Chris Tinker, long time TC owner, uses his car far more than most. The front cover shows his car in front of the Café de Paris, Monte Carlo. Here’s a short account of the car’s history…
I’m back from a wonderful expedition this summer through France and on to the Piedmont area of North West Italy. To drive up to the world-famous Café de Paris, Monte Carlo has been a long-held ambition and MPA 894 was welcomed despite notices barring entry to this idyllic spot. The TC has driven admirably, with only a flat tyre and a snapped fan belt to hold me up. I sent John a photo or two and he kindly agreed to publish them, and asked for a short article on the car and my ownership. Thus a few words….
I bought it as my first car in 1972 for £450, in a driveable condition. It needed to be, being my sole means of transport. The first bill, from J J Silencer of Canterbury, was for an MOT in October that year, at a cost of £1.70 ……… I also have records in the front cover of my handbook of refuelling, and petrol averaged about 35 pence per gallon.
In early ownership I looked after everything despite not being an engineer, as so many current owners seem to be! According to my mother’s diary of those years, I spent literally hours under my car keeping her roadworthy. The first matter was a slipping clutch! I had to remove the gearbox, and the handbook came in useful at that stage as did my Publican who had a gantry so that I could lift it out. I’d never even seen a clutch plate before. This was learning on the hoof!!
Further work on my own included keeping the bodywork in reasonable condition – I had a marvellous little Humbrol spray for patching up the lovely primrose yellow colour. This colour led, by the way, to the car’s name, the Noddy Car, as it is known to the family.
In the mid-seventies I see I used Octagon Sports Cars (London E17) for parts – as one example, a front spring cost me about £5.25 in 1974. So far as professional work was concerned, Toulmin were called in for some work as listed on an invoice I have – lots of work around the engine including water pump and carbs, and even a new brake master cylinder. The bill was a massive £122.97 so I must have been feeling rich!!
Looking through my log of the 80s, I managed to fit new big end shells and a new rear spring, performed a de-coke, rebuilt the carbs over one winter (much enjoyed that!) and so it goes on. A decade later I remember fitting a new wiring loom.
The engine was reconditioned in 1979 by Baileys of Canterbury at a cost of £289 including parts, and has been twice since by Richard Coles of Coltec – I had a high lift cam for a while but it failed, and I decided to go back to standard. George Edney did his unleaded head conversion back in the ‘90s, and it has served me well ever since. Since my earlier efforts to maintain the paintwork, it has been professionally sprayed, 1980 and 1987. And then in 2010 I had a major rebuild by Tom Pizzey which included a further respray with the modern two-pack paint which continues to hold up very well. For spares these days I am lucky to have NTG just down the road – they are friendly and efficient and I am a regular customer!
I have enjoyed many Continental holidays in the TC, visiting such places as Geneva, Lugano, Florence, Siena, Rome, our Honeymoon in Brittany/Paris – including parking right under the Eiffel Tower – and Christine and I have also driven through the Rioja valley and on to Salamanca and Madrid. Alpine passes conquered include the Simplon, the San Gotthardo, the Grimsel and the massive Stelvio.
Above: At the Barolo vineyards above Alba (Italy) Below: by the coast at Antibes (France).
Of course, driving a TC is not always going to be without incident. Back in the earlier days I remember smoke rising from below me – this was not the usual smoke from some leaking oil, but white smoke! I looked under, rather perturbed, to find that the blowing silencer had almost set the wooden floor just above it on fire! This was quickly extinguished, and I then applied some silver foil to the wood to prevent further potential fires until I returned home and fixed the exhaust.
On another occasion, a core plug fell out, leaving me without water. This was behind the carbs, so off they came by the roadside with emergency services rolling up to see what was the matter… I knocked in a new core plug, my co-driver acquired water from a nearby house, and we were off again within the hour. I do carry plenty of spares!! Lucky to have the core plugs though.
Other problems have included a piston blown at the top due to running with too weak a mixture, a blown head gasket (just last year in France!!), a snapped fan belt and rather more flat tyres than I would like.
I also had a leaking joint on the oil pump to filter pipe quite recently near Orleans, and made up my own washer with some old inner tube I always carry. It is still fine, so I’m leaving it alone! The only really alarming failure was the steering box drop arm – fortunately at a very slow speed in a Devonshire village
This summer I topped 150,000 miles, and as I spent three years out of the country, this comes out at about 3,500 a year. I never completely lay the car up as I like to take advantage of those dry sunny winter days (often February) to go out for a run and let the cool dry air blow through the vehicle just in case any condensation has been encroaching. And I usually have a Christmas day drive.
Chris out in Provence within the last 6 weeks.
I intend to plan further expeditions and would love to join another Autumn Tour (TTT 2 or T Register) though dates are difficult for me. However, I actually hosted one once (based near Ipswich) and my wife and I joined a Yorkshire one a few years back based at my birthplace Skipton. So, onwards and forwards – (not upwards yet I hope!) – I love driving my first car and will continue to make much use, sometimes daily again maybe, of this treasure.
Ed’s note: I think this is a perfect example of man and car in harmony.
When Chris’ mother was alive and living in Bude, Cornwall, Chris used to call in on us for lunch and a chat, having set out from Ipswich in the TC that morning. Suitably fed and watered he then set off for Bude.
Ipswich to Bristol is just over 200 miles; Bristol to Bude is around 130 miles.
You can do it in a TC!