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Retro Heaven on the A127

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Just outside Basildon, on the A127 arterial road linking London with the coast, there sits a pub and roadside eatery which, it feels, hasn’t really changed since the early Eighties. This made it the perfect venue for a weekend meeting of the South-Eastern chapter of the UK’s notorious group of aficionados of The Worthless Car. Autoshite, as it’s otherwise known.

When you spend a lot of your time exchanging views with other people digitally, it’s nice to occasionally interface with blood and flesh and put faces to the internet psuedonyms. This last Sunday I seized the opportunity to mingle and bask in the glory of the inglorious.

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I’ve met some of these cars before, and I’ve spoken to some of their owners on previous meets, but some were completely new to me. Such as this Vauxhall Victor, proudly wearing its original (and hard to replace) Lucas headlamps.

I seldom use the phrase “Magnificent Vauxhall” but I feel it appropriate in this instance.

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A Victor was the first car I ever travelled in. I was collected from the maternity ward of Colchester General Hospital in just such a machine, but in metallic green with a beige vinyl interior. Though that example was only about eight years old by the time I was hatched in ’81, it was already in an advanced state of decomposition and I have vivid memories of my father welding in repair patches made from tobacco tins.

I’ll always have a soft spot for these increasingly scarce machines. I’ve always thought that the very prow of the car bares a passing, but mentionable, resemblance to the early ’70s Buick Riviera, particularly around the grille, which extends to south of the bumper, just like the Riv. If you squint.

Parked next to the Victor is a chap called Seth’s Hillman…

IMAG4468…which, with its lowered ride height and completely authentic state of overall shabbiness has quite a road presence.

Although this car HAS been lowered, and I usually get all angsty when people do this to cars for the look or, worse, for the sense of belonging to some kind of “scene”, I don’t feel like I want to criticise things here. This is a car which has been loved and preserved by its owner for a long time, and the lowering is reversible if he really wanted to.

And making an old, beige Hillman which wouldn’t usually draw much of a crowd, into something that people actually find interesting or inspiring isn’t really a bad thing, is it?

IMAG4463So, what does this Hoffmeister Kink belong to?

The “D” gives it away.

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It’s a very rare Triumph Dolomite 1500 SE, one of the limited edition models produced towards the end of the production run. These were given more upmarket interior treatments with MOAR WALNUT, as well as sleek bodyside stripes and wheel rim embellishers. I have the brochure for this somewhere in The Carchive, I must mount an expedition and fish it out some time.

These were a fascinating car, when you consider that the Dolomite (which was supposed to be fighting the BMW 3 Series at the end of the ’70s, still used the same hull as the Triumph 1300 from 1965, which itself had been available variously in FWD and RWD throughout its tortured existence.

Incidentally, the guy with the 924 S brought a box of old cassette tapes which he was flogging for a quid each out of the trunk. Seriously, the ’80s were alive and well in Essex that day.

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No messing around, our next confirmed classic was Deluxe. But what was it?

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Yep. What line up of much-maligned cars would be complete without a Morris Marina? This is a ’73, the first iteration of the British Leyland legend who’s main task in life was to take on the Ford Cortina using recycled Morris Minor oily bits under a contemporary exterior.

Don’t tell anybody, but I always quite liked the way these looked. If you got really drunk, and then squinted really hard, you could tell yourself it looks a little bit like a Plymouth Barracuda from the front.

This is another well-loved machine, made somehow all the more palatable thanks to its heavy patina. Ironically it’s owned by a chap whose forum moniker is CortinaBoy, who does everything he can to keep it clear of falling pianos.

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Another notable presence was Nigel’s 1980 C30 Datsun Laurel 2.4 Six, which spent all morning attracting admiring glances and generally being fawned over; and that was just the outside. Inside is a world of velvety beigeness dressed with chocolatey brown plastic. It’s a good deal more appealing than it sounds.

Whisper quiet, too, aside from all manner of belt-related goings on from underhood. The exhaust exhales softly and the L24 keeps itself to a murmur. Those who drove it said that it felt like a car ten years newer. Like a Lexus LS400 or something like that, though maybe the reverse is actually true?

Nigel later produced two large boxes of mixed brochures and car magazines for our perusal and purchase, and the assembled throng picked through them like a vulture attacking a wildebeest. ‘Twas a strange sight for the normals, a group of grown men standing around throwback cars that time and memory all-but rejected, frothing at the mouth at the prospect of a 1985 Ford Accesories brochure.

Most unsavoury. I loved it.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

 

  • 1977ChevyTruck

    “Parked next to the Victor is a chap called Seth’s Hillman…

    …which, with its lowered ride height and completely authentic state of overall shabbiness has quite a road presence.”

