Today Ground Control and I drove Chattie, on the back of the Sprinter, to Thetford Engineering, where Crispin Thetford will be working on the car to get her into sound order for my tour next year. My mileage is estimated to be somewhere in the region of 6,700 miles in the 7 months from April to September next year. We don’t know whether Chattie will be baking in tremendous summer heat or drenched in wet summer conditions – and Chattie means me, too. After talking to Crispin (Pin), he told me that his mother always drove her vintage Alvis without an all-weather hood; took it out daily and managed to stay dry with the right clothing. We have debated the all-weather-hood issue long and hard, and have talked to other Singer and vintage car owners about it. At pre-war Prescott someone kindly demonstrated their own hood to me. The knowledge of the right actions and the skill required to get it put up and down look similar in difficulty to playing the violin, or solving the rubics cube – at least that’s the impression I got. Once up, the view is obscured, as the windscreen for the Singer is very low and the dark hood comes right down over ones normal field of vision when sitting upright in the seat. They are not entirely waterproof, either. Pin said the water often comes down on the inside of the windscreen and drips nicely down the dashboard onto your knees. So all in all, Ground Control and I are leaning towards keeping the car open, while I wrap up seriously well in industrial-quality waterproofs – watch this space! I have had a very helpful discussion with Liz Heyer, who commented on my Airfields page. She has just completed a 2,000 mile jaunt in her Singer Le Mans, also hoodless, I think – though she may correct me on that. Liz – I need to ask you how you keep dry!
Other aspects of the car to be looked at are the head gasket and its long-standing problems, the brakes (currently non-existent), and the engine cooling system, which currently wouldn’t stand up to crawling along in traffic. Pin told me that today’s petrol heats the engine more than was the case in the1930s, and of course traffic conditions were very different then. A electric-powered system to keep the engine cool can be installed for my own driving, but this can be easily reversed in future in order to return the engine to a condition nearer to an original if required. Pin thought the Singer Le Mans cars were a cut above the rest when they came out. Chattie was probably considered fast and racy compared to many of her contemporaries. She still turns heads today. No wonder Dad loved his own green Singer Le Mans so much.
We’re looking forward very much to Pin’s initial assessment of the car.