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Briefly a two-classic driveway

We left our tale of inexpert classic car ownership with me enjoying the luxury of a 1974 P6 Rover for comfortable long-distance driving, a 1968 Karmann Ghia cabriolet for countryside runs in the sun, and a garage for both of them. Not for long…

No sooner had I set about getting the KG fully cleaned up and a frustrating succession of minor faults sorted out, than the Rover started to play up badly. Despite her low mileage and apparent regular services from my uncle’s local Rover dealer, it was clear that, mechanically, she was not in particularly good health. This came to head when, one wet night in Golders Green, a cylinder blew and left her stranded by the roadside. Sadly, with no AA cover, and with P6 Rovers commanding very low prices, I knew that it would cost me far more than she was worth either to have her fixed in situ or retrieved to Gloucester and so, with some pangs of guilt and in the middle of a torrential storm with freezing rain seeping through the hood of the KG, a mate and I returned the following weekend to consign her to the nearest scrapyard. Not my finest moment and one for which vengeance was nearly wrought as a sudden blizzard on the way home nearly consigned us to a ditch on the side of the M40.

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1968 Beetle 1500

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1965 Beetle with 1500 engine

Down to one fair-weather-only car briefly, until a visiting girlfriend pointed out a 1968 1500cc VW Beetle (MDD728F) for sale in Tewkesbury. Thus I acquired a fully air-cooled pair of German classics to see me through the next few years, including a move to Stafford. As ever with cars of a certain age, both needed occasional restoration work: both managed to develop a regulator fault that ‘ate’ their dynamos and the Beetle was treated to a new engine, and restorative bodywork. A new set of bumpers, though, proved too much of a temptation for fate: days later (and spookily after driving several miles in company with a Beetle the image of mine), I hit a patch of oily mud on a bend outside a farm, span, ran up the neighbouring bank and rolled over. Fortunately, the Beetle body was strong enough to leave me unharmed, but the roll had been just far enough to put a big crease in the roofline and make swift repair impossible. With another move imminent, the option of a long restoration wasn’t on; by chance, though, the local VW specialist had a very nicely restored two-tone 1965 Beetle (FDH524C) sitting on his forecourt which I’d been admiring for a while. That became mine and, in exchange for the remainder of my 1968 model, the new 1500cc engine was transplanted into its older brother, closely followed by a suitable gearbox.

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1977 Mk II Ford Capri

Another brief period of stability followed as the Beetle became my daily driver and ongoing project. With a 4-month working trip away looming, I took the tough decision to dispose of the Karmann Ghia as it just wasn’t getting the usage it deserved in return for the maintenance, tax and insurance it demanded. Back from abroad, it was only 10 months before I found myself on my way to Northern Ireland for a couple of years. Rather than leave the Beetle in storage again, or attempt the mammoth drive to Belfast via Stranraer, I managed to get her transported out as surplus cargo. Sadly, work gave me very little chance to use her and, by the time I returned toGloucester at the end of my tour, 2 years of foul weather and inactivity had left her due an extensive overhaul. That left me potentially car-less for some months but, fortunately, my future father-in-law had just decided to sell his treasured 1977 Mk II Ford Capri (UHJ890S) which he’d had almost from new. At first, it was only intended as a stop-gap, but so practical and fun was this bright red piece of 1970s motoring culture (see any episode of ‘The Professionals’ for the proof!) that I ended up selling the restored Beetle and keeping the Capri for the next 5 years.

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And back to a Minor again – another 4-door, same overalls!

Having trebled the mileage and used her daily in all kinds of weather, the Capri started to show her age both in mechanics and body and again it was time for hard decisions. Take her off the road for restoration, leaving me without a car and costing far more than she was worth? Drive her into the ground (unfair on a good car) and risk increasingly frequent breakdowns? Or sell now while she was an attractive project and buy afresh? Finally, I decided to treat myself to a fully restored, reliable, tax-free classic that I could use daily without worrying about the availability of parts, and where better to start than with my first ever car, a Minor? A couple of trips to Charles Ware in Bath and 4-door 1969 saloon LBX277G was the result and was my daily driver from August 2002 for five years until another change of work location gave her the chance to become a cosseted garage queen. However, as for her particular history, that’s one for another day…