Hello Sailor

Late last year, the Club night Raffle, I won a prize. My winning ticket wasn’t the first out of the hat, nor even the second, in fact there wasn’t much left when I reached the table to collect my winnings, but there was an unassuming white envelope, looking a little forlorn, with the script “Two Tickets For The Boat Show”, hand written on the address side. How could I resist? This was kindly donated by our own Lester Magness, who does have an interest in things marine – but more of that another time.

So, on a cold January Friday morning, Sue and I set sail for the Excel in Docklands. I’ve always fancied a boat but those that I lust after all come with a seven figure price tag, hence no boat for me. Indeed, looking around the vast, but sparsely populated Hall, there appeared to be many that would meet my needs, but not my pocket. Let’s go in.

The first boat by the entrance was a Riva Rivamare, being sold by Ventura. Powered by twin Volvo Penta D6 400hp engines, this 12 metre long baby will cruise at 31 knots, maxing at 40. No slouch then and, with mahogany and maple panelling, premium sound system, fully furnished, this one-owner sexy little 5-berther could be yours for £880K. One of my ‘take home from the show’ choices. Moored next door we found Sue’s favourite.  A Fairlane Squadron 53. With 6 to 9 berths, two or three with en-suite, panelling to shame those boys at Crewe, and a couple of those Volvo motors, this is one to take to Monte.

I did see some small submarine-like devices both on display and in cubby holes on some of the yachts. It turns out these are Seabobs. As the advertising copy goes…”if you’ve ever dreamt of emulating the Spectre Agents in Thunderball, chasing 007 with their underwater tow sleds, Seabob is for you!” You can be a human dolphin, swimming at speeds up to 14 kph (or 13 KPH underwater); and that’s just the base model. Better still, the SR version has a Seabob Cam System to let you film these frivolities.

Speaking of that very un-secret agent, if James Bond ever owned a boat, it would be a Sunseeker and, on the Show’s largest stand, there were several to choose from. The first item you notice is the white Bentley at the entrance. This Continental convertible was resplendent in a white leather interior and yacht deck timber. There was a cocktail bar on the stand, as well as in the car, together with some sumptuous furnishing so that you could part with your cash in comfort and partake in a stiff drink when you realised how much you spent. Next to this Sunseeker, Prestige Luxury Motor Yachts fielded an excellent stand with more eye watering nautical must haves. But it was not all gin palaces for the rich. There were many other displays to attract this non-sailor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take the gin and tonic holder, for example. There you are, having just mixed your favourite Death’s Door, with coriander and cardamom pods poured over crushed ice when a ripple across the Med sends the Fever Tree and the gin flying across the foredeck. Well, no more. This little gadget keeps everything in one place.  One retailer selling lights, switches, table lamps et al to kit out your super yacht in a display reminiscent of an interior shot on the Starship Enterprise…great stand.

Fancy a camper van? You could choose red or black. For reasons I am not a party to, a couple of Fiat 500s made an appearance, as did tables made from reconstituted stone(?) which hosted a fire behind glass and, more usefully, beer on ice. Yours for a show offer of £3295 apiece. There were some others made from bits of tree. You could even have a helicopter. Just load up the Louis, slap on the Chanel and fly down to your mooring in Monaco. Passing the Moet and Chandon Bar, we came across Rimmer Music selling baby grand pianos. Made by Yamaha, these could play themselves, be an electric or percussion piano, be programmed from your iPad and teach you how to play and compose. Probably much more. Only £42K each.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Plenty of sleek power boats on offer, starting around £80,000 they looked like a lot of fun for a ‘relatively’ small outlay. Canal boats were there too, perhaps not as romantic as the other offerings, but looked like a great holiday idea. Whilst they looked old, they were, in fact, new. If unlocking locks and an evening by the lock keepers pub is your bag then go hire.

There was much more, but before you all become seasick, I’ll cast off. Try it next year. You won’t be disappointed.

Neil Shanley

Oil Change

Have you ever experienced one of those days when you are doing a job you have successfully done a hundred times and one that you could teach your pet hamster to perform……and then it all goes wrong?

