Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Another well known EM being resurrected

I recently had a phone call from Adrian Mancha who has owned his Electron Minor for 30 odd years and is only now getting around to restoring it to its former glory. Many of them seem to languish in a corner for 20 or 30 years before we get the urge to get our hands dirty! Adrian`s car has quite an interesting history in that it was built by Fairthorpe Sports Car Club founder Barry Gibbs, and is only one of four that had a modified kahm style tail fitted and, as far as I'm aware, is the only car with this style of tail still fitted.

The modified tail was an after market modification which used the Cortina mk1`ban the bomb` tail lights to give a totally different look to the car. Barry had a tuned 1340 Ford Classic engine built by the ex-Fairthorpe works manager John Green, and mated it to an MGA 1500 gearbox which gave far greater performance than the 1147 Triumph engines which were fitted to most of the EMs at that time. Adrian informs me that the engine and box are still with the car, which will make it a fun drive once rebuilt. The car also has an interesting hardtop fitted which looks similar to those fitted to the Lenham Sprites; maybe it started life as one then being modified to suit, I hope to speak to Barry at some point in the New year and get a bit more background history to the car.
Adrian has removed the body and is replacing the siderails and beefing up the roll bar mounting points. Hopefully we could see the car out and about in 2011, and I`ll update this post once the car is nearer completion. Watch this space as they say!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

TX Tripper sold!

While surfing the net one evening I stumbled upon an ad for a Technical Exponents (TX) Tripper, cousin to the Fairthorpe. She had been sat disassembled in a lock up for the better part of 30 years. Following a telephone conversation with the owner, during which I discovered the car was way up in Carlisle, we made arrangements to collect the car the next weekend.

After a long five hour journey to the borders of Scotland, we opened a garage door to reveal a rolling chassis surrounded by parts and the car's body suspended above from the ceiling with an inch of dust on it. It took three hours for Sarah and I to put her back together sufficiently to wheel her up onto our trailer.

Anyway she's in traditional 1970s Ford Apollo metallic green (the Tripper not the wife) although her original colour was orange. I have decided to sell her as i am concentrating on the original 50`s and 60`s Fairthorpes.

So, here's the specs:

  • first registered in April 1973
  • comes with Triumph 6-cylinder 1600 engine and a 2000cc engine (seized)
  • solid chassis, no welding required
  • comes with tonneu cover and a hood, but the hood is very tatty and only useful as a pattern for a new one
  • glass fibre body is in generally good condition, has some crazing around one of the rear wheel arches caused by the rope when it was suspended
  • part stainless exhaust system
  • comes with V5 logbook
  • has its sidescreen frames and the uniquely-shaped rollbar
The car has a few negative points:

  • it is missing one seat
  • the rear suspension leaf spring clamping plate is missing (available from any Triumph breaker)
  • carbs are missing from the 1600 engine
  • one rear light unit missing
In summary, this is a rare opportunity to buy a slice of seventies motoring history.

Has to be a bargain at £650 and i can deliver for the cost of my petrol. Price includes a seventies wig and mustache!
Car is now sold.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Video of the Fairthrope Gathering at Stow Maries Aerodrome

It's taken a while to get it together but it's here! This is a very high resolution version of the movie which took almost 19 hours to upload to YouTube. In the meantime Sarah uploaded a low resolution version for those who couldn't wait (15 people couldn't and had viewed it today!) but she has now removed that and replaced it with this version.

If you were one of the people who watched the low-res version, take a few moments to see the high-res version as well. It really is well worth it.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fairthorpe Gathering 2010 report

Having had torrential rain and thunderstorms on Saturday, we were thankfully blessed with reasonably warm but windy conditions for the 2nd annual Fairthorpe Gathering at Stow Maries Aerodrome in Essex.

The aerodrome dates from WW1 but fell into disrepair once the Royal Flying Corps left after the fighting stopped. Russell Savory bought the derelict site several years ago and is now restoring it back to its glory days. Russell started by giving us an overview of the aerodrome's history and plans for its future, followed by a guided tour round the numerous buildings and explanations of their previous uses. Then all the petrolheads piled into Russell's business workshop (RS Performance) for a guided tour of the premises, which houses a number of highly tuned V6 and V8 engines currently being fitted into high performance cars for his customers.

