second record live on This Morning, where by squeezing a staggering 23 ladies into a classic Mini, they managed to beat the previous record by two people.

Today more than 400,000 people around the world are taking part in record-breaking events for the eighth annual Guinness World Records Day, which commemorates the day in 2004 when Guinness World Records became the world's best-selling copyright book.
Source: MINI

New from Veloce! New Mini – The Essential Buyer's Guide
By Martyn Collins

With so many different models and specifications to navigate, this book will help you get the Mini you want at the right price. Featuring over a hundred colour images, plus details of problems to keep an eye out for, it is an essential aid for the discerning buyer, providing insight into market and value data and predicting future collectable models. Owning a Mini can be a very sociable experience, and this book gives details of back-up and support organisations for BMW’s British–built baby.
More info.

Friday 9 November 2012


Auctioneer honoured to offer ‘The Queen’s Land Rover’

Historics at Brooklands – the auctioneer of fine classic cars and vehicles of distinction – has been given the royal seal of approval by the Ministry of Defence, to auction ‘The Queen’s Land Rover’ at its forthcoming sale at Brooklands, on Saturday 24th November.

Commissioned for the Queen and owned by the MoD, the 1978 Land Rover ‘Royal Review State’ V Series III was intriguingly modified in April 1979 by REME Central Workshops in Donnington, to include a traffic light system allowing the Queen to signal the driver to stop, slow or start.

Having covered just 1,892 miles from new, this unique feature, as well as double rear doors and rear retractable step, remain in place and in full working order, setting this Land Rover aside from the other 440,000 Series III models built between 1971 and 1985.

Offered at auction with an estimate of £15,000 to £18,000*, Historics last sale of 2012 represents a unique opportunity to acquire a very rare and desirable piece of motoring heritage.

Commenting on the consignment, Historics’ Auction Director Edward Bridger-Stille noted: “We are excited and honoured to be entrusted with the task of finding a new home for such a unique vehicle.

“We pride ourselves on bringing distinctive vehicles to auction, and despite prolific production of the Series III Land Rover, it’s highly unlikely one like this will ever come to auction again,” he concluded.
Source: Historics at Brooklands


Veloce and Hubble & Hattie featured in the November 2012 edition of local magazine, Dorchester Life.

Click image to view full size.

Tuesday 6 November 2012


Would you like to self-publish your work - your passion - and have the same high quality product as our own books, which are well-known and respected for their first-class characteristics?

If the answer's yes, get in touch with us right away to discuss the many possibilities available to you in terms of producing a conventional printed book and/or digital publishing (ebook) at prices that will suit all budgets. We can edit, design, lay out and print your book/ebook, and submit your ebook to Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Waterstones, iBookstore and GooglePlay.
Contact here.

Monday 5 November 2012


"Combines scholarship with unbridled prejudice. Occasionally makes Clarkson seem strangely reasonable." - A.H. Davis

A great read, 'Alfa Mail' by Justin Allison is about Alfa Romeos. What made them great – and what will probably make them extinct. It’s also about other cars too – great, good, bad and appalling – plus planes, bikes, places, people, prejudice ... and tractors.
Motor vehicles are the greatest practical enablers of the 20th Century (even IT can’t physically take us to Hollywood, or hospital), and stir our emotions like few other artefacts.
Artefacts and their creators make history. Thus, this book is also about great endeavours and sad whimpers. About inspired artists, dedicated engineers, reckless drivers, and intellectually barren marketing people. Fortunately, for sanity’s sake, this book is also quite happy to take the piss. And Alfa enthusiasts are used to jokes.

• Alfa Mail: an Alfa book that isn’t just about Alfas
• Cars, Bikes, Planes, Places, People, Unbridled Prejudice
• Foreword by Ed McDonough: racing driver, historian & author
• Everything from Car Porn to The Joy of Scrapyards
• Brilliant Alfa Sud. Total Bloody Disaster
• Doctor jiggles my testicles. I cough obligingly
• Mr. Slow; probably still there, in his Toyota Colonica
• Constance Spry School of Flower Arranging & Bedroom Etiquette
• Two postwar 1.5-litre cars: (1) Porsche, 50bhp. (2) Alfa, 50bhp
• Seriously enhance your A30. With an oxy-acetylene cutter!

Justin Allison grew up in Dorset, England, among cars, planes, motorbikes and tractors – as well as guns and horses. Leaving a local public school at 16, he spent his Old Boys membership fee on a well-used Triumph Tiger 110, a motorcycle 99% as fast – and 45% as stable – as a Bonneville. His varied background has seen him study architecture, service electric milk floats, work in a scrapyard, and rebuild a 1934 AC Roadster. Joining a famous London advertising agency in 1970, Justin has won several awards, both as a freelance copywriter and as a creative director. His writing covers journalism for publications such as Alfa Romeo Driver; poetry, for which he has been commended by the Thomas Hardy Society, and limited-edition art books, such as Relatively Virginal.

