1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT

Nostalgia – 1967 MGB

Here is an incredible story from Keith Belcher about his first MGB, told in his own words: “We left Castle Bromwich at 3:30pm on Saturday

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A Cortina Returns

Our stunning 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT is back and will soon be going live one more time on the Bridge Classic Cars Competitions

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Entry Is Now Open

Our 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 has been through its Bridge Classic Cars workshop inspection and the team is happy to say it is now

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Nostalgia – Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire

Here is another incredible story from Keith Belcher, in his own words, about his Dad’s Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire:

“It was a Saturday evening in the late spring of 1962. Mum and Dad had visitors in our little house in Nearmoor Road. “The Gang” as they called themselves. Dad, Dennis, Big Eric and Little Eric and their wives. A get-together with alcohol flowing was not unusual. In those days, people used to drink and drive, mostly sensibly. Being now 12 years old, after putting my little brother to bed, I stayed up and listened intensively to the adult conversation. The chatter was about the space race, JFK’s presidency, the Cold War etc. etc. The conversation turned to how Dad’s business was doing. Dad explained that he had just taken on a new business partner and things were looking up. He had promoted Ray, his second in command, to Service Manager and he had given Ray his quite new Vauxhall Victor as a company car. That left Dad driving a van. He needed funds for new plant [and an expensive planned holiday] so a new car was not really possible.

Now Big Eric was a car dealer, a lovely bloke. He was the “Spiv” type of chap, you know, you expected him to open his jacket for you to see wristwatches hung on the lining, just like George Cole in the movies. He piped up “Hey Ken. I know where there is a beautiful car going for a song!” Dad replied “What is it?” Eric: “Well, I’m not really sure. It’s something like a Princess or a Daimler, you know a limousine supposed to be in superb nick. The blokes been gone for ages and his wife just wants rid. I bet you could get it for a song.” Dad said “Not my style Eric. Too old for me don’t you think?” At that statement everyone piled in the discussion saying that he should go for it, it would suit him and other stuff. Over the evening the gang ribbed and cajoled, poked and prodded Dad, they were relentless, until he promised to follow up on that car. I remember the laughter as they left that night. Little Eric coughed and turned with his arm up behind him as if expecting a tip and said “I’ll be leaving you now Sir….” (a reference to the popular TV series Bootsie & Snudge).

A few days later I went with Dad to 290 Highbridge Road, Sutton Coldfield. The smart lady led us down her garden to a garage. Inside was this gorgeous dark grey Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Automatic car. It was on blocks, the wheels removed and completely covered in Vaseline. With sumptuous leather interior the engine was spotless and started easily. She explained that her husband was away and was going to be away longer than expected. She didn’t volunteer why she had not advertised it, but she was concerned that the car would have to be collected in darkness, so no one would see it go. Dad made a lowball offer of £250 cash politely but in a take it or leave it manner. To his surprise she agreed.

The next day a fitter sorted the wheels, drained fuel tank and put new fuel in. Dad had that car for some two years or so. RWD 828 was a lovely car. Later when driving it around he was approached occasionally by unsavoury characters and ladies would wave at him for no apparent reason. It turned out the car had belonged to a doctor who had been imprisoned for illegal abortions & was well known to the local working girls and of course their pimps. Needless to say, the registration 187 KHA was moved from the Vauxhall to the Armstrong. It was later sold for a thumping profit.

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Nostalgia – 1938 Morgan 3-Wheeler F Super

This is the story of John Piper and his 1938 Morgan F Super, told in John’s own words.

“My first car was a 1938 Morgan 3-wheeler, an F-Super with an inboard Ford Ten engine, reg GPG 539.

I bought her for £15 in 1964 when I was 16. She had been run into a Keep Left island in Bloomsbury, so she was a bit sad. The owner had bought her because she looked so ‘cute’ but had not considered the performance of a Ford Ten engine in a car that weighed almost nothing, nor the difficulty of manoeuvring in Central London with direct steering.

Anyway, his loss was my gain. Then I returned on the Sunday with my sister and my mum in her Austin Metropolitan, to tow my purchase home from Woburn Square. Sunday was a good day to choose because there was only minimal traffic. I had not been able to test drive, so it was a surprise to discover there were very little brakes and no handbrake! However, to the amusement of American tourists, we set out. The lack of handbrake was alleviated by the fact that she was so low to the ground, I could put my hand flat on the ground to hold her at traffic lights!

Her first port of call was Albion Mews in SE25 (long since gone) and the workshop of Major L T N (Larry) Barlow who was going to straighten out the front chassis bars and fix the radiator. In his opinion, when he had finished, they were probably straighter than when she had been pushed out through the famous hole in the hedge in Malvern Links. Larry had served his apprenticeship with the Riley company building Riley 9s.

Although I was sixteen, I was legally allowed to drive a three-wheeler since I had a full motorbike licence and she counted as a motorbike and sidecar. So I had the exciting opportunity of driving her home, having never driven a car before! I taught myself to drive in her, with a fully crash gearbox, mostly by trial and error.

On attaining seventeen years, I bought a 1949 2200 cc Triumph Roadster, so the Moggie had to go. I sold her to a colleague at art school so I was able to follow her fortunes for a while. A few years ago, during an attack of nostalgia, I contacted the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club. What a marvellous and helpful organisation! It turned out that my Morgan was still in use (save a temporary engine issue). She had travelled to the Nurburgring and to Brooklands and been raced at both venues.”

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Nostalgia – 1937 Austin Ten Cambridge

This is the story of Chris Owen and his 1937 Austin Ten Cambridge, known as Harriet, told in Chris’s own words.

