1937 Ford 7Y
- Transmission:3 Speed
- Body Style:Sedan
- Trim:Red Rexine
My first car, bought in 1957. Later converted to a Fairlite Special. Sold 1963
I began my proper working life as an apprentice truck mechanic in North London. The dealership was housed in a huge old tram shed. The trucks and buses were Bedfords although I happily worked on any make that came into the dealership. These ranged from AEC, BMC, Thornycroft, Commer and Dodge.
I rode a pedal bike to work but like most apprentices wanted to get a car.
One day, I and a group of mechanics were instructed to go and salvage garage equipment from a near derelict service station that the dealer had just bought.
Inside I saw a black car that didn’t seem in too bad a shape and I was told that it belonged to the widow of an ex-employee. She couldn’t drive and so the car was for sale.
100 pounds (about 6 months apprentice wages) later I owned the car.
I knew from the badges that it was a Ford but had no idea about the model; the log book stated it was a 1937 Ford Eight.
The sons of a Ford dealer attended the same trade school as I did and they quickly told me that the car was a 7Y and that it was in pretty good condition compared to some they had seen.
In those days and in the area of London in which I lived, it was quite common to see older cars left at the roadside and at the mercy of the local kids, who could reduce a car to scrap within a day or two and without any tools!
At this stage I still was under the age for a driver’s licence although all the apprentices at work were required to move cars and trucks around the workshop.
I rented a lock-up garage a few streets away from home and a mate took the car there.
In actual fact the car was in excellent condition with no rust or damage, great paint, seats and tyres. Someone had replaced the headlining with what looked and felt like an army blanket.
There were scruffy floor mats on the wooden floor panels but that was all.
I set about making a complete floor covering from felt-backed vinyl and then got an upholsterer uncle to replace the headlining with a fawn vinyl fabric.
The trade-off was that I replace the track rod ends on his Standard Flying 9.
With the interior needing little more than a wash with soapy water, I decided to paint the hub caps (long before “Kingswood Country” came to TV). Bright red hub caps on silver wheels and on a black car…..hmmmm.
A school chum and I had decided that regardless of whether I passed my driving test or not, we would go touring Devon and Cornwall in the car. Happily I didn’t need to break the law.
The night before we set out I polished the car in the dim light of the lock-up, only to find next morning that I had managed to create lots of smears and make the car look shocking.
The car was magic, never letting us down during the two weeks away and covering several hundred miles in that time.
I had ‘christened’ the car “Erny” (don’t ask me why, it just seemed a good idea at the time) and he served me without problems until one day, while with a trade school friend there was a tremendous “Bang” and the car ran so roughly that I was sure I would see a con-rod hanging out of the block. With the bonnet open, we could see nothing wrong except the engine wobbling about in a frenzy and the cut-out cover missing.
When I switched off the engine we looked harder and found the cause; the two blade fan had become a one blade fan and the broken part had lopped off the cut-out cover.
I took the fan off and the smooth running little motor returned, accompanied by a huge sigh of relief from me, happy that the radiator didn’t get damaged.
A Fordson 10 cwt van came into the workshop one day to have (of all things) the tappets adjusted. Now we all know that isn’t easy and that “adjustment” is really not the right word to describe what has to be done.
With me being a Ford owner the workshop manager gave the job to me.
I struggled for a while, much to the amusement of my workmates and then in desperation I told the manager I was going to take the engine out to do the job as it would be quicker than messing about in such a confined space. To my amazement he agreed.
Having done the job I decided to do the same on my car and the result was great.
Not hearing the engine took a few days to get used to.
The little Ford got all the ‘60s accessories……stick-on demister (useless), interior green plastic interior sun visor, reversing light, Windtone horns, spot light, roof rack, windscreen washer ( pushing the rubber plunger gave you one squirt), a second wiper arm and blade and window stickers from every place we had visited.
Of course there was still no air cleaner, just the little steel cover, no water pump, no heater but it did have the by-pass oil filter.
The dealership took in a little Ford 5 cwt van in part-ex for a new CA Bedford and this van became the shop runabout (and apprentices' race car) for collecting spares and attending to minor breakdowns. The abuse it suffered was horrendous and finally the diff gave out. This time I volunteered to fix it as I felt that one day I would need to do my own and the experience would be great.
This opportunity came earlier than I expected because after giving my aunt a few driving lessons in “Erny”, the chassis snapped and caused such a load on the rear end that the diff gave out. I overhauled it and decided that trying to repair the chassis was a lost cause.
That was the beginning of “Erny’s” transformation into the Fairlite/Ginetta special that I described in an article some years ago. With the car being the first one I owned, I guess it’s also the reason that I have affection for the little beasts.
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