My BMC Farina 1622 cc website

by Shane Conway

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My long standing quest to buy an Austin Cambridge Countryman was finally answered in 2006. Information on one for sale filtered through to me in April from the car's previous owner, and contact was made with the seller. Co-incidentally it is a similar shade of blue as my Oxford had been (except for its white roof), and was first registered in London just three weeks after the Oxford first went on the road, on May 22nd 1968.

On June 17th 2006 I did yet another of my "multi-modal" trips, i.e. Bus Eireann and Ryanair, and made my way to Leeds Bradford Airport to view the car in question. A thorough visual inspection revealed some attention would be needed to the paintwork around one headlight, and a couple of other small blemishes here and there were evident. Like the Oxford, the driver's seat has been well used (although in this case it's not a bench seat, but rather two separate seats), and gives that "sinking" feeling to the driver's backside!!! Under the bonnet all seemed to be clean and tidy, and the engine runs quite sweetly, none of the clatter which led to the Oxford's unit being removed for overhaul. A blanket was produced, so I could lie down beside and check the underneath of the car, again no sign of anything amiss or rotten there.

Having got out of the car-park, it was time to take the wheel myself. Over a 20 mile circuit along the A658 and A660 (kind of an appropriate road to drive an A60 along I thought!), encountering hills (up and down), several roundabouts, heavy town traffic (in Otley) and a dual carriageway as well, gave a good varied environment to get the feel of the car. It takes a few minutes to get acquainted with the layout of the controls of a vehicle different to what I usually handle (in this case a 2001 Ford Transit boxvan), but I quickly got used to my surroundings. Now it's one thing making a mistake on a solo drive, but when the owner is sitting next to me, and his wife in the back seat as well....!!! I did grate the gears a bit changing down from 3rd to 2nd, just once though. My overall impression was of a good honest car, not something that has been restored to showroom or concours condition, but one which would benefit from a little bit of attention and TLC. Equally it's not a car which needs a total rebuild either....

Having been to many classic car shows in Ireland over the past two decades, I have never encountered one of these estates at any event. In fact the last one I recall seeing was sitting in a garden in Co. Clare in 1985, and I've not seen one since then. Which would have led me to think that there were none still in existence in Ireland, that is until I got two text messages from two people, three days apart, both giving sightings of one in the Dublin area. This one is a brown colour and carries registration 69 LK 1, so has been in Ireland since early 1987. Since then a few more estates have been imported, both Austin and Morris versions. I also wonder if the 06 registered Vauxhall alongside the Austin in this photo will still be around in the year 2044, and thus reach its 38th birthday, as the Austin had at the time of the picture. On the day after my test drive, UYM 371F made an appearance in the popular TV series "Heartbeat", in two scenes filmed four months earlier.

July 22nd 2006 was then chosen as the date to make a return trip to Leeds Bradford and complete the deal. So another morning flight was booked, as was a ferry trip back that evening, and insurance cover, and keeping an eye on the Sterling/Euro exchange rate....

So, another early breakfast, another Bus Eireann trip to Dublin Airport and eventually onto Ryanair flight 152 to Leeds. After much stop-start movements on the runway, the Boeing eventually landed 20 minutes late at Leeds/Bradford, around 10.45. Within an hour the car was mine, and was on its way to Ireland. An itinerary had been printed from the AA website, with a route into Bradford, onto the M606, M62, M60, M6 and M56 motorways, with the final stretch along the A55 North Wales Coast Road. For some strange reason the Yorkshire bit of the M62 was being treated to a torrential downpour, which suddenly ended as we passed into Lancashire. The first stop was at Birch Services, with a chance to refuel both driver and vehicle. Before leaving, a passer-by noticed the car, and related a tale where he had once travelled in the boot of an A60 saloon with a hammer to hit a faulty fuel pump as required!!! Anyway, unlike the Morris Oxford which I drove home from Bristol several years earlier (which practically needed to be begged to exceed 50 mph), this Cambridge had absolutely no problem reaching the legal limit of 70, and beyond. It's short spell at 82 mph was (sensibly) curtailed on sighting a police speed car on the roadside along the A55. A second stop at a Road Chef near the end of the M56 gave a chance to down a cup of coffee, and take another photo, before getting back onto the final leg of the journey. Arrival at Holyhead was at 16.30, for the 18.30 sailing of the Stena HSS to Dun Laoghaire. Other classic cars were also travelling on the vessel, including a 1979 Vauxhall VX, an early 70s Bentley convertible, a 1982 Chevrolet police car and a 1981 Aston Martin.

