Verne Percival, who worked in the Wholesale Service Division with Brian Forbes, was encumbered with the mantle of being an expert on the Smiths Easidrive transmission!
Cars would arrive from around the country for Verne to sort out, and guess who was suckered into helping him! Being passionate about my work helped in understanding the complexities of those electronically controlled, 3 speed manual gearboxes! They even had magnetic powder couplings instead of a clutch! It was a labour of love!
A Hillman Avenger, still under guarantee, came into the workshop one day with a mysterious knocking noise in the engine. We had stripped and checked and measured, and all of the workshop’s elite mechanics couldn’t trace the root of the noise! Yours truly eventually discovered that the genius who had assembled the engine at the factory in the UK, had installed no 3 piston back to front!
I remember Brian Forbes being very vague about whether the piston should be replaced or not! I just turned the piston around the correct way, and reassembled! After a fast road test around those oh so famous Bays, the noise in the Avenger’s engine had disappeared, and of course, the engine idled perfectly!
One day, after another of those adrenalin inducing road tests in a nearly new Valiant, I cruised very slowly into the workshop and another Valiant, (I seem to remember Nigel at the wheel), was parked in front of my bay. In a moment of mischief, I ever so slowly gave the other car a gentle nudge on the rear bumper! What I hadn’t taken into account was that the stranger standing to the side of the workshop, was actually the proud owner of the car I was driving! He was not impressed!
Tini Corona, with his Mafia sounding name, was our car sales manager and must have been out when the cards came around. He was ably assisted by Brian Tonks and a team of cool and honest, believe it or not, car salesmen! One of those cool dudes, who shall remain nameless, shot to fame one day when he was sitting in the driver’s seat of a new Dodge Challenger, in the glass fronted showroom facing Courtney Place.
This cool dude was giving the Challenger a few revs of its awesome sounding engine to give a potential buyer a thrill, when he inadvertently slipped the automatic gearbox into Drive! In the ensuing charge through the plate glass windows through to the middle of Courtney Place, the big bore V8 engined Challenger left two heavy black tyre mark strips on the once pristine parquet flooring of the rather elegant showroom! It then went on and took out a parking meter, narrowly missing a few pedestrians and a big, red bus! Did I mention we had our own Paint and Panel shop?
The nameless, cool dude didn’t get much sympathy from us in the workshop, mostly because that Dodge Challenger was a replica of the one we had seen in the movie Vanishing Point. He had committed the ultimate sin!
Rummaging through a storage trunk I also came across motorcycle racing leathers and other decades old stuff, some text books and exercise books, which showed my terrible hand writing for all the world to see! Thank goodness for today’s keyboards and laptops and laser printers!
I wonder what memories are incited when the crew see their own signatures? The two inch piece of lead pencil that was cleverly taped into the card, has been sent for carbon dating!
There are sure to be names that I will kick myself for omitting here, or I may even be on the receiving end of a size eleven boot, but I hope the above tribute has been entertaining! Working at Wakefield’s was my initiation into the greater society and a stepping stone into the World! Mentioned here or not my memories are of an awesome team of people, you all contributed to improving the breed, helping me to be better than I might have been.
Dawn and Knock Three Times takes me right back to Wellington, a cool and organized team at Wakefield Motors, noisy parties and some irresponsible drinking!
I may not have heard every word of advice that was given me, and at that age you reckon you know it all anyway, but when I listened I learnt!
St Vincent School For The Deaf where the hard of hearing are taught to listen!
Acknowledgements: Yvonne who was there when the Challenger was launched through the showroom windows. Lachie Cooper for the visuals of those two black strips on the parquet flooring, again Nigel Baby George, Alan Frost, Neville Jefferies, Bryan Duncan