Tony has tried to bleed the brakes today – without success. Firstly the hose wouldn’t fit on the brake nipples, then the brake nipples won’t open. We therefore need to get Chattie on the back of the van and get it to a specialist. First we need to pump up the tyre on the van. Sigh.
Monthly Archives: May 2014
Dodging the rain showers yesterday, Tony, having fixed the head gasket leak with the application of the wonder-substance Steel Seal (and a few other brews for good measure) decided to give Chattie a test run into town. Half way down the last bit of our steep track to the place where a metal barrier crosses the track, the brakes gave way. Unlike me, who crawls down there in second gear, Tony was in third. Pumped the brakes – no joy – crunched the car down into second gear and, after flirting with the idea of baling out and deciding he wouldn’t manage it, applied the handbrake and managed to skid to a halt. Brakes probably need bleeding after work done last week to fix the brake lights. Glad I wasn’t driving – or with him at the time! Bit more pumping and they were OK. Nothing daunted (or only a little bit) he went on into town and back. So: brake lights, head gasket, now brakes. Still some way to go to get Chattie truly roadworthy.
Tony has gone on a mission to find what he needs to mend the car; something called Steel Seal, and some oil to replace what we have lost in draining the engine. Ground Control, it seems, has his work cut out.
After a brilliant drive out through the local villages on Saturday – scent of the hedgerows, sound of birdsong overhead, sound of me changing gear with relative ease – the water had again drained almost out by the time I got back. Now this morning there’s water in the oil. It’s a head gasket. So I won’t be driving it out for a little while, that’s for certain.
I have been asked why I pictured my father with a Spitfire when he flew Mosquitos during the war. There are two answers to that. The first is that Dad flew 14 different aircraft altogether (not including different marks of aircraft). The second is that it’s not a Spitfire, it’s a Defiant. Boulton Paul Defiants flew in the Battle of Britain, but were better designed for attacking slower bombers than interception in fighter combat. Yes, there is a similarity of outline to the Spitfire, and this meant that they could masquerade as Hurricanes or Spitfires in a crowded sky but were marked out when German fighters found them on their own, and shot down easily. The tell-tale giveaway is the perspex blister behind the cockpit on top of the fuselage: a gun turret housing the gunner, which means that is therefore a two-man plane not a solo job like the Spit and Hurricane. Defiants suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Britain, see http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/boultonpauldefiant.cfm , but the time Dad flew them in July 1941 in 456 Squadron at RAF Valley in Anglesey, and then 256 Squadron at Squires Gate, Blackpool, they were being used as night-fighter planes, defending cities in the North West from German bombing, for which they were better suited. There were still problems with them, however, and they were not universally popular.
Dad also flew Hurricanes and a few Spitfires in his time, as well as the aforementioned Mosquito. ©Elizabeth Halls 2014
Let me introduce you to Chattie Chu Chu, my Singer Le Mans 9 special, which is a similar model to the one my father, Bryan Wild, bought towards the end of the second world war, when he was a night-fighter pilot with 25 Squadron, based at Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire.
This is the car in which I will be visiting all of the airfields he landed at during the war – nearly 60 of them, raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund as I go, together with a couple of other charities. This commemorative project will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and I am writing a book which will use the airfields to tell the story of how the RAF developed into a force that was crucial in winning the war.
I do hope you will follow me.
The car is small, almost petite; so you would think I would fit it beautifully. I have no problem getting in, unlike some of the men who’ve tried recently, for whom it’s a bit of a squeeze. But Tony had to move the seat forward until I’m almost right up to the steering wheel, and I still have problem reaching the pedals comfortably enough to sustain a longer journey. My right knee is twinging a bit, because it’s nearly straight while I’m driving. I’m not that tiny – about 5′ 6″, and I never thought of myself as being short. I can only assume that everyone who’s driven it before doesn’t mind having their legs almost straight to reach the pedals. So Jon at our garage is working on extending the pedals. He’s managed to add another 1.5 inches to the clutch and brake but the accelerator pedal is more difficult. Having driven the car over there yesterday, it’s in for the weekend now while he has a look at it. I wonder if there’s anyone else out there with a vintage car that has the same problem?
Someone has just pointed out that the number plate ‘CHU’ could equally be an illustration of the sound I will make, sneezing, after I’ve driven the car in the pouring rain for any distance. They could be right!
No, is the answer to this question, posed by a couple of people, my cousin Janet for one. The car, now nicknamed Chattie Chu Chu, has been extensively and lovingly worked upon over recent years and came to us in very good working order when we bought it in March. Very good working order, that is, for an 80-year-old vehicle. At the moment the rear brake lights don’t work – being fixed, hopefully, this Friday. We’ve just had to replace the battery. Other than that, she runs very sweetly. It’s my driving that has to have a little bit more of an overhaul. That double-dee-clutching! Oh dear! All I can say is, it’s getting better.