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Searching for spares

Searching for spares

Sunday 22nd September 2013

Sourcing spare parts for vintage cars can be a bit of a challenge, as I discovered last week. We had a little problem with a leaking radiator on one of the Austins. Actually it was quite a big problem because the poor radiator core had suffered numerous knocks and stone strikes over the years. It had been patched up and mended so many times but now it was in a sorry state and realistically, it was beyond repair. The Automobile magazine carries various advertisements from specialist craftsmen including three radiator experts, so I grabbed the phone and started dialling.

The people I spoke to were clearly knowledgeable and they all confidently declared their ability to create a brand new radiator core, to the original Austin design. "It will look a million dollars when I'm finished" claimed the man from Grantham. The trouble was it was going to cost me close on a million dollars to have the work done! I confess to exaggerating a little here, but top quality work doesn't come cheap these days; the most expensive quote came out at £1,000. So in a mood of desperation I tried to find a second hand replacement. I did find a radiator on Ebay which seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Sadly, a phone call to the seller revealed it to be from an Austin 7 rather than an Austin 12. I scanned the small ads in the Vintage Austin Register's newsletter, but to no avail. Oh dear!

Finally I tried a VAR member I know quite well, who has a large collection of spares. He thought he might have an old radiator in the loft of his barn and promised to have a look and call me back. The Gods must have been smiling on me because he telephoned the next day to say he had found it languishing amongst a pile of bits and pieces, it was in reasonable condition and did I want it for £150? You bet I did!

The final problem is that this chap lives in a remote farmhouse halfway up a mountain in deepest Wales and it is a long, long drive to get there. My lucky streak continued as he would be visiting Shrewsbury on the following Wednesday and we arranged to meet outside the Abbey to transact our business. That saved me an hour's driving so I jumped at the chance. Happily, I now have the radiator on my workbench for cleaning and painting and next week it will go onto the car. It has been a huge effort so far but it is all part of the fun of owning a vintage car.