Now, I guess most of you visiting this site want to hear about and see some pictures of Fairthorpes. Hopefully those of you that own ine in bits will be spurred on to get them out of hiding and on the road in time for next year's event!

We had an excellent turnout of twelve cars comprising:

The one-off Formula Junior racing car

Two Coventry Climax powered Electrons

Eight Electron minors

One Rover V8-engined Pathfinder.

Several of the cars were immaculately presented, some were running restorations (mine included!) and special mention must go to Brian Townsend whose ground-up rebuild was there in its rolling chassis stage to show everyone what they are like `with their clothes off!'

A Ginetta G21 and a Jowett Jupiter also turned up, both driven by Fairthorpe fans.

The press turned up from Classic Car Weekly...

The day wouldn't have been complete without awards though. Best Fairthorpe was won by Rob Cobden`s Electron which he recently finished rebuilding ready for next season's historic racing campaign. The other award was for the furthest travelled Fairthorpe, which was hotly contested with three cars coming over 100 miles and all travelling within a total of 10 miles of one another! Rob walked away with that trophy as well. Rumours of him doing two laps of the airfield earlier in the day to bump the mileage up were unfounded!

The day was rounded up by Ron Welsh doing a couple of fast passes in a wheel spinning Junior past the 10 mile an hour signs....tune in later this week for the video of that.

Everyone was kept very well fed during the day with complimentary ham rolls, home-baked cakes, biscuits, and teas and coffees. Several of the cars were leaning noticably as they left at the end of the day due to the occupants' full stomachs (I would like to thank my lovely wife Sarah for the amazing effort that she put in to preparing the feast, it certainly went down well).

More pictures and some movies will be downloaded to the site over the next few days. and if you have any you would like to see featured on the blog please send them to me and I will put them up.

Now: next year's 3rd Annual Fairthorpe gathering will be on a similar date in August somewhere in the midlands to encourage some of the FSCC's more Northern UK owners to participate.

If you have a car in bits, there's no more perfect incentive to finish it up ready for its unveiling to club members next year. So go get stuck in!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Weather update for Sunday's Fairthorpe gathering

Sunny intervals.

[he heaves a sigh of relief - 789 ERO has no wet weather gear yet]

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Fairthorpe gathering 15th August 2010

One week to go until this year's Fairthorpe Gathering at Stow Maries WWI Aerodrome in Essex. The event is open to all Fairthorpe fans, not just owners, so if you have one, had one or want one this event is for you!

At least 13 Fairthorpes are expected on the day, including several racing Electron Minors, the one-off Fairthorpe Formula Junior, a racing climax-engined Electron, and a pair of Pathfinder V8s.

Owner Russell Savory is doing some amazing restoration work of the airfield and has offered to include a guided tour of it as well as a tour of the R S Performance workshops, which house many V6- and V8-engined high performance sportscars.

The postcode for the airfield if CM3 6RN if you need it for your SatNav and cars will be arriving from 10am. If you need any further information contact me on There'll be refreshments available to keep you going and prizes for the best-looking Fairthorpe and the furthest traveled Fairthorpe.

Full pictures and report will be posted the week after the event.

Friday, 6 August 2010

1954 Fairthorpe Atom film


Many thanks to Turner Registrar Russ Filby, who alerted me to this Fairthorpe film on the British Pathe site ( - Don Bennett and friends putting together and test-driving an early Atom.

You can tell it is an early Atom because the headlights are on top of the wings and later Atoms had them built into the wings.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Video of 789 ERO at Castle Combe 1st August 2010

Sarah shot these videos while at the 60th Anniversary event at Castle Combe on Sunday. We were on our way out to do a couple of parade laps during lunchtime. Frank is driving. Also shown in the video are Turners and a Tornado.

And here they are all coming back.

Fairthorpe for sale

In the Fairthorpe Sports Car Club magazine this month Chris Jones is advertising his Electron Minor mkII. If you don't get the magazine, here's a few words about the handsome beast (the car that is not Chris):
  • Good condition, taxed and MOTd
  • Triumph Herald 948cc with twin 1.1/8 su carbs
  • White with black trim
  • Alloy petrol tank and front hubs.
  • Trailing arm rear axle, all rose jointed
  • Magnesium 6" minilite front wheels, 7" alloy rear minilite
  • 3 spare 6" mag wheels, Ford fitting all round
  • Tyres only done 60 miles
  • Mota-lita leather rim steering wheel, good hood and trim.


