Often, at SOS Workshop, when questions are asked the reply is a curt ‘RTFM’ or ‘Read the (flippin’) manual.’
I think that I may have been a strange boy.
One Saturday afternoon in 1974/5, aged 10 years, I rode my 2nd-hand Raleigh Olympus, 24” wheeled racer the short distance from my weekend home to Sutton Coldfield’s new ‘Gracechurch Centre’ pedestrian shopping complex for nothing more than a mooch.
The recent demolition and sweeping replacement of one side of the town’s ‘Parade’ main shopping street had seemed a sad process, even to one so young. Little by little, blocks of buildings were singled out and raised to the ground, the cruel cull hidden behind a temporary wooden fence for decency’s sake, as once loved basement cafes had their innards exposed and town councillors patted each other’s backs. After all, they would be remembered for this, forever.
The replacement, all brick, concrete and raised flowerbeds as was the fashion of the time, brought with it Beatties department store, two floors each of British Home Stores and Boots, along with numerous clothes, shoe, and food stores, the last three types mostly doomed to disappear within a decade or so.
However, one store that held on tenaciously throughout the following decades (albeit on a different site, approachable by the vehicles it purported to support), was Halfords, the car and bike bits emporium.
I leaned my Raleigh up against the shop’s plate glass window, uncurled the plastic-covered steel combination lock rope from around the seat post, threaded it through the spoked rear wheel snapped it shut and went in.
I had money to burn, probably as much as two pounds and it wasn’t coming home with me. I wandered up and down the bike aisle. The heady aroma of tyres and inner tubes and tyre giving way to the allure of tasselled handlebar grips, chromed bulb horns and rear-view mirrors. I picked up one of the latter, spun on my heels and headed for the till.
It was then that I noticed the neatly arranged ‘Haynes’ workshop manuals, most wrapped in protective Cellophane, but for each car, a well-thumbed example, exposed for inspection before purchase.
My eyes settled on the Ford manuals and instantly I found myself drawn in. ‘A’ is for ‘Anglia’. I picked up the greasy copy, opened it and my life changed. Yes, there were pictures of my then favourite quirky car, with specification details to enhance my scant knowledge, but beyond the opening pages lay true understanding of exactly how these machines worked. I browsed and then picked up another, this time for the Cortina Mk1, and another for the Vauxhall Victor F, FB and FC.
All were discounted, being for types that were rusting away into recent memory and so I bought all three… and the mirror and headed home. I sat on the living room floor, in front of the gas fire, the only working source of heat in the house and devoured the information.
It didn’t matter that my understanding was scant. I was learning more and more with each read and boy, did I read those manuals. Gradually my library increased, including manuals for my beloved bus types, engines and other fancy stuff.
I cannot boast that I have retained all of the information contained in the numerous tomes, in fact I know that I have forgotten far more than is decent. But if ever I need to brush up on some 1960s Ford techie stuff, rather than trying to guess, I can head to the study, pull out that Cortina example and ‘read the (flippin’) manual’.
- Fuzz t