Tag Archives: Singer Le Mans

Dear Chattie

Dear ChattieChattieSpitConingsby

I just want to say how wonderful it has been travelling with you on our 7,000-mile journey. 3,181 miles of that trip have been just you and me together, and on the back of the Mercedes Sprinter you have enjoyed at least another 4,000 miles of scenery. You have been on 60 airfields, stayed with friends, made new friends, including two Battle of Britain pilots who loved you at first sight, travelled in convoy with other Singers (including many Le Mans); you have been photographed like a celebrity, and waved and tooted at by children on the streets and cars on the road (remember that grey Ferrari on the way down from Scotland?); and you have have constantly brought close to mind my lovely Dad, as if had been sitting next to me and enjoying the ride with us both. Sometimes, once or twice, it seemed we were both driving you together.

You have been an absolute joy to drive. I confess that, at the beginning, there was a time when I thought we would not get on, and the whole thing would be a difficult and rather gruelling challenge, simply from the driving point of view. How wrong I was! Once Pin had shown me how your crash gear box worked, and he and Ground Control had taught me on the road, it all fell into place, and now one of my greatest pleasures is slipping into my seat behind the wheel, starting you up with that ‘whoomp’ of the engine, and taking you out on the road, double-dee-clutching like nobody’s business and loving those moments when, coming down from fourth to third, that little ‘vroom!’ in momentary neutral clicks your gears down smoothly to take us round the bends.

We have had our moments! As when, coming back through the Welsh mountains, I came all the way down the steep pass without understanding you needed me to hold your gear stick physically in gear down the hills – a hairy moment or two, there! But you never failed me. Well, only once, and the starter-motor cable was such a minor matter, and we managed it to the garage using a piece of string. Hardly worth mentioning. The flat tyre doesn’t count, as that could have happened to anyone.

You have been a delightful faithful companion on the road –  and a complete revelation to me. Chattie, what happens now? Ah, that is the question…

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Filed under Aviation history, motoring, RAF history

Fly Llanbedr

FBLlanbedr

Carl, Pin, 1932 Alvis, Gary, Owen, Austin 7, Ed, Elizabeth, Chattie, Ian

What a great bunch of folks at Fly Llanbedr! They were all welcoming, and had arranged perfect weather for my tour, though it was not brilliant for flying today.  Apparently the east wind comes off the mountains having been buffeted into turbulence, and today was one of those days.

Llanbedr_control

Llanbedr Control Tower – original building

Llanbedr was re-opened last year and looks as if it has been lovingly cared for. The cafe on the first floor of the original control tower has clear views, of course, across the air field. It is light and airy and serves all-day breakfasts and light snacks. It’s a lovely place to gaze at the open view and watch the light aircraft movements. Dad landed here a couple of times, and Ian, a volunteer who knows the history of the airfield, told me that today’s cafe used to be where Dad would have come to check in and out. Two slots in the walls were where he would have posted his paperwork for his aircraft, and receive it back after it was checked and stamped.

Night Flying Equipment Store

Night Flying Equipment Store

Out of the window he pointed out another newly-painted building. ‘That’s the NFE Store,’ he said, ‘Your father was a night-fighter, right? Well, that’s the Night Fighter Equipment store, which was where he would have collected his gear and kit before coming here to clear the paperwork.’ Dad – walking in here in his flying gear ready to go – 74 years ago. That’s touching.Llanbedr_cessna

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Filed under Alvis, Austin, Singer Le Mans, vintage cars

Stop Press – ‘Dad’s’ Tiger Moth is back!

The Tiger Moth in which my father learned to fly in 1941 is going to be coming to PreWar Prescott again this year – WEATHER PERMITTING.  I am therefore CHANGING MY SCHEDULE TO MEET IT.

I will therefore now be attending the Royal International Air Tattoo on the Sunday only, 19th July.