“My first car was a 1937 Austin Ten Cambridge (reg. EP6915) that I bought from its first owner who lived at Maesmawr, outside Welshpool in Mid Wales, in 1966.  Even in those days, Mrs. Harriet Lloyd-Jones lived simply in her house which had no electricity or running water.  I don’t think she had used the car for quite some time and it was kept in an old stable block (a bird dropping on the bonnet of the car had eaten through the paintwork to the bare metal below many years earlier!).  Mrs. Lloyd-Jones had been a Justice of the Peace and she had used the car mainly for those short journeys into Welshpool, about 7 miles away. 

That she loved her car was undoubted but it was her ‘workhorse’ (even today the remains of her Hanson cab can just be seen in the undergrowth in her garden).  Over the years since she had bought the car new in 1937, manure on the country lanes had eaten through the front wings of the car for two or three feet above the running boards.  The rot on both front wings had been patched up with aluminium sheets riveted to the wings. In time those aluminium sheets too had rotted, but it was after the War and there would have been a scarcity of new parts.  The rotted aluminium patches were still on the car when I bought it from Mrs Lloyd-Jones in 1966 – for £5. That probably seems remarkably cheap today but in those days it was common for many a ‘runner’ to be bought for between £5 – £30.

I promised Mrs Lloyd-Jones that I would look after her car and give it a good home.  She had given me instructions about looking after it – at the end of each journey she would drain the radiator, and before her next ‘outing’ she would pump up water from the well, heat it and then refill the radiator.  She used to keep hot water bottles on the seats during the Winter months to keep them aired!   With two dear friends, Jim Sayce (Leighton) & Mike Roberts (Trelydan), we prepared the car for starting.  The two original 6v batteries (under the front seats) were flat so we had to use a 12v battery standing on the running board and tow the car down the lanes before she would start.

Over the following thirteen years, I used the car almost every day and ‘the old lady’ proved to be a most comfortable and reliable car – and she was great fun to drive!  The large sliding sunroof was open most of the time and the windscreen wound wide open.  Even in the 60s in Mid Wales it was not uncommon to encounter thick fog in the Winter months, but with the windscreen wide open I could see and hear much better – even if any passenger with me was not quite so appreciative!

I covered thousands of miles over those years with trips up to Scotland and on to the Isles.  In all that time the most serious breakdown was when the crankshaft broke going up a steep hill (the other side of Wrexham), and twice when driving the car too fast – the valve pins shot out!  I remember taking two bank colleagues up to Durham university for a course; three of us travelling in the car with all our luggage for the week and the speedometer clocking 72 mph on the A1 going North!  Wonderful fun!    

Driving the car soon became as easy as driving a ‘modern’ car in those days although with the Austin’s weight and a 10hp side-valve engine, acceleration was a bit slower, but in other respects the car was very nippy.  She was fitted with Girling rod brakes which were extremely efficient; by tweaking the adjuster on each wheel every two or three weeks, her braking power was kept in tip top condition.  

The car was very well looked after and I was able to have the front wings replaced with brand new ones that I obtained from Christleton Motors in Chester (sadly now long gone).  With driving the car every day I very quickly became fully attuned to every sound from the engine.  Any new noise under the chassis or from the engine compartment would get immediate attention, but it was just a sheer delight listening to the engine working well.  I checked the tyre pressures regularly of course, but I became so much a ‘part’ of the car myself I could tell immediately if one tyre was even just a lb. down in pressure.

An Extraordinary Coincidence

Sometime in the early 1970s, after I was transferred to Chester, Lloyds bank sent me to Liverpool to its then Overseas Branch for several weeks’ experience.  Although my father had worked in Liverpool in marine insurance, I didn’t know the city at all; nor did I know any of the staff in the bank there.  One day I was talking to a colleague working there, Bill Osborne, about some overseas work we used to do for a corporate customer in Welshpool.  Bill was surprised that I had worked in Welshpool and then he told me he had been evacuated there during the War with his two brothers – but they had stayed in a tiny place outside Welshpool called Maesmawr.  I just looked at him in surprise and told him that’s where my old Austin had come from.  “EP6915?” he asked me!!  I almost fell off my high stool in shock.  The brothers stayed with Mrs. Lloyd-Jones for 4½ years and the three young lads shared a big double bed.  The car was still quite new in those days and every year, by saving up her petrol coupons, Mrs Lloyd-Jones could take the boys out for the day to Aberystwyth and then stopping at Borth for a swim.  Bill told me that coming back over Plinlimon at night, it was cold and the three boys shared a brown rug to put over their knees.  All these years later and that same brown rug is still with the car!

In the late 70s, I could see banking was changing and my own life was changing too.  I had heard about Operation Drake, the two-year, around-the-world expedition – and eventually I was offered a place on the directing staff for the Indonesian phase. The bank exceptionally gave me unpaid leave of absence. I needed to fund my place on the expedition so I sold my home and bought a smaller property that would need renovating on my return.  My much-loved Austin went to a friend in North Wales who intended to do some work on it.      

By the time I returned from Indonesia and had done some work in the Old War Office where the expedition had its headquarters, I had decided not to resume my old career.  My working life changed and I was involved for two years in setting up a registered conservation charity covering Cheshire. After my two-year contract expired, I had a long spell in local government – controlling departmental budgets but mainly doing rural and urban trees & hedgerows conservation work. Probably I would have been better off financially staying in banking but my new work was much more satisfying!

