Hillman Enthusiasts and Preservation Society
|Blood, sweat and a just a few tears|
Little is known about the early history of my Hillman, records show that it was manufactured in September 1936 and was sent to Skinners of Hastings. The car was purchased by Mr Brian C Knott and was registered in Hastings on 25th November 1936.
Nothing then is known of the car until it passed through the hands of Harry Nash (car dealers of Hammersmith) sometime in 1955 where it has its sunshine roof covered over, some repair work done on the offside rear due to accident damage and a respray in black. The only other piece of information I have about the car is an old AA card relating to a Mr F Kelvie of Richmond, Surrey membership number G106908 found in one of the seats.
Nothing is then known of the car until it came to light on a rainy day at a farm dispersal sale in Devon in 1995 and was spotted by my good friend Nigel. All credit must go to Nigel for saving the car and going a long way with all the hard work of stripping the car down, correctly labelling all the parts, drawing pictures, diagrams and then going a long way with the restoration until he found a Riley that he had to have.
I was certainly under no illusion about the car, and a letter from Nigel confirmed that thought but if I was willing to take the project on then ?Hilda? would be mine for the cost of the car plus the invoices for parts, manuals etc. It didn?t take into account the many hours spent working on the car and for the hard work put in for which I was very grateful.
The car then spent the next six months on my patio, occasionally being worked on by a mobile welder but it was getting to the stage where I had to either realise my limitations and send the car to a restorer or call it a day. I was stubborn enough not to have it advertised in the classic press as another unfinished project and realistic enough to realise that it could have been a long time on my patio waiting to get finished.
So I spent a reasonable amount of time contacting various local restorers and garages and then purely by chance came across Bob at a local show. We spoke a bit about cars and parts and I asked if he could look at the bonnet of my car to see if he could repair and spray it to primer. Well the bonnet came back perfect, no rust pitting or warped beading to be seen and so he was invited to quote for the restoration of the rest of the car. I had hoped that the project would be finished in a couple of months but as the strip down commenced it soon became clear that it was definitely going to be a lot longer. The strip down revealed not just the extent of the one accident that we knew about (its amazing what you can do with an old petrol can and some aluminium rivets) but revealed two other poor repairs to the nearside B post, running board and rear floor. Again just as despair was about to set in I had a piece of luck, advertised in several magazines was the one liner ?1936 Hillman for spares only, call?? As it turned out the car was more or less complete but quite rotten, with its floor completely missing, its interior eaten by generations of mice and up to its axles in barn refuse. I bought the offside front wing, which was very sound, and a couple of other small items.
The owner must have thought his luck was in and could make a lot of money from me, as he wouldn?t sell the car complete but only bits of it. As luck would also have it another friend of mine is a specialist autojumbler in Rootes parts. So I stopped calling this chap and after a while my friend called him with the pretext of just seeing the advert and would he sell the whole car. I met my friend down the road from the house, handed him £100 he went in and bought the whole car. We all met up down the road with the car on the trailer and drove home. That spares car has repaid that £100 ten times over with all the parts it has saved money on, that I would otherwise have had to source or in one or two cases had to be remanufactured.
The restoration then continued at a steady pace only to be punctuated by the occasional phone message for me to give Bob a ring about a little problem he has found. These were solved usually with a great deal of ingenuity and a fair degree of imagination.
The car took the best part of 18 months to finish and there were times when I thought it would never be finished, but I?m grateful to Bob for being so meticulous and his efforts have made Hilda a very special car indeed.
I would like to fill in some of the blanks in the sparse history of this car, so if anyone remembers DY9817 I would be very pleased to hear from them.
My thanks must go to Nigel Lay of Saxon Classics down in Devon, Keith Bruce for helping with parts and advice but especially to Bob Sandiford of Fairford Autos for making my dream of owning a pre war come true and for not allowing another abandoned restoration advert to happen.