At 20.30 or so UYM 371F drove onto Irish roads, and another photo stop occurred, courtesy of Kevin Horgan who took the photo below.

After this, all that remained was to try to make it home safely. However, a taxi driver on the East Wall Road had other ideas as he or she did a left turn from a side road just as I approached. Next bit of lunacy was a learner driver doing a turnabout on Griffith Avenue, again oblivious to the fact that there was elderly traffic approaching. Anyway, the day's drive was completed as UYM slipped quietly into Drogheda under cover of darkness, having behaved impeccably all day, not to mention surprising a not inconsiderable number of other drivers (in much younger machinery) as it sailed past them on the various roads along the way.

Having made a few appearances at vintage displays and road runs as UYM 371F, 24th November 2006 saw a trip to the Vehicle Registration Office in Navan, Co. Meath to officially import the car and get an Irish registration number for it. However this was not as straightforward as it might have been, firstly the officials there wouldn't accept cash, so a dash across town took place to get a postal order... Friday being market day in Navan meant there was very limited parking space available, then I realised that the large group of customers in the Post Office were mainly pension book holders.... Having got the postal order I duly returned to the VRO, only for them to discover they couldn't initially find the car model on their database.... They even enquired if it was a Mini!!!! Eventually the paperwork was sorted out, and the receipt issued showing the new number. And here was another surprise, instead of the ZV 37xx number I would have expected from Meath (the county having been allocated ZV 3601 - 3800 when the "heritage" registrations started in 1993), I was allocated ZV 60306.

Quite what the system is with the five digit numbers I can't work out, but I guess I will figure it out at some point. So, could anything else go wrong? Well, it did............. I duly ordered a pair of oblong reg plates, only to find that when they materialised the order included one square one and one rectangular!!! The replacement oblong plate turned up the following day though, and so I now have three number plates for the car. As I already have a trailer, perhaps I should fit a towbar to the Cambridge, and attach the square plate to the back of the trailer. As if......... Anyway, owing to its "TV" fame in Heartbeat, I've decided that it will show its UK plates when on static display at classic car shows, and its Irish ones for road use.

As 2006 drew to a close, it was becoming increasingly apparent that something was amiss in the electrical department. Frequent jump-starting and/or charging of the battery was needed, and at times the ignition light was failing to go out. While taking part in the NEVCC post Christmas run on December 27th (Click here for a video link of the start of the run), opinion was expressed that it was most likely to be the dynamo which was failing. After struggling to get home (during which the offending item started whistling!), the dynamo was removed and examined. A closer look revealed damage to the armature, so a new replacement dynamo was obtained and fitted. Looking back, I'm very thankful that the car had the decency not to start acting up on the M62 on its first journey in my ownership.

For 2007, the A60 was treated to a new battery, as the one which came with the car when I bought it was losing its fight for life. It has been out and about at a few displays during the year, weather permitting of course, not that it permitted too often!!!. For the Mosney show it was nicely posed (with its original registration re-fitted) alongside Louis Woods' superb 1963 Riley, also a car with London origins, as seen below. Although the sky looks cloudy, it was in fact a lovely sunny day, hence the slightly open windows on the Cambridge.

On July 1st 2007, it took part in the annual Jimmy Byrne run organised by the NEVCC. En route to the starting point, I was able to pose the car alongside my former Oxford, as seen in the picture below. In the two years since it left my ownership, very little had been done to it, and certainly didn't seem to be destined to be back on the road at that point, if ever. A respray could well have been added to the list of things it was in need of, given that it has been left sitting in the open for that time. Since then however, the Morris has been moved undercover, although awaiting a restoration.

After the absolutely lousy weather that Ireland was inflicted with throughout 2007, 2008 looked more promising. With the prospect of good weather ahead, the car was given a check over to ready it for the season. A check of the braking system revealed that one brake cylinder was leaking, and a close look at the exhaust pipe found there to be a rusty hole in the rear section, and that the front mounting (rubber) ring was almost totally perished with age. So a new cylinder and ring were duly ordered from Earlpart in late March, and these were fitted in early/mid April. During a visit to an autojumble at this time I found one stall with an exhaust repair kit for sale, which meant I was able to take the "lazy" option of sealing the the back section of the exhaust without removing it from the car (although eventually it will have to be replaced). A couple of blown bulbs and the spark plugs were also replaced, and this was followed by three new tyres and a full service in the second half of April.