AVAILABLE NOW! as a great value ebook from amazon kindle, iBookstore, Waterstones, kobo, nook and Google play for all major tablets and ebook readers.

Please feel free to pass the sample letter (below) to friends and colleagues, or to publish it in your blog, newsletter, magazine, ezine, newspaper or on your website.

Letter 1 (2008/9)

Caro Mondo/Dear World,
Having an age somewhere between those of HRH The Princess Royal and Sir Michael Philip Jagger, I’ve known cars since they were small and few, slow and grey. When I was four, and my father was off, working for the USAF, a Mr. Gainsford took me to hospital, in a faded Standard with a split rear window. And I vaguely remember a Standard 9 tourer, one chilly grey afternoon.
Later, Caroline’s father - a solicitor - had what sounded like a Worlsney and someone else’s father - an accountant - carried the glow of modernity, because he drove a crappy little grey Hillman Minx. What made it special was that in 1952, it was post-war - and looked it. To our naive eyes, it looked almost like an American car.
Most fathers’ cars were pre-war. I loved the art-deco grille on the Jamesons’ Triumph Dolomite Sports Saloon.
In those days, you could easily be hanged; and even more easily killed in your car. According to the Western Gazette, some bloke was skewered to death by his steering column, in the quiet road just outside my school. He’d been lighting a fag, at just the very worst split second.

When I was about six, I worshipped the glamorous and ebullient Dr. Grace Rankin. An Irish GP who roamed the world as a well-paid locum, she owned Bells House, an equally ebullient Victorian pile, near Wimborne. Its high ceilings were covered with angels and flora that, four centuries earlier, would have been executed by a moody Florentine with a brush in one hand and a stiletto in the other.
Her semi-or maybe-totally-detached spouse was an urbane chap called Charlie Lamb, who owned The House of Steps - a medieval cafe in Salisbury, that now houses the regional National Trust retail experience.
Dr. Rankin ran a strangely hideous silver Vauxhall. Until recently, its twin - possibly the only survivor - was parked outside the Bankes Arms in Studland. It was absent when I went to take its picture, but the beer was OK.
When this abomination was new, it offered two levels of performance.
Level I - the Wyvern - had 1442cc and a whole 33bhp, to whisk it up to 62.5 mph. From what I remember of Grace Rankin, she would have insisted on Level 2 - the Velox (as in fast: cf veloce). Velox is a relative term: despite an engine displacing 2275cc, there were only 54bhp. The Motor - always inclined to charitable road-tests - clocked one at 74mph.
You’ve probably never seen either. Most of them rusted away years ago and I don’t think they were missed.
The Browns owned an elegant black RME Riley; as I discovered many years later, when I nearly bought one, it was a lot slower than it looked. 1½ litres-worth of delightful, if strangely designed, prewar twin cam sophistication. A single SU carburettor. 55bhp, at a rough guess. - which was pretty good for its time. But despite its sleek lines and fabric roof - stretched over a very sturdy steel honeycomb - the RME was a weighty old girl.
The only fairly quick car in our small circle was our father’s very pre-war 3½ litre SS Jaguar, which brought about 125bhp to the task. Since I know that he incorporated a few of the ploys used for semi-works SS100s, there may well have been more.
I remember him hitting an indicated 80, on a fairly short straight, while my sister and I urged him on. Side by side on the front passenger seat; had there been seat belts, I couldn’t have stood up, to turn the little handle, that opened the windscreen.