Eventually, I was thrilled to hear that the Austin was coming back to me.  However, although I knew that my friend had had the car standing outside in the open for more than five years, I was not prepared for the shock when she arrived back in Chester on a trailer.  Not only had he had almost completely stripped the car down but rot had accelerated throughout the car. It was an heartbreaking sight and I had tears in my eyes when I saw her.  We managed to push the car into a lock-up garage where she would have to stay for several years. I could see from her sorry state that she would require a full major restoration – work far beyond anything I was capable of doing – even if I had a workshop. My hopes of being able to run her again in the foreseeable future were well and truly dashed.

After I retired, early in 2014 I finally bit the bullet and the old Austin went to a wonderful firm of restorers – Trevor Farrington and his team outside Knutsford in Cheshire.  Trevor has a wonderful reputation and a very skilled workforce.  Even they were shocked at the state of the car when they started work on its restoration and I was told later it had only just been restorable.  My heart sank.

Jay Leno, California.

Shortly before the car went off for restoration, I had written to Jay Leno and sent him a copy of the Austin’s history thinking he might be interested in reading about the ‘old girl’.  Time went by and I think I had even forgotten that I had written to him.  Late one morning I popped out for a few minutes to a local store.  When I returned, the telephone light was flashing – it was a very kind and most supportive message from Jay Leno who phoned me from California!  He didn’t leave a phone number and sadly I haven’t been able to make contact with him since.  A shame, because he doesn’t know that the car’s restoration was subsequently started, and I am sure he would be most interested to learn about another remarkable coincidence with the car – a connection with California!

The Austin’s chassis was in remarkably good condition and needed very little doing to it.  The same could not be said of the bodywork.  The team set to and many, many hours of work went into replacing rusted parts and Trevor’s men made a remarkable job of restoring the body shell.  When it was finally painted, the transformation was simply incredible – and the paintwork today is probably even better than when Mrs Lloyd-Jones collected the car from Longbridge in early June, 1937.  Sadly, by then I had spent some £30k, all my capital, on the restoration and the work has had to stop.  My family almost had me certified and it was a long, long time before they spoke to me again!

One day in the Summer of 2015, while the Austin was still at Trevor’s workshops, Trevor telephoned me to say that he had received an e-mail for me and could he send it on to me?  It seemed odd.  Apparently, the writer had read a ‘blog’ about Harriet’s story that had been published by my ‘modern’ car’s breakdown company, StartRescue (never having even seen a ‘blog’, I had almost immediately put it out of my mind!).  The writer was a chap called Bernie Griffiths who has lived and worked in California for close on 40 years now . . . . and who turns out to be the great-nephew of the car’s original owner in Mid-Wales, Mrs. Harriet Lloyd-Jones!  I was completely in shock at that news!

Subsequently, I was able to meet Bernie when he came over with his son to see his very elderly father (who died a few months later).  Bernie’s father was well enough then to travel by car from the Midlands, so I arranged to meet Bernie, his father and some of the family for a light lunch one day before going on to Trevor Farrington’s to view the newly painted body shell. The old man hadn’t seen his aunt’s car since the early 1960s!

My family think I am completely ‘nuts’ for spending all my money on an ‘old car’ that probably will never be worth a fraction of the restoration costs, but then they have never experienced the joys and thrills of driving a pre-war car on the open road.  Such an experience, to me, is absolutely priceless and in my eyes my much-loved, humble Austin is as precious to me as any fine Bugatti or handsome 1920s Bentley!  
Unable now to complete Harriet’s restoration, and as I am creeping towards 75, I can feel my dream of being able to use her once more as my everyday car, is slipping away.  It might well cost another £20-£30k to have the ‘old girl’ finally restored, but after all her extraordinary history I could not bear to part with her now.  For the time being Harriet slumbers on inside a warm and secure shippon just a few miles outside Chester.”

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Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Capri

Here is another incredible story from Keith Belcher, in his own words, about his Ford Capri 2000 GT XLR:

“50 odd years ago Bristol Street Motors, Birmingham’s Ford dealer had a superb display of the sporty, rakish full four-seater coupé, it was seen as Europe’s answer to the Mustang. Launched in Brussels, it was somewhat of a departure from Ford’s standard fare. It was aimed squarely at younger drivers being billed as “The car you always promised yourself.” Initially sold with 1300cc, 1600cc and 2000cc engines [the 3000cc came later the same year]; there were more powerful GT options along with “X” “L” and “R” option packs so it could be customised to your taste.

Ford boasted that they could build 1¼ million Capris in the 26 basic models without any one of them being precisely the same! A GT gained extra power, instrumentation and better tyres. The “L” pack included extra exterior bright trim and dummy air scoops. The “X” pack gave you luxurious internal upholstery; horns and reversing lights. The “R” pack included Rostyles; leather-trimmed steering wheel; spot lamps etc. You need never visit an accessory shop again. It soon became a best seller.

Like any red-blooded petrolhead, I was well impressed. I remember going to see The Italian Job at the Futurist and seeing the 5-minute advert, I definitely wanted one. Later that year I saw the film Bullitt, with McQueen, my hero, my desire went up a notch, so my aim was a metallic dark green car. After smashing up my new Company Escort I had been reduced to driving the oldest worst cars the company could find. I soon resolved to use my savings to buy my own car and take an allowance to run it.

I had a trio of soft tops, Vitesse, Sprite and then fell for MGB’s. The MGB was driving enjoyment on another level, but I was seduced by the hype and dreams of being this dapper executive in a Ford. I thought long and hard before parting with my B.

A year or so later I discovered that employees could buy company cars that were going for exchange if you offered a few pounds more than Bristol Street Motors offered. Another plant hire company had been purchased and one of the directors had been forced to toe the company line and take a new Granada so his very expensively tuned Broadspeed Ford Cortina 1600E was going for a song. Too good to miss, that 1600E was a superb car bar for the usual Ford cold starting problems. Then one day the transport manager rang me and told me of a….wait for it….Ford Capri 2000GTXLR in dark metallic green, a year old, was due in for P/Ex and I could buy it at a much-reduced price. I didn’t need telling twice, my Cortina was sold for a thumping profit. With my blond hair and blue eyes, I was going to be Keith McBelcher, driving ace.

