I took that manual to bed and read it cover to cover; I could probably recite the chapter on rebuilding the engine by heart. I had very little money so the only new parts I could afford was a full gasket set so I stripped down all the mechanical components to clean and rebuild them. I read that blocks and cylinder heads should be cleaned before rebuilding so I rigged up a steel trough of caustic soda and put the family camping gas cooker under it and boiled them. I probably took five years off my life with the fumes but boy were the block and head spotless when I extracted them. This was all carried out in a little wooden garage with an extension lead dragged out of the dining room window. I could only get Radio 2 on my mum’s radio so this mechanical mayhem was accompanied by Jimmy Young playing ‘we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun’ as I snapped off yet another rusted bolt inside the block.
I learned what stud extractors were for as in my youthful enthusiasm I tightened everything to the max until I read the section on torque settings in my beloved Haynes manual. I then purchased a dreadful torque wrench which was probably no more accurate than me swinging on my socket set, but the bolt snapping definitely reduced. I then read an advert for Hammerite in Hot Car magazine so all the mechanical components and engine bay were liberally coated in this new green dimpled revolution.
At this point my ever encouraging father offered to order a skip to take away the ‘kit form’ Anglia in his shed but this made me all the more determined to get it back on the road again. I ground the valves in until my hands bled; I permanently stunk of Duckhams as I liberally coated everything as I rebuilt the engine and gearbox as per the Haynes manual photos. I then handpainted her in dark blue, removed the grill and fitted two spotlights in the radiator opening. I removed the dash, made up a plywood template, covered it with fur and inserted various Smiths round instruments found in Jags and Humbers at the local scrappy.
Then came that great day and she started up first time - albeit doing a good impression of a tractor as I had forgotten to tighten up the exhaust downpipe. I passed my test and then drove thousands of miles all over the UK. I outran a Police Escort down the side of Windermere, drove through blizzards in Scotland and Cumbria, where only having 37bhp and skinny crossplies was probably an advantage. On one occasion my mate Dave and I were caught in a severe snowstorm so had to park up in the middle of nowhere. The Anglia saved our lives as we cooked up a chicken & mushroom Pot Noodle using hot water drained from the radiator.
We used to ‘race’ other lads in Spitfires, Minors, Vivas etc and our secret weapon was my mate Dave who used to lean out the passenger window hanging onto the gutter like a sidecar racer to stabilise the wee beastie through Cumbrian corners. The ‘blue bomber’ somehow passed another MOT before the aforementioned fibreglass spring hangers were discovered. These were welded up by ‘Mad Jimmy’ for 15 quid and another 12 months life was breathed into the old girl. By then I had graduated to a Mk2 Cortina and had given the Anglia to my sister. It had survived unbelievable abuse in my hands but somehow it died in her care, so with tears in my eyes I drove it on that last drive to the wreckers yard. A part of me was crushed that day along with my Anglia.