A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Monday 1.1.68

By about 9 am at home I took the head off Mini ready to take to Auto Welder for repairs, then headed off surfing in the Singer-Chevy.  Surf was poor, and the day an average summer’s day, 1968 was not showing any signs of what may come.

Boys and their cars

On the Sydney trip Darryl’s stories of his hotting up of his Dad’s Morris Minor 1000.  He put a quarter race cam in and twin Carbies, ‘twin SUs’. 

Darryl’s dad’s Morris Minor 1000.

Well, that was the go I had the need for more speed, and while your about it have the head ported and bigger valves fitted all resulting in quite a lot of work done to the head, a ‘race’ camshaft and twin SUs.

By the trip to Cummins, the Mini had quite a bit of work needed for the motor.  I was performance mad and needed to follow the contemporary hot-up theory of the time.  Modify the head, bigger valve port the head shave it down to give higher compression, extractors big exhaust.  I had Chris of Write Street Speed Shop do the head, his first attempt he cut through an oil gallery and used soft solder to fit it.  “I don’t like the look of that,” a mate said, “you should take it to Auto Welders and get that welded properly.”  With that advice, I took it to the Auto Welders they brazed it up.  They fixed it as per instruction however their advice was not to use the head as it may not have enough metal to hold the compression and the head was shaped thinner on one end than the other. 

Back to Chris, he had a Sprite head he would exchange. 

A tail of buyer beware and thanks to Chris for not fobbing me off. 

First of many lessons to be learned. 

The second lesson came after the Cummings trip, the valves in the head were either low quality BMC valves or the engine tune was extremely lean causing the valves to burn out.  Back to Auto Welders to have the values Stellited and Stellite inserts in the head.

The Mini the Crash

First Crash.  On the way to work one Saturday morning, driving down Regency Road, approaching the Torrens Road tee junction, slowing to a stop.  I look right, sighted an oncoming Holden FC sedan, then looked left, clear, and began to move off only to look back and see the FC right there in front of me, BANG, I hit the FC in the left rear door dogleg and rear guard.  I had not made it into the intersection, so I got out and surveyed the damage, then the driver of the FC came over with a nicely written statement of what I had done wrong demanding I sign it.  What! 

Exchange details and away off to work.  There the other Panel Beaters examined the job, John suggested I get his father to do the work; he has a Crash shop and knows what is needed, ‘OK’.

Well, the lessons of this story were:

1. Always check the road ahead is clear before you drive off. 

2. Never trust an Indicator light flashing on the other vehicle.  The FC driver had put his indicator light on, indicating he was about to turn Left.  However, he was not turning Left into Regency Road, oh, no he was turning left into the Garage on the other side of the intersection, hence he was slowing but not turning as I had assumed   Band, Bugger, Bum, Bum. 

One good thing, I had the panel shop spray the roof white over the green body.

Second Crash.  Yet another intersection and yes, I did not give way to the Right.  Poo, I had seen his approaching lights and tried to stop but alas I was traveling down a hill, the road was wet, covered with gravel on the intersection, so I slid to a stop right in front of the oncoming Zephyr, BANG crunch to Mimi’s Right-hand door.  Darryl my passenger went flying into the rear-view mirror, after the crash he would wear the seat belt when in the Mini in the future. 

Other advice he offered, suggested I would have been better to accelerate through rather than try to stop.  Yes, more lessons are to be learned.

Third Crash.  Did someone say things come in threes?  It was the night of Anne’s 21st birthday party, held on a chicken farm East of Bolívar.  On the way home, I was heading south toward the intersection of Main North Roads at Bolívar, turned into Main North Road to see two sets of headlights coming at me.  A chap in a Valiant had chosen that time and place to overtake another car just as I turned into the roadway, I kept turning and then bang! 

The Valiant side-swiped the Mini from front to back.  I leaped out after checking my passenger was OK, OK, yes, then off after the Valiant driver who was being attended by several men.  Exchange of details, then back to the Mini.  Tow Trucks, two of them were there already; no, I don’t want a tow.  No, I really don’t want a tow.  Then drove back to Anne’s place to leave the Mini and get a lift back with  Ian.

Hit Front to back
From the rear (checkout Home made Surf rack)

Lessons to be learned.  Never assume the road ahead is yours, always check first.

But the tail does not end there. I put the Mini in for repair with the Local BMC dealer. Repair was a very loose word. Yes, they repaired the damage to look OK!

The paint finish was very orange peal, not smooth like the original. They (Crash repairs said the Assessor) criticized previous repairs, (but, but it looked like it had never been repaired! Could not say about this Repair, A))

The driver’s door Lock key didn’t fit, and no replacement was offered. The interior trim did not match the original. The Chrome side moulding had a KINK at the rear wheel opening!)

All in all, it was one of those repairs that if I wanted it done that ruff I’d done it myself. (2nd-year apprentice).

Yes, Lessons learned 1. don’t buy into criticism of the way the car is damaged find another repairer. Lesson 2. Inspect the completed job and only accept it if you are satisfied

I have comprehensive insurance on my car for Comprehensive repairs done to the new car or better condition.

Leave a comment to continue the story

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Explore other stories

Drive in
A potted history of Cars new and used available after World War 2 While by 1939 around one in four South Australian families had a car – now likely to be a sedan rather than the canvas-roofed tourer of previous decades – the Great Depression and