An intriguing call from a 96 Club member led Simon Duval Smith, our Technical Officer, to an automobile archaeology excavation in north London. “We bought a house in Muswell Hill and when we opened the shed at the bottom of the garden, we found this old car that has not moved since at least 1970,” said the member’s friend. Simon leapt on his chopper and rode north, not knowing what he might find – a long-forgotten Bugatti, secreted from the scrap metal drive during the war? A Hispano-Suiza that had fallen foul of the MOT test introduced in 1960? The truth was slightly more prosaic – a 1936 Austin Seven Ruby Open Tourer; while not quite as rare as he might have hoped for, not many Open Tourers have survived unmolested.
Many Austin Sevens have had their saloons or cabriolet bodies removed and discarded to convert them into ‘Ulster’-style racing cars or trials specials.
After social distancing himself through the house, which is being cleared of several skip loads of the previous occupant’s hoarding, Simon and his vintagent fellow explorer Colin Marr fought their way through half finished garden brickworks and a lot of hazardous waste to find the little Austin half-buried in the remains of a jerry-built shed.
Usually when called out to these finds, one discovers a car that has been out in the elements for many years and is mostly rotted away but the little Seven turned out to be in excellent condition bodily, with almost no rust to the panels, freely opening and closing doors with quite good panel gaps and a full set of sidescreens and hood in place. Dotted around the car were two spare gearboxes and a spare engine, and a lot of new spares, including tyres, a new wiring loom and even a pair of new trafficators…
Amazingly, the front tyres on the car were still inflated… Simon persuaded the builders to lift the rear of the car in the air so he could check the chassis and found it quite solid, with many years of oil leaks having prevented significant rust.
The interior is complete and mainly needs the seats re-covering and a good clean, the dash and instruments are complete, showing just 11,000 miles, unlikely to be 111,000 miles as it would take a lot of patience to drive a Seven that far…
So, how did it come to be stored for so long – with the tax disc in the windscreen dated May 1970? The story is that the previous owner of the house quarrelled with his wife, got divorced and probably had to re-mortgage the property to pay her off, he then defaulted on the payments and the house was seized by the bank. Perhaps he kept the car hidden in the shed to prevent it being included in the divorce settlement!?
In the intervening years, the lane behind the house has been built on and now there is no way of removing the car except by dismantling it and carrying parts through the house or removing a fence at the rear and transporting the complete car through an adjacent property. Of course no task is too onerous for our Technical Officer or indeed for many of our resourceful club members…and, as the headline says, a Seven is half the weight of a Ford Model T, or about 750 pounds, or 1.7 million carats… so quite easy for a few strong people to carry through nextdoor’s garden…
The car needs to be removed very soon as the builders want to start work and the house owners want it gone. It will not be expensive but the job is not for the faint-hearted, it is not a car to be viewed out of curiosity. In short, Simon will give you a full description and even a live video walk-around of the car if you are interested but if you come to see it, you will need to be ready to remove it straight away.
More pictures available from Simon, call for details: 07896 921115.[give_form id=”2257″]