We all know Lester, a long standing club member. However, not many may know that his familiar white Jaguar Mk2 is not his only classic. He has a small collection of other marques, mostly in original condition and with a story to tell.
Firstly, a bit of background. Lester’s family were in the milk distribution business founded by his great grandfather. Starting with a horse-drawn float, J R Magness & Sons moved onto a different form of horse power including, at one time, a converted hearse to deliver the milk. Their business later expanded to include a motor cycle sales division. The site still exists today in Chelmsford selling more modern bikes. With the downturn in home milk deliveries, both arms were eventually sold with the milk side going to Dairy Crest. The original site is now Beaulieu Park residential estate. Lester moved into boat selling, storing and maintaining and made regular trips to the French factory where the vessels were manufactured. It is on these visits that several of his cars were seen and bought. These, together with some purchased from leads given by business contacts, are now housed in a purpose built complex.
Let’s see what’s in there, starting with the oldest and, possibly, the most interesting, a 1937 Citroen Traction Avant in black, naturally. The car was an improved version of the original 1934 Traction Avant 7A, with restyled headlamps, painted grill, external opening boot lid and, most significantly, rack and pinion steering. This pre-war example is made all the more interesting by the fact that it survived the German occupation during WW 2 when most others were either requisitioned or destroyed by enemy action. The suspension of production from 1941 to 1945 also added to their rarity. The car found its way to the UK in the early 60’s and was run by its owner here until he took it to Majorca for the next 40 odd years after which he became too old to drive it and put it up for sale. Lester learned from a neighbour that it was available and drove to Majorca to buy it. Upon returning to England, the DVLA gave it a period registration number and, when the Spanish plates were removed, Lester found the previous UK plates were still attached beneath, bearing the same number. Excepting service parts, the car is as it left the factory. It is being kept that way since a car is only original once and it would be a shame to mess with such a survivor. You would have been able to see it on the Citroen Owners Club stand at the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show at the NEC on 27-29 March, had the Covid-19 crisis not intervened.
The second Avant is a Light 15, built in France in 1955. This late model was visually distinguished by a larger boot, longer wheelbase and a wider stance. There are also British examples which were assembled in Slough. This particular vehicle was first supplied by a dealer in St Tropez and boasts an original interior except for new head lining, an original body, mechanicals and paint. Purchased from a dealer in Dunton, the car has benefitted from the fitting of a new clutch, mopped paintwork and replacement shock absorbers. The OHV engine transfers the power via a 3-speed gearbox and is so flexible that it can pull away in top gear from 10 mph. An advance/retard control is fitted to the dashboard and a two tone horn is fitted as standard, the first lower volume choice is for town use and the louder option is used when in the countryside.
The Citroen collection is concluded by three 2CV’s, two cars and a van. The first, a 1963 model was bought from a private vendor and was spotted by Lester whilst driving in France. It was parked on the side of the road with an “a vendre” sticker on the windscreen. The then owner had resprayed it, whilst keeping the rest original. When hearing of this, the boat factory owner mentioned that he too had a 2CV from being a student and that it was available for purchase. Also a 1963 example it was again original but unfortunately came with a rust-riddled floor pan. Lester intends to replace this when time permits. Whilst viewed from the ramp, you can see the simple suspension comprising one longitudinal spring at each side operating the front and rear suspension arms which have friction discs as dampers. It is also fitted with a centrifugal clutch which acts like an auto when in traffic avoiding the need to keep your foot hovering on the clutch. It can also work in manual.
The van is a rarer beast. The 1971 600cc version on display was at some time imported to this country, but stored and never used, hence the lack of corrosion. It has recently received a new carburettor and electronic ignition.
Another major French player is Renault and there are two examples here. They are both Dauphines. These are rare cars now with around 17 number left on our roads. The Dauphine was built from 1956 to 1967 and was designed with a rear engine, just like a Porche, well, not quite. I believe that the old Skoda Estelles used much of the Dauphine engineering well into the 70’s.
The blue car you see here is a 1962 RHD model built for export to Britain with a 4-cylinder 850cc wet liner, water cooled engine. The radiator was cooled by air passing through the vents in front of the rear wheels. It has done 22,000 miles from new and is original apart from the seat covers, the originals having been eaten by mice during its 16 year storage in a barn. The dealer who sold it to Lester was the son of the dealer who sold it new to its first owner. This is Lester’s first classic and is fitted with a heater and 12 volt electrics as factory extras.
The red example alongside is a Gordini which is basically the same except for a larger carburettor. It was an unfinished project which is now largely complete. Apparently, it was built for Sweden, hence the rubber floor covering in lieu of carpeting. (it makes cleaning the snow out easier.) Strangely it is a left hooker when, at that time, the Swedes were driving RHD vehicles.
There are some home grown products amongst the imports. Looming over the Renaults is a 1969 Rover 3.5 Coupe once owned by the Met as their Commissioner’s transport. This has been fitted with a lovely new leather interior and has new door skins and scuttle. Work on this is nearly complete. Love the whitewall tyres.
A green MGB roadster is used regularly and sports a walnut dash which Lester fitted. Restored by its previous owner who found that his back problems prevented him from getting in, so he offered it to Lester. The red Mini Cooper is from 1968 and has had only two previous owners, the last for over 20 years. The seats are non-standard and will be replaced. This, together with some floor repairs and attention to the engine will be done in due course.
The Jaguar Mk 2 is a familiar sight to all at Essex Thameside and was taken in part exchange for a boat. Generally original although it has received a respray and re-chrome. Lester promises to lavish some TLC on it when his other projects permit.
The 1959 Ford Thames 300E van perched on a double ramp above the Jaguar needs no work. It is in fine restored condition, including the underside which can be clearly seen from this vantage. They are a rare sight these days and when manufactured they shared much of their bodies and mechanicals with the the Prefect and Anglia of that time.
This model is powered by a mighty 1172cc side valve four and was available with a choice of 5 cwt and 7 cwt carrying capacities. Finally, here’s a rear view of a 1991 Range Rover Vogue – the classic shape and one of the best I’ve seen. With three owners from new, it is spotless and, yes, the tailgate has been replaced and it does sport those Morris Marina door handles.
I hope this blast through Lester’s collection has been as interesting to you as it has been to me…and, if you too would like your collection included in our Newsletter, please do let me know.