Saturday, 31 July 2010

Picture of the week: now that's what I call a wedding present!

This Fairthorpe EM is owned by FSCC member Gary Julian. It was bought for him in 1986 as a wedding present from his wife-to-be - he suggests it may have been to keep him in the garage and out of the pub!

The car was first supplied as a kit in 1962 to two brothers and apparently it took them a couple of years to build it as it is registered on a `C` plate. By the time Gary became the owner the car required plenty of TLC. As it was pretty bashed about, he changed the bonnet from the original Electron style one with an opening hatch to a mkII twin vent. That's one of the good points of owning a Fairthorpe Electron Minor - six different bonnet shapes were produced over the years and they can all be adapted to fit any EM. The engine in the car is a Triumph Herald 1147cc engine with twin SU carbs.

Gary will be bringing the car along to the Fairthorpe Gathering on the 15th of August at Stow Maries WW1 airfield in Essex so if you want to take a look at it closer make sure you don't miss the event.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Picture of the week - if you go down to the woods today...

Well actually, if you did go down to the woods today you would be 25 years too late as I found and removed these Fairthorpe EM1 remains from behind a garage in Essex around 1985. I'd had a tip-off that they were there and my source told me the rest of the car had been scrapped.

The rescued panels were in very poor shape, but it just goes to show what may still be lying around. A 1950s fibreglass Ashley was recently discovered lying down the side of a riverbank, where it had lain for many years half in and half out of the water.

You never know what might turn up and where so keep your eyes and ears open!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Picture of the week - Silverstone meeting in 1959

This week's picture is of Frank at the wheel of 789 ERO at Silverstone during the Mid Kent Motor club meeting on May 9th 1959. The car chasing him is a rare Berkeley B105 driven by Ian Mantle.

The picture was taken at Copse corner, which looks a lot different nowadays!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Picture of the week: Fairthorpe Electron Minor kit components

The two images show the components for an Electron Minor kit (minus the bodywork) which was photographed around 1958. All components were new and just required assembly by the amateur constructor, thereby saving purchase tax. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the rear axle has not had its Fairthorpe trailing arm suspension brackets welded on at this point, meaning the axle is as supplied from the Standard Motor Company.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Picture of the week: A Fairthorpe Electron Minor with a difference

The subject this week needed two pictures to do it justice. They were taken in 1986 at the Fairthorpe Sports Car Club AGM, which was held that year at the Stonleigh kit car show.

The car is a 1961 MK2 owned by Brian Jackson. It was bought by a friend of his in 1968 and was originally fitted with a 948cc Herald engine. Over the next few years Brian and his friend gradually modified the car, first fitting it with a 1300 Spitfire engine, then a Triumph Vitesse 6 cylinder and finally the current Dolomite Sprint engine.

The rear suspension, originally the Fairthorpe designed independent set-up, has been replaced with a Ford Escort axle with Dolomite suspension, while the front end has had Spitfire suspension towers fitted. The radiator has been moved back and fitted into the tail section bodywork behind where the passenger seat would have been. Also the car has been fitted with Escort works-style bubble arches, giving the car a much more muscular appearence.

The car was sprinted, hillclimbed and autotested through the 70s and 80s, however from 1972 it was taken off the road and trailered to these events until around the mid 80s. After languishing at the bottom of his friend's garden for many years Brian rescued it and is currently in the latter stages of a restoration. He's hopeful it could be on the road again later this year.

Looking foward to seeing it again Brian...........

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Picture of the week - Atom Convertible and early Electron chassis

According to my records, this picture was taken around 1957 in Chalfont St Peter outside the Fairthorpe works and features an Atom Convertible in the background with an early Electron chassis in the foreground.

The Atom Convertible is either a MkII or MkIII model and will have had either a 348cc or 645cc BSA motorbike engine. The gearbox was an Albion and the car was chain-driven.

The Electron chassis has been fitted with a Coventry Climax 1098cc engine and Triumph TR suspension and steering. Normally the petrol tank sits inside the boot; this one however has the fuel tank under the chassis which may indicate it is a very early car.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fairthorpe gathering 15th August 2010

Attention all Fairthorpe enthusiasts.

On 15th August 2010 we'll be holding a Fairthorpe gathering at Stow Maries WWI Aerodrome in Essex. The event is open to all Fairthorpe fans, not just owners, so if you have one, had one or want one this event is for you! We already have several racing Fairthorpes coming, as well as E.Ms, Electrons and a Pathfinder.

