Why is there an ‘A’-sticker and a ‘Tirol’-plaque on a car with an old British registration number: EYM 947?
Answer? EYM 947 belongs to a 1937 Hillman Minx, and although the Minx’s owners live in Austria …
…the Minx herself lives in a barn outside the town of Forfar, just north of Dundee, in East Scotland! The car is shared by myself (Andrew/ A) and Patrick Whitty (P).
A: Tell us about the car, Patrick!
P: Well, she’s a pre-War car, dating from 1937. 4 cylinders, a 1172 cc side-valve engine, producing 32 bhp, with a 4-speed gearbox. And a lot of charm.
P: More or less, but rather more than less. She was partially restored in 1988, given a replacement engine in 2010, a de-coke in 2018 and I am constantly tinkering with her.
A: Still work to do on her?
P: Heavens yes! ‘Work-in-progress’! There’s always something that needs doing. I’m re-installing the semaphore indicators. That is a euphemism for ‘they are on the kitchen table’. And her crispy, 86-year-old wiring could do with being replaced!
A: Is she a real ‘minx’?
P: Yes, she can be troublesome and difficult, for example, when starting, but she has her own charm. She just appreciates a little attention, that’s all.
A: How does she run?
P: She trots along quite contentedly at about 45 to 50 miles per hour. She’s a working classic and I use her extensively throughout the year, but mostly during the summer. Those 6-volt headlights are not ideal for Scotland’s dark wet winter nights. There are plenty of drafts, and no heating. Not of any sort! I work three afternoons a week at a local supermarket and often go to work in her.
A: The 1937 Hillman Minx is remarkably streamlined for the period…
P: Yes. She dates from the same period as the Spitfire fighter plane (1936) and the Gresley A4 Pacific steam locomotives, like ‘Mallard’ – the one that holds the world’s speed record for a steam engine ….at 126 miles per hour! Imagine! More than twice as fast as the Minx could go, even when she was a brave new minx. Her styling is, very much, of that period.
A: You help out at the Dundee Museum of Transport….?
P: Yes. I have been a volunteer for several years and go to the Museum almost every Sunday. I generally take the Minx, leaving her outside the front door where she draws attention to herself.
A: In fact, we are going to donate the Minx to the Museum after the new premises at Maryfield in Dundee have been completed. Last year there was even a picture of you, with the Hillman, in The Scots Magazine – the world’s oldest magazine, still being published!
But you are the resident mechanic and co-pilot, Patrick. I’m the visitor two or three times a year. It was a joy to drive her the 120 miles this summer to the Pitlochry Highland Games and the Classic Vehicle Show at Scone Palace. Thanks so much for setting her up for ready use…and for showing me the tricks on how to start her!
Now tell us something about your Riley….the one you are restoring from ground up?
P: Ah, yes. My Riley. My father had a 1949 Riley with the registration number MPL 1. The number, predictably, still exists. The car, presumably, does not. After the Riley and a Hillman Husky we went through a series of dead or dying family Fords. In the end I asked ‘Dad, why don’t we get another Riley?’ Well, my father was full of enthusiasm. But he brought home another point-of-death Ford leaving me to pursue the Riley dream on my own. I was 20 when I finally bought a well worn 1952 1½ litre Riley. I ran it for over 10 years, though my A level re-takes, my first degree, my PhD and well into my first real job. By then the depredations of the woodworm ensured that the timber framed body trembled on corners. And I trembled at the MOT tests, but I was able to buy a house with enough garden to build a garage and I took the Riley off the road for a well earned re-build. Apart from building the garage nothing happened. Not to the Riley, anyway. Until about 10 years ago when, inspired by Andrew’s little Minx, I started pulling the Riley to pieces, restoring the bits and hiding them away in unmarked bubble-wrap cocoons.
A: And you’re hoping to have her on the road by the end of 2024, yes….?
P: Yes, I am. After an infinitely long period of reviving tired bits I suddenly found myself with a cleaned and painted chassis. There was nothing beyond that but the very dirty floor. That was when infinity smacked me in the face; I realised that I had a vast car kit to put together. I know there is a long way to go but the knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel, or even fumes at the end of the exhaust pipe, is a great incentive. And, yes, I think she could well be on the road by the end of 2024. I have a brother who retired to Toulouse. Many years ago we somehow agreed that, when the Riley was back on the road, I would visit him and his wife. I think the plan probably included their daughter, but she has long since left home. I could visit her in London on my way to Toulouse.
A: In fact, I and Sandra are keen to join you on your European tour down to Toulouse, and across to Austria via Italy and Switzerland! Bon voyage!
P: Fantastic! And how fitting that the owner of the little Minx, which inspired the rebuild, should take part in the Riley’s adventure. And, of course, I shall benefit from a second driver. Austria via Toulouse is, after all, a good deal further than the local supermarket.
A: Thanks very much for talking to us! The Inzing Dorfzeitung has gone international!