Martin Hill

A set of articles I wrote in 1990ish for the Freewheel magazine - I would have been about 21. They cover a series of Rover P4's that I owned from the age of 17 to then.

Rover P4

Tales from the Log Book Part I - "Fireball".

When I was a little bitty baby, learning to drive, my father was already driving a P4 100. Previous to that he had owned various oldies, including a P2 (which people at middle school used to think was a taxi?! I suppose it was black...) a Ford Prefect (sit up & beg) and I am told a P5 at one point (before my time). So I was brought up on a P4, with very little synchromesh (huh! who uses the stuff anyway?), a good engine, at least it was before I got to it, and a good sized comfortable interior. I have since found nothing comparable at the price.

My first little (!) monster was bought by my father from a clergyman for 50, to cover the tax, and was, as the ads would say, "untidy". The engine made some funny clanking noises, but these were easily ignored by turning the radio up. The front drivers door was soon replaced by an aluminium one from my fathers then defunct 100. He had bought a 110 to replace it - more later. In the summer of '87 I did my first bit of what was, to me, "heavy engineering" - I took the head off to reskim (gasps of wonder, I don't think, from those who regularly inspect their camshafts for greenfly, etc). Since then, I have decided to leave such things to competent garages, while I keep my clumsy fingers on simpler things like timing, or computer programming.

Nevertheless, it gave many months of good driving, ie foot to floor on either brake or throttle, before it then blew up. I took some friends across some... er... (Theasa, Thausur, Dictionary out.... ah! "Thesaurus" out...) "uneven" fields on the farm for some driving practice. After one stall, on an attempt at twiddling that key to the left of the steering wheel that makes the car go, a terrific BOOM! was heard and smoke promptly filled the cabin. Recovering our wits, 200 yards away & milliseconds later, I and one other ventured back. After opening the bonnet and noting charred bits of wire, hosing, string, sellotape, etc I tried starting it again. This time, with bonnet open, and no oil cap or dip stick, there was no explosion - just a rather pretty ball of flame that even I could see from the drivers seat, lapping over the sides of the bonnet. Considering the problem carefully and rationally, we proceeded to frantically blow out some flames, batter out others with bits of carpet, etc, slammed the bonnet shut to help suffocate it, and ran...

I returned with that indispensable guru required by any teenage would-be mechanic ("How do you connect these MegaWatt Fog Lamps Dad?"), ie El Pater. Who pointed out, narrowly avoiding singed eyebrows, that there was a crack in the exhaust connection (or summink loik dat) and as the engine was pretty well shot, petrol fumes had gotten past them finger width gaps in the cylinders, to give a nice explosive mixture trail from the oil evaporation column thingy to the sump. Which resulted in the flying dip stick, etc. (No comparisons with driver please). The gap was promptly closed, but it did give me some ideas about rerouting the exhaust straight out the side wing, and dribbling a little petrol in... who wants painted on flames? heh heh heh...

Soon after, it had a run-in with a truck. Actually, it was more like a bump-in. The car was parked on a slope on the farm, and the three tonner swung into it. The truck lost its wing, compared to a mere 1" increase in diameter of an already present rust hole in the seam of the rear wing. We couldn't even find the damage to the little Monster immediately due to the other rust holes. They don't make em like that, etc, etc.

And then, toward the end of '87, the puir wee thing came up against that which even it could not simply ride over and wash the shards out the tyres after - that piece of iniquitous legislation designed to keep all such beasts off the road - the MOT!! Welding was necessary under the back chassis arch, the forward jacking point, a handbrake ratchet would have to be found (hill starts & parking on steep slopes woz fun), and all sorts of little things.

I bought another (aren't these youngsters fickle?!!)

Part 2 - Old Smokey

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