After almost two years since the car left Leeds for the last time, May 3rd 2008 saw it joining a group of 31 classic cars and one tractor unit owned by members of the NEVCC to take part in a weekend trip to North Wales with a visit to the Llandudno Transport Festival on the following day. While I've previously visited vintage events in the U.K., this was the first time I'd driven to one myself, a fitting way to mark the car's 40th birthday. Thanks to a number of people (namely Steve Turner, David Thrower, Brian Jennings and Kelvin Platt), a replacement pair of front seats were purchased in early April and transported from North Yorkshire to Llandudno for collection. It's collecting items like these that proves the usefullness of an estate car over its saloon equivalent!!!!

As a reminder of the days when the only road into Holyhead was the A5, I decided to use this on the return trip back to the ferry, rather than the parallel A55 dual carriageway. The photo above shows the car in a layby on the A5, with the A55 (road, that is, not a late 1950s Austin Cambridge!!) in the background.

After leaving the ferry in Dublin, I was halfway up the M1 when disaster almost struck. A sudden loss of oil pressure, lack of power and an engine rattle meant an unscheduled stop on a slip road. On dipping the engine, it seemed to be almost empty of oil. After refilling it, I was able to proceed and get home. My first thoughts were that the engine had developed a serious leak, or was burning oil big-time, neither of which could be backed up by physical evidence. A few days later a compression test was carried out on the engine, and again no fault could be found. However, the fan belt needed to be tightened, and the fuel pump mounting (through which is the unit is earthed) was loose. Both of these were attended to, which improved matters. It would seem that the rattle might have been caused by a lack of fuel (even though the tank was half full), in turn causing the oil pressure to drop. My "refilling" meant that the engine ended up with too much oil, so it was neccessary to drain some of it out.

This Italian restaurant/delicatessan had opened on Drogheda's South Quay during 2008 (and has since closed again), so I couldn't resist the chance to get a shot of a Farina designed car outside a shop with the same name! According to the owners, the name means "oil and flour" in Italian....... Since then, the front seats have been changed, and although the exhaust repair held, the pipe has now broken above the back axle, and blew a hole in the rear silencer. A replacement stainless steel exhaust was purchased from Earlpart during the late summer and fitted. I also took on the role of Irish secretary for the Cambridge-Oxford owners club.

And so to 2009, and the 50th anniversary of the first Farinas going on sale (actually December 1958, but 1959 was the first full year of sales). The Cambridge-Oxford club were holding several displays across the British Isles, including a visit to the Mosney vintage show on July 7th. Prior to that I took part in a second visit to the Llandudno show in May, and this weekend included a Saturday meeting with Steve Turner and Allan Davies near Caernarvon for an afternoon drive over Snowdonia. So we had Steve's Wolseley, Allan's Oxford traveller, my Countryman and Louis Woods' Riley 4/72 plus a Talbot 90 and Triumph 2000 which must have been some sight on the serious hillclimb from Waunfawr over the mountain road to Llanberis. All of the cars behaved impeccably of course......... At the show on Sunday at least 13 (and possibly more) Farinas were on display, all variants seemed to be represented as far as I could see.

Several months of planning had gone into trying to arrange cars to attend Mosney. On the day before, a group of Farina enthusiasts (and their cars) disembarked from the early morning ferry from Holyhead and travelled up the M1 to City North hotel where I was waiting with my A60. A short drive to Southgate Shopping Centre for stocking up on groceries, another breakfast, and then the visitors headed off to their accomodation to catch up on sleep, before the big day......... The Club's first ever stand at an Irish show went off very well, with around two dozen cars on display, which included visitors from Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Wales and the four provinces of Ireland.

March 17th 2010 saw the car undertake a lengthy trip to Fintona, County Tyrone (once the home of Ireland's last horse drawn tram service), in order to collect a pair of unused fibreglass front wings. After this it attended the Mosney show in June, the fourth time it had been entered in this event. With the rising cost of petrol, and the effects of the recession, the car saw little use after Mosney, in fact my trip to the CO-OC stand at a vintage show near Kilkenny was done in a modern car. In early 2011 the clutch slave cylinder managed to drain itself, so it was removed, fitted with new seals and replaced, allowing the car to be mobile again. On June 14th 2011 the car was sold to a buyer from County Cork, after almost five years since I first saw it at Leeds/Bradford Airport. It was a case of having to sell it, rather than wanting to. Nonetheless, I suppose that before too much time has elapsed, I will get the longing to get back behind the wheel of another Farina, perhaps treat myself to a nice Wolseley 16/60 next time.

THE END (for now)........

Email    Farina history    My Morris Oxford    My Austin Cambridge    50th anniversary photos    Ted Hunt's Oxford