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Completely out of the blue, news of a former cherished one (I am referring to a car of course)

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

By Tony Batchelor

As this is my first blog in 2020 and the beginning of a new decade I thought I would start with a nice story with a happy ending.

Have you ever wondered what happened to a car you owned in the past, or even attempted to search for it maybe? 

I am quite sure what happened to most of my old cars, recycled. I even paid the local council to take one of them, a 1965 Ford Corsair, to meet “chip chop Charlie”. You will have to read my Blog about Rusty Art to understand the relevance of Charlie, but I am sure you can guess.

I follow four Triumph related and generalist classic car Facebook groups, and regularly people post enquiring if anyone knows of the whereabouts of cars which they may have previously owned. Or the car may have belonged to one of their relatives and it would mean a great deal to them to bring it back into family ownership. I can only assume there are many people searching for a wide variety of vehicles on other Facebook Pages.

There are various ways of searching for a vehicle, the first it is suggested is via the DVLA website. This will confirm if a vehicle is still in known existence, ie it will either hold an MOT Certificate, be taxed or registered on a Statutory off Road Notification (SORN). This is not fool proof, as cars 40 years and over are exempt from the MOT Test which will provide a nil result, but to be on the road they must be taxed or off it registered SORN (legally that is).

If the car is not listed on the DVLA website that does not mean that it no longer exists. It might be it has been exported, however it is more likely a car would have been imported to the UK from warmer and dryer climates such as Cyprus, Malta and West Coast USA. It might also be that the car is stored, ideally in a barn or undercover, or worse case that it might be a rusting wreck in the corner of a field and forgotten about a long time ago.

A once shiny and proud cherished one -  Image Old Classic Cars.

Interestingly I searched on the DVLA website for my old Mercedes I owned in the mid-80's. It states it was last taxed in 1992 and no MOT history, but this image could be it! If all that is left of your long lost car looks like this you have no hope of finding it, may it rust in peace and leave you with just happy memories.

The internet is always a good way of checking for information on a particular car, just Google search the vehicle registration number, the car make and colour and see what comes up. I will come back to this search method and relevant results later.

I mentioned this was a nice story with a happy ending, and the basis of this story is a short while ago a dear friend and fellow car enthusiast who I have known for best part of 40 years finally got news of his former cherished one which he sold in 1985. The car in question is a 1946 Rover P2 14 Sports to be exact . The fact I played the key role in uncovering the existence of the car was based on eleventh hour decisions, particular circumstances and unwitting actions on my part, which makes this story quite interesting.

My unwitting part in discovering my dear friends Rover started at the Classic Car Show held at the NEC last November. My brother and I decided at almost the last minute to go on a “bonding session”. We rarely venture out together and thought the NEC would be good, but he had been ill and went to hospital in an ambulance to be checked over, so we almost did not go. He had however recovered sufficiently the day before, and as we both like classic cars a trip to “Brum” was a nice away day. He had also pre-purchased the entrance tickets and the car parking, so there was quite a bit of financial pressure to make the effort to go, even if I had to push him around in a wheelchair. I would have hired a mobility scooter for him, but then he would just be racing it around.

It is not often I go to the NEC, previously a couple of years ago to a classic car show and before that it was many years since I attended any exhibitions there. The reason for that is although I enjoy looking at the cars and memorabilia stalls I dislike crowded indoor events. However, if you go on the Friday you pay more to enter but there are less people. Being retired I did not have to take a day off from work, therefore I am happy with that.

At the event, whilst attempting to bypass a particularly crowded aisle my brother and I cut across the Rover Sports Register stand. As we stepped onto the stand I noticed a rack containing a number of RSR Bulletins, and on the front cover of two of the Bulletins I noted it featured a Rover P2, which I knew my friend John would appreciate having once owned one.

Now not only do I not appreciate crowds, I am also reluctant to carry anything as it is a pain. But as I was already holding a carrier bag containing a free copy of Practical Classic magazine, which was my reward for providing an email address which I hope I spelt my name correctly, so I thought a couple of extra publications would not weigh me down.

Having arrived home it would be a month or so before I eventually passed the publications on to my friend John. On the evening he received them he phoned me to thank me and to ask if I had appreciated the relevance, to which I had to admit I had not apart from the Rover P2 connection. It was then he advised me on one of the publications is a photograph of his former car, his words were something like “I almost fell off of the sofa when I saw the car, would you credit it.”