May first, 2017 was one such day. It would have been appropriate if it had been the first day of the previous month, but that’s life. The weather was being kind so I decided to treat RGB 43G to an overdue service especially since, earlier in the year at Stoneleigh Spares Day, I had purchased some special oil from Classic Oils that I was keen to try out. It is their finest classic 20W/50 motor oil with added zinc to further reduce wear in the engine. Their discounted price was on a par with the local retailers of the standard stuff. Armed with a few litres plus various filters, points, plugs…and Classic Oils antifreeze, I set about servicing the Jag.

All appeared to go well until I started the engine and much of my prized new oil evacuated itself from the sump via the oil filter. Yup, I had creased the “O” ring seal as I screwed the filter canister back into the filter head. Deep joy. As luck would have it, most landed in my clean oil tray below the car and was therefore retrievable. I managed to remove the canister and change the seal for a spare. By now, I was soaked in oil but I managed to sake the Jag’s thirst with around 12 imperial pints of this vital lubricant.

Next act, check the oil level. A quick flick of the handle and the dipstick was withdrawn from its locating “hook” and out of the adaptor tube – well, some of it was. The handle and about two inches of chrome plated stick emerged into daylight but the majority of part number C.22910/1 remained firmly ensconced in the tube and sump. Oh dear! Fortunately, the 420 was still safely drivable and together we were able to attend most of the year’s shows.

But what about that dipstick? The item is made up of two “rods” joined by a spring about a third of the way down from the top of the handle. The steel pin joining the top handle part with the bottom part had sheared leaving both the spring and bottom section inside the adapter tube and sump. Probably caused by metal fatigue……. after only 49 years’ use.

The first action was to find a replacement. At this point, you realise that the world is not awash with Jaguar 420 dipsticks. I rang Ken Jenkins only to find that he had recently sold his only spare to a member who had suffered the same fate. It was Pat Callis, as ever, who came to the rescue. I first met Pat at a Spares Day several years ago and am always amazed at the treasure trove of hard to find parts for ’60s Jags that he maintains. Once the replacement arrived, it was time to remove what was left of the existing item. How hard could it be? As it turned out, it would have been easier to teach Diane Abbott to count and vote Tory at the next election.

The first idea came from the main club who helpfully suggested that the sump be removed so that it could be withdrawn from below. What, and lose all that precious oil again, not to mention dropping the front suspension assembly. There has to be an easier way involving a lot less spannering and oily bits. One wag did suggest turning the car upside down and letting gravity do the work. Hmmmm.

The first sensible and most popular idea was to employ a small but powerful magnet to drop down the adapter tube and haul out the remains of the stick. It didn’t work. How about unscrewing the said tube from the engine casting? This would involve removing the rear exhaust manifold and pipe to gain space to use some form of gripping tool. Also the tube is pressed into the block on this model not screwed. My garage said that by tapping it with a hammer it would eventually loosen, but try swinging a hammer down there. I had even bought a spare tube – the last one on the planet – just in case I damaged the old one in the process. Another one bites the dust.

Not to be beaten, a length of stainless steel wire was procured with the intention of slipping it between the stick and the side of the tube and lifting the stick by friction. No chance, it wouldn’t fit down. Still on a roll, it was decided to hammer it flat and put a slight curve on it to help lift the stick. This we did, but the recalcitrant part remained stubbornly in place whilst the flat wire glided quietly passed, no doubt helped by that slippery classic oil.

Finally, with all options exhausted, Bob King, who happened to be passing and decided to join in with the fun, suggested the use of a fret saw blade. A very small fret saw blade with its locating pin cut off at one end. The theory behind this is that once inserted between the spring at the top of the stick and the wall of the adapter tube and then slightly twisted so that the teeth faced inwards, there would be enough purchase on the spring to allow the teeth to engage with the spring coils and so enable the stick to be withdrawn. An ecstasy of fumbling later and I hadn’t yet succeeded. It was whilst I was, dejectedly, packing up that Bob requested a thin flat-bladed screw driver. Why, I asked. Because, said Bob, I need it to stick through the spring coils emerging from the tube. Give it one last go. Once secured, we were able to pull it free from the black abyss below and insert its replacement.