Owner Russell Savory is doing some amazing restoration work of the airfield and has offered to include a guided tour of it as well as a tour of the R S Performance workshops, which house many V6- and V8-engined high performance sportscars.

If you fancy a great day out among like-minded Fairthorpe fans, put this in your diary and then email me on to let me know you're coming. There'll be refreshments available to keep you going and prizes for the best-looking Fairthorpe and the furthest traveled Fairthorpe.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Fairthorpe picture of the week

From now on I'll be publishing a Fairthorpe picture of the week taken from my extensive file of images that I've been collecting. They won't all be of Electron Minors though - there will be Electrons, Zetas, Rockettes, Atoms, Atomota, Electrinas, Trippers, TXs and Pathfinders.

So what is the image this week?

It's 789 ERO taken in August 1959 in the South of France during my parent's honeymoon. Despite being uncommon at that time, Frank and Audrey were amazed to see another Fairthorpe Electron Minor coming the other way on an isolated coast road! Note the lack of indictors on the other car - these were an optional extra in an Fairthorpe Electron Minor kit back then, as were a second windscreen wiper and fibreglass floor pan on the passenger side instead of the very basic wood pan provided!

The registration of the other car is UCG 664 - I wonder what happened to it and where it is now? Any ideas?

If you have any photos of Fairthorpes, feel free to send them across to me in an email and I'll select the best ones for publishing.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Fairthorpe for sale on eBay

There is currently a Fairthorpe Electron Minor for sale on eBay if anyone is interested in taking a punt on a nice little classic kit car. The ad states it is an Electron but we all know better just from looking at it.

Have a look at the eBay ad here

By the way, to the Anonymous commenter who mentioned a Fairthorpe 'barn find' back in March please get in contact with me for a further chat. I've been compiling a record of surviving cars for the last 30 years and would like to find out which one this is.

Rear axle and brakes

As the car had been standing for over two decades, the brakes were going to need replacement parts but I wasn't sure what condition the axle was in because the casing was very grubby and had a lot of surface rust. The rear axle was stripped of its component parts, all of which were checked for damage or excessive wear, cleaned with degreaser and then reassembled with new gaskets. As it turned out the rear axle casing only needed a good wire-brushing, degreasing and a coat of black Smoothrite.New rear wheel cylinders and brake shoes had to be purchased to replace the old worn ones, but the adjusters only needed cleaning and greasing. Assembling the rear brakes and fitting the drums with their retaining screws completed the work on the back axle and it was then fitted to the recently refurbished trailing arms.

rear axle installed

Attention then turned to the front brakes. The car originally had drum brakes, but it was clear these had been replaced with Triumph Spitfire disc brakes by a previous owner to improve braking performance. Unfortunately they were heavily corroded so a new pair of discs were fitted onto the Spitfire hubs and a new set of bearings fitted and packed with Castrol LM grease (high melting point). The brake calipers were partially seized so these had to be dismantled, cleaned, given a coat of black Smoothrite and fitted with new seals. The old pads were kept as they had very little wear and they were attached into the calipers with their pins and R clips. Finally the calipers were fitted onto the hubs, which were in turn attached onto the uprights and the bearings adjusted as per the Haynes Triumph Spitfire manual instructions.

The brake master cylinder was seized and upon stripping was found to have a heavily pitted internal bore so a replacement (0.75 bore) was necessary. The Fairthorpe originally had a master cylinder with a standard-sized reservoir but I decided to fit a larger 60mm diameter reservoir instead because it provides more fluid so there's less chance of the level dropping to critical if a wheel cylinder leaked, a situation that could leave you with no brakes! The new cylinder's operating rod had to be switched with the original Fairthorpe rod to sit the pedals back into the right position - it was far too long and would have positioned the pedals at an impossible angle too close to the driver.

replacement brake master cylinder

The clutch and brake pedal assembly was cleaned using degreaser, painted with black Smoothrite and fresh grease was pumped into the nipples. New pedals were fitted to the pedal assembly, as the rubber on the old ones was perished and worn, but luckily I had a stock of these as they are no longer available. The pedal assembly and master cylinder were then refitted to the chassis and the master cylinder joined to the pedals with a new clevis pin and split pin. New copper brake pipes were run round the chassis to replace the old corroded steel ones while new stainless steel braided flexible pipes replaced the old perished set, and the brass unions cleaned. The brake system was now filled with brake fluid and bled several times to remove any remaining air.
pedal assembly to the right

So now I had a rolling chassis and it was time to fit the floor pans and body shell.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Assembly of the suspension

A lot of the suspension work on 789 ERO had been done when I started the restoration 20 years ago.