Henleys, the Jaguar main dealers, provided a brochure for the XK120, and I collected those Shell racing booklets - yours for the asking at Dears Garage, if you asked very nicely at the kiosk by the pumps: Hawthorn pips Fangio at Rheims, in the recently emasculated Formula 1.
Le Mans 1953: Henleys provided a well-produced hour-by-hour PR hand-out. C-Types 1st, 2nd & 4th. Alfa & Ferrari destroyed by disc brakes and Coventry grit.
My Hercules became Jaguar No 18, as we raced through the shrubbery, round the compost heap and pitted by the kitchen. Watch out, Rolt & Hamilton.
In our part of the world, most people cycled to work - and did so until the early 60s. The E-type drove onto quiet roads; just as well, in view of the real-world Speed/Roadholding/Driver Skill equation.
The first car - if you can call it a car - I actually drove was my mother’s A30. Like the Shell publicity material, this came from Dear Bros, a cheerful family firm that also supplied TV sets.
That nasty A30 replaced a delightful 1934 Rover 14 shooting brake (complete with Freewheel, an interesting device to aid economy and transmission wear).
Leaving aside its many dynamic problems, the A30 was a sick-making environment.
Like other makers of cheap cars, Austin had invented a special sort of plastic called Vomit-pong. Chuck in a vicious sister and a slavering bull terrier, on a back seat about three feet wide.
But it didn’t seem so bad as, aged eleven, I pointed it down a New Forest ride. Mother urged me on until flying gravel seriously threatened paint and glass. This was nothing compared to what happened a few weeks later, after I had spent an enjoyable hour or so, flailing alder saplings, in the damp far corner of our Ten Acre.
Having parked the old Fordson Major, I gave the A30 an unplanned seeing-to. Long story short: forgot to remove wellies; muddy, over-confident feet slip on nasty little pedals; car takes out 1930s chest of drawers - serving as tool chest - at back of garage.
The chest - bought for about five bob at Wimborne market, and delivered on a cart drawn by a skewbald gypsy cob - had aspirations. Its drawers bellied out, as it were, horizontally. Should you have the misfortune to look closely at an A30’s radiator grill, you’ll notice that they belly out vertically, even proudly, like a ship’s figurehead. As it were.
The two opposing surfaces met at the third drawer; a shower of splintered veneer revealed the precision instruments - micrometers and the like - within.
Our old Fordson - c.1950 - had a splined power-take-off (PTO) and a 3-point lift. The former drove implements and replaced the exposed flywheel and treacherous belt that had powered sawbenches and threshing machines. The latter placed enormous hydraulic power at the farmer’s disposal. The thinking behind every modern tractor had been patented by Harry Ferguson, as far back as 1926.

Since I’m sure you know this already, I apologise for being an anorak. The PTO and Hydraulic 3-Point Lift enabled what we would now call an Integrated Agri Pak. At last, a great big lump, like our old Major, could do the work made so easy by one of these little grey Ferguson 20s.
Q. Why do 20mph tractors have rev counters?
A. So that you can maintain the 540rpm, demanded by powered farm implements. Though I was banned from the A30 for several weeks, it was the car in which, six years later, I flew my first solo. Actually, going it alone felt quite strange; I can see the case for those green P plates. I believe they’re compulsory in Eire; here, where they’re discretionary, only girls have the sense to wear them. Having passed that vital test in a Morris 1000, guided by the charming Ms Lidbetter, I had some idea of what a decent small car should feel like.
When I drove the Triumph Herald, belonging to the mother of Pear-Shaped-Penny, I realised how charming an everyday small car can be. You sat fairly low; legs outstretched; stubby gearlever; sharp rack & pinion steering. PSP paid for champagne; her mother paid for petrol.

I enjoyed being unpaid chauffeur to parties hosted by girls from the Constance Spry School of Flower Arranging and Bedroom Etiquette.
As this rather crude illustration - from a contemporary Dealer Advertising Block Service catalogue - shows, the Herald was a neat little car. Despite its narrow track (shared with most of its contemporaries) and dubious swing-axle rear suspension, it was remarkably refined under most circumstances. Furthermore, it had a steering lock to rival a London cab, and a bonnet that opened like an E-type’s.
Like the original Mini, it offered more than most of the rubbish then available. If old cars must be classics, rather than just old cars, the Herald is now a classic. The Vitesse, its 6 cylinder sibling, is a reasonably brisk classic.

By way of contrast - and years before some idiot decided that any old heap is special, the A30 was crap on wheels. GJT 944 was a dreary and not very faithful little servant. If if still exists, its most valuable component is its number plate. I’m sure it’s loved by someone: Geoffrey John Thomas perhaps, who just happens to own a Porsche 944. Nevertheless, you’ll see plenty of A30s at venues where they stand proudly alongside other ‘classics’: Standard 8; Morris 8 Series E; Austin A40 Somerset; Vauxhall Viagra.
Nevertheless, that A30 and I shared a rich tapestry of experience, over a period of nearly ten years. Having passed my test, I started by trespassing, unintentionally, in someone’s front garden.
Despite, or perhaps because of his aeronautical background, my father had a problem with such terrestrial devices as tyres. Born the year after the Wright Brothers first flew, he grew up in the days when tyres existed solely to keep the wheelwright’s work out of the fertiliser.
When he was a young adult, not a lot had changed - as contemporary photos of 1920s/30s racing cars show only too clearly. Even in 1960-odd, the MOT only looked at ‘brakes, lights & steering’ - and, as far as most cars were concerned, road tyres were still fairly incidental. ‘High Hysteresis’ - i.e. at least some grip - was pioneered on motorcycles in about 1960. The most famous was the Dunlop TT. I read all about that in magazines that carried ads for 250cc Ducatis that did a ton, when the 250cc Royal Enfield Crusader Sports struggled to reach 80.
The Michelin X, which pioneered the radial-ply concept, goes back to the 50s - but its focus was comfort with longevity, rather than a short life and a grippy one. The Dunlop SP and Pirelli Cinturato were probably the first dedicated ‘sports’ tyres marketed for everyday cars.
The tyres on my father’s company car were as good as any tyres were then, because they were replaced as necessary when it was serviced. Mother’s tyres had become as bald as badgers, but none of us noticed. I knew all about bikes on wet roads and wet leaves; but until my first time out in heavy rain, with a full complement of passengers, I didn’t realise that cars were just the same.
I turned left at a familiar suburban crossroads, same speed as yesterday, when it was dry and sunny, and there was just me, and we had whizzed round with all the elan of which an A30 is capable.
The overladen A30 spun twice, thrice, at slightly above walking speed, before winding up on a lawn so brand new that the car immediately started to sink. The owner was very kind. Helping me push the muddy little heap out of the slime, she placed her finger vertically on her lips.

