If it’s body filler filler in the sills or exposed stereo wiring insulated with sellotape, most of us at some point have enjoyed a good old fashioned bodge up. Especially if it actually works too…
Working in around the motor trade ever since leaving school, I have met all kinds of fitters, mechanics, grease monkeys, technicians and tyre fitters by the score. On the whole, and in all honesty, most of them are salt of the earth people who know their craft and ply their trade with honesty and decency.
Of course, there are also a handful of people who are barely capable to make toast, let alone put a spanner anywhere near the family car. Now everyone who reads this I’m sure, has been on the receiving end or has been guilty of, a nice old fashioned bodge – and to be fair, its what makes the world go round in the motor trade, but sometimes a bodge is the fine line between waiting for the relay truck or actually getting home, or in other words – an evil necessary.
I have ended up doing all kinds of lash ups in the past which have included using cable ties to make good a snapped throttle cable on a Fiat 131 and getting a borrowed Talbot Solara (all the quality motors eh folks) back from Great Yarmouth by wrapping a large open ended spanner and clutch cable up with insulating tape after the latter decided to pull straight through the bulkhead which crippled the car just outside the village of Attleborough – at 3.00am.
Now a bodge or lash up is one thing at the side of the road – many of you will appreciate the misery and desperation of being hungry and tab-less, especially with your girl / boyfriend sitting with a face like a smacked bum in the passenger seat and only the clicking of the hazards to keep you entertained. In a dealership though, it’s not encouraged – but once was widespread!
I once worked with a lad with the surname of Watts– or as we called him – five, owing the fact he was not very bright. Suffice to say I have enjoyed a more stimulating conversation with last weeks TV times, but he was sheer entertainment, and between us both had some rather unconventional solutions to the various problems you would find now and again in the workshop.
One such example came in the form of a part-ex Montego saloon that our sales manager had sold to a friend, and the Montego in question was a very late early series 1.6L something like an F plate. This had been supplied with a nudge wink warranty, you know the kind – a pop it back and we’ll see you alright kind of arrangement. Sadly, it turned out that this friend of the aforementioned sales manager was bit of a moaner, and indeed popped back – every other week!
Time erodes how many bloody times this Montego came and went with the manager winking and slipping the odd fiver into our hands in exchange for a tap or tweak during lunch periods. After various visits on an unofficial basis, our service manager Pete, who was a top man and great to work under, became tired of turning a blind eye to this gentleman’s agreement and told us all in no uncertain terms that any further work would be through the books or there would be hell to pay.
Undeterred by this, the Sales Manager opted then to have the car visit on Saturday mornings when the aforementioned Service Manager was not on site, once again bribing us with 20 smokes or a few bob. On one such occasion, the car was returned with a difficult gearchange and even by early Montego standards, the shift quality was truly awful.
To those who don’t know, early Montego 1.3 or 1.6 models used a VAG-sourced gearbox and the linkage was fitted to the passenger side of the steering rack by means of a clamp. The clamp had cracked and therefore had little holding action so as you stirred the gear lever, the clamp would be disturbed, thus giving an awful and creaking gearchange. I discovered this matter and mentioned that a new part would have to be ordered, and after being told by the gaffer we would be in for a kick up the flue if anymore free work was to be carried out, I was told to do what was needed to lash it up instead.
It turned out that the Sales Manager was also getting bored of his mate moaning and whining with every problem he encountered with his Montego, after all it was an old car and bit leggy too (high mileage). As the saying goes – never get involved with family and friends over cars!
Once all the service work had been cleared, the Montego trundled back in to the workshop and I had a peer under the bonnet. Being responsible for our tiny parts dept, the microfiche was scanned for a part number, luckily, the part was the same item fitted to the Maestro van, equally lucky was the fact our Maestro 1.3 van was off the road with a blown up engine and was awaiting scrappage.
Sadly the part did not cure the problem owing to the rack being ground away where the clamp had been slipping and sliding for god knows how long. Retiring to the edge of the car park armed with a coffee and a fag, I had a brainwave and hot footed back to the workshop to implement my cunning almost Baldrick esque plan. Out came the MIG welder, and the clamp was placed where the best gearchange quality could be found.
After a shower of yellow sparks and blue flashes, the clamp was allowed to cool naturally and given a few liberal dustings of satin black aerosol paint to hide the bodge. The Linkages were re-attatched and the car driven round the car park, the difference was amazing. The Monty now sported a gearshift that was still clunky as all Maestro and Montego 1.6 tended to be, but now it actually went into gear with no horrible creaks or resistance – in fact, as good as I had ever known them to be when new.
Another £5 note was slipped into my top pocket and that was the last time we ever saw the red 1.6L Montego. The Sales Managers unorthodox practices eventually caught up with him following an audit and his services were no longer required – to put it mildly. Those days of back handers and bodges are just a fading memory in the dealer environment, but the story just goes to show that even the most quality orientated of us….
Love a good lash!