Technician’s Update : A Saintly act of kindness…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

LHD Metro

 

Never has a more true word been spoken at the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ – unless you actually die laughing that is! My own little world has been a bit up and down as of late owing to the fact that, after a short illness, my father passed away very recently. It was all very quick and sufferance free for him thank the Lord and it has yet to really sink in that he’s gone, but one of the rituals of a bereavement is the receiving of cards and those ‘phone calls that come completely out of the blue. My father loved reading some of the rambles on this site so, Dad, if you have got a PC working up there by now, this one’s for you!

Well, as I mentioned, ‘phone calls come out of the blue at difficult times and one such call came just the other day from a chap I worked with in a small retail Rover dealer circa 1994. We were thick as thieves for the period we worked together and, because we lived miles apart, we only socialised at work – often getting roasted for our daft antics. The dealership was tiny but our workshops were busy five and a half days a week. Saturdays involved alternate workings from 8.00 till midday and my stint involved running the parts and service counter along with preparing Monday’s job cards – no computers in aftersales then!

The showroom would open up around 9.00am with two sales execs on duty and in the bays we would have two mechanics, one of whom my out of the blue pal reminded me about during my surprise and recent conversation – it’s a funny story I had completely forgotten about… until now. This particular weekend was hectic, there was the Mini’s 35th birthday party at Silverstone and with us being a nearby dealer just a few miles down the road, we were participating. After the doors and shutters were snapped shut a handful of us were to hotfoot it to Silverstone to have some free fun and japes to celebrate the rinky dinky Mini.

Roger Moore playing the famous Charteris crime fighter - The Mr Templar I knew was no Saint!
Roger Moore playing the famous Charteris crime fighter – the Mr Templar I knew was no Saint!

To help us out on a Saturday, a part-time lady who’s name eludes me would answer the ‘phones. A lovely woman who made one of the best cups of tea known to mankind but who, without insulting those woolly farmyard favourites, was as dim as a sheep. Even a simple knock knock gag would require her to dwell on the punchline for a while but she was jolly, pretty as a picture and great with customers. One of the duty fitters that day was a chap called Steve Templar, a man in his late 40s who was a time served mechanic of unsurpassed ability, spoke few words and owned no sense of humour in the slightest.

Everyone would call him Simon Templar on the QT and any reference or harmless skit towards the Leslie Charteris character of the same name would cause him to explode into a rage. However, whereas Simon Templar was tall suave and debonair with an eye for the ladies who solved international crime and drank fine wines, our Mr Templar sadly did mix with the jet set in a Volvo P1800 or Jaguar XJ-S. Steve was quiet, short and plump, had a very short fuse and drove a knackered old car –  so the similarities ended with the surname. That said, their was nothing he couldn’t mend with his skills.

Our Metro Parts van similar to this one donated a distributor from its blown power unit.
Our Metro Parts van similar to this one donated a distributor from its blown power unit.

Lunchtime came and we were all ready to scarper – that was until our receptionist came trotting in the workshop all in a tizz because her immaculate old style Metro refused to start. Only Steve, myself, my new found valeting friend and a salesman were present, so with much protesting and grumbling Steve agreed to have a look under the bonnet. The stricken Metro was pushed into a bay and it was quickly discovered that the something in the distributor had failed. We had no part in stock after checking but, just as she was about to call for a taxi, I remembered something that could help.

A few weeks earlier, our battered Metro 310 van had blown its gearbox and so its dead 998cc A+ power unit was now sitting under a tarpaulin sheet in a dark corner of the stores. Grabbing a spanner and a torch (it really was that dark), I liberated the distributor and passed it to Steve who popped it in, set the timing roughly by eyesight alone and fired up the car. Vroom! Away it went and the scatty receptionist nearly pee’d herself with glee and relief, all taking barely 30 minutes to complete and our out of hours efforts were rewarded with a brace of £10 notes.

In total innocence she profusely thanked us again before driving away and quipped “between you both… you really are Saints” which caused the rest of us to burst out laughing. Steve just looked blankly and mumbled “just **** off the lot of you” – I could have sworn his halo slipped a fraction that day!

Dedicated to Charles ‘Alan’ Humble: 1940 – 2013

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

25 Comments

  1. Hehe, a nice anecdote 🙂

    Always nice to do a favour for a work colleague – you never know when you might need it repaid!

  2. Sorry to read that your Dad has passed away Mike.
    Earliest memories of cars are always dad’s cars.
    I’m sure we can all recount fond memories of events involving dad’s and their cars.
    Stories on this website help rekindle those memories.

  3. I’m sorry to hear this Mike. We both send our condolences.
    …keep the blogs coming, they brighten many a coffee break for me 🙂

  4. Condolences, Mike.
    My dad complained that his Carlton (which he had bought from his employer on retirement) was suffering sticky brakes. This complaint was confirmed after a 5-mile drive to the pub, the right front disc was glowing a cheery (or cherry) red through the wheel.
    The next morning, I took the wheel off and inspected the brake. I diagnosed rusty caliper slide pins, and advised him not to drive anywhere, except to a garage which could fix it for him. He burst out laughing.
    “What are you laughing at?”, I asked him, “duff brakes are deadly serious!”
    “Well I used to tell you buys your cars were dangerous”, he replied, “and now you’re telling me!”

  5. Very sorry to read of your Dad’s passing away Mike… I’ve been there too a few years ago. Hope the memories of good times with him will prevail. Nice story aswell, as are all of your anecdotes!

  6. Sorry to hear the sad news, Mike, as I always enjoy your blogs about the good old days of car sales.
    Actually the garage you worked in reminds me of our own J Edgar and Son in Cumbria when they were simply a Rover dealer operating out of a building built before the war with a service station attached to the showroom ( common at one time round here and sometimes the staff took turns in the service station when the attendant was away). Indeed, until two other dealers closed down locally, Edgars were merely a cog in the much bigger Austin Rover wheel, though I must admit they were always the best cog in this wheel, going the extra mile for their customers.
    Even now, with the service station now gone and the showroom a shiny monument to the new look Nissan, with an even bigger showroom selling Hyundais and Suzukis in Workington, one thing that has never gone is the commitment to customer service and the fact the staff seem to be there forever. Sadly with the onward march of franchises and car supermarkets, in many places family dealerships are long gone.

  7. I’m sorry to hear of your loss Mike. This is a lovely tribute. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  8. Very sorry to hear about your Dad Mike. All the best to you and yours.

    Love the behind the scenes stories – keep ’em coming.

  9. There are some good franchises. As well as owning three Rovers, I have also had three Volvos.

    Volvo retail in my area has gone from being the Hindle & Walker partnership to the larger Walker Farrimond one & finally Doves which may sound an anonymous name to some, but is actually owned by Cambria Automobiles having bought out the bankrupt Caledonia Motor Group.

    I always found both their sales & service departments to be excellent which is just as well since believe it or not, my two most recent Volvos weren’t as reliable as my Rovers (Ford era Volvos can’t hack it the way that older ones can).

  10. Very sad to read of your loss.

    Your story was superb. Hope your Dad enjoyed reading it on his saintly PC 🙂

  11. My condolences on the passing of your Dad, Mike. As always, an interesting story about the motor trade.

  12. An amusing tale written in a great style!

    Mike, my Dad is on a long downward slope with Parkinsons, so take some comfort from the fact that for your Dad it was all very quick……

  13. Greetings from Greece, Mike. My condolenses for your father. I bet he’s very proud of you. I very much enjoy your stories and wish you ‘ll keep writing more.
    PS: by coincidence, i have lived in Kettering for almost a year. Northamptonshire is a beautiful place with nice people.

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