The first car I actually owned was a pretty little Talbot 10.
Twenty five quid, one careful lady owner. Dears had serviced it for her until at last, they persuaded her to chop it in for a Farina A40. A photo, which I wish I still had, showed that in 1939, she and the Talbot had made a rather dashing couple. She’s probably long gone. And sadly, this isn’t the actual car, though it could be a clone of mine. I shot it with my phone, at a recent agricultural show - hence the various stickers and the rather moderate clarity. Related to the Hillman Aero Minx, the Talbot 10 had most of the performance and handling of the more modest MG Midgets. It felt low, close to the tarmac. You sat into it, not on it. The leather bucket seats were adjustable; for which read squabs supported by slowly-leaking inflatable cushions.
I remember the first time I took it out. It was a sunny Saturday, as my sister and I admired the view: long bonnet, large chrome headlights, more shiny chrome on the radiator shell. Firm ride, direct steering. And on a smooth, dry road, halfway decent roadholding. Round a series of bends, I could see all that metal leading gently but firmly to a rewarding conclusion. Soon, a scary moment taught me that a full complement of passengers contributed to fairly major understeer; chuck them out, or raise the front tyre pressures a couple of psi and the steering returned to neutral. For its time and pedigree, it was a cracking little car; sadly, pedigree - or should I say snobbery - was the problem. An MG PA - gorgeous looks and the archetypal English sports car - was based on a Morris, rather than a Hillman; somehow, it was a thoroughbred – and my Talbot wasn’t.

What now?
I was 17, with plenty of flying hours.
My first logbook entry had been a Link Trainer - the original flight simulator. These days, simulators are like a lab, or an office; something with comfortable seats and digital displays, anyway. In 1950-something, you climbed into a real cockpit, with real controls, connected to almost-real control surfaces. If you stood up on tiptoe, you could just see stubby winglets. If you turned round, you could see a tailplane and fin. Beneath you, a fairly basic set of hydraulics acted like a slow-motion version of a robotic rodeo horse.
After the chilly spaces of a Lancaster bomb bay (the view down the fuselage was that of a long cold tunnel) the Link was cosy, welcoming; and after my stint, a Lootenant in Raybans said that Gee, I’d flown that thang darned well. Having told my sister the same thing, he left us in the control tower, with Cokes and comics, while the grown-ups repaired to the Mess.

Next up was a Canberra - a high altitude bomber/reconnaissance machine, made by English Electric, who also created the fabled Lightning. I watched the Tarrant Rushton ground crew start the two Rolls Royce Avons, using what looked like giant 12-bore cartridges.
Being up close and personal with a NATO deterrent was actually pretty tame, compared to the Martin Baker pylon at Farnborough. Intended to demonstrate their wonderful ejector seat, it was studiously ignored by those most likely to use it; aircrew do not parachute for pleasure. At thirteen, it seemed like a ripping wheeze. Once you’re strapped in, and you’ve pulled down the blind, well at least your neck won’t snap like a carrot. And then WOWWW! - your breakfast is a hundred feet below you; at least you haven’t also left your legs beneath the instrument panel - which, apparently, was a piece of cake, if you ever had to eject from a Lightning.
But despite all this, I was bloody impressed by my first Chipmunk flight.
As I staggered to the aircraft, with a parachute strapped to my arse, I wondered how on earth The Few always managed to run …
“Bale out drill dead simple” said the sadistic NCO, emphasising the adjective. “Canopy sticks, see that panel…” He pointed to some perspex, high up to my right, and slightly smaller than the chute I was sitting on. “Eileen was looking bloody shagged-out, when she packed your chute.”
When you’re fourteen and devoid of imagination, you’re hard to frighten. The good old Gypsy roared like a tractor. We accelerated, surprisingly quickly, and then that amazing buoyancy said “we’re flying”.
A banked turn at 1200 feet revealed the Solent and the last resting place of the old Princess Flying Boats. I looked around me, in a vacuum of peace. The headset crackled “OK for some aeros?” Loop, Barrel Roll, Inverted. Wow. Then “OK? Not too sick? You know the drill. Straight and level. Just look at the horizon. You have control!” “I have control! Sir!!”
Back on the ground, I felt a touch queasy and intensely pleased with life. Courtesy of the British tax payer, I had plenty more of that. I fancied a Short Service Commission in the Royal Air Force. But despite a stack of A-Levels, I had never passed O-Level maths - the one thing the RAF was adamant about. So I hit on a crafty ploy: join the Army and transfer to the Army Air Corps.

