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In the mid seventies, when I was looking for my first real MG, I went to view a TA for sale in the North East. The vendor was on a property that had been a chicken farm, I think. Each wooden hut, about ten in all, contained one or two MG's in various states of disrepair. One large hut had five inside, a TC belongings to a US serviceman who had never come back for it, an M up on blocks, 2 TD wrecks and a four seater tourer. What's that? I said. Very rare he replied It's an F Type . It was for sale but at twice the price of the TA and 6 cylinders of OHC complication didn't appeal to an inexperienced youth, so I left it. I left the TA as well, it wasn't worth the £600 asking price. Haven't times moved on?
Two days later I bought my first proper MG, EML 386, from a dealer in Manchester. Restoration and seven years of MG bliss followed. The family grew and a four seater became a necessity, the need was met by a Morris 8 Tourer. This was a super old car, Marilyn's favourite, but I had a hankering for a four seater MG.
I tried the man in the N.E. he still had his F Type, but now considered it to be roughly equivalent in value to the national debt, no good. A J1 was advertised near Lincoln, a bit of research showed the J1 to have the same body as an F Type, but only a four cylinder engine. I decided this was near enough, JO7230 became mine in 1983.
The car wasn't in bad order, a coat of paint and a bit of tidying being all that was required. The only real problem, in my eyes, was the fact that the car had a P Type engine. I decided to swap for the correct J Type, on the grounds that I fancied rebuilding an OHC engine, something I was no longer frightened of doing. I arranged to swap some parts with Barrie Dean in Nottingham. One night I visited Barrie's workshop to do the deal, under restoration at that time Barrie had an F Type. That was my second sighting.
During the J Type engine rebuild I discovered that my J1 had been owned by Edmond Hock, up here in Cumbria in the early seventies. I contacted Edmond, now living near Preston, and arranged to go and see him for a chat and some engine bits. During my visit, I saw what I thought was an Austin 7 body next to his greenhouse. What's that? said I. Came the reply oh!., that's very rare, it's an F Type Salonette, the rest of it's in the greenhouse. So it was, all there, but dismantled, standing in the greenhouse. Dry stored I suppose. This was my third sighting. On enquiring if it might be for sale I was informed I was too late, it had been sold to an old friend of Edmond's near his home in Workington. It's still there and it's still in bits, I know because I tried without luck to swap some spares this month, but more of that later.
The J1 was a great little car, it served us well, but the children were getting bigger, so was I, in fact I still am! Eventually, I decided to venture off into the vintage world. The J1 and the Singer Le Mans I owned were liquidated, the proceeds being ploughed into the purchase and restoration of a 12/50 Alvis, a car that I still own. During the last ten years the only F Types I have seen are the four seater owned by Barrie Dean, already mentioned, which I have seen several times at rallies, particularly Glamis Castle. I also recall seeing a delectable Stiles bodied 2 seater on television, driven by the equally delectable, so Marilyn says, Nigel Havers.
Whilst these were the only complete cars I have seen in the past 10 years there has been a recurring glimmer of hope. Two of my friends John Hallas and Tony Knowles have been passing between them a bare F Type chassis, sadly missing its front offside spring hanger and therefore apparently anonymous, both have owned it twice and neither have had the time to really do anything with it. The frame was originally acquired by John, in the mid eighties, from a Mr Taylor, living at the time near Carlisle. Mr Taylor had recently bought a D Type in quite good order from a local timber merchant, with the D Type had come an assortment of MMM spares including what was thought to be a J Type chassis frame. Mr Taylor had no use for the frame, so he was happy to pass it on to John, who would then have enough bits to make another J2 to accompany his own JB2198. It was only when the chassis was being loaded into a transit van for the journey home that anyone noticed it looked a bit long. So the anonymous F Type frame arrived here in the South Lakes. It has been threatened with being made into a special and with being cut down to J proportions over the years, but I suppose its anonymity has preserved its integrity. Earlier this year the frame changed hands once more between John and Tony as a swap for some work by Tony on John's latest passion, a newly acquired and magnificent Triumph Southern Cross. Tony hinted to me in September that he might be persuaded to part with the frame, by the end of October it was mine, so 20 years on I had become an F Type owner, well, sort of.
So what do I do now? How much of it have I got? How can I identify it? What am I going to do with it? Back to have a chat with John Hallas, yes he has more bits that actually belong to the F Type, a bulk head and various brackets, rear dampers and a brake pedal are easily located in John's stores. These all actually belong to the frame but from the collection of bits also emerges an F Type exhaust manifold in perfect order. Where on earth did you get that from, John says I, I bought it off you came the reply. I cannot remember owning this, I can only assume it was too cheap to leave on a stall at some long forgotten Beaulieu. A repairable J2 radiator and shell are made available either to be swapped or used on the car if an F Type shell cannot be found. Back to Tony Knowles, who had found some springs and engine vertical drive bits and pieces. John rang, he had found the phone number for Mr Taylor, who had moved into the South Lakes area and was thought to still have the D Type. Contact was quickly made and a warm welcome received, Aye, lad, I still have it, yes there are some bits and pieces, but I don't know what. Come across and have a cup of tea and a chat .
