Category Archives: car

Coming Clean

OK, it’s confession time.  Here’s my experience in full of offloading Chattie for the first time ON MY OWN. It was at the Royal International Air Tattoo .  Read carefully if you want to learn how NOT to do it, and avoid the most basic mistake.

After my two-hour drive to Fairford, I had arrived in the Sprinter, with Chattie strapped on the back, to the place on the airfield allocated by RIAT for trade vehicles.  I was the only person there, among a few parked trucks; so with a bit of relief that there was no one to watch me, I put my swede gardening gloves on to protect my hands, and tackled the businsess of unloading the car.

I was being so careful about the webbing straps, which had taken us (Ground Control and I) so very long to do up and get right the night before, that I concentrated on getting them undone in the right order, leaving Chattie’s left front wheel to the last, as it was towards the highest point on the flatbed, nearest the cab. I had forgotten the most important bit of all, which was to attach the winch before unstrapping ANYTHING.  I thought I was doing really well.  But when I loosened the last webbing strap, it started paying out and the car itself moved backwards, beginning a roll down the flatbed. I had put on the handbrake, but obviously not enough to hold it on the slope.  Talk about panic feeling! I immediately felt the webbing paying out through my left hand; meanwhile my right hand, which had just opened the ‘spindle’ out to ‘unlock’ it, wasn’t strong enough to pull the lever to re-cock it again. With my left hand I was pulling with all my might to try and stop the strapping from paying out further.  Inch by inch I was losing, and I just couldn’t get the handle to go back to the ratchet point.  I’d like you just to imagine the situation.  One 1935 vintage car on a flatbed trailer about 2.5 feet off the ground, heading inexorably towards the two narrow tracking planks, but not necessarily properly lined up.  If I couldn’t stop the car going backwards, it was going to plunge off the treads and fall damaged amongst them.  My only hope was to let go of the webbing with my left hand and use both hands as quickly as I could to get the webbing ‘spindle’ (I don’t know what it’s called) to lock.  Even then, would one web-strapping hold the whole car?

At this point, a friendly voice behind me said cheerfully, ‘Do you want any help?’  Without turning round I instantly recognised the voice of Christian, a RIAT volunteer who had shown me to my place. ‘Yes!’ I shouted. ‘Please can you put that chock there under that wheel!’  He did so, and immediately I was able to put both hands to the spindle and ratchet the thing back a little, then lock it. ‘Thank you!’ I said, with great feeling. ‘Perhaps it would be a good idea to put it on the winch?’ said Christian in as tactful a way as it would be possible for anyone do say so under the circumstances.  That young man knew absolutely it would be a good idea, but showed what I consider to be the most exceptional tact and diplomacy I have come across in a long time.  ‘Absolutely it would!’ I said, ‘I was just about to do it!’  Christian, I think you saved my life that day.  I’ve thanked you several times, but here’s another for the road.  You were an angel in disguise, sent to rescue me from total disaster, and I’ll never forget it.

I truly believe I will never forget this lesson, either.  I will NEVER loosen up the strappings on the car UNTIL I’VE ATTACHED IT TO THE WINCH FIRST.

I know some of you men out there will be chuckling at tutting at me, but I don’t care – I’ve come clean now so that some poor soul following me won’t make the same mistake.

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Filed under Aviation, car, Singer Le Mans, vintage cars

Newcomer’s guide to a wet hill climb

Pre-War Prescott exhibitd some measure of the spirit of the blitz on Saturday (19th July) as rain lashed down to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning. I arrived on site at around 9.00 with Chattie strapped onto the back of the carrier, thinking that pre-war cars would be a bit short on the ground with the monsoon conditions, but they came pouring in – literally – through the gate, many driven some miles without all-weather hoods.   By the time I had unloaded Chattie, with the help of my cousin Alan, I was soaked through to my skin through my rain coat and trousers, and if he hadn’t lent me another one of his, the top half of me would have been drenched as well. Thank you so much, Alan! 

We watched through the murk and downpour as the cars swished their way up the hill, their occupants obviously enjoying themselves. But by the afternoon, they were going up dry, and I have a picture etched in my mind of a couple zooming past, the lady passenger laughing in delight, and her white-blonde hair streaming out behind with the speed.

These cars have a special throaty sound, each one with its own voice. No car is just like another; they are individuals with modifications inside and out that have changed them subtly over the years, and each is a character on its own. Many of the owners have kept the same car lovingly over decades, and they have become part of the family, and connected indelibly with family memories. One couple wondered who would look after the car when they themselves were gone, and hoped that one of their children would take on the guardianship. This is a hobby with a lot of love.


Filed under car, Uncategorized, vintage cars

Royal International Air Tattoo

What a weekend.  Near-perfect weather and for someone who has never seen a real airshow at all, it was wonderful to start with probably the best in the world. The Red Arrows – thrill, precision and an excellent commentary from ‘Red 10’, the airbus with its ponderous bulk and fluked tail graceful in the sky like a whale in the water; the grace of the Polish formation – grey-glint and silver gleam against the cloud base; the flamboyant Italian display generous in sweep and character and a commentary that delighted with enthusiasm – ‘There he goes!  Up! up! up into the sky!’; the sheer power and bone-rattling noise of the jets conveyed not so much through the air as in immediate and direct connection through the ground and our very bones – all this was thrilling. But the highlight of highlights for me was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: Lancaster majestic in the air, accompanied by the iconic Spitfire and Hurricane – the note in the drone of their engines we all recognise, even though we weren’t there then. Thank you everyone who put the show on for us, and the tremendous staff and volunteers who were utterly exceptional (thanks, Christian, for your help over the weekend). See my Facebook page facebook/wheretheyserved for more pictures. Here’s just one:

Chattie watches Lancaster and Spitfire overhead

Chattie watches Lancaster and Spitfire overhead

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Filed under Aviation, Aviation history, car, vintage cars

Thetford Engineering work on Chattie’s brakes.

Ground Crew sent me over to Crispin Thetford, of Thetford Engineering, today, with our new brake cylinder, which needed modification to fit Chattie, even though it was the right part (in theory) for the car.  Pin bored out the inlet port on the cylinder to make it a bit larger and machined the banjo bolt to 1 thread difference, so it should now work and Ground Crew are ready to try again and fit it.  I hadn’t appreciated how individual vintage cars are; each one needs bespoke engineering in so many different areas.  This is a challenge all round, but Thetford Engineering will be giving Chattie a thorough and complete overhaul later this summer to prepare her for the airfields visiting next year.Image


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