The medical involved a doctor jiggling my testicles while I coughed obligingly. Then I was called to a Selection Board, which was more fun. A batman woke me with a cuppa and called me Sir. After the odd pep talk, quiz and assault course, there were long evenings of taxpayer-subsidised alcohol. For three days and nights, I lived like an MP.
To prove our intellectual capacities, each candidate had to deliver a short talk on something or other. Most people chose World War II, Tory policies, the future of the underserving poor, or the need to exterminate mosquitoes. I decided to show how the sports car evolved from the Victorian railway engineering of the vintage years, into the lithe beauty of the 1930s.
In Beales of Bournemouth, I bought The Thoroughbred Motor Car, by David (Bunty) Scott-Moncrieff – Purveyor of Horseless Carriages to the Nobility & Gentry since 1927.
Among other things, this fine Batsford edition informed me that: Founded in 1934, the Vintage Sports car Club (VSCC) decided that ‘Vintage’ means literally any car made between 1919 and 1930. Prior to that, they were Edwardian; and prior to that, Veteran.
PVT. means Post-Vintage-Thoroughbred. The VSCC hands out this accolade to just a few ‘thoroughbred’ cars, built between 1931 and 1940. In alpabetical order, they include: AC, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Alta, Alvis; the Bs include Bentley and Bugatti, F is Frazer-Nash and so on. S stood for Squire, a 1930s 1½ litre car with more performance than a brand-new MGB. Talking of which, I also read about the 1087cc MG K3, in which Nuvolari won the 1934 TT. In 1964, cars like these were still seriously fast. Some of them still are.
Despite their price tags, most of them are quite small; you could park an Aston Martin International on the bonnet of a DBV8.
An Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 made 4½ litre Bentleys look ungainly. So, to be fair, did most Bugattis. Admittedly, Alfa charged more for one of their dinky little two-seaters than Rolls did for a limo; more than a 1930s-spec builder charged for a row of decent family houses. Adrian Squire’s little jewel cost nearly as much – and he didn’t even make the engine. Nor did most of those other long-gone names: Lagonda, Frazer-Nash, Invicta, HRG
Most of them went broke – including Alfa, rescued by Il Duce, Mussolini. Not, in most respects, one of Italy’s finest ragazzi, he understood that good cars and efficient trains aren’t mutually exclusive, which is more than can be said for our lot. Seventy-odd years later, those beautiful PVT survivors fetch utterly silly money. But most of the ones worth driving go even better than they did when they were new. Grippier tyres, smoother tracks. For those with racing ambitions and deep, deep pockets, how about a brand-new cylinder block, crankcase and crankshaft? Conrods and pistons, too. Latest bearing technology; whatever it takes. And all digitally perfect. You’ll find the ads in MotorSport. Metal fatigue apart, the originals are too valuable to use.
On leaving my Selection Board, I sat in a friend’s garden enjoying his mother’s subtle elderflower wine. It tasted like the sort of organic soft drinks you simply couldn’t buy then. An hour later, when the day seemed even sunnier, I took Judy, an old girlfriend for a delightful spin; I use the term advisedly. Slowly, it dawned on me that it takes more than three days to develop the head of an Honourable Member. A week or so later, the Army politely turned me down (possibly on the grounds that elderflower wine is a girl’s drink) on the day I finally got my maths O-Level and was accepted by the architectural college to which I had also applied. I’ve still got the Scott Moncreiff book.