I recall sitting on the front step at home gazing at my highly polished baby Mustang WOE 322J not quite believing I had achieved my dream. I didn’t mind the high mileage but I soon discovered why it was so cheap. It was a dreaded “Friday afternoon car”.

Contrary to popular belief Ford were not immune to quality problems. Aside from the tail hopping loose lurchy rear end, hard ride, and high noise levels with poor wet grip; the V4 was harsh and gave nowhere near the performance of my Broadspeed 1600E. The large doors rattled and clanged shut. The headlamps were poor and the spotlights useless. The fake wood interior looked awful, trim bits loosened and fell off. Then it started to run rough sometimes. I was less Keith McBelcher and more Reginald Molehusband.

Then the final straw, the engine died 100 miles from home. It turned out to be a holed piston. No doubt caused by the fitting of hotter plugs. Gladly a piston was sourced and fitted, engine in situ, in a few hours. It was advertised the next day and sold within a week.

The downside – I was back to driving an old Bedford HA van purchased for £25 and hand painted. On the upside, I had made enough profit on the two Fords to order a brand-new MGB GT. A few months later, I was driving a proper sports car.

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If you have memories of a special vehicle, we’d love to share them. Simply email rob@bridgeclassiccars.co.uk with some photos and why your vehicle means so much to you.

19 responses to “Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Capri”

  1. S Egginton avatar
    S Egginton

    I was a teenager when the Capri came out but I really fancied one. All those different “packs” seemed amazing but sales orders must have been complicated! I would have loved a GT XLR think you get it with a black bonnet and sills but sadly it was way beyond my means to say nothing of the insurance costs! Years later I had a drive in a late Mk3 1.6 Laser. Pretty car but a bit disappointing to drive not much performance! Would have liked to try a 2.8 injection though 🤔

    1. Dave El avatar
      Dave El

      I used to tune the 2 and 3 litre versions. Got some good hp out of both using piper cams electronic ignition systems and carb upgrades, along with exhaust systems and other mods. Beautiful lines and the drive was something else, will never forget them.

  2. Chris avatar

    My best car, A 1992 Ford Sierra 1.8TD Estate Blue, ex Mars UK reps car with 26,000 miles on clock, a very comfortable and lovely car to dive full tow pack even a built in phone, (not working) So I had this car for a few years looked after it well, as I do any car changed break flued and antifreeze every 3 years, engine oil and filter, fuel filter, air filter, cheque gearbox and axle oils yearly, among other things, then came to the time to change as now had 2 horses so needed something diff to pull a horse box so changed it to a Landrover disco, and by this time the sierra had done 137,000 miles and the only thing new had been fitted was 2 new front break dices, still had the original exhaust, and I don’t drive that fast ether but one night or early one morning at 1 am coming home down the A14 thorough I would see what it would do, and took my foot of at 115 and she still had more to give, beast car I’ve ever had.

  3. Roger Horton avatar
    Roger Horton

    My favourite car was a Citroën CX easy drive good enough power, very comfortable and also futuristic. I owned three of them so must have enjoyed the experience. Great vehicle great drive. CITROËN PLEASE BRING THIS TYPE OF CAR BACK hey ho.

  4. Marcelle Bartlett avatar
    Marcelle Bartlett

    Best car Ford ever made. I had a blue one with black vinyl roof and sunroof, 2 litre automatic. Went like the proverbial off a shovel

  5. David Ash avatar

    When my Dad purchased a Capri Mk I 3000 GT, he very kindly offered me his 1970 Capri Mk I 1600 GT XLR as my first car. Pulling up at art college in it, I felt like the cat with the cream! It is true to say that it was a lesson in handling when pushing it into corners (especially when wet), but I loved it regardless.

  6. Julie Atkinson avatar
    Julie Atkinson

    I have own an 1982 capri for 32 years. When I first bought her it seemed like every other car on the road was a Capri. Now sadly I rarely see one on my travels. She is sky blue and turns heads everywhere she goes. I love having people come up to me of memories of their Capri. So many happy memories. She is now a 41 year old lady and still looking good. Can honestly say she has never let me down. She’s not just a car. She’s my friend.

    1. Paul fincham avatar
      Paul fincham

      I know what you mean, after many years of not owning a capri( I had three in the eighties) I this year bought a mk1 1600 gt xlr , one local owner , only 42000 miles , fern green, lovely, turns heads and random people just love it wherever I go .

  7. Gary Barnes avatar
    Gary Barnes

    September 15th 1971 my parents took delivery of a brand new Capri 1600 L, ODH 721 K, in Black Cherry with Tan trim. My dad had been driving us around the local Ford dealers for weeks “looking” so it was a complete suprise when he pulled onto our driveway during a supposed test drive. It was a beauty. Eventually I had supplemental driving lessons in the Capri and borrowed it when I had passed my test much to the delight and envy of friends. Dad kept it for 9 years, the longest he ever kept a car and replaced it with a Mk 3 Capri.

  8. Terry avatar

    Back in the 70s I started a new job and was told my new boss would pick me up. So waiting outside for him to pick me up when this beautiful gleaming red sports car pulled up and WAM. It was a beautiful Ford capri.
    I fell in love with it the second I saw it.
    I hadn’t long left school when this all happened .
    To me, the Ford Capri was, and still to this day. The best looking sports car ever built.
    I still dream of owning my own Capri.

