Launch of Club Car


Cambridge Rebuilt in Lincolnshire! 


 Click to view video:       Graham Beckett at the wheel.

                  or        Geoff Roe at the wheel.

This startling headline might well cause confusion, even consternation, in any journal except one such as ours. No hordes of protesting “light blues” marching on Lincoln were to be seen on Sunday 12th December but, rather, a fine crowd of enthusiasts gathering to witness the unveiling of the Lincolnshire Group Trials Car! 

Despite the inclement weather and a disrupted postal service preventing the delivery of the December Magazine advertising the event, some forty stalwarts gathered at Graham Beckett’s garage unit to see the official launch. Perhaps it was the mulled wine and mince pies which were the true incentive? 

The project began eight years ago when Ian Bancroft suggested that a Cambridge Type Sports car be resurrected as a Lincolnshire Group Project. A sufficient nucleus agreed and work began in his previous workshop at weekends. 

Work began on the chassis. It was suitably modified to accommodate the preferred 4 speed gearbox, lowered radius arms and the “D” type rear axle.  It was substantially strengthened at the rear to support the fuel tank and body. Concurrently work began at Tetford in recreating the ash frame for the body. 

Prior to Ian’s need to re-locate to his present workshop at Westby the car was transferred to Alan Cady’s shed at Honington and the work continued on Saturday afternoons whenever a team could be mustered. The body had now been panelled and was transported from Tetford to be united with the chassis. Throughout the period various parts of the car were being worked on by the team at their own addresses and then brought back to the central base for assembly. Very little was done to the standard two-bearing engine except for a re-bore and fitting “new” second-hand pistons, valve- grinding and porting, modified cam followers to increase the valve opening period and lightened fly-wheel. The carburettor is a side-draught Zenith mounted on standard manifolds. An 18mm cylinder head is utilised. Progress was spasmodic and at times almost stalled. Team members came and went, but a hard core of the original nucleus remained. With location and space restraints limiting progress it was a wonderful fillip when GCB made some space available for the project to move to his unit at Dunholme. From then on almost every Thursday afternoon was spent there. 

Slowly but surely the car took shape. With the rad surround mounted and the bonnet made and fitted, it began to look as a Cambridge should. Then a break-through – a genuine, even though tatty, set of Cambridge wings was found at Autokarna. After suitable fettling and painting, once fitted, they transformed the appearance of the car. With its purpose built slab tank, aero-screens and newly constructed and upholstered seats the little car seems very pleasing to the eye. 

Throughout the project everyone involved has enjoyed some interesting discussions on how to resolve problems in a sound and elegant way. Contrary to the common fear the committees designing horses come up with camels, the result of the joint design of our particular donkey has come out looking rather like a thoroughbred!

The full length centre-hinged bonnet with detachable side panels runs back from a Chummy-style rad surround to a short scuttle carrying twin aero-screens. The front mountings for the Cambridge wings support two Citroen 2CV headlamps with built in sidelights. The door-less body carries a rear-mounted slab tank and vertically mounted spare wheel. The cockpit has separate seat squabs either side of the transmission tunnel with a common bench-type back rest. Behind this the 12v battery is mounted on a platform over the rear axle. Ahead of the driver is a cord-bound steering wheel. For many years the Austin Seven Club of Western Australia has bottled and labelled its own bottles of Port and it is a cork from one of these bottles which graces the steering wheel’s centre!

The four speed standard gearbox is controlled by a long lever of bent-stick design. The pedal arrangement is standard except that the accelerator is of the sprung, crank-levered type suspended from the fire-proof bulkhead. This bulkhead has a large removable panel for ease of access and engine removal. Instrumentation on the nicely veneered dash-board consists of a large round dialled, fully working oil-pressure gauge, mounted to the right of a centrally mounted standard switch panel. The ammeter mounted thereon only half works in that it shows everything it should on the discharge side but nothing on the charging side. Nor will it until the 12v dynamo conversion starts to generate a charge! To the left of the switch panel, which controls ignition, electric fuel-pump, dynamo and lights, is the matching round dialled needle type speedometer which currently does not work at all! At the off-side of the dashboard the separate horn and dip-switch fall readily to the driver’s right hand. A foot starter of the bacon-slicer type is fitted. 

On the day of the launch our National Chairman welcomed everyone and invited Ian Bancroft, the instigator of the whole venture, to unveil the car officially. As he had not seen the car for some time, he was equally intrigued to know what lay under the dust-sheet (he confessed afterwards that he was suitably impressed). Everyone’s attention was then drawn to the two display boards – one showing the characters involved in the various stages of the project and the other showing the history of the famous Speedy 75 of Peter Butler, back from its recent success at Le Mans and a temporary stable-mate of the Lincs Group Trials Car. 

Actually “Trials Car” is a misnomer as it is intended that it be used as a road car too. The concept is that the car be made available for the odd event to any up and coming youngster with an interest in Austin 7s, or anyone else who is currently without a car on the road. 

Once unveiled an attempt was made to bring the machine to life. To everyone’s delight, and not a little relief to those directly involved, it sprang to life at the first prod of the starter. Anyone so inclined was then encouraged to complete a few laps of the car park covered with an interesting surface of hard-packed snow and ice. Many of the photographs taken reveal some very broad grins and if you do a search on You Tube under – Graham drives off –  you can see a video clip taken by Ed. Davies. Although there is still quite a lot of finishing work to do the car will, no doubt, soon be seen at the various Austin events. 

After a very satisfying afternoon the little car was tucked away with its temporary stable–mate, that magnificent Speedy basking in the glory of its 75th anniversary success. One is left wondering whether, in 75 years’ time, the next generations of Lincolnshire Group Austin 7 boys will be re-enacting the celebrations of December 12th 2010 and go careering round an ice-bound car-park at Dunholme in the Lincs’ Group Special. One wonders too whether their grins will be quite as broad?! 

Footnote: It is iniquitous to single out individual people for praise and thanks in what has been a group project but it would be remiss not to acknowledge the special skills of Peter Davis for his wood-working talents, Colin Davis for his body-working skills, Ian Bancroft of course and Graham Beckett for his practical common sense and hands-on approach. Also, and they know who they are, all those who donated those precious missing parts without which the car could never have reached completion. 

Paddy Malone.

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