Job done and Bob even repaired the old one. Hopefully, I will not need a spare, but I will keep that saw blade just in case. See the accompanying photo re-enactment. Thanks to Bob and everyone else who contributed to the resolution.

Neil Shanley

A breeze through the NEC show 2017

Thursday couldn’t come around soon enough for this was the day my ‘out of office’ reply came on and stayed on for the following four days. This was the day that Steve, Brad and your scribe would head for the Midlands to enjoy the 2017 Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

Setting out a little after 10.00 a.m., we experienced a gentle and uneventful cruise to Coventry and arrived at the Ramada at precisely 11.58 a.m., exactly the time the SatNav said we would. Too early for check in, we left our luggage at Reception and headed into Coventry, a city in which I lived for three or four years in the early ’70s. Not much seems to have changed and, although there are some new landscaped areas, the dreadful Ring Roads, now a little crumbly in places, still dominate. New build is not in abundance here either, but there is a welcome exception: the Coventry Motor Museum, a free-to-enter delight for all motoring fans, historians and petrol heads alike. A good three hours was happily spent in its halls before check-in and reacquaintance with the local hostelries. More of the Museum another time, for this is all about the Show.

At 09.45 Friday we were queuing outside Hall 2 and saw Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead who chatted with the crowd. Whatever happened to Edd China? With around 2,500 vehicles on display plus countless trade stands, we were keen to make a swift start. Onto Hall 1, then, to collect our souvenir guide (there were none at Hall 2!). Our club stand is in Hall 2, so back there for a look around. Here you could walk the stands of: XJS Owners Club, JEC Club, Daimler & Lanchester Owners Club, Jaguar Drivers Club – Oh, no you couldn’t walk on that stand – various Lotus Clubs, Challenger E-Type and many more.

Hall 3 housed the Dealer Stands to the left with most Club and Specialist Suppliers’ Stands to the right. Family cars from a bygone era, sports cars and more recent machinery were displayed, ranging from MG’s through to Sunbeams, taking in such rarities as Austin Sheerlines and Armstrong Siddeleys – must have one of those Sphinx mascots.

There was probably a car to suit everyone on the Dealers Sale area. Interestingly, there were two XJS’s, both convertibles for sale. One on the Arun Stand (from whom I bought my car), a Celebration in Turquoise at £28K and one older model nearby in maroon metallic for £38K! KWE, the XJS restoration specialist, showed a powder blue convertible with white and pale blue leather….mmmm. We discussed spares availability for the XJS, particularly the convertible – basically, unless you require running gear, there is very little out there. They said they had to make their own body panels. This is possibly because people hang onto the drop tops. On the corner of one dealer stand and going for a record £28K was a beige 420 automatic with low miles. It was very good and, if you like the colour, would be a neat car to own. I wonder if they sold it.  (The clock didn’t look like it worked, however!)

Enough of dealers and back onto the Club Stands where Hall 4 beckoned. Here Skill Shack Restoration Theatre and the tools sellers competed with the clubs which were well represented by a plethora of “family car” clubs as well as sportier marques including the Triumph Sports Six Club, the TR Register, and the Stag Owners Club. But it is the small clubs formed around the ownership of once popular mundane transport that always fascinate me. There is a club for just about anything, including, and not least, certain questionable products from Longbridge. The charming lady on the Maxi Owners stand admitted to owning two and one of them was on the stand with the seats all laid flat to make a double bed. Not a bad party trick and always useful. Next door, and don’t tell Clarkson – sat the Morris Marina Owners Club and Ital Register. The Marina 1.8 Special on display was one of only 6 left on the roads in the UK. I have owned a Coupe, an Estate and several saloons in my day. Good A to B cars, but old when they were new. The Vanden Plas Owners Club stand featured a unique “Landcrab” Vanden Plas – a prototype based on the Wolsey 18/85 – which was transformed into an elegant four light saloon, and which somehow escaped the crusher. Spirited displays from the Rover, Mini, Standard and Maestro/Montego   Clubs. When did you last see a Montego? I have never yet until this show, seen a vacuum cleaner (I think a Hoover upright from the 60’s) on display at a car stand. Well, the Gay Classic Car Group can take the credit. The theme continued with old transistor radios and furniture from the era. Great fun, but I shall not be applying for membership.

