I have no idea what his name is and it’s a while ago. All those photos behind him are his family snaps. When I popped in he proudly pointed out a faded baby and said things like ” she’s married now” or pointing to a young toddler “he’s in the army now” He sportingly let me take his picture.
The garage is on the A38, one of those old ‘A’ roads that used to be what we called trunk roads. It’s on a flat area just outside Gloucester, parallel with the M5 which takes all the traffic now. I was there because he used to sell old lawnmowers and I’d buy one cheap and use it on my allotment for a while before it gave up the ghost, then go back and buy another a year or two later.
He reminds me very much of the model for “Man who mends cars” a disappearing breed of mechanic who did not need a computer to look at your engine and tell you why it was making ‘that funny noise’.
Here’s my original posting of the extract from the book that my late friend and writer Gordon Thorburn and I produced back in 2011.The book is sadly now out of print.
Sometime in the 1970s, a design engineer had the idea of putting a computer in a car. At that instant, an entire breed was sentenced to death and we can expect Man Who Mends Cars to be virtually extinct in the western world by about 2015AD. Then, there will remain only a few isolated individuals within whom will reside the last shreds of knowledge about how to repair cars rather than psychoanalyse them and reconstitute them with plug-in components.
By then, except in Famagusta and at Classic Car rallies, you will never see a Ford Cortina nor any kind of Austin, Morris, Triumph or Hillman. All old-style VW Beetles will have been squashed flat. No Citroen Deux Chevaux will be worth flogging. People will think the Fiat 500 is the Italian share index.
There will be no cars left without fuel-injected air-conditioned sports warranties and three-year ABS alloy airbags. Every car will bong at you to say that you have left the door open, the handbrake is on and you haven’t fastened your belt yet. Equally newsworthily, every car will tell you that it’s cold outside and there are roadworks on the M6. Every car will have more buttons on its radio/CD dooberry than were once considered necessary for the entire dashboards of twenty MG-TCs.
Meanwhile, Man Who Mends Cars looks out onto the road and sees a never changing stream of vehicles which are incomprehensibly complex inside and whose outsides cannot be told one from another. Eventually, the only task within his capabilities will be changing a tyre.
Today, if you want to spot Man Who Mends Cars, you will need to go to a small country town (non-commutable) or the back streets of a poor area of the city. Look for a rusty sign saying National Benzole or Pratt’s Motor Spirit. There, inside a dark cavern with a rectangular hole in the floor, will be a stove burning sump waste. You will see some motor cycles (BSA C15, Ariel Square
Four, Triumph Tiger Cub, Norton Dominator), the bonnet and wheels of a Riley Elf and several wiring harnesses on a hook. In the chaotic area designated ‘office’, there will be a picture of a Jowett Javelin, some horrible items to do with making tea, and a girlie calendar for 1972 provided by RW Grimbagg & Sons (Abrasives) Ltd.
The man himself, in a dark blue over-all, will be sitting on a bentwood chair eating a king prawn jalfraisi, part-payment for a job he did last year on the Taj Mahal owner’s daughter’s Mini Moke.
Related species and varieties
There is also Man Who Helps Man Who Mends Cars.
Several members of this migratory group attach themselves to each specimen of the main variety. They take it in turns to stand around watching while drinking tea.
Golden words by Gordon Thorburn