The real deal.
Alfa Romeo 8C 2.3 Monza. In 1932, it was the fastest (il piu volecemente) of all the road-legal Alfas. Of all the road-legal anything, come to that.
Having grown out of Grand Prix genes, it was also the shortest (il cortissimo). I’d already seen Earl Howe’s pale blue long-chassis (lungo) Le Mans winner at Beaulieu. Now, ascending the bumpy hill that was then out-of-town Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, I saw the unmistakeable grill – complete with the slots that now grace the pre-facelift 156.
It bounded towards me, with the unmistakable stance of a 1930s sports-racing car on a bumpy road. It glistened, discreetly, sounding inaccessible to the likes of me. A few months later, I met Angela & Alan Cherrett. My girlfriend and I were in a bistro with Rowan, my sister, and Bill Holmes, her boyfriend. Bill recommended scrounging a coffee off the Cherretts: famous Alfa enthusiasts.
Angela has since written her Jano Alfa histories. Alan could identify chassis numbers and machine splined hubs. All very inspirational - but out of my league, obviously. I couldn’t even have one of the newer Alfas. They were rare, special and costly. A 1600 Giulia Coupé cost nearly as much as a 3.8 E-type.
So the next best thing was a rather beautiful 1936 AC 16/70 sports/tourer, owned by Bournemouth car dealer and racing driver, Brian Cuttings. The coachwork was gorgeous, and so was the aluminium-block engine, with its 3 SUs. I had to have one. But I couldn’t afford that one. I think he’d have taken £250.
And then, in the local classifieds: an AC 1934 DHC. Supercharged, too. John Waugh, of Christchurch, was selling.
Once, it had looked like this. Not any more.
Its provenance included two years, standing on a cliff top. House paint, in several shades. Matronly dickey-seat coachwork that had seen far better days. But it flew down his driveway. His wife insisted.
The price was £40 with the Arnott supercharger, or £25 without. Since £25 was my budget, we removed the blower, replaced the SUs and I drove away – complete with a spare engine and a cockpit-full of old MotorSports. (Typical 1950s sale ad: C-Type Jaguar: £600.)
I later collected another trailer-load of parts: enough to build an AC Greyhound. Rather than take my mad purchase home, I left the car in a friend’s paddock. Duff had been thrown out of Bryanston School and worked for Maranello Concessionaires, which probably says it all. The next evening, it was raining. I visited my pride & joy. The bonnet was open. The cylinder head was missing. And the bores were full of water. The culprit was at a party. I closed the bonnet.
“You’ve got a great engine there!” he said, next day. “It’s a Gold Head!”
“I don’t care if it’s a frigging diamond head. Where is it?”
“At work.” This meant the Ford dealership where Col. Ronnie Hoare ran Maranello, sole UK importer of Ferraris. Full of works-supported GTOs and LMs, plus the odd D-Type, GT40, or Giulia TZ.
Graham Hill drove for them. He once poured me a coffee.
“Well I’d like it back please. After a de-coke.”
The famous AC 2 litre – “the first light 6 –and still the best” - was designed by founder John Weller and began life as a 1500, which in 1921, covered 100 miles in an hour. Try doing that now.
A single overhead camshaft is probably the simplest way of opening and closing valves, and this is a delightfully simple engine in every respect. Virtually everything you see is shining alloy: the wet-liner block, with cast-in mounting lugs, the sump, the cam cover. Inside, the Weller cam-chain tensioner is an elegant length of spring steel.
Yet the head – where you might think that heat transfer should be a primary consideration, even with a 6.5-1 compression ratio, a bore/stroke of 65x100, and a red line at just over 4000 – is iron.
To be fair, quite a few of AC’s high performance contemporaries employed a similar configuration, but to compound the felony, the inlet ports – separate and beautifully machined on a Riley 9, for instance – are siamesed and unsightly. However, its life was as long as its stroke. 1950s versions in the ultra light Ace could keep up with a tractor-engined TR2.
Meanwhile, I had a £25 classic that didn’t really work.
Having raised the other £15, I bought the supercharger and built a cannibalised engine. In theory, this meant about 90bhp and an effective CR of about 9.5:1. Fortunately, the big ends were up to this mighty task. Lacking replaceable shell bearings, prewar AC conrods have to be re-metalled by specialists. The greatest problem was keeping the head gasket in one piece. Corrosion on the miniscule surfaces of the fragile wet-liner casing caused plenty of problems. In the end, having soaked them for a week in easing oil, I was able to remove the head studs. I then countersunk each of the stud holes, before polishing the surfaces with valve grinding paste on a sheet of glass.
Performance was further enhanced when I chucked the insane Arnott carburettor, with its scimitar-shaped needle; fitted a 1¾ inch SU, from a scrapyard Jag, on a plumbing pipe manifold. Since supercharging is a fairly crude way of forcing mixture into an engine, subtle gas-flowing was not at a premium - especially when I increased the pressure, by fitting a smaller pulley. To avoid pre-ignition, 5-star petrol - at nearly 6p a litre - was now compulsory.
My father helped with the electrics and the intricate Andre Telecontrol shockers. At about this time, he decided that I was now nearly a grown-up. To signify this, he would occasionally say ‘bugger’, a word he normally only used with colleagues and fellow golfers.
I blagged a mate into swapping the well-shod 18inch wire wheels on his non-running 2½ litre Jaguar, for my bald 19 inch ones, which were also considerably narrower. Something about enhancing his final-drive ratio, I said. Perhaps he’d also been drinking too much of his mother’s wine. Perhaps, instinctively, he knew that the big cat would never leap from those piles of bricks in his mother’s garden.
Although Mr. Waugh had butchered the bonnet to accommodate the belt drive for the supercharger, most of the aluminium bodywork was in reasonable nick. But a lot of the wooden frame had rotted. The doors were devoid of their trim and windup windows. And the elegant swept wings sagged like a middle-aged Zapata moustache.
In 1934, the spare wheel(s) of many fancy English cars were carried in one or more of the front wings. Realising that wheels are heavy, most makers ensured that they were supported by a stout bracket, mounted on the (hopefully) stout chassis. This usually terminated in a splined hub, on which the wheel could look jolly stylish.
AC knew better and thirty years later, the results were plain to see.
I chucked the doors and wings and rebuilt most of the body frame from the scuttle The result wasn’t pretty – but it was more fun than the original. Helmet wings (£5 for two) came from Longham’s Lagonda & Aston heroes Forshaw. The business still thrives, though not in the old outhouse they used in the 60s.
Cutaway doors I made myself. Black coachwork with red wire wheels. Polished aluminium bonnet, covered in louvres. Very WO Bentley.
The seats also needed replacing. Ironically, since I hate Morris 8s, I sourced a really good pair of red leather buckets from a Series 2.
In hindsight, I should have cut at least two feet out of the chassis (and propshaft) scrapped almost everything from the scuttle back and finished the plot off with a minimal slab tank. I should have fitted the dead-cheap aluminium cycle wings that Mr Ferguson of Nailsworth used to advertise in MotorSport. (Years later, he made me some panels for a racing TR I was building. ) Less weight, more go.
Nevertheless, it went well, and drank deeply. Filling stations welcomed me. The police were surprisingly tolerant. If only I still had the Before and After pictures. I probably gave them to the bloke who bought the car.

