Triumph MC Mayflower, Part I
Everyone comfortable?Glasses full?Just shove another log on the fire,Dixon,and get Ben to pass that bottle of Californian red over that he's been trying to hide. Thanks.
Right. According to those people that have reconstructed these craft,the original Mayflower was "crank".It isn't so much determining the best point of sailing,as much as finding some direction that the wretched thing will go in.That being so,its most unfortunate that the original occupants were blown in the direction they were.Had they landed in Canada the first winter would have done 'em in.
When the Triumph Motor Company(or more accurately Standard/Triumph) produced the *next* Maylower,they appeared to put on four wheels all the known vices that the ship was capable of,with a few more for good measure.
Father had decided that the MG was unsightly stuck in his drive, and came home with the news that there was this Mayflower for sale in a local dealers for 100 quid,the sum of which he was prepared to cough up,repayment on easy terms etc.It was duly acquired.*Never* be influenced by parents. They're useless. I know .I *am* one.
The Mayflower was the lower market equivalent of the larger,and *much* more elegant Renown,which became known as "The Razor Edge". Father had had one of these(snob).The nickname came about because where each surface joined the other (roof to sides for instance) instead of a curve,there was a sharp corner.On the big car,this looked fine,particularly given the sweeping lines of the wings (fenders).It had light beige leather upholstery,maple dash and door cappings and was really an "owner-driver" car.That is,a vehicle the owner would drive himself if the chauffeur had the day off. The mayflower,however,was an attempt to use this styling on a smaller vehicle.The wing line was an ugly curve,and the wheel arches hid the top third of the wheels. Changing a wheel was a right royal bastard,you had to jack the body up so that the wheel dropped down and cleared the arches.What market Triumph intended this thing for I still don't know. Perhaps a slightly up-market Morris Minor.The seats were red vinyl,bench front and rear,the floor was covered in molded rubber mats,and the dash board was very Series 11A Land Rover,with the two instruments in the same place.The handbrake was an "umbrella handle" affair which pulled out from under the RH parcel shelf and which,inevitably clouted the driver's knee when he got in.The gear change was a column change on the left side of the steering column,three speed box, and suffered badly from brewer's droop.In any of the upper quadrant gears,it looked as though you were in neutral. In cold weather,following drivers could often be treated to the sight of the Mayflower having its door column heftily thumped.This was not bad temper on my part,but a (usually vain) attempt to get the bloody semaphore trafficator to work. These inventions of the devil were little "Railway signals" housed in the door column,which,so theory has it,would pop out upon command and light up.Bit like Bill,really. Usually they would neither pop,nor light,but if they did(you had to catch them unawares)they would go back down again,but sort of hung at half mast,in a dispirited fashion,causing no end of intense discussion by following drivers as to your *real* intentions vis-a-vis turning off the carriageway.
One of this cars little foibles was a worn ignition lock. So worn was this,that it was possible to remove the ignition key whilst in progress and put it in your pocket.The amount of rapidly indrawn breaths,sweating attacks,white faces,and general panic this seemed to cause passengers never ceased to amuse me.
This car was a heavy brute,though,and ill-mannered with it. The suspension was soggy soft,leaf springs at the back,and, I suspect,independent at the front.The photo of it I have in front of me doesn't show the front suspension,but I can just see the end of a rear leaf.The engine was a Standard side valve of 1250cc.At the time we had 948cc,1250cc,and 1500cc engines almost universally.2litres was a big brute.When I got it,the thing was running on three cylinders,number three had packed up due to a burnt exhaust valve.Some thing never change. Putting a new valve in,and adjusting the clearance was fraught with the usual side valve perils,that of dropping valve springs, collets etc into the engine .I finished the job without mishap, however,and triumphantly whipping out the 15thou feeler gauge, dropped the bloody thing in the sump. Which was still on the engine. The renewed activity of number three,it is sad to report,made no discernable difference to the power output.
The car was fitted with a radio(scrounged from Father).This revolutionary piece of technology,properly called A Wireless, came in two,*very* large bits.The Power Pack,fitted under the bonnet,and the Receiver,inside the car. There was no heater. (See my discourse on the MG for preferred methods of keeping warm).
That winter was a particularly severe one,by our standards.It snowed,and then froze,and kept this up for about a month.For some reason,the roads were not salted,either because they hadn't discovered this car dealers pesion scheme,or possibly because whatever they did wouldn't have made much difference.At the time, I was working shifts on a mainframe site in Nottingham,which is about fifteen miles from here.Coming off nights one morning at about four a.m I found that the temperature had gone well up, and it had started raining.So the surface was wet,with underlying ice .I got out of the city limits without too much trouble,but for the rest of the trip that bloody tank would *not* go in a straight line. It slithered about all over the road totally irresponsive to the steering .I got here and stopped in the middle of the town,lit a cigarette,and shook for about ten minutes .I tried skid and tactics with it in a later snowstorm,and found that once in a skid,nothing, and I mean *absolutely nothing* you did would correct that skid. The car was so tailheavy,and had such poor suspension design,that it was actually lethal on any surface but a dry one.And,brother, was it heavy!AND topheavy.And staid.And boring.I didn't hate it though,I was totally indifferent to it.Couldnt even raise the enthusiasm to do routine maintenance.With the result that I started of to work one morning and the oil pressure warning light came on. Why?All the sump bolts had worked loose and the oil had come out of the gap.Well,it was due an oil change,anyway.Which reminds me... I *do* remember cleaning the windshield with Teepol,though. Commercial ligiud soap.Shone lovely,it did.Until the first shower. Ever tried driving with a windshield covered in self generating soapsuds,while laughing fit to bust?Windshield washers?What are they?
So in the end I'd really had a bellyful of this mediocre would be killer.Fifteen inch wheels and all.I traded it in,at a dealers in Nottingham(same plce,apparently that years before, my granfather had bought a horse from,which gives you an insight into the antecedents of car traders),for a rather nice MG Magnette "sports saloon".Which wasnt,but it *was* a nice motor,nontheless. But that's,as they say,another story.
I wonder whether the dealer ever found out about the distributor bowl?The thing worked loose after a time,bringing you to a spluttering halt.(Better excuse that running out of petrol).On the command,leap from motor bearing hammers,large,one,and punch,pin,one.Remove distributor cap,thump the joint between bowl and stem to peen it over,re-enter motor, start and trundle sloooooowly away.....
On the unlikely chance that you are ever offered one of these truly dreadful machines,set fire to it,but dont buy it!