It is a tune we all know well: stick your toe into the world of classic cars and the next thing you know you have multiple machines taking up space, time, brain power and skills. Call us suckers for punishment but for some odd reason we all love it. The same goes for reader Dave Hawkins, who tested the waters with an MG, which led to more of course, and now finds himself ensconced in a rare and difficult Singer rebuild. Here he plays out his version of the tune we all know.
My wife, Delene, has always wanted an open top sportscar, so for her fiftieth birthday we came across a 1963 MGB while on a biking trip through Sedgefield. This kick-started our passion for MGs and we now have a collection of six models in a small museum here in Port Alfred.
Some years later, on another bike trip, we stopped for a chat to Sheridan at Sedgefield Classic Cars, as we always do, and saw a 1934 Singer Le Mans that he was storing for a friend. Negotiations took place and the car was collected some time later on our trailer to be dismantled and fully restored. Once back on the road I sent an article with photos to the Singer Association in the UK, which publishes an informative magazine every two months for their members.
Chris Barrow, a Singer member in JHB, is building up a Singer 10 and happened to read my article in the magazine. He was looking to buy some much-needed parts from a young chap in JHB who repairs and restores exotic cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. He had salvaged various bits and pieces from a deceased estate and had them stored on shelves in his workshop. He was not prepared to sell individual items, hence Chris phoned me and asked, “Don’t you want to build up another Singer?”
Negotiations took place and almost two cars were loaded on the trailer and brought back to Port Alfred. Chris was happy as he got most of the parts he needed and my friend George here in Port Alfred was also happy as he took over one of the Singer Roadsters. Both are 1951/2 models and we are building the two cars together. George got the original Singer 1500cc motor and I found a Sunbeam 1500cc motor that needed much attention, plus it had to be married to the Singer gearbox. Luckily our haul included two complete gearboxes.
The chassis were sandblasted, repaired and painted prior to any other work being started. Then the back axle, fuel tank suspension, steering and wheels have all been sorted and fitted. Finding four 16 x 4 stud wheel rims was a mission and eventually suitable rims were sourced from a Crankhandle Club Member in Cape Town. We have had to import the tyres from the Beaulieu Museum in the U.K as none are available in South Africa.
Next problem was the bodywork as we only have the doors, fenders and running boards. This model Singer was the last to be hand-built with an ash wood frame covered in aluminium panels. Being a fairly competent carpenter, making the wooden frame was not a problem. Photos, old rotten parts and sketches taken from similar cars we have seen, helped to put the jigsaw puzzle together.
As neither George nor I are experts in sheet metal shaping, we decided to enrol for the course offered by Barry in your magazine. My car, which by then had the wooden framework completed, was loaded and towed to Stellenbosch so that Barry could give us hands on advice. This has proven to be invaluable as I have welded up a heavy duty table upon which to beat out the panels and have fabricated various tools to do the shrinking and stretching as we were taught. I am proud to say that the panels I have made and fitted do not look too shabby.
These projects take time and require much patience as every little detail needs attention. Sourcing parts is part of the fun as so many friends and acquaintances are made along the way.
People ask, “So, when will you be finished?” This is difficult to answer with any certainty as there is so much more to do. The truth is that it is all worthwhile as long as you are having fun.