And the latest Dep-O project car is… a Standard Eight. So it’s over to Dep-O regular and registered nutter ‘Mad Mark’ Swingler from Southern Triumph Services to tell us the origins of this project.
“One day, my mate Ged gets on the phone. Let’s not beat about the bush, he’s a Greb – a bearded, open-faced helmet with roll-up shades – and he’s living the dream. He’s got his Indian Big Chief that literally fires once every lamp-post – it’s a stunning bike. He restores bikes and does a lot of Harley Davidson work. Anyway, you look at him and you think, ‘I’m just going to cross the street’ but really he’s a gentle giant.
“Anyway, Ged is seeing a young lady, Lucy, from the people’s free republic of Three Legged Cross and her father, Dave, is a long-term resident – he’s lived there for donkey’s years. Now years and years ago, when Ged’s young lady was a little girl, she can remember this old boy ‘Fred’ – or whatever he was called – put a Standard Eight in some outbuildings.
“He had a spot of bother with it and ran it into Dave’s barn and took the cylinder head off. Now, why he would do this, we don’t know because the engine had been rebuilt – there’s a little plate on it saying ‘Stanpart Reconditioned unit big ends 30, overbore 10, mains etc, etc’. Anyway in 1977, this car was taken to piece in the barn and he put his cardigan over the open engine, put the cylinder head in the footwell, put his jacket over the cardigan and shut the bonnet. He then went home, didn’t feel very well and died. So this thing has been sat in a barn since 1977!
“One way or another though, no-one tried to get it going until Ged started seeing Lucy and Lucy’s dad is into cars in a big way. Dave says to Ged that they’re pulling the barn down, and that they had to get rid of the old piece of shit that’s sat in the barn. Dave asks Ged if he knows anyone who wants it…” (You’re probably ahead of us at this moment!)
“He picks up the phone and says ‘Alright mush! You weld up old shit don’t you…?’
“‘Yeah’ I said.
“Ged said, ‘I know you’re going to say that you want it – there’s a Standard Eight and it’s 100 quid.’”
Now, before we go into any more details, it’s probably worth explaining a bit about the company which built this car. (Apologies if this appears patronising, but it’s always best not to assume – especially given that I recently had a conversation where I had to explain what a Hillman was to a chap who was old enough to know better.)
In 1944 the Standard Motor Company acquired the rights and remains of the Triumph Motor Company which had gone belly up in 1939. In the early Fifties, Standard Triumph used the Triumph name on its sporty models and following the success of the company’s TR range, decided to go one step further.
Come the replacement of the Standard Eight and Standard 10 in 1959, Triumph was regarded as the more desirable name with which to market the Herald. Remember as Britain was leaving its first age of austerity behind and heading for a more consumer-focused, colourful future – the name Standard was interpreted as meaning something different. Whereas before the War it meant positive things, epitomised by phrases ‘up to standard’ and ‘keeping our standards’ – in the deluxe era of social mobility and labour-saving gadgets, chrome, fins and rock ‘n’ roll, it meant hair-shirt basic.
Indeed, basic is a very good way to describe the Standard 8 – a grey saloon which lacks even an opening boot lid (access to the boot is gained by tipping the rear seats’ backrest forward – a bit like a Frogeye Sprite) and which resembles a lump of porridge past its sell-by date. In other words, what we have here is the ideal candidate for a mid-Fifties budget Q-car.
So Royal Madness, what are we looking at? “It’s on crossplies, it’s on drums, it’s a 1954 boot-less Eight Deluxe which means it’s got hubcaps, a heater and two wiper boxes – so you actually have a wiper for the passenger… That is luxury!” grins Mark.
“It’s faded and I think the barn must have had a bit of leaky roof, because you can see bitumen from where the roof was repaired and it’s dripped on the car. There are also a few dinks and dents in the roof, actually I think it looks like someone has stood on the Standard to repair the barn’s roof.
“I thought, it’s gotta be worth it, it’s gotta be worth a look – the reason being, the gearboxes in them. The bellhousing and the actual box the gears sit in are cast in one piece – they don’t have a bolt-on bellhousing like a Spitfire – and they’re aluminium. So what you can do, is take your Spitfire internals, with an overdrive, and bolt it onto the back of a completely all-aluminium gearbox casing and bellhousing assembly. Giving you something which is a lot lot lighter.
“On the understanding that the Standard is bought purely for the gearbox, I said to Rachel (MM’s better half) – and she really really shouldn’t fall for it anymore – I’m going to take it back to the workshop, pull the gearbox out and throw the rest away because they’ve got drums all around, 26hp, they’re horrible and ugly…
“But secretly, I have really wanted one for a long time,” confesses Mark. He then coughed up the cash and it was taken home – which also happens to be the location of the Random Swingler Motor Collection.
“I asked the lorry driver to drop it home, so that on Valentine’s day when we came home – Rachel, squinting, could see something in the headlamps. She said ‘what’s that!?! Is that another car!?!’ She didn’t seem to understand the meaning of the gesture which was: Happy Valentine’s my love! That’s for you.
“I had arranged for chocolates and flowers, but I’m all heart – I bought her a car for Valentine’s day.”
Off came the jacket and cardigan, both of which fell to bits, and the engine was seized solid with all four bores filled with nuts – acorns. As too was all the way around the back of the bulkhead, the battery had just melted and the sills were rotten up to the door bottoms (but the doors were good). The front wings too were flaky, but only as far up as the reach of the sills – but MM has just found a pair in Bristol along with bumpers and NOS Lucas semaphore units.
“It got a space in the shed, I pumped up its tyres, and applied for the logbook. I just couldn’t free off the engine. I got all the acorns out of the way, I washed the bores down with diesel, I took the starter motor off, got a crowbar on the flywheel… Would it move? No way. So I physically pulled it out by hand and I really got my hair off with it. I threw it on the ground, and as it’s quite weighty – it’s the same size as a Spitfire 1300 engine with more material and it’s as much as you want to lift – but the adrenaline was flowing.
“You know what it’s like – you’ve hit your head, bashed your thumb and you’ve run out of beer – you think, that’s coming out. I took a screwdriver to the ring gear on the flywheel and it just went ‘dink!’ As soon as I pulled it out, it was free…”
So this rather dreary lump of blue-ish grey is the latest oldie to undergo a transformation on these virtual pages. In fact, his Madness has already started stripping the car. The gearbox has followed the engine out, as have the propshaft and brake pipes – and now he’s started on the interior with the seats being removed. The interior needs refurbishing, a new headlining is required, all the brightwork has been removed – so Mark has a ‘search list’ of parts whilst he’s doing the metalwork.
Already it’s looking like a tough job just to keep up with Mark. Next time, we’ll be catching up with the work and revealing some of the planned mechanical mods to make this Eight Deluxe anything but standard.