Another excerpt from Never Turn Your Back on The Sea. My car of the time was a 1939 Ford Prefect E93A. Alan Barber was the workshop service manager, who had hoped to turn an early school leaver into a mechanic of sorts!
One Saturday when the E93A was in need of a gearbox repair, I asked permission to do the repairs in Wakefield’s workshop. The gearbox came out and was repaired quickly by yours truly and being close to lunchtime I chose to reinstall the gearbox after a quick beer with the lads, just around the corner, in the Clarrie.
The afternoon disappeared into too many beers and although I attempted to finish the E93A, I left the unfinished vehicle, on axle stands, in my work bay planning to finish it during the following week. The full truth came out the following week when Alan Barber confronted me and told me that he had popped into the workshop and found me fast asleep draped over the E93A’s interior, spanner in hand and un-wakeable! He left me there hoping I would wake eventually and get the vehicle out of my work bay so I could earn the company some money on Monday. I disappointed him!
Another sad disappointment for my mentor was after a road test in one of the companies demo vehicles.
The VG Valiant VIP with a 5.2 litre V8 engine was a much revered motor car! That car had serious oomph and was a favourite with well to do boy racers. Our car sales manager with his Mafia sounding name , Tini Corona, even raced one in an endurance race at Pukehohe, a race track near Auckland. The monster Valiant ran out of brakes at the end of the main straight, pushing a souped up Fiat something off the track and out of the race! The Fiat helped in slowing the V8 Valiant down enough for the lucky driver to make it around the hairpin and into the pits for a set of brake pads. He rejoined the race to finish, much to the anger and cries of unfair of the Fiat team!
Back to my road test in this vehicle that had been in the workshop to repair its gearbox and as you might imagine, fit new brake pads! The Torqueflite 3 speed automatic gear box fitted to these cars and most Chryslers of that era were amazingly strong and that coupled with a torquey V8 engine made for a very driveable motor car. Once I was sure that all my adjustments were spot on I just had to open the, hotter that standard, Valiant up and raced around Wellington’s famous bays as far as Patent Slip.
I then made a u-turn and thankful of virtually no traffic, fastened my seat belt and floored the accelerator of the V8 engined beast. It was one of those brilliant sunny days that Wellington produces from time to time! With the boy racer in me pumping serious adrenalin, and the Valiant responding magnificently, I drifted the powerful motor car around every corner until the short straight before the double hairpin bend, on the point, where the road heads back toward Oriental Bay.
The Valiant was driving on a cloud, feeling my every nudge of the steering wheel and the V8 engine sensing every movement of my right foot on the accelerator pedal! Entering the first hairpin bend after the straight, I selected 2nd gear and set the car up into a smooth slide with the tail drifting on my throttle, smoke billowing from the tyres!
Unfortunately for me and the Valiant, a truck coming toward me appeared on the wrong side of the road, and with the Valiant already drifting, there was no recourse but to slam on anchors and hope the truck’s driver could swerve back onto his side of the road. It was too later though, and an ugly steel step that stuck out behind the truck’s cab, tore a massive gash in the right rear support panel of the Valiant’s roof!
So it was that I sheepishly drove Tini Corona’s dream race car into the workshop after the altercation and I had a serious lot of explaining to do. My fellow mechanics descended on the Valiant and I suppose the adrenalin was still flowing as I explained to them what had happened. The workshop foreman, Derek Cooper, was not amused and told me to wipe the grin off my face and show some sort of contrition! I think the ugly steel step was found later on the back seat! Luckily we had our own Paint and Panel workshop!
My band of the day was The Rolling Stones, but The Beatles and Drive My Car was one of my favourite songs:
The pupils at St Vincent School For The Deaf might be disappointed with their disability, but with the help they get, this they overcome!