A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Lets buy a car for Tony

Riley 2,5 Pure British Pukker s great first car.

Dodge 1935

Tony had been looking for a car, it was considered he needed his own car by the Group.  So one Saturday morning the lads took Tony out to find him a car.  What car we were looking for was not clearly defined however pretty soon we found in the back of a car-yard at Main North Road Collinswood, a  magnificent 1935 four-door Dodge sedan, a dark blue, leather interior with a back seat that had not ever been sat on. 

1935 Dodge a car for Tony?

This car was a beaut, it was the car to buy the idea for a lad called Surfboard Holmes, with a wrack on top it would be a surf chaser of the best sort.  It was purchased, by whom I’m not sure, now it was too good for Tony, it was towed home to Ian’s place. 

Towing it home was an adventure in itself, the motor would not start, no matter how many times we tried. The battery was too low in power and attempts to tow start were to no avail.  The journey became more than an adventure, there was a journey within that journey of discovery, revealed when we called at an old, almost ancient service station tucked away in the back streets of Nailsworth.  Stopping for petrol, while standing around waiting we spotted two magnificent Buick limousines of the late 1920s vintage.  Covered in years and years of dust but majestic in stance and complete, almost ready to go, almost. 

The lady attendant there said, the owner would restore the car after he retires, they are not for sale, don’t think they would make a very good Surf chaser either.

The Dodge towed to Ian’s, over the next few weeks Ian and Ralston with some input from Ian’s brother Peter, worked on getting it going.  Peter had spent time working on his Rover engine, adjusting the tappets and such, very interesting, things he experienced. 

The Dodge Engine was a flat head six, side valve with bigger spark plugs than the Mini.  Spark plugs that resisted all attempts to unscrew.  If the Dodge ever got going I have no memory of the event, Ian made a decision to sell the Dodge, he considered it was too small to be a good surf chaser, barely a four-seater and the group wanted a six-board wrack, it needed to seat six and more. 

That was another car after it was sold, no is was not suitable for Tony!

I regretted not making an offer to buy.  It would have made a neat small street rod, four-seater, with a classic look to it.

Riley saloon 1951

Yet another car for Tony, a Riley.  One Saturday morning, we were looking through a car yard when the salesman came out to sing the praises of this fine motor car, “the phone rings the extension bell on the side of the Office” the salesman immediately says ” you will need to make your mind up quickly, I’ve had a chap looking to buy this car and that will be him on the phone now”!  What are we to do?  We thinks as he begins to walk hurriedly to the phone in the office, RUN!! Both of us laughed so much we were almost in tears as we hurried away some few years later Tony did buy 2.5 litre  Riley.

Riley 2.5 Litre

Tony all to his credit did go out and buy himself a car.  Not just any car, a Riley two and a half litre.  White, creamy white with a black fabric roof, leather seats four on the floor a real British sporting saloon.  It was the coolest car I had ever seen, smooth to drive, a car you could cruise around in and just be ‘cool’. 

Tony’s Riley was so, so good.  Tony did get to enjoy his Riley for a short time, he, unfortunately, let me borrow the car one time, too many.  A sorry time in my life with cars.

I borrowed it to take my girl home, on the way back I was pulling away from the lights when bang clatter clatter, the car ground to a halt.  Poo, I stopped right near a phone box, I called home and the lad came out to tow the Riley home. 

We got it over the pit in Dad’s garage to survey the damage.  What was it, what had happened?  First, we found the valve on the number 2 cylinder had too much-tapped clearance. 

Adjusting the tappets made no difference.  Clearly something major was wrong.  We pulled the head off, and when we cranked the motor number 2 piston stuck at the top of the cylinder, it was not moving up and down.  Actually, it was the top of the number 2 piston.  The valves, inlet and exhaust were bent, hmmm, that’s not good.

Sunday the following day we contacted Geoff Neil, a machine shop mechanic from workshops, he invited us to bring the head out to his place at Salisbury North.  He removed the valves and with the aid of his lath and a ball pein hammer tapped the values one at a time while they were mounted in the lath and spinning.  Tap, tap, and one more for luck’ there you are straight as a die.  With a suitable tool, he checked the face of the valve and seat to be sure it was true and would seat.  Pretty soon both valves were done and with advice regarding lapping in the seats we were away. 

What happened to Riley? 

Well that’s a sad tail, Tony needed to get a new Piston and in the meantime my Dad wanted the Riley gone, I organized to tow it around to Tony’s and after some considerable time Tony sold the Riley as a none goer. 

A sad tail.  On reflection I can’t understand why we did not get the Riley going, we had the expertise within the group and we were keen to go, however, we failed, failed Tony, failed the Riley and now I feel failed within myself.  Sorry Tony

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