The rest of that weekend will be as follows:

Friday 17th July – Kemble Airfield to meet Tiger Moth, (followed by pre-Prewar Prescott get-together)
Saturday 18th July – Prewar Prescott + evening Battle of Britain Victory Party and BBQ with flypast: not only ‘Dad’s’ Tiger Moth but also aerobatics display from a venerable Battle of Britain Hurricane aerobatics – see http://www.prewarprescott.com/

Last year the heavens opened for Prewar Prescott and the Tiger Moth couldn’t make the journey from Norfolk. This year it’s bound to be a beautiful weekend, and therefore all being well I look forward greatly to what will be a touching occasion for me.

Tiger_M_6276130_origThis is a photograph of the actual Tiger Moth in which my father flew in 1941, now owned and flown by Paul Harvey. Amazing! I have taken it from the Prewar Prescott website – please let me know if there is a problem with my using it here.

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Filed under Aviation history, Prewar Prescott

The under-side of a Singer

Before I took Chattie to Malvern to the Militaria convention yesterday, Ground Control and I collected her from Pin at Thetford Motor Engineering. Pin put her up on the ramp so that we could look underneath. For your delectation and entertainment, here are some of the resulting photographs. It all looks nicely robust and remarkably clean to me.

Chattie_under1   chattie_under2Chattie_under4  Chattie_under3

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Filed under Motor engineering, vintage cars

Singer Le Mans Superb

Chattie_sunset

I drove the thirty or so miles back from Malvern’s militaria convention yesterday evening; the first really substantial drive I’ve ever had in Chattie, and certainly the first such drive since getting her back from Thetford Motor Engineering after her thorough overhaul. What a drive! What fun! She handles beautifully, brakes on request, starts without a murmur, and I’m now getting the hang of it all: the gear double-declutch shifts, starting after only a short while on choke (a couple of minutes only on choke, then catching with the throttle when I push it in, after which she ticks over obediently, waiting…), the understanding of where she’s happiest, and knowing when the car is telling me a gear change is needed, rather than me telling her where I think it ought to be – which means we are not having so many arguments about it!

To top it all, the sun set on my westward way home, providing me with at least half an hour’s free drive-through movie. You’ll be relieved to learn that I pulled into a lay-by to share this view with you.

The Where They Served tour?  Bring it on!

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Hotting up

Things are hotting up now with the beginning of the Where They Served tour only about six weeks away. I drove Chattie back today after the excellent time she had at Brightwells Classic Car Auction, where she was guest of honour. The place was full of interesting people and interesting cars. I’m biased, but I still think Chattie looked one of the best.

Today Ground Control and I collected Chattie from Brightwells and for the first time in six months I was able to drive her. After all the work Crispin Thetford has put into her, she is driving very differently. The steering is firm and stable, the wheels are better balanced and hold the road brilliantly, and the brakes are sharp. I think I’d had the feeling that vintage cars wandered around the road and had brakes like sponges, but that was only because Chattie had been very much in need of the overhaul she has now received.  It was a lovely warm sunny day, very like the day I drove her back home when we bought her from Brightwells exactly a year ago, but the experience was quite different. I still crunched the gears coming down from fourth to third, but for the rest of it the gear changes went very smoothly. Next on the agenda is a lesson from Pin Thetford at Thetford engineering workshops near Malvern, where Pin is going to lay out a crash-gearbox so I can have a look at it, and see the moving parts and how it actually works; then out on the road for a driving lesson in Chattie. Can’t wait!

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Meet Chattie’s brilliant engineer

Chattie’s engineer, Crispin Thetford, of Thetford Motor Engineering, near Malvern, will be with Chattie and me at Brightwell’s on the viewing day for the Spring classic vehicle auction, Tuesday 3rd March. He is extremely knowledgeable about vintage and classic vehicles and from my point of view it will be fantastic to have him on hand so that he can field all the technical questions that are bound to be asked.  Pin has been working on Chattie over the past few months, to prepare her for the tour ahead, so he knows her – literally – inside and out.

If you are planning to be there, do come over and say hello to one or other of us.  In Pin’s words, Chattie is now driving as she should; he’s the one who knows what lies behind that statement; I’m the one who will soon be finding out how great a driving experience that will give me over the next six months.

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Filed under classic cars, vintage cars

Thetford engineering, all-weather hoods and questions

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.

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Filed under Uncategorized, vintage cars

Renovating a Singer Le Mans?

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.

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