Back then the Standard 10 wishbones on the front suspension were stripped and the threaded nuts checked for wear. Some of the worn ones were replaced with better ones sourced from a breaker's yard. The paint was removed from the wishbones and they were repainted with black Smoothrite.

Then I went in for a cup of tea and a Mr Kipling.

Fast forward 20 years and a lot of Mr Kiplings later
, I got back out there and cleaned off the loose and flaking paint and gave the wishbones another coat of Smoothrite (I hasten to add it was a different tin). Trimuph Spitfire uprights were fitted with new top ball joints and the trunnions checked for play (worn trunnions are an MOT failure). To fit the uprights however, they had to be modified.

I had decided to fit disc brakes from Triumph Spitfire instead of Standard Ten drum brakes, but it meant the threaded nuts had to be screwed into the outer end of the wishbones and drilled to take the Triumph Spitfire trunnion bolt. You can use Standard Ten trunnions and screw your uprights into them, but I find for ease of maintenance and reduced wear on the threaded nuts it's better to do it this way.

The trunnions were then filled with EP90 oil. Although some people fill trunnions with grease, I've found this can cause sticking and accelerate their wear and tear. EP90 reduces the risk of this happening. Finally, the stub axle was cleaned, given a coat of black Smoothrite and bolted on.

The front suspension was then bolted to the chassis and I moved on to the rear suspension.

The bushes

The Fairthorpe Electron Minor mk1 rear axle consists of a wishbone and a parallel arm (trailing arms) on either side. At both ends of the parallel arms is a Metalastik® bush, which will invariably need replacing as the rubber splits and perishes and the bolts which hold them in place seize into the bushes.

Before I went for my cup of tea and Mr Kipling 20 years ago I replaced all of the bushes as follows:

1) Those bolts that were seized were cut either side of the bush with a hacksaw. It's a bit of a drawn out job as there's no room to get your hacksaw blade in. Once cut, the trailing arms were removed.

2) The bushes consist of a steel sleeve with rubber inside which houses a steel tube for the bolt to run through. Once the bushes have been in for a few years, it's impossible to just push them out. The easiest way to remove them is to burn the rubber out using a blow torch. Once the rubber is sufficiently weakened, you can knock the centre rubber and steel tube out just leaving the outer casing of the bush.

3) To remove the outer casing of the bush, you need to use a hacksaw blade and carefully cut through the sleeve without damaging the wishbone. Once the cut is made, you can then use a small chisel and knock the sleeve out of the trailing arm.

4) The new bushes can be pushed in using a vice, and it's helpful to put some Copper Ease round the outside to help ease it in.

Doing this job meant that 20 years later all I had to do was inspect the bushes for any splitting or perishing, which thankfully there wasn't as they hadn't been used. The trailing arms were cleaned and painted with black Smoothrite, refitted and the bolts inserted with a coating of Copper Ease to prevent seizing. New Nyloc nuts were then fitted to the bolts.

The shock absorbers

Unfortunately, the shock absobers were totally shot so a large amount of money had to be prized from my fingers for a new set of four Spax shock absobers and springs. Irritatingly, Spax no longer supply springs so I had to source both the springs and shocks through a friend's nephew who regularly has springs made up for his racing cars.

When the springs turned up three or four days after ordering, disappointingly they were too short and had to be sent back. The lovely new shock absobers sat in a box staring at me. More waiting. The next set of springs were thankfully the right size and, once fitted, the shocks were loosely attached to the chassis - the back by just the top bolts as the axle had yet to be fitted, and the front by the top and bottom bolts.

This completed the suspension of 789 ERO. It was then on to the rear axle and brakes.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Refurbishing the chassis

Chassis ready for shotblasting

Once I was satisfied the engine and gearbox fitted ok, the body shell and the running gear were removed to leave a bare chassis. The outriggers and side rails had already been replaced 20 years before, but there were now a couple of areas at the rear of the chassis which had to be cut out and repaired. Two sets of rails were also needed to bolt the seats through, as originally they were only bolted through the fibreglass floorpans with large penny washers to spread the load! Then of course there were the seat belt mounting points to fabricate and weld, which were not present when the car was built.

