This is the late Michael Gardner’s 1968 Vogue Estate –
now tended by his wife Margaret
Mike said that having decided they needed an estate car as a back-up vehicle for his ‘9’ Sports, a Mark IV Vogue Estate would seem to meet his requirements. But as usual there were none to be found. Six months later, whilst having a drive with John Payne, he mentioned he had been asked for advice on selling a Singer estate car. But it was an Arrows model – problem? A week later they met at Crowthorne.
Mike was introduced to Malcolm MacDonald, who took them into his back garden, where, under some pine trees, was an estate car on blocks, covered with a tarpaulin. A detailed inspection showed the car to be in good condition, with only two small rust spots, and after a short discussion we agreed a price. How to get the car home? He was persuaded by his associate Richard Heaton (Super ‘9’ Saloon, 1937) that trying to drive it home with seized brakes and no tax or insurance, was not a good idea. A mutual friend ‘Jim’ had a 4 x 4 with a four wheeled trailer, and for a reasonable sum was available the following Saturday. Early Saturday morning, he and Richard set out for Crowthorne, complete with two trolley jacks, support plates, boxes of tools and the proverbial kitchen sink, in anticipation of a full day’s work. When they arrived they found that Malcolm had lowered the car from the blocks and removed an access panel in his garden fence to enable removal. Three pushes backwards and forward aligned the car, and with a long tow rope they pulled it out onto the road. All within 45 minutes of their arrival, which left them twiddling their thumbs waiting for Jim and the trailer to arrive.
Whilst they were waiting, Malcolm asked Mike if he would like the spares he had for the car. These consisted of two cylinder heads, an inlet/exhaust manifold, alternator, brake servo, exhaust system and lots more. Well it would be impolite to say no wouldn’t it?
After a shampoo and hoover, the car looked good, but it would not start.
Mike was advised to buy numerous spares to solve the problem. Two days later he found the needle valve in the float chamber was blocked, and when cleared the engine started. Memo – don’t buy spares until you know the problem! With the help of some good friends, the brakes were rebuilt, the electrical wiring sorted and new brushes fitted to the alternator – and everything worked. Not bad for a car that had been standing outside for 18 years. The interior trim and seats are covered in very up-market ”Ambilair” soft vinyl, and a gentle scrubbing with ‘Swarfega’ brought these back to pristine condition, with no signs of wear or damage. Time for an MOT attempt. The main comment from the inspection pit of his friendly test station was: “Am I inspecting the car or the cobwebs?” The car passed first time with only two small advisory points.
With the car now legal, Richard and Mike set off on its first test run – to the May meeting of the Thames Valley Singer Owners Group at the White Hart, near Maidenhead, where these pictures were taken. The return journey of some 60 miles proved the car to be very comfortable and powerful, the only problem being the headlights were set too high. A few minutes tinkering in the pub car park soon sorted that.
By this time even Margaret was impressed, and insisted they use the car to go to the Singer National Weekend in York, a 400 mile return trip. Normally she would drive their modern car as a back-up for their 1933 Nine Sports.
Loaded with luggage and spares for sale, they set off for York. This proved to be a very pleasant drive, but the carburettor was off tune, which limited the top speed to 55 mph, although they still managed the journey in 4½ hours. A very enjoyable five days were spent in the York area, (see main picture), with the car proving reliable and water proof, despite several heavy rain storms and flooded roads. After some ‘tinkering’ with the carburettor by fellow club members, the car ran better on the way home – they were even able to overtake lorries on the motorway!