  9. John rogers avatar
    John rogers

    I had a mark 11 capri which I fitted with an rs2000 engine ,5 speed box uprated suspension and wide wheels.it had a mad panic job of blue white and yellow.it was used in local hill climbs,sprints and the odd saloon car race.an unforgettable motor,loved the laid out seating pose in my racing seat and quick action gearchange.those were the days

  10. Kevin Moorman avatar
    Kevin Moorman

    I had a Daytona yellow 1600 XL 2years old loved it never notice if the tail whip I was the envy had to sell it to buy a house ended up with a Ford classic

  11. Derrick Cole avatar
    Derrick Cole

    Picture this it was 1980 I was 19yrs old contracting underground I went to see a car pulled up and there was a 1.6 jps mk2 capri black with gold coach lines I fell in love immedeatly bought it loved it despite the compulsory rust problems that came with it several years of complete enjoyment passed a time I will never forget

  12. Colin cliffe avatar
    Colin cliffe

    I bought a 3 litre ghia auto in graphite grey in 1982 it was 12 months old and I still drive it to this day. It now has 113000 miles on the clock but thanks to a complete respray it looks like new. I t only ever let me down once and it still drives like a dream .

  13. Frank Clayton avatar
    Frank Clayton

    Over the years I have had 2, the first was a 1600 GT XLR in Sunset Red, drove absolutely great, while I had it I was rebuilding an old Mini MK2 and collected a rear subframe for it with the Capri- it actually fitted in the boot. The second only was a 3000 E that did go like the proverbial **** off a shovel – pity about the brakes that were definitely not up to the performance of the engine. Happy days.Fr

  14. Edward hynes avatar
    Edward hynes

    My first car was a Ford Capri, 2 L S in orange in the 80s. I just love that car I wish I never sold it

  15. Dennis Speck avatar

    My Dad owned a 1970 Capri 3000 Gt Xlr in Sebering Red. At 17yrs and 3 weeks my driving instructor had a Mk1 Escorts 1300 he was away on holiday when I had chance to take my first driving test.
    So I took it in the Capri I passed second time 4 weeks later wouldn’t change the decision.

  16. John Evans avatar
    John Evans

    The MK1 was definitely the best looking out of the Capri family, the most striking I ever saw was in 69, a top of the range GTXLR in White with a Matt Pea Green bonett and rear panel between the lights, never ever saw another, so can not have been factory, possibly someone wanting to emulate a MK1 Lotus Cortina.
    The other was bottom of the range 1300 in Daytona Yellow, not a single pack on it, so it didn’t even have the dummy vents on the side, but the owner, the man who also owned our local Chippy in North Leeds, had the panel indents where the vents should be outlined in silver pinstripes Looked Amazing!!!!
    Unfortunately the Capri wasn’t big enough form my Dad, so he bought a Cortina MK3 1600 GT, 2 door, in Maize Yellow and Rostyle Wheels, Fabulous Car, BMW634J, I learnt to drive in it, followed by another in Sunset Red, White pinstripes, Black Vinyl Roof and (Ford’s version of) Minilite Wheels, OUG634L

  17. Terry Panks avatar
    Terry Panks

    I had one 1977 just 30l, taught my wife to drive in it ,lol didn’t know any better then.
    What a car

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Nostalgia – 1961 Alvis TD21

On the 6th of September 2021, we posted on the Bridge Classic Cars Facebook page telling the story of a 1961 Alvis TD21 that unexpectedly arrived at the workshop for an urgent repair on its way to a car show.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Stephen Jenkins sent us a message saying he had just seen the post and instantly recognised the car. As it turns out, the car used to belong to his Father.

This is the story of Steve and a 1961 Alvis TD21 in his own words.

“My earliest memory of 867 WTF was when my father met the first owner at ‘The Bear’ Hotel in Cowbridge, Glamorgan. It was one of those ‘gentlemen’ agreements in the evening at about 7 pm. I was 10 and excited. My dad exchanged a Humber Hawk, and if I recall correctly £1100 for the Alvis TD21. The first owner was a ‘titled’ gentleman, but I cannot remember for sure, but believe he was an Earl. Needless to say, it had a big impact on me as the Alvis was just so amazing to look at.

My father decided he needed a better car after a ‘race’ with a Mini Cooper, which exposed how cumbersome the Humber was. Our parents owned a Jewellers shop in Port Talbot in the 60s and 70s and they used the car regularly, and I went whenever possible. No matter the journey.

I grew up in this car, although my siblings and I were sick in the car on a number of occasions. It was a light grey interior back then with a strong smell of leather. We often went to London as we had grandparents there, and it was the long journeys where it was worse.

I always felt special whenever we went anywhere and also sat in it to play driving whenever I could. He had the car serviced at the Alvis factory a few times, and I also had the pleasure of going to the factory and had a tour when I was about 13, enlightening me to how significant Alvis had been over the years. Seeing a pre-war ‘front wheel’ drive car, at a time I thought the ‘Mini’ had invented such a thing 😉

Experiences I remember are as below:-

On several occasions my father experienced ‘wheel shake’ through the steering, so bad he nearly lost control. I think one of the factory visits was to examine why. However, the eventual solution was fitting the ‘new’ Michelin X all around the car. It was a much better drive after that according to my dad.

The heater blower failed and it proved a major headache to find someone to fix it locally.

Being young I asked what the ‘F’ button was for. My dad told me ‘The flaps’ to help at high speed. I believed that for years, even pulling the button and looking underneath more than once. Of course, I felt silly when I discovered it was the ‘fog lights’ switch!!