But still no Alfa.
I learnt a lot, while servicing electric milk floats, with Transport Electrics. Character-forming. Think WW1 trench, traditional public school, BNI Chapter. Gagging on the smell of stale milk, you lie under the vehicle, at zero minus something, somewhere on Salisbury Plain. The grease nipples are blocked. The clever milk person has filed the motor’s contacts to extinction. A passer-by knocks the release valve of the trolley jack …
My friend Mike Rose, the boss’s son, sounded slightly smug, when he told me that the Bendix brakes on my ‘thoroughbred’ AC came straight off a Morrison Electricar milk float. Other parts were shared with equally mundane vehicles. But that was OK: trade discount at Edmunds Walker.
If, as and when I next meet him, I’ll let Mike know that the Morrison is now a ‘classic’, with several websites to its name.

Perhaps he foresaw such an elevation. Mike learnt fast. Taking a tip from what the dying blacksmith made for his daughter, he converted a Sunbeam Talbot 90 from pie-in-the-sky, to four-on-the-floor, using cables, pulleys and a track rod end. Good for him.
He was right about common denominators, too. 1930s ACs shared chassis with SS i.e. Standard – and they used the same Moss gearbox, too. It was a nice box, if slightly gruff. Morgan owners put up with it as Morgan owners always do. Jaguar didn’t chuck it till the 4.2 E-type.
And it wasn’t always stale milk; the Co-op’s electric vans in Weymouth smelt of fresh bread. Long chatty journeys in the works van. That sudden highlit sea, seen through the arch on the right angled right hander, in Lyme Regis. And occasional hours of wonder and brilliance.
I was in the workshop, one summer Saturday morning, when the call came through from Swanage. The customer needed our spare vehicle. Milk floats have very limited endurance. Given fully charged batteries and a following wind, I might just make it. Beautiful day. And – 60s, remember – far, far less traffic. Almost silent vehicle, too.
Down Old Wareham Road, I took my foot off, because an electric milk float goes faster freewheeling. I saw over 35 on the clock. It didn’t have 40. No doors. Lean out and laugh into the breeze. And then, that mirrored sea, as I come down from the Purbecks. Made it, with about 10% remaining on the gauge. Is there something of a philosophical take, in all this? Transport Electrics was big enough to have a rep. Keith Cundell was a good chap. His cousin, Something Woods, had an Invicta Flatiron – another of the legendary 4½ litre cars that look wonderful, but couldn’t quite hack 1750 and 2300 Alfas.
Anyway, Keith, while visiting a customer’s dairy, found what looked like an abandoned Ford Special. You know: gash bodywork. Sidevalve 8 or 10hp. 3 speed. Doesn’t work.
Then he peeped inside – and discovered a Riley 9.
In some respects, those low twin-cam/pushrod engines (“As Old as the Industry. As Modern as the Hour.”) are pretty daft. But it’s a great strapline and they led to the ERA.
And this one was his for a fiver.
£5 too much. For a start, the engine was all-but fossilised.
Having found an absolutely perfect Riley 9 Monaco at Crutchers scrapyard, Mike and I removed its recently rebuilt engine, gearbox and nickel-plated radiator, leaving the rest to the torch.
That Riley had a brand new MOT. God knows what it was doing there. Presumably, someone had died. Someone else needed space for a Wolseley 1500, or a smart Hillman Minx. It was a really good little car, that I should have bought and cherished. Even after I had donated a spare louvred bonnet from my AC parts stash, the resulting Special was never a quarter as special as the car its best parts came from. And I knew that even then. I knew exactly what I was doing. Don’t look back. OK? Yet if you like old cars, there’s always scope for learning. Solid axles. Kingpins and bushes. Friction dampers. Preventing Bendix brakes – which, at their best, are as good as any – from pulling you into a ditch or a head-on. Mechanical simplicity. Low-grip tyres. No electronics. And absolutely no Health & Safety.
When I read their tales of woe, I am amazed by the ineptness displayed in the Our Cars pages of certain ‘classic car’ mags.