Once all the welding was complete, it was ready for shotblasting.

I chose not to have the chassis powder-coated at the same time, as it was very expensive and any modifications to the chassis at a later date would require grinding off the (expensive) powder coating and touching up with paint. That would defeat the purpose of having the powder coating in the first place. In addition, the original chassis was silver not black, so I decided to go with a painted silver finish.

The chassis was back within 48 hours and then it was all hands to the pump. It was crucial to get the chassis coated with a rust prevention layer as quickly as possible before the damp started to oxidise the finish. I chose to use a rust prevention system called POR15, which is comprised of two different products:

POR15 Metal Ready, which is a liquid rust converter and etcher
POR15 Silver Rust Prevention Paint

One coat of the Metal Ready was brushed on, left to do its job for a while and then washed off with water.

The shotblasted chassis after washing off the Metal Ready etcher. Note both sides of the chassis now have seat mounting rails welded between the centre and rear outriggers

This produced a slightly alarming sight; rust streaks, but actually this is the way the system is designed to work. The Silver Rust Prevention Paint that follows works better on a slightly rusty surface.

The chassis primed with Silver Rust Prevention Paint. Starting to look a bit sexy now!

Unfortunately though, the prevention paint is not UV-resistant so I had to add a coat of the product Sterling Silver (made by the same manufacturer) to stabilise the finish against sunlight.

The chassis painted with Sterling Silver to make it UV-resistant

So that was the chassis complete. Now I could move on to the suspension and running gear.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The rebuild begins...trial engine fit.

The first part of the rebuild was straightforward: assemble the engine and check that it sat on the engine mounts properly.

The engine minus cylinder head

One should never assume anything is straightforward.

The original engine was a 948cc from a Standard Ten, but this had long since disappeared so I chose to use an engine from a 1300 Triumph Spitfire. Outwardly, it looks very similar to the Standard Ten engine, which is important to me as I want to maintain as much of the original appearance in the engine bay, plus it gives far more performance for modern day motoring.

However, it wasn't going to be a simple job to just drop the engine in. The front plate had the wrong engine mounts, so I had to change the plate for one from a Standard Ten. I had done this swap several times before on an 1147cc Triumph Spitfire engine and there was never a problem. This time was different. Unexpectedly the crankshaft starting fouling on the front plate so I had to grind out the crankshaft hole to make it larger. Also, the engine back plate and gearbox bell housing had to be cut and shaped on either side to clear the chassis rails.

The cylinder head was then removed to check the bores and valves, which were fine, and I took the opportunity to give it a quick decoke to remove the carbon deposits from the pistons and valves. The cylinder head was put back with a new gasket (first picture above), and the head was torqued down to 45lb/ft using the correct sequence for tightening the nuts. I left the valve clearance adjustment until the engine was placed permanently in the car at a later date.

Then I turned my attention to the mounts on the chassis, which I had put in 20 years before with the intention of racing the car with a Ford engine. Now the intention was to keep the car as original as possible and use it only for classic runs and club events, so I fabricated a mounting to take the Triumph engine.

The existing Ford mounts

The new mounts to take the Standard Ten. At this point the old mounts are still in place

I was hoping to keep the old Ford mounts in case I ever wanted to fit a Ford engine in the future, but it became clear that they were going to foul the exhaust and starter motor so disappointingly I had to cut them off.

Test fitting the engine to discover the Ford mounts must be removed. Note my wife's hand guiding the gear box onto its mounts. And she bakes decent cakes too.

The engine was fitted with a new clutch assembly plus new clutch release arm pivot bushes, which had worn badly on one side.

To join the engine and gearbox to the rear axle I turned my attention to the prop shaft. I had two old prop shafts knocking around, one which had the flange to fit the 1300 gearbox and the other which had the flange to fit the Standard Ten axle. These were taken to a prop shaft specialist who checked the universal joints and pronounced them fit for scrap.

So, much to my irritation a new prop shaft had to be fabricated (at great expense!) but they did an excellent job so I don't really begrudge them. Much.