Corrosion was an issue between the screen base by the A-post, and the roof base (C pillar) by the time my father decided to sell the car. He was recommended to buy a Volvo 164 3-litre. No test drives were available locally, so he bought it blind. He soon regretted this, as the Volvo was a ‘tank to drive’, his words, after the Alvis.

He sold the car to Neath Motors who gave him £180 trade-in in 1969/70. They did the repairs to the bodywork and then had it in their showroom for £800. By then I was working and would stay on the bus passing my stop, so I could get off near the garage and look at the car in their showroom, and then walk home.

So, I have not seen or heard of the car for 53 years and recently was given a video of an 8mm cine film my dad had taken in the early 60s. I took that ‘snapshot’ from the film. This gave me the reg number. This car led to a lifelong love of cars, but I have never been in the position to buy an Alvis.

It was great to get a reply on a Facebook post, informing me you had looked after the car in recent years. I already knew of you having entered some of your car competitions.

Moving memories for me.

Steve Jenkins”

Full project details of the work we completed on this 1961 Alvis TD21 can be seen here.

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One response to “Nostalgia – 1961 Alvis TD21”

  1. Steve Jenkins avatar
    Steve Jenkins

    An update on the Alvis story:-

    I have now met Hugh and Ann, and reunited with the car after 54 years. It was very emotional but a great experience.
    Thanks to Bridge Classics for the blog.

    I have a couple of current pictures.


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Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Escort

Here is another incredible story from Keith Belcher about his first company car:

“Fifty-odd years ago, or so, Wednesday 18th December 1968, to be exact, an event occurred which changed my life forever, I had a car accident. Whilst my injuries were not actually life-threatening, at the time it was very painful, but let me explain.

The previous summer I was 18 years old, I was enjoying my job in plant hire and was doing quite well at it. I have always been quite good at systems and implementing them. I was working at the Shirley depot and the company had just taken over another firm in Lichfield. I suppose I was the obvious choice to move to the company and convert them to our well-proven systems. So, to my delight, I was told I was going to be issued a company car.

The Company mainly used Vauxhalls at that time so I pored over the new Viva HB brochure. I loved the coke bottle shape of it and the stubby gear change was great. Although I lusted over the more powerful SL90 I knew I would get just a base 1200 model. I started at Lichfield and a couple of weeks later I was asked to report to head office to pick up my new car.

So the next morning I got a lift to the head office and reported to the transport managers’ office. The first thing he said was “What colour do you want Keith?” I replied, “I would prefer blue.” To which he said with a wry smile “You can have green, green or green?” So green it was going to be then. I signed the paperwork and followed him to the garage.

Going in I could only see 3 new green Ford Escorts. I complained, “I was told I was getting a Viva!” He replied, “We have signed a new deal with Bristol Street Motors and we are going to have Fords from now on.” The shape was somewhat boring compared with a racy Viva and besides Fords had a reputation for not starting in the winter. But hey I was told never to look a gift horse in the mouth and went on my way to Lichfield.

I soon fitted a Radiomobile radio, bullet wing mirrors, and spotlights, all funded by the sale of my old Viva HA. A regular visitor to Hednesford Hills Raceway for stock car racing, a sticker was affixed to the rear window. At weekends I would remove the hubcaps and the air cleaner [to get that loud sucking sound], I had my new rally car. You can guess I was the envy of my mates, only 18 with a new car!

That Wednesday evening we had been rehearsing our band at the Chesterfield Club in Castle Bromwich so I was quite warm after drumming for a couple of hours. When we finished, Cathy Phillips, the club owner’s daughter and our band secretary said that one of the bar staff had not turned in and it was getting busy. She had contacted a replacement who couldn’t get to the club so I volunteered to go and collect her and we could get some fish and chips on the way back. The air was not cold [at least to me] when we went outside to my car. Cathy and my friend Bernard decided to come with me. The journey of around 6 miles or so didn’t take long but I hadn’t noticed that the air temperature was dropping very fast. The road was damp but it was not raining.

When you are young you don’t see danger; you think you are going to live forever. I was, I thought, a good driver and not the slowest around, I already had 2 speeding tickets; I went round a small island on the Warwick road, a quick left and right…….Then my car was floating totally out of control on a sheet of black ice. We hit a car travelling towards us head-on with a combined speed of around 50 – 60 mph. With no seat belts, my head struck the steering wheel and I passed out for a minute or so. Cathy, who sat next to me got a cut on her leg needing stitches, but Bernard, who had been sitting in the back leaning forward chatting to us, was nowhere to be seen.

Cathy, to this day, swears she got out of the car and saw Bernard sitting cross-legged dazed in the road 10 yards away. She hadn’t let him out of the two-door car [Bernard never remembered what happened]. The windscreen had shattered so we can only assume that he had been catapulted through it. Gladly he was totally uninjured. The other driver and passenger were slightly injured.

The impact had knocked out or broken 6 of my bottom front teeth and the roots were protruding through my chin. I was pouring blood and it took 20 minutes for the fire brigade to extract me from the car. The pain when they cut through my gums to remove the teeth I will remember forever. I have worn a bottom denture since.

The Police prosecuted me for undue care and attention. In law, there is no such thing as an accident. It is always someone’s fault. I got another endorsement but after pleading they let me keep my licence. No replacement car for me then. The oldest worn-out thing they could find. Ah well c’est la vie. But it led me on the path to my first MGB.

There is an old wife’s tale about your whole life flashing past your eyes in slow motion with traumas like this. I can tell you it is absolutely true. But I think that event saved my life. I made some decisions that night. To be a better driver I went on two driving courses. Never leave an argument unfinished. When you love someone, tell them, don’t hold back. And probably the best one is one of my father’s mottos; don’t go through life wishing you had done something, do it and worry about it afterwards.