Hall 5 is always worth the money. Here you will see the Discovery Live Stage with your favourite TV classic car guys such as Mike Brewer. Adjacent to the stage, the Ford clubs presented some impressive stands as did arch rivals, Vauxhall, backed by their heritage division. I spent a fascinating few minutes on the Citroen Traction Owners stand discussing the differences between the Slough- or Parisian-built Light 15s. In the UK, we had leather and wood in the cabin, plus trafficators, whilst the Gallic models got by with metal and vinyl.  The light 12s of the ’30s, whilst noticeably shorter, actually had a narrower track as well.  Monocoque construction, rack & pinion steering and front wheel drive in the 30s – great innovations. If only poor old André had got that gearbox right, or had time to develop the auto box for which the car was always intended.

The DeLorean Stand is well worth the visit and whilst the range of models is, well, restricted, there is always something interesting to see. The chap on the stand was also the author of the definitive book on the car and he was on hand to correctly answer any question that your anorak could think of. And it’s true, they were all fitted with flux capacitors!

Seven show winners were displayed on the Classic American Stand. These finalists were entrants to the classic American Car of The Year, the winner of which to be announced on the Sunday. Check some of these Detroit bruisers – a 67 Mustang GT390, a ’57 Bel Air, further muscle represented by a Plymouth Road Runner, the oldest there was a 1950 Nash Ambassador, quite rare. Into the 70’s and this decade was represented by a gargantuan Lincoln Mk IV and an equally immaculate Chevy Caprice. But, my favourite there was the second oldest, a ’55 Thunderbird in white with red leather. Our own Richard Gibby also voted this as one of his show favourites.

Finally, with the hour glass rapidly emptying, a quick canter across the concourse returned us to Hall 1. The show sponsor, Lancaster Insurance Stand is a must. The models on display, all glad in body hugging black outfits were terrific and the twenty Pride and Joy finalists also contributed much to the stand. Do try to get there if you go next year. Over at TVR they displayed the reborn Griffith – soon to be on sale at a dealers near you. Jensen showed a barn find which was for sale, whilst the RR Club had a cut-away Shadow to help their owners with their DIY jobs – yes really – and a new Wraith which was open to the public. JDC, take note. Some other top end stands were there also including; Ferrari, Lamborghini, and of course, Porsche.  I asked one of the people on the stand why they should be so expensive. He inquired as to what I call expensive, to which I replied £80 to 90k for something relatively modern that they produced by the bucket load.  Didn’t really receive an answer, but they are well screwed together and a hoot to drive.

If you do visit this hall, another must is the Meguiars Club Showcase. Here you could view the 16 finalists of concourse events around the country, the overall winner of which would be announced by Mike Brewer on Sunday afternoon.  An eclectic mix but with a common theme of truly excellent preparation. Do see the ’89 Metro GS, the ubiquitous Mini, a Mk 1 Capri, a ’58 PA Velox, and not to be missed rare Triumph Italia (not to be confused with the Doretti).

The Chevy 3100 Pick-Up was eye candy. I thought it to be a ’49 model, but the lady next to me said the cab was from that year, but the chassis was a ’52 example. She and her husband owned the machine which had no less than sixteen coats of paint, including four of lacquer at a cost of over £16 grand. I wonder if it won.

Well, that’s it, a shower followed by dinner in the hotel restaurant beckons finishing with a few drinks. May see Doug and Jackie there later. If you have never been, try to go next year. Perhaps we may see you.


Neil Shanley