At this point the engine was removed and work began in earnest on the chassis.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A brief history of Fairthorpe 789 ERO

What type of Fairthorpe is 789 ERO?
789 ERO is an early 3-seater Fairthorpe Electron Minor mk1 (colour: 'gelcoat' blue with a crimson racing stripe) manufactured in kit form in 1958.

Frank Collins, my father, bought the kit in October 1958 for £425 - around £7,400 in today's money - and it was delivered to his rented lock-up on the 11th October. In those days, buying the car in kit form saved a considerable amount of money in 'purchase tax' - the precursor to VAT - and was an important consideration to cash-strapped car fanatics like Frank.

He spent just one month (yes that's right! 30 days!) building it in a garage with no power or light. He wore out three hand braces just drilling the chassis holes.

It was registered 18th November 1958 with an expertly painted rear registration number in blue and white Dulux! At a later date, a proper metal plate was fitted.

It became his everyday car, getting him to work and back during the week, but it was at the weekends that the car was really put through its paces. As both part of the original Fairthorpe Work's team with John Green and Peter Butt and as as a sole competitor, Frank raced 789 at national racing circuits such as Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Mallory Park. He competed and won against some of the best drivers in his class including Fairthorpe Car's Founder Air Vice Marshall Don Bennett (of wartime Pathfinder fame).

Fairthorpes do enjoy La Dolce Vita
In 1959, 789 proved its stuff once more by taking Frank and his new bride Audrey to Italy on their honeymoon, driving across France, through the alps and down to the east coast of Italy to Diano Marina. Despite the rarity of the cars, it was shock for Frank and Audrey to see another Fairthorpe coming in the opposite direction while driving along one day and they grabbed the chance for a photo op and a natter.

When I came along in 1961, I was promptly parked into the little middle seat (note the lack of seatbelts!!). In fact when I wouldn't sleep at night and was making a hell of a racket, Frank would put me into the car and thrash up the A41 until I fell asleep.

But when baby number 2 appeared - my brother Graham - in March 1963 it was clear that the car was no longer practical for a growing family and was sold in July 1964. That was the last we would see of 789 for 23 years.

A chance discovery
In 1987, I was rebuilding classic sportscars, including Fairthorpes, in partnership with my father down in Denham. Then by chance one day, while at a kit car show in Bingley Hall Staffordshire, a chap came up to us on the stand and looked over a restored Fairthorpe we had just completed. He mentioned that he had one of them in his garage. I used to keep a record of surviving Fairthorpe registration numbers and asked him what his was so I could update my records. He couldn't remember the letters, but could remember the numbers; 789. I was shocked and surprised. "It's not 789 ERO is it?" I asked. It was his turn to look shocked. "How did you know that?"

Straight away I asked him if would sell it to me, but he refused. He had bought the car as a retirement project for his father so I took his phone number then every few months rang and pestered him. Finally, nearly 18 months later, he gave in and offered to sell the car to me WITHOUT the registration number. He'd had it valued at £750 and was hoping to get more money. No deal. I wanted the car AND the registration number. And for a hell of a lot less than he was asking.

It was a further six months before I persuaded him to sell the car and the registration plate together for a reasonable price.

The return of 789
So on 27th May 1989, Frank and I drove to Liverpool on a Bank Holiday Saturday during some of the worst traffic we'd ever had the misfortune to be stuck in. We were amazed to find that the period modifications that Frank had made were still on the car, including two household rubber doorsteps that were fitted to the back of the bonnet to increase the throughflow of air round the engine when racing. It had also acquired a name: Little Nero.

Little Nero had been repainted Triumph Apple Green and, through a quirk of fate, the previous owner had masked up the metal number plate rather than remove it for respraying, thereby preserving the original Dulux number. On the bonnet was a large black panel with the contact details of a car accessory shop, which we later found out was painted on by the owner of the shop as advertising when he raced and auto-tested the car.

The wrecking crew get to work
I began the restoration almost immediately, cutting out the rotten outriggers and side rails of the chassis and rebushing the rear suspension. The car had been modified at the front and the original Standard 10 front suspension had been removed and replaced with that from a later Triumph Spitfire. This was cut off and an original Fairthorpe/Standard 10 set up refitted. I added a set of Ford engine mounts so I could race it with a Ford engine.

Then life intervened. Work changes. House moves. Marriage. Little Nero stood outside and deteriorated under a sheet. It was a further 20 years before I went back to complete what I had started.