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If you have memories of a special vehicle, we’d love to share them. Simply email rob@bridgeclassiccars.co.uk with some photos and why your vehicle means so much to you.

5 responses to “Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Escort”

  1. Adam Weston avatar
    Adam Weston

    I had an avo MK1 escort Mexico in Daytona yellow and it was such a beautiful car that I treasured until it was stolen in 1990 and never found and I cried for two days, superb cars!

  2. Michael Carr avatar
    Michael Carr

    Very good story. Good ad for seat belts! Shows u how easy it is to be on top of the world and how quickly it can change. I had similar accident at that age with 1st car. Didn’t slow me down but made me realise I still had a lot to learn

  3. Timothy Riordan avatar
    Timothy Riordan

    Great story , I have one much the same involving my 1959 A-H “frog-eye” Sprite, broke my arm! Those quarter-ecliptics and Kelly Springfield M 1’s would let go with little warning!
    Tim Riordan

  4. Eugene sweeney avatar
    Eugene sweeney

    Very honest story

  5. J heminsley avatar
    J heminsley

    What about the Cortina 1600e ?
    Whoa..many a good flight in ours. Front seat and back seat.

    These cars had personality for want of a better word.
    They possessed you ?

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Nostalgia – 1967 MGB

Here is an incredible story from Keith Belcher about his first MGB, told in his own words:

“We left Castle Bromwich at 3:30pm on Saturday 12th June 1971 in my gleaming 1967 MGB soft top. It was drizzling but that couldn’t blunt our enthusiasm for the trip. The beautiful hollow sound from the new exhaust could be heard through the hood and the Beach Boys were singing California Girls in glorious stereo on the 8-track player.

Me and Helen had planned the holiday in detail. Two weeks camping in Calella by Lloret de Mar in Spain. We met up with friend Bernie in his ’64 MGB sports and his co-pilot John at Stonebridge. By 11pm we were at Dover, on the ferry and at 1am arrived in France. We were soon seeking a layby to rest up for a sleep.

After some packed sandwiches early morning, we were on our way again. The drive [before motorways remember] along those tall, tree-lined, endless narrow roads was superb if somewhat boring. But with the sun shining, the roof stowed, the wind in the hair made up for that. In some of the villages along the way, the sound of 2 MGBs approaching was unmistakable. Locals would come out and wave at us.

Paris in the morning is special. The Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile and the bridges over the Seine are sights to behold. Bourges, Limoges through Toulouse heading for a sightseeing tour of Andorra. The driving through the Pyrenees mountains is quite addictive.

We arrived at the pre-planned campsite “El Toro Azul” around 3pm in the afternoon. A few metres from the beach, the site was ideal. The facilities were basic, but then they were everywhere in those days. We did plenty of sightseeing, venturing as far as Barcelona to the south, which was quite congested, even in ’71. Many evenings were spent in Lloret de Mar, back then it was known for its nightlife. It turned out to be a great holiday, the 3 s’s. Sun, Sea and S-s-s-s-angria. Ah ha….. I know what you were thinking……

So, here is where I digress for a bit. Me and Helen had prepared in depth for this trip. Back then you had to apply for an international translation of your driving licence, a Green Card extension to your car insurance. We took the precaution of AA 24-hour International Recovery, a complete service and new exhaust on the car. Now being somewhat of an enthusiastic mechanic, my MGB was in superb fettle. A week or so before departure I heard a feint tinkling from the gearbox. The gearbox was removed and rebuilt with all-new roller and needle bearings. There was no way I was going to break down. Would you believe over the whole trip we achieved over 30 miles to the gallon and we didn’t have overdrive! I shudder to think now but stuff was stowed everywhere in and on the car. Even the spaces under the wings and in front of the radiator were stocked with spare parts I thought I might need as well as tools.

Now for my pal Bernie things were a bit different. His decision to accompany us was somewhat late in the day. He only just managed to get his papers sorted in time. His MGB Roadster was a 1964 and to put it frankly was just not in as good condition as mine. I don’t even think he serviced it before the trip. But hey ho, what the heck, throw some clothes in a rucksack, just pile in and go….That was Bernie.

Back to the story. On the last but one day of the holiday we decided to meet up in Lloret. The chaps went off before us, we had some packing to sort. Later we went to meet them. They were in the agreed parking lot, but John was nowhere to be seen and asked where he was. Bernie said “He’s just walked over that way; hang on I’ll give him a shout.” Bernie got out of his MG. He held on to the windscreen, put one foot on the car door sill and was about to stand up on it. As he crouched slightly to launch upwards, his other foot, which was on a metal water soakaway, slipped and all his weight went on that sill. He fell over into the car and hit his head on the gear lever. But more ominously there was a loud metallic crunch. His car sill had broken in half [almost].

Fortunately, his head banging didn’t hurt too much but his worry was his MGB. We parked up and went back to help. We found Bernie, sat on the ground, obviously seeing stars, mumbling “What the heck am I going to do?” He had found that he couldn’t shut the door. The body had sunk and a crack appeared in the floor. After discussing the alternatives, which included our lack of funds, there was only one thing to do. We jacked the car up to shut the door and just carry on regardless.

OMG, we had to stifle our laughter. To cut the story short, that really put the muckers on his holiday. He knew a big repair bill was in the offing. We took on board much of their luggage. We left at 12:15 on Thursday 24th and got to Calais at 11pm Friday. When loading the cars on the 8.15am ferry we, and some crew had to lift Bernie’s car over the small ramp steps to get it on board. What Bernie omitted to tell us was that each time we stopped on the journey he took a peek at the floor; the crack was gradually approaching the tunnel. We got Bernie home safely and arrived home at 3.30 pm totally tired out and slept the rest of the afternoon on the settee.

