A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Singer 9 Concept cont.

Singer-Chev Construction the sarger continues

Conception of the SingerChevy Surf Chaser

Conversion of a Legend to yet another’s Legend

The group of lads Ian, Tony, Phill, Dyke, Ralston and others, introduced me to “the Wreckers.”  Wow!   What a place, a field of dreams, all those cars there, abandoned, waiting for a man, boy, with a vision, in this case in need of a plan.  A 1929 Chevrolet four-door sedan body sitting there without a Chassis, engine or gearbox.  I could see a Surf Chaser, not a woody, no but, a hot rod style Surf Chaser.  I struck a deal, got Dad’s 6’x4′ trailer and picked up the body the following week.  This was 1963 work progressed well into 1965 the challenges were many and the success in solution heartening, more so when, before too long the car hit the road.

Singer9 chassis married to Chev 4-door sedan body.

Construction techniques and other challenges.

From pulling the Sports car body off the chassis and welding tubes together to replace the timber frame, mounting the Chevy body and fixing it to the chassis.  I was into it, like a man possessed, making an aluminium gearbox cover by welding scraped aluminium 3mm plate with the new-fangled Mig welder.  Fitting, and riveting aluminium sheets to the roof, was a task a friend said “it needed 3 men to do that”, well I managed by myself, rivets evenly spaced and in line,  job well done, establishing the legend,  I was worth three men. 

Legends are born often out of one event.

Rearview depicts the fuel tank lower rear panel and the planning of the Box

Innovative windscreen fixing, not a rubber moulding, not with angle-formed strips and putty, oh no I had fibre glass and resin at hand so I glued it in with fibreglass strips.  A forerunner to the modern windscreens glued with a rubberised bead.

Trunk-styled steel box constructed from scrape found in the shed, mounted on the back bumper brackets, providing boot space. 

Design fault number 1. There was a modification needed to an ingenious top shelf designed to hold cans of foodk However after a shake down run we discovered the cans moved while travelling, touching the electrical connection to the rear light, and shorting out the lights. 

Design fault number 2.  The petrol filler cap mounted very low down presented great difficulty in filling the fuel tank.  The solution remove the low tank and fit two four-gallon drums in a box on the back. 

No fuel gauge, not a problem until the first and last time it ran out of petrol. So annoyed I completely lost my rag.

The Box at the back

The front seats were Triumph Herald, these seats had a pin that when remove the seat lay back.  They could be good for sleeping in the car when away surfing. 

The rear seat came with the Chevy body.  I did not get around to lining the interior, with no door linings, and no hood lining.  No optional extras, and no mod cons.

The SingerChevy, Surf Chaser, did several trips to Daley Heads surfing beach, hitting the sand running. 

As an everyday driver, it was economical, and reliable to a point, although, well, in the early days it had a tendency to break rear axles. 

The first time I had been out upon returning home I did a U-turn out front I noticed a strange little noise.  Getting out I found the left rear wheel was hanging on by one of the four studs, a gasp, how close was that to coming off altogether!  After almost losing a wheel and the second broken axle, I decided on changing the differential.  I had sometime earlier noticed 10-inch Mini Minor wheels would fit on the Singers axles, hence 14 inch Morris Minor wheels did as well, therefore I bought a Morris Minor 1000 differential from the local wreckers, $4 on the 29th Jan 67. 

Minor diff had a wider track required Rear guard extension

The Minor diff had a wider track than the Singer’s track, this requiring extending the rear guards out 4 inches to cover the wheels.  Along with a higher ratio than the Singer’s, resulting in a lowering of the engine revs may have achieved more miles to the gallon.

The most memorable of the breakdowns, was one night Ian and I had been out when on the way back ran out of petrol.  We found a phone box (no Mobiles then) call Dad to assist.  He came in his new HR Holden wagon, 186 (bought June 1967) hooked up a tow rope to tow us back home. 

Dad always said “when you’re towing another car the front car does the pulling and the rear car does the stopping”.  Well! we are off, Dad put the foot down and the big 186 sprang into life, we were going like a bat out of hell.  What’s more, when approaching a stop sign, the Singer had pathetic brakes, Dad was hitting his power-assisted disc brakes, Ian and myself absolutely pissing ourselves laughing it could have been very serious. 

Thanks, Dad, Dads go the extra mile (per hour), for their kids.

Some notable quirks of the car, steering the car was a treat, it had quite a bit of slop, almost two-thirds of a turn slop and when braking one needed to guess the camber of the road to calculate which way the steering would pull.  One night after work I was taking Graham home, driving along Torrens Road as we were approaching the Hanson road intersection another road user caused me to jump on the brakes, turning left as we were, Graham said let’s go to the Finsbury pub for a beer.  The sharp turn was a result of me not catching the steering, as I broke hard, Graham and I had a good chuckle over the excellent mauver, brake-turn-left for the Pub.

SingerChevy encounters

Driving through Warooka a Policeman took a shine to the bright red surf chaser, one or two came up to check her out.  A very notable quirk was it effective hand brake, with firstly the local Policeman at Warooka on Yorks Peninsula, stopping our surf convoy to check the cars for roadworthiness.  The SingerChevy thought the hand brake was not operating, I did protest and he challenged me to a test by parking the car on a slope and it he could push the car and it not move or would stop when he stopped pushing I could go.  Hey, no problem, I even left the motor running to show it was out of gear push as he might, the car would move a little and when stopped pushing it stopped moving.  Well done Singer-Chevy, we’re done and left with no more to do.  Till the next Policeman shortly thereafter

The SingerChevy had prevailed the first encounter with an eager Policeman outside Warooka when a week or two later yet another Policeman.  David and I were driving back from Victor Harbour after a day out surfing, coming down Tappleys Hill a Policeman driving a Valiant station wagon complete with a loudspeaker on top, came up alongside and garbled a message to who knows, what knows, then he sped off down the hill.  Approaching the bottom of the hill we noticed the Policeman standing by his car looking towards our approach, he did not wave just watched at us going by.  Then he sprang into action his feet going ten steps to the inch, leapt into his car and off after us.  He caught up with us on Marion road and indicated he wanted us to pull over.  “Didn’t you hear me telling you to pull over,”  ‘no’?  Well, I want to do a road worth check on your car.  He began by asking this and then he asked after the Dipswitch, I replied “oh! under the bonnet”, rear reflectors, I replied “integral with the light lens”, wiper, I replied, “hand operated”.

Hmmm.  “I’m defecting you for the dipswitch and the wipers, and the tail light and reflectors”.  What year is this car”? he asked  “1929”.  Checking his book of regulations, 1929, no dip switch required, no motor-driven wipers required, reflector, I pipped up they are Land Rover lights.  “OK.  The hand brake is defective”, I pipped up a Policeman on Yorks checked it last weekend and OKed it.  “Well then if I can push it and it fails to stop I’ll defect you”.  Push, push, push stop. “OK you need to get that fix I won’t charge you this time”.  He drove off.  “What was all that about”? David said It was the three-inch exhaust pipe out the left-hand side.  The miss guided Policeman thought it would make excessive noise, but no such luck, I had a standard muffle squashing all the noise, and we laughed all the way back to David’s place.

The photo: Dave standing right rear of the SingerChev, I’m atop Graham’s Zephyr, the exhaust on the roof pulled off by the rough roads, Photo was taken after surviving Police encounter No1.
The Group 67
From the top Graham, Dassie, Lyn, Elbows,
next row Loon, Dave,
Trevor (hanging on the door), his friend, Derrick the Mascot, Tony, and me (Dickie)

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