This month we have a staff entry from Jude Brooks, Veloce co-founder and publisher of the Hubble & Hattie imprint, with her Audi TT. The image below is taken from the brand new book Dogs on wheels – Travelling with your canine companion by Norm Mort & published by Veloce.

Me and my TT

I love my Audi TT – really, really, love it – and you'd never expect that, when you consider that my previous car was a Fiat Seicento ...

Maybe it was something to do with turning 50 (gulp) but I decided to invest some of my hard-earned pension pot in a new car, and, as I'd always liked the look of the original TT – that sexy, voluptuous profile – I surprised everyone (and mostly me) by buying one. And I'm not alone, as, apparently, Britain is Audi's best customer for the TT, which figures.

The first day I had it (the day after my birthday), a friend and I (and my dog, Immie) took off for a drive, ending up in Lyme Regis on the south west coast. Top down, the journey there and back was glorious: I had never driven anything like this before, and how I felt was confirmation I'd made the right choice of car.

A 2001 1.8 Quattro (225) Roadster, my gorgeous girl has silver paintwork with black leather interior and black soft top – and curves that put Marilyn to shame! First shown as a concept car at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the original generation Audi TT was nominated for the 2000 North American Car of the Year Award, and featured in Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best List for 2000 and 2001. It has a wonderful, substantial feel to it – maybe that's something to do with its German engineering – even though it's quite small overall, and, of course, it goes extremely well, more than delivering on speed (thanks to a 225bhp, front-mounted, transversely-oriented engine); sure-footedness (fully independent suspension), and very precise handling. Quattro four-wheel-drive means that not even six inches of snow on a hill poses a problem. And fuel-wise it's not bad at all, helped, of course, by the fact that I drive very conservatively ...

Unless it's raining, I usually have the top down, which is the only way to drive a car like the TT. The very efficient heater and heated seats ensure that Immie and I stay warm and snug in the cockpit, even in minus temperatures, and a crisp, winter morning is just perfect for a spot of topless motoring!

Immie sits on the passenger seat next to me wherever I go; she wears a special canine harness that attaches to the seatbelt when it's in place, and keeps her safe. I know she feels quite at home in the car as often she will lay flat out across the seat and doze off, only waking when I have to move her head in order to apply the handbrake. And when she sits up, ears flying in the breeze, all you can see from the back are what appear to be two blondes in a sports car having a wonderful time!

Jude Brooks

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Thursday 1 November 2012


Are you one of the millions of fans of the Wheeler Dealer TV series? Yes? Then we've got a surprise for you! Cheeky chappie presenter Mike Brewer has joined the band of Veloce authors by writing "Mike Brewer's The Wheeler Dealer Know How!" to be published in Spring 2013. Here's Mike telling the story of how he became the world's favourite Wheeler Dealer and how the book will teach you the tricks of his trade.

From THE Master - Everything you need to know about buying, preparing, and selling modern classic cars!

The Wheeler Dealer Know How is written by Mike Brewer, the UK's most well-known car-dealing expert. In a career spanning almost 30 years, Mike has seen and done everything when it comes to buying and selling cars, and having established a successful career as a television presenter, is eager to share his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm.

Telling you all you need to know about buying, preparing and selling modern classic cars, this book guides you through the minefield that is the world of car dealing, and helps you avoid the pitfalls that await the unwary. Plus, with stories and anecdotes from Mike's time in the trade, you'll gain a fascinating insight into the world of wheeler-dealing. More info.