    I find this funny, mostly because my best friend, also named Seth, has a 1990 Honda Civic that is completely stock, including the ride height!

  • Fuhrman16

    I really like that Datsun Laurel.

  • Sjalabais

    Beautiful! Seeing that these cars satisfy my taste for cubist straightness and cheap point of entry, I’m a sucker for Japanese classics, too. This gorgeous Sapporo is for sale in Norway now, one of 24 sold in Norway in 1978. Needs a wee bit of work to pass tech inspection/MOT, but it’s just soo pretty…
    http://m.finn.no/car/used/ad.html?finnkode=68838310

    https://finncdn.no/dynamic/960w/2015/12/vertical-3/22/0/688/383/10_396749376.jpg
    https://finncdn.no/dynamic/960w/2015/12/vertical-3/22/0/688/383/10_299241795.jpg

    • nanoop

      14 kNOK – what are you waiting for? Have the seller sending you the MoT report and start working Mrs Smith. ..

      • Sjalabais

        Oh, I know! It’s a day’s drive away though and Mrs Smith…well. I’ve had the full propaganda treatment for half a decade (all our common passwords, like Netflix, are “classiccarsarecool1” in Norwegian etc), yet there’s still some way to go. But this is indeed a fantastic deal by the looks of it.

        • nanoop

          “Smith” was autocollect’s version of “Sj”, my bad!

          14kNOK, that’s basically 10 years of Netflix, or 5 years RiksTV – I’d keep the Netflix for Mrs Smith, though, since you are garaging…

          So the MoT report:
          – parking brake not working. My guess: new wires/bowden tubes. 1kNOK plus 2hrs work
          – weak parking light front left – wire brush the contacts/grounds – 1hr work
          – battery not fixed – do-able. 1hr
          – safety stuff missing – every gas station has them
          – “Defekt mellomakselopplagring (må byttes)” – I guess that’s the mounts of the driveshaft to the diff? That can be a bummer to find new, but a patient parts counter will find you something “close enough”. 1kNOK plus 3hrs
          – Wheel bearing front left (need tightening): my guess: replace. 1kNOK, 2hrs

          So for 17kNOK and one Saturday* you’ll have a 4-seater coupe that shrieks “70ies” all over the fjord!

          That’s like 15min north of my yard, by helicopter. If you want me to check it out I’ll take.. the ferry. You’re welcome!

          *Prices and time consumption may vary…

          • Sjalabais

            Wow, that is fantasticly tempting! Especially considering that he’d probably let it go for 10k, too… Flip it for 40k to some hipster in the city, hm. You know, my work productivity just plummeted, the Japanese would not approve. I’ll come back to you, but I have to admit the odds for doing this are low. I’ve burned myself on cross-country trips like this too many times, and my mechanical skills are…prehistoric.

            • Drives Dead Marques

              I had an ’83 Plymouth Sapporo Technica here in the US. It was one of the easiest to work on cars I’ve owned. I miss it.

              • Sjalabais

                What are the strengths and weaknesses of these? I googled a bit at work earlier today, but they appear to be pretty rare everywhere. Apparently, they were priced in Mercedes territory in Norway – which explains the ultralow sales numbers.

                • Drives Dead Marques

                  Biggest weakness for me was rust on the frame rails. It’s been too many years for me to think of much more than that.

                  • Monkey10is

                    But STRENGTHS — see Sjalabais’ original post; this features:
                    – cubist straightness,
                    – Japanese classic,
                    &
                    – soo pretty.
                    Do you need any more?

                    • Drives Dead Marques

                      I do like the look of the ’78. The 2.6l wasn’t terribly powerful, and could be harsh (it is 2.6l in an I4). But I had no complaints on mine. Gearbox was good and the clutch worked well. Stereo was one of the favorite things for me, Mitsu has made some pretty good ones over the years. Seats in this look the same, and they were comfy. To me plaid would be an acquired taste. And a one spoke steering wheel? Mine had two, but both were pretty low.

                      The rust just rubbed me the wrong way. With this being around so long, it probably won’t be a problem.

                    • Sjalabais

                      I’m just going to smooth this out by saying I mean it, ha!

    • Rover 1

      Mitsubishi was using some European designers like Aldo Bavarone and Paulo Martin at that time.
      Some of the detailing is similar. Like the rear wheel arch on the Mitsubishi Sigma of the same era and the Lancia Gamma Coupe
      http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/others2/77gamma/bilder/11.jpg
      http://www.moibbk.com/images/mitsubishi-sigma-10.jpg

  • Monkey10is

    “You had me at ‘Just outside of Basildon…'”

  • Rover 1

    Those Lucas rectangular headlights were on the later Hillman Hunters as well
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Hillman_Hunter_post_facelift_Bj_ca_1975_photo_2008.JPG