Shoestring Motoring

A further selection of the letters relating to pre-war cars which have been bought in recent times for reasonable prices, instead of for the ridiculous sums too often asked for these days, is published below. These letters should encourage impecunious enthusiasts to look for similar bargains. Providing they pass the M.o.T. test and have reasonable tyres and lamps which comply with lighting laws relating to post-1930 vehicles, there is no reason why these older cars should not be given a new, or resumed, lease of life. However, it should be noted that it is illegal to tow a vehicle unless it is taxed and insured and has a current M.o.T. certificate, although if it is proceeding for immediate M.o.T. inspection these formalities may not apply. Otherwise, we must warn those who discover old cars and wish to take them away for restoration that it will be wise to use a trailer or transporter.—Ed.


Some two years ago I purchased a 1934 Wolseley Hornet 12 saloon which can only be described as “concours“. For this vehicle I paid the princely sum of £100—mainly because I was competing with another potential purchaser, whom, I found out later, did not actually exist.

However, despite this relatively high figure I have enjoyed some 7,000 trouble-free miles with same.

This vehicle has had no renovation except headlights in its 68,000 miles because it remains “original”, complete with all the items regarded in recent times as “extras” for the motor car—namely, wire wheels, hand throttle, o.h.c., free wheel, “float-on-air” suspension (seats only I must admit), sunshine roof, anti-glare rear screen (roller blind), glove pockets in all doors and the full requirement of instruments on the genuine wooden dash board, even access to the “diff.” by lifting the rear seat.

Like many true enthusiasts I have ceased to laugh at the ridiculous prices being asked for 30/40 cars—we’re appalled!

I would like to confirm Mr. Francis’ letter regarding the Jarrot Bodies.

The Jarrot Motor Bodies Co. did, on occasions, make bodies for the Clyno, at their works in Meeting Street, Wednesbury, a portion of which building still exists.

I have purchased other “cheap” 30/40 cars but do not wish to take up “editorial” space—rather see a mixed bag of replies.

Wednesbury. Mike Palfreyman.

Recent letters about cheap pre-war cars prompted me to write regarding my experiences. I have purchased in the last month two cars, one a P.V.T., a 1932 Riley Gamecock, admittedly rather scruffy, but now a runner, from a dealer for the sum of £60 and the other, a 1938 Austin 12 cabriolet, with two brand-new tyres, reconditioned engine not yet run-in, and with generally presentable coachwork for £5! Because of limitations on space, etc., I have also had to turn down some other similar cars, a 1939 Morris 8 (with nine months’ M.o.T.) at £5 and a reputably restored 1930 Morris Minor, again for £5. Similar bargains like this are always around for the enthusiast who is prepared to do some work, providing he has sharp ears and is always ready to enquire further about any unused pre-war car he sees lying in the road.

At these sort of prices modern tin-war is positively not worth considering.

Surrey. Peter Downey.

In the last few years I have had considerable experience of such vehicles, most of which have provided several thousand cheap and reliable miles of motoring.

The two cheapest and therefore most noteworthy in this context were both Austins. The first was a Seven Opal tourer which cost £2 as several boxes of pieces, plus a frame and four wheels. A couple of weeks’ work and about £5 produced a vehicle which was both reliable and fun to drive. This was in 1963 or 1964 when prices of pre-war cars had begun to become ridiculous. Later, in 1967, when prices had arrived at the ridiculous, I purchased another cheap Austin. This car, which I still own, is a 1936 Lichfield saloon. I spotted it quite by accident, filthy and overgrown, standing by some council houses. Enquiries soon produced the owner and within half an hour £2 10s. had changed hands and the car was hitched to my van. On arrival back home the radiator was filled and the batteries given a couple of hours’ charging. Two swings on the handle and she burst into life, sounding as sweet as a nut. All that was required for an M.o.T. was a pair of front brake cables, which cost about 30s. A coat of Simoniz made the quality Austin cellulose shine like new.

For £2 10s. I had purchased a car with a full set of working instruments, including oil pressure gauge, ammeter and an accurate eight-day jewel-lever clock, leather upholstery (including the door trims), sunshine roof and four good tyres. The only thing missing was the fragile die-cast Austin radiator badge, notable by its absence on most old Austins; this I have not yet been able to replace.

