I MENTIONED a few months back in this column about a local garage run by a chap called Del, which had closed down when the old boy finally retired.
Since then, we’ve picked up quite a few of his customers, and while the vast majority of them are a delight to serve, there are a few that used to go to Del’s specifically because his MOTs were known for being something of an easy touch.
I encountered one such customer recently, who brought his MGB in for its annual roadworthiness inspection. Now, classic car owners are normally great. They often know how to look after their own car, they always present them well for test and they’re usually confident enough on the spanners to put things right pretty quickly.
As such, if they come in for a test and their car has a fault that’s trivial enough to sort out, then I won’t so much turn a blind eye as advise them to get it fixed asap, either on the ‘advisory items’ section of the test paper or verbally, depending on what’s the matter.
This one, though, I couldn’t let go. Looking back at the MOT history on the car, I could see that there were advisory notes issued in 2006 and 2007 for corrosion to the rear of the sills. From 2008 on, these mysteriously stopped being advised.
Now, on a classic car such a thing is not unusual. On an old banger, chances are a plated repair will be welded over and 12 months later the fault will be advised again, but often when a classic gets to this stage, it’s the case that the discovery of such corrosion is the catalyst for the owner to take the car off the road and repair it properly.
Indeed, it would explain why I have a 50-year old Rover P6 sitting in my very own lock-up, where it has been awaiting some welding to the cross-member for more years than I care to remember. Like a builder’s house, a mechanic’s car is never finished.
It was clear when this car came in, however, that it wasn’t a cherished classic that had ever received a proper repair. Indeed, although it was very clean and shiny, I could tell just by looking down its flanks that it was, in fact, around 40 per cent body filler, topped off with a couple of coats of rattle-can cellulose.
My suspicions were compounded when we went underneath it with the ‘toffee hammer’. The underside of the MG was black and clean, and smelled of fresh paint. But one whack with the hammer and the nearside floorpan completely caved in.
I asked the owner when he’d last done any work on the car, to which he replied he always gave it ‘a bit of a prep’ a week or so before the MOT.
That much was evident from the date on the newspaper I extracted from the cavity between the floorpan and the sill, dated just 14 days previously. Behind it were more balled-up newspapers: one from 2014; another taking delight in our Olympic achievements in London 2012.
As we tapped the hammer further along the sill, we finally got as far as August 2007, a whole nine years previously when the MGB’s papier mâché repairs had first started to take effect.
The owner was somewhat crestfallen and stormed off in a huff. Del, apparently, only ever gave classic cars a ‘visual inspection’ as he thought that hitting them with a hammer was unfair. Not only that, he said, but our ‘needless violence’ towards his cherished classic had caused significant amounts of damage and the onus would be on us to put it right when he came after us with his solicitor.
Which is all very well, but being sued for issuing a hooky MOT after someone gets wiped out in a road accident is far more of a worry to a respectable garage like ours than incurring the wrath of an angry MGB driver who can’t be bothered to get his papier mâché Airfix kit of a car repaired because he only uses it ‘a few times a year’. Anyway, there’s now a failure note logged forever on the online MOT system as ‘Sills made of newspaper, dated 2007’.
If that doesn’t force him to get it fixed properly, I don’t know what will…
Who is Our Kev? If we told you, we’d have to kill you… What we can say is he’s been around for longer than he cares to remember and has a fund of stories to tell
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