Two days later, I was there, Mr Taylor showed me his prize winning pedigree bull and his pride and joy, a low mileage Triumph 2000 TC. Past the barking dogs, round the black wrapped bales of cattle feed, open the barn door, it's in here, lad . There stood the D Type, what a mess, body off, flat tyres, covered in 12 years of filth and pigeon droppings. Bits of MMM were all over the floor covered in dust, rust and straw, near one door was a 12 high heap of MG wheels. Mr Taylor pointed out a heap of bits under a tarpaulin, these were bits removed from the D Type, in among them, the correct 3 speed gearbox, with its delightful remote, I had never seen one before. If that was there then what was in the rolling chassis? Mr Taylor said that they had thought a 4 speed box might suit the D Type better, there had been one with its own gearbox, particularly if I rebuild it and gave him a handful of gold in exchange.
A poke about amongst the rubbish on the floor revealed the F Type brake cross-shaft and some more chassis fittings and a vertical dynamo. Sadly, this has proved to be 6 volt and is only use as a swap. We struck a deal that I would restore a set of wheels in exchange for the spare set. Asked if there was anything else about, Mr Taylor replied that he thought there was a back axle in one of the out buildings but that it was inaccessible as the yard was full of cattle feed. Not to be thwarted in the quest for bits I persuaded Mr Taylor to let me clamber over the mountain of black plastic, I was rewarded with the discovery of a complete back axle. After rubbing at the years of muck on the diff casing, the correct F Type ratio 9/43 was revealed, a surfeit of success. Happily I made my way home. John Hallas rang that night, how much would I pay for an F Type engine? Terry Bone was advertising one for £4,000, down to earth with a bump. I rang Terry Bone, he sent up some photos, yes it was an F Type, yes it was a runner, no it was not totally complete and yes it was £4,000. I decided that this was too expensive for me at this early stage and I replied to Terry to this effect.
During the drive home I decided to bite the bullet and invest in Mr Bone's engine. I got home and consulted the oracle, Marilyn. Yes, it he had some bits, a block, a head, a crank and other odds and ends, all for less than a grand. This was more like it, the next day we were at Barry Walker's emporium near Stratford-Upon-Avon, the deal was done. I have always been a little wary of Barry Walker, his reputation goes before him, but he has constructed an excellent professional set up at Stratford and dealers will at least deal.
A sump came from Barry Bone, a rocker cover from Mr Hymas of Octagon Sports Cars. The rest of the engine and some unobtainable rare spares came from a source which cannot be revealed. My friend John came good with a front axle and steering box. Mechanically, I was more or less there.
What to do with it all? The Stiles body on the telly always to my mind as being extremely attractive. Oxford and Cambridge Blue are a much admired colour scheme, entirely in keeping with the early 30's. Where would I find a Stiles bodied F Type to measure up and photograph to make a replica? I rang Harry Crutchley to ask his advice. No problem, says Harry, says Harry, there is one within 70 miles of you. Harry gave me a name and a phone number and a week later I met a gentleman who is the curator of a private car collection; mainly MG, I was ushered into an air conditioned, de-humidified building. There's the Stiles he said just help yourself to photos and measurements My fifth sighting was the car from the TV series of 1987. Marilyn has now sat where Nigel Havers sat. I was surprised at the length and narrowness of the car when seen in the flesh, but the balance and subtlety of the styling left me in no doubt that this is the car to have.
The question of identity of the chassis is all important if one is to at least get an age related registration number in due course. As stated earlier, my F Type chassis is missing its front offside dumb-iron casting, hence no chassis number. The bulkhead guarantee plate had long since vanished. Thoughts of the car assuming a lost identity entered my head, but were discarded as being unfair if the real car ever appeared, I was stuck. Someone suggested Have a look at the D Type, see if it has got your dumb-iron . Why this should happen I don't know, but the next time I was at Mr Taylor's I scraped the paint off the D Type dumb-iron, Bingo! Hello FO542. I can only assume that the reason my F Type was bought, was to provide a dumb-iron end for the presumably damaged one on the D Type.
Back to Harry Crutchley, did he have records to identify FO542? Harry was unable to offer any real hope of this but a week later he was able to confirm that my F Type had originally been a Salonette, new on 15th March 1932 and originally registered PJ4659. A remarkable piece of detective work, thanks Harry.
So that is the situation as I write this on Boxing Day. I have nearly all the mechanical bits of the car, I know what I am going to do with it, know what colour it will be and I know I will at least get an age related number, if not the cars original registration number.
I have been staggered at the speed with which I have been able to gather bits for the car that was fairly rare, even when new 64 years ago.
I count myself as being lucky in having friends and contacts who have been prepared to help a fellow enthusiast, so much of our hobby is now tainted by the huge prices our cars command, but I am delighted to report genuine finds can still be made without spending a fortune and that the spirit of the old car world is still alive and well.
All that is left to do is rebuild my F Type. See you in a couple of years.
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