In the evening we'd walk down to the village pub, throw our money in a pot, and sing. At closing time the publican would pull down the shades and we would carry on. Adam and Tony and Richard played guitars and Sandra sang. We'd all join in for the chorus. We were trendy, we were a pop group. We were all going to be world famous. We'd stagger uphill to the meadow, confident that if we just got our heads in the right place we'd be young and beautiful forever.
Those dreamy days fade like old photographs. But some cars get a second chance. We restore them because they are not just cars, but rolling time machines that bring us back to when we were were just beginning.
The Allard J2 would accelerate so hard time would almost stop. When I first bought the car I took it to the Allard Ford Dealership in Brixton, where the late Sydney Allard built his cars. The craftsmen who had built Allards were cutting sunroofs in Cortinas then. They came out and ran their hands lovingly over the soft curves of FBA 685. "Proper motor car," they said. "Don't make them like that any more."
I'd just bought the car with an old flathead V-8. I asked the men if I should put in a new lightweight Ford Cobra V-8. "Will it make it go faster?" "Much faster I said. "Oh well, stick it in, then. That's what Sydney would have done."
I sold it to Otto Bowden, a collector in Florida to pay for a round the world trip home from London.
Last year FBA 685 turned up again. Another Florida collector, Martin Stickley found it in a metal shed in Jacksonville where it had been stored for decades. It had been tarted up with red wire wheels and the awful white sidewalls General Curtis LeMay used to run on his J2X. FBA 685 was dull, tired and layered with dust and gunge. But Stickley is now restoring it better than new and with any luck FBA-685 will be the star of the show at the 2011Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance next March. And I will be among the slow moving fans, admiring, smiling, remembering the time. (Click here for video of Allards at LeMans)
(to be continued. The Blog, as you probably know, takes off for the weekend.)