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When the Tail Wagged the Dog

July 23, 2021
I’m certain that every week, somewhere in the world of classic car owners, someone has a hifalutin idea regarding vehicle logistics.

In January 2010, I had one such logistical plan. It involved collecting my Jensen 5451R chassis from its fabulous jig welding at Ron Everett-Clay’s Worcestershire workshop and delivering it to the Practical Classics magazine workshop, which was then my centre of personal car-based operations, being that tome’s ‘Technical Editor’.

This involved setting out from my then hometown of Bishops Castle, in the far west of Shropshire, heading to Worcestershire and then onwards, a mile or so outside of Stamford, in Lincolnshire, to the magazine’s hands-on gaff.

To enable the move, I enlisted the help of my chum, Johnny Bloor, with his chunky little Daihatsu 4Track and his three-axle trailer.

Johnny is a down to earth chap, practical and capable, with a forthright manner of telling it how it is with plenty of expletives in the mix and, happily, with a strong Shropshire ‘Arr’, he agreed to help me to achieve this west-east-west move, all to be completed within one day.

Out we set in the square-set Daihatsu, having fun talking about local goings-on, car rubbish and other bloke talk. We duly arrived at Ron’s place, inspected the now dimensionally sorted Jensen chassis, loaded it onto the trailer and strapped it down before getting on our way again.

Up the A46 we trundled, before taking the M6 eastwards, thence onwards in that direction via the A14 before darting off onto the A43 towards our final outward destination.

Once at the Burghley workshop, we unloaded the chassis, took it inside and popped it onto stands in readiness for the first steps of its rebuild to take place.

It being a winter afternoon, the light was already beginning to fade and so we decided to get on the move once more, after all, it was a Friday and the call of The Crown and Anchor Vaults was strong.

Johnny popped on the headlights, which illuminated the yard for a second or two before the snapping sound of a fuse blowing and all returning to darkness. The workshop was full of part-stripped, non-rolling cars, so we had no access to any real light, or a ramp, but we successfully revived the lights and set off, first to take on fuel and then back towards the Welsh border.

At the filling station the lights failed again. Once more illumination was resurrected, only for it to almost immediately fail again.

Johnny then admitted that this had been a problem for some time but, as he rarely drove in the hours of darkness, it hadn’t been a problem, until now.

It was then that I hit on my ‘great’ idea. If we drove the couple of miles back to the workshop, we could pick up my old Series 2a Land Rover, which was sitting on the yard. Not only that, we could then load the Daihatsu onto the trailer and ferry it home, to be worked on in daylight the next day.

Back at the workshop, the trailer was unhitched, then placed onto the Landy’s tow ball and the electrical hook up connected. We now had a full complement of vehicle lights and so the Dauhatsu was driven onto the trailer and placed heavy end forward, at which the Land Rover’s springs sagged into submission.

Out we set into the gloom once more, took on fuel again, before threading through Stamford and out onto the A43 toward home.

It was then that I noticed a tendency for the trailer to command the direction of the train, inducing an occasional fluttering wobble at the tail end of the short wheelbase Land Rover, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle… or so I thought.

We climbed out and away from the town and as we crested a hill on a slight left-hand curve in the road, the Landy’s offside rear wheel hit a pothole.

We were travelling at thirty miles per hour, way below the road’s limit of 60mph, but the sudden and rising wobble induced made everything seem much faster. The swaying and lurching became more violent and nothing I tried corrected it. The tail was truly wagging the dog.

The little Landy lurched towards the path of and oncoming articulated lorry before the trailer shoved it the other way, jack-knifing the train and shoving the car diagonally backwards into the trees at the side of the road.

There were crashes, bangs and splintering sounds and crunches, before a last odd movement lifted the rear of the Land Rover into the air and all became still.

There was a tree lodged in the car’s offside front wing inches from the windscreen, with another just behind my head, but I was alive and felt surprisingly well given the circumstances. The steely taste of fear-induced adrenalin was on my tongue as I turned to look at my friend, Johnny, who surely, I thought, must have perished in the awful melee, just as he did the same towards me. After all, I was in the trees and probably, he thought, a gruesome smashed and expired husk.

Miraculously, we had both survived, physically unscathed, but shaken. The last upward movement of the car had been due to the trailer overturning, but the Daihatsu had remained in position and suffered only a broken driver’s door mirror.

The trailer’s ‘A’ frame was a tad out of shape, but reparable, however it was clear that the now banana-shaped Land Rover had made its last trip.

It was also clear that we were in a very dangerous situation, with traffic speeding over the hill only to find the unilluminated dark rectangle of the toppled trailer looming in its path, blocking the eastward carriageway.

Traffic coming from the other direction had a better chance of spotting it, but as lorries slowed, impatient car drivers speedily overtook, only to narrowly miss careering into the Daihatsu’s roof, with a screech of brakes.

Johnny and I took out our phones. I called the police while he tried to slow traffic with his puny LED light. Once the authorities had been alerted, I did the same.

Thankfully, the police arrived and immediately closed the road before calling the recovery team, who swiftly righted the trailer before scooping everything up and taking it to a distant compound.

The police were not interested in my obviously overload train and, once all had been cleared, reopened the road and disappeared.

I called my Practical Classics chum and editor, Matt Wright, to see if he could assist with supplying us with a car for us to use to reach home. He turned up with his trusty, mid-90s VW Golf Diesel, in which we made our third visit to the filling station before driving rather sedately homewards.

We got back to Bishops Castle a little after 10pm and there was nothing for it other than to head into the pub for a settling pint or two and for Johnny to laughingly regale our tale of woe, expletives flying freely as he did so.

He still tells the tale now, laughing and effing and blinding as he does, whenever he sees me towing a trailer on TV.

- Fuzz t 

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Ikon House, Tudor Road,
Runcorn, Cheshire

Telephone: 0161 697 5223

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 All rights reserved.
Designed and Developed by Magicalogical.