Since that day the 50-bob Austin has travelled between 15,000 and 20,000 miles. These have included a touring holiday of some 1,000 miles in a week, and a long, trailer-hauling journey, the latter involving towing the empty trailer from North Lancashire to Hertfordshire and returning with a load of a 27 h.p. Bedford engine, a round trip of about 500 miles.

At the moment the car is in her winter hibernation, leaving the salt collection to a Morris Minor van, but summer 1969 should see her on the road again, covering 30-35 miles per gallon of regular petrol.

Since 1962 I have also run a 1936 Hillman Minx, a 1935 Morris 10-4 and another Austin Seven, all purchased for less than £20. I have also purchased several other pre-war cars (requiring moderate restoration) at similar prices, including a Vauxhall 20, an Austin 12-4 and a Wolseley Hornet, all of which goes to show the needlessness of paying nonsensical prices. Or perhaps I am just lucky.

Wray. J. E. Meadowcroft.

Last summer my husband bought me a 1935 Morris 8 tourer for £10, the only condition of sale being that we collected it from Radlett, Herts. There is had stood under a tree in a suburban front garden for three years, the tyres being completely bald, and the hood more decorative than useful. Much to our surprise, the engine started easily, but, even so, we decided not to drive back to Cheltenham, but took it in tow—leaves and cobwebs flying out as the miles sped by.

Back home, my husband found that the engine only needed a routine service, despite the years of inactivity. Twelve pounds purchased four remould tyres and £14 gave the car a new hood. The owner of a similar saloon model was persuaded to part with the seats of his car for 10s., to replace our own somewhat weatherbeaten specimens. The bodywork is in very good condition and needed no attention at all.

Total outlay £36 10s., for which I have an extremely reliable car, used every day for journeys to work and for local shopping. As a second car it is ideal, added to which I get much pleasure from driving it.

Cheltenham. Margaret Loveridge.

Your readers may be interested to hear about my experiences with a cheap pre-war vehicle which I purchased toward the end of last year, restoration now being nearly complete. It is a 1937 Austin Opal two-seater; the Opal is still fairly common, but the more desirable 1937 model, with three-bearing crankshaft and Girling brakes, seems to be getting rather rare.

I purchased the car for £42 10s. (haggling compromise) with a disputable 70,000+ miles on the clock. There was distinct piston slap, steering wander and the usual abysmal braking; but, any rate, there was a complete set of new tyres, new headlamps, a claimed crankshaft regrind and a finish of what was described cheerfully as “grey primer”. No rust, either.

With an eye to future M.o.T. tests, I first tackled the brakes and steering. Lo! There was a nearly new set of shoes—but they happened to be the wrong ones, fitted with wrong springs the wrong way round. About one-eighth of the surface of each shoe was contacting the drum (except in one case, where the shoe was rattling around completely loose in the drum). Steering; new king pins and bushes were obviously called for, especially as the old ones had been packed with “shims” made from bits of old feeler gauge. No spacing washers either, or caps, or grease nipples; but they were details, of course!

Interesting things had been done to the engine; apart from being bored out to 60 thou. oversize, which meant a resleeve block, the side water branch bolt threads had been re-tapped so enthusiastically that a neat little blip had appeared in the cylinder wall. Sump studs had been screwed up so tightly (without benefit of any washers) that the tips of two setscrews were touching the flywheel starter ring, making a most alarming noise. The main flywheel nut was loose, with a broken spring washer; the keyed taper half-moon was too small and had been “rectified” with a bit more broken feeler gauge; and there were three (3) loose washers flying around in the clutch. The sump contained a piece of wire, a bit of piston ring and half a split pin; but otherwise the engine was in excellent shape.

One could go on, but enough has been said to illustrate the sort of things with which restorers are only too familiar. There must be a whole army of bodgers who just can’t be bothered to take a little extra trouble, or spend a pound or two, to do things properly. Although really I have no particular complaint; overcoming the various difficulties, is surely, a large part of the fun of preservation, especially when one does not invest too much in the first place?

Petts Wood. Bryan W. Knight.