What a superb holiday! I can’t remember ever laughing so much. But there is a moral here:

The PAIN in the BRAIN is caused mainly by the DRAIN.

OK, I’ll get my coat. ©Keith Belcher 2020

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Nostalgia – 1970 Ford Cortina 1600 GT

Our very special 1970 Ford Cortina 1600 GT comes with a lot of history and a very personal local story. Richard, the car’s previous owner tells this story below in his own words:

“My stepdad bought the car new from Pat Keebles in March 1970. He traded in a MK1 Cortina GT for it as it was only a 2-door car and he wanted a 4-door car.  I was 10 years old when he bought it and really enjoyed sitting in the back on days out. 

He had not had it long when he went out 1 evening and got to the crossroads at Saxmundham to cross over to go to Leiston. It was just about dark and as he went to cross he spotted a shadow on his right, stopped and then bang a young girl on a moped with no lights on, hit the car dead centre of the 2 offside doors and her helmet hit the roof. Needless to say, she was not hurt, just a few bruises but the car had to have the 2 doors replaced.

It was a great car. He used to paint oil & grease on the chassis every year, which is why it is so solid. It was an everyday car for many years until he got a modern car. Then the GT was only used on weekends. I think that is where I got the bug for a MK2 Cortina having had a few 1600Es myself. The last 1600E I had, I kept for 30 years. We used to go to many classic car shows together; my E and my dad’s GT, they were great times but I was never allowed to drive the GT.

I could clean it for him & check the levels but not drive it so after he passed away I drove it for the first time and it was amazing, it drove better than my E.

The GT still has its original interior with no rips as he had seat covers on it from new & still has the original engine and running gear. If you look at the top of the front screen it still has its original GT sticker from new and the same as the GT sticker on the glove box.

I decided, in 2019, to have the GT restored so it had a bare metal respray and 2 new rear arches. When they cleaned all the old 50 years oil & grease off the chassis it was like new and only needed 2 small areas of rust done. It looked amazing when it was done but sadly, after I got the car back, my wife got ill and sadly passed away. We always went to car shows together so I did do a couple of shows on my own but it was not the same and I lost interest, so that is why I decided to sell it.

I came and saw Gordon and he loved the car so he ended up buying it. I do miss it very much but I have no one to pass it on to so it was a hard decision to sell it.

I hope whoever wins it the second time around will cherish it as my dad and I did and yes I will buy a ticket, as you never know I could win it back again. If you want to pass my name on to the new winner I would gladly give them as much information about the GT as I can.”

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3 responses to “Nostalgia – 1970 Ford Cortina 1600 GT”

  1. Peter Morris avatar
    Peter Morris

    What a lovely story of the history of this beautiful car, but sad to hear that your wife passing away took away the enjoyment of attending shows (although I do understand the sentiment). I bought tickets for this car before I read this background story. I promise that if I win it I will cherish it as much as you and your father has, and, when the time comes, I will pass it on to my son. Best wishes.

  2. Simon Boone avatar
    Simon Boone

    Richard, You have nothing to worry about. I will look after this car no expense spared. I have a big garage where she will be very happy and I look forward to next spring/summer when I can take her to the rallies and shows in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

    1. richard chambers avatar
      richard chambers

      Hi Simon thank you i hope you enjoy the GT as much as my dad and i did i hope you have lots of fun and memories with the car and if you need anymore history on the car then please get in touch it was a very popular car at shows mainly my dad won best in show 1 year then i won best in show a few years later . and if you want to join the cortina 1600E and cortina mk 2 club then get in touch with them as the GT had been in the club for many years and have a lot of shows they attend in your area the GT was going to be on there stand at the nec but it was to far to travel from suffolk anyway i hope you have fun in her and if you want you can send me some photos of her new home as i am on face book would be nice to see her in her new suroundings . take care Simon

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A Cortina Returns

Our stunning 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT is back and will soon be going live one more time on the Bridge Classic Cars Competitions website.

It actually never really left us, although it was won a little while ago. Unfortunately, the lucky winner had some car trouble with his daily vehicle so asked if we would be interested in buying the vehicle back. He was a big Cortina enthusiast so it certainly wasn’t an easy decision for him to make. However, it was an easy one for us as we loved the car so added it to our personal collection.

After much deliberation, it has been decided that our Cortina will be available to win again very soon. This means that you have one more chance to become the proud owner of this beautifully restored nostalgic classic.

Before it goes live though, classic car technician Jonn has been giving it a checkover. While doing so, he fitted a new distributor, before test driving.

Entry Is Now Open

Our 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 has been through its Bridge Classic Cars workshop inspection and the team is happy to say it is now ready to be won through our competitions website.

This nostalgic classic car has only been owned by one family from new and went through restoration work a few years ago.

So many people have a lot of memories surrounding Ford Cortinas and this is your chance to win one of your own.

Tickets for the draw are available here.

Ford Cortina Thermostat Housing

Our 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT had its thermostat housing removed by classic car technician Paul recently.

Once Paul had removed the housing he was able to drill out a broken stud before reassembling everything with new parts where they were required.

Our MK2 Cortina will go on to be a competition car at Bridge Classic Cars Competitions. Following the success of our previous Cortina, we are expecting this incredible example to be a very popular car.

Just Arrived – 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT

Another nostalgic vehicle has arrived at the Bridge Classic Cars workshop. This time it is our 1970 Ford Cortina MK2 1600 GT.

It will go through a thorough inspection and assessment with our team of classic car technicians before a plan for its future is put together.

Whatever happens with this classic car, it certainly is an eye-catching one.