It was a complete surprise to me, there is no way I would have recognised his old car from the image. First, I have difficulty remembering my own number plate sometimes let alone someone else's car from 35 years ago, and second the car on both the publications was a different colour to his. I had no idea.

John purchased the car in 1973, the owner was asking £110 and he managed to haggle him down to £55. To put that into perspective, in the same year I paid £250 for a 1967 Simca 1000 and £100 for a 1965 Wolseley 1500. Both cars would last me about 18 months, the former the engine blew up and the latter fell apart due to rust.

So £55 for a non-runner, seemed a bargain, even Mr Wheeler Dealer himself Mike Brewer would be hard pushed to get a 50% reduction in the asking price.

It’s 1973 and proud owner my friend John on the right.  ………. That is not me on the left, I had hair in 1973 and it was longer than that guy (who is in fact John’s neighbour Stephen - a useful mechanic and his dad owned a garage workshop)

The proud owner would offer you a lift if the car actually started, but standing only in the rear. I wonder what Ed would have said if Mike took it back to the workshop.

Bit of rubbing down needed there, oh and the little red reflector thing is missing

Being a single guy back in 1973 John had the time to work on the car and the finance, albeit it reasonably limited, to support it.

As you will see from the image below, a great deal of work was carried out on the car to take it from a non-running “wreck” to a very presentable runabout. John even chauffeured his future wife, and in fact mine as they were and still are friends, to their School Reunion event. Therefore he put a lot of work in to get the car presentable and mobile without the aid of a tow rope.

But John was and still is a perfectionist, and he wanted to properly restore the car so began dismantling it for the second time. Having removed the engine he sent it away to be professionally rebuilt.

First time around, the car circa 1980 complete and running prior to dismantling and restoration for a second time

However, in 1985 John’s circumstances had changed considerably. Newly married, new house with lots of work needed and a family not far from reality, he therefore took the decision to sell the car. The fact the Rover was, in his words “in pieces”, body, engine and a box of bits, he simply had to sell it to someone who had the time and money to put it all back together again. He sold it for £995 (around £2600 today), the engine rebuild labour cost was £300 with a number of new parts in addition supplied by John.

For the past 35 years John has often wondered what happened to the car, from the DVLA records he was aware it definitely existed but what sort of condition was it. It was not until I unwittingly picked up the RSR Bulletin at the NEC had he any idea what had happened to it.

The car pictured on the front cover of the October 2018 edition of Freewheel, the Bulletin of the Rover Sports Register.

The internet is a good source of information and searching for cars, particularly if they have been advertised for sale via the Web, and you never know you might be lucky. It is likely it will be necessary to keep inserting different criteria in the search if you end up at a "dead end". Having inserted “KPG 855 Rover P2” and looked at “Images”, after a bit of scrolling I was presented with various images of the car, two at shows, one on the road and one where the car was being advertised for sale, but no date.

Having searched the Car and Classic website at which was attached to one of the images, it advised the car was sold and the seller was St Andrews Autos in Chelmsford.

Through their website at  I managed to extract the following images, for which I credit the images below.

The last time I saw this car it was two-tone brown and pale primrose, the engine was out on the ground. It certainly did not look anything like this.

Looks better with lights and badges

Very plush, lovely detail on the door cards. Somewhat different to the earlier black and white image, Ed would like this car a lot.

Nice cockpit, the radio and switches / cabling need urgent attention to keep in period, well to be honest not good detailing at all really.

John suggests the car in that condition today to be worth between £12 000 and £15 000. Not a great deal in todays ever increasing classic car prices, but a bargain for such a piece of majestic British motoring history.

Here it is again taking pride of place at the Enfield Pageant of Motoring in 2019

And then it’s off to Brighton in 2019 on the annual car run

Naturally my friend John is very pleased to receive news of his former car, and that the person he sold it to for £995 in 1985 actually put it all back together and its the road. He did say that clearly some person, or indeed persons, over the years have spent a great deal of time, considerable effort and a lot of money to restore the car to its former glory. So much so that it is held in such high esteem that it is recognised and featured on the front cover of the Rover Sports Register publication.

Finally, the lesson here is not necessarily give up completely if you are looking out for a former cherished car. If it is still showing on the DVLA website as taxed, MOT’d or SORN there is still hope, or possibly at some point somebody will open a barn door and discover it. But keep checking on the web, you never know when it might turn up out of the blue.

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