A 1986 Reliant Fox.
(or the trials of buying and owning a 27 year old vehicle!)
Looking at the unkempt state inside my Fiat Panda I decided that a small van would be useful for jobs such as going to the garden centre or to the local recycling depot. The van would need to be a “runner”, be cheap and have something interesting about it. Three wheeler vans were considered but nothing suitable could be found. I still have a fancy for an early (round headlamp) Robin van.
Then one Saturday morning I saw a Reliant Fox on a well known internet auction site. Tax and MOT and in an area I knew well having lived near there for thirty years. Immediately I put in a bid for £500 thinking I wouldn’t get it for that but I might increase the bid later. Unfortunately in my befuddled early morning state I had pressed the “0” key three times instead of twice – The actual bid was £5000! As long as no one else was going to be as stupid as me, the vehicle was going to be mine for a fair price (it was a worrying week). Fortunately, D556 XAV became mine for £1021. Classic insurance was arranged for £109.
Train and underground to east London and I was presented with a blue Fox with poor paintwork and a grumbling exhaust. Driving home to the East Midlands down the M1 it was clear that the engine and transmission were first rate. However, when the speedometer indicated 65mph I was being overtaken by HGVs. They were either speeding or something is amiss with the speedometer. Halfway home there was a loud bang as the exhaust exploded but as everything else seemed to be working I pressed on. It was still mid afternoon when I got back so I took the Fox straight to my usual mechanic. The exhaust was welded up and the car given a full service. Later the front brake pads were replaced and a few weeks later a new MOT was issued.
With the car running well thoughts turned to the cars’ appearance. Inspection of the paintwork showed that it had been re-sprayed blue over a yellow primer. No repairs had been made to the original surface and the yellow primer had many runs which hadn’t been rubbed down. Some of the blue had been “repaired” with a slightly different shade brush painted on. In short it was horrible.
Weeks of rubbing ensued to prepare for a new coat of paint. This took longer than planned and the car appeared at the Ilkeston Heritage and Classic Car Show in September as a “work in progress”. It was the only Reliant there but it did arouse a lot of interest as few people knew what it was. One man thought it was a Hillman Imp van. I was interviewed by a reporter from the Derby Telegraph – I got my name in the paper.
The door cards and pockets were home made and looked awful. I replaced/repaired them and covered the lot in black vinyl. I think they look OK now.
The seats fitted were not original and were in a poor state, so to posh up the interior, leather seats (Ford KA) were bought from the aforementioned internet auction site. Only £50 but I had to drive in the Panda to the other side of Manchester, about 80 miles. With no sat nav and unfamiliar roads it proved to be a bit of a magical mystery tour but I made it there and back without too many “detours”. The mounting brackets were removed using an angle grinder. With the runners on the floor the squab height is the same as original Reliant seats. However, finishing this job had to wait until after the re-spray.
In October disaster struck. Having finally got bored with the rubbing down, I handed the car over to a local spray shop. Two weeks later the car was looking superb with only a little finishing left to do. The following morning I received a panic phone call. Whilst manoeuvring in the yard something serious had happened to the off-side front wheel. It turned out that the wishbone had snapped completely. It could have happened at any time as the broken edges were rusty except for a tiny shiny spot. A replacement was quickly found and paid for. I waited, and waited and then asked why it hadn’t been delivered. “The Royal Mail said your address doesn’t exist and have returned the parcel”. I checked at the local depot(less than one mile away) – “Oh yes, I remember it” the post woman said. “But I can’t remember why we sent it back”. Two days later the re-addressed parcel arrived. Three days later it was realised that I had been sent a near-side wishbone by mistake. Eight days after that the proper part arrived (the supplier had been busy spraying a car in time for NEC so couldn’t get at the part to post it). Meanwhile, the sprayer had gone down with influenza. A few more days of waiting!
Eventually the wishbone was fitted and the re-spray completed. I must now get around to designing new mounts to fit the leather seats, wiring up the electrics to the removable top, fitting a new radio aerial and sorting out the heater (disabled/removed by a previous owner) .