LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!
In 1965 I was tobacco farming on a farm called Ardroston near a town called Odzi in what was then known as Rhodesia. The farm was situated 22 miles from the Sabie River. A farmer friend , Reino Eksteen, farmed nearby on the border of the Chiduku Reserve.
To visit my friend Reino, I had to pass through another farm which belonged to Henry Truter. On this farm in the long grass on the right hand side of the road, I noticed the body of an old car with its mudguards still attached. The beautiful lines of the vehicle impressed me and one day I called on Mr Truter to make enquiries about the car.
Mr Truter told me that the car and the farm had been given to his father by the Rhodesian Government because of his families’ historical ties with Cecil John Rhodes. Members of Mr Truter’s family had been employed by Cecil John Rhodes as ox drivers.
I unaware of the existence of old car clubs and just the urge to try and restore something so beautiful to its original state prompted me to ask the owner if he would be willing to sell me the wreck as scrap. Mr Truter was busy planting tobacco seedbeds at the time and needed some fertilizer so I traded 5 bags of fertilizer for the bits and pieces of the old car, which by then I had identified as a Ford from the markings on the door sills.
The complete body with the mudguards and doors as well as the front half of the chassis with axle and wheels was still in its original spot next to the road. Henry told me that the rear half of the chassis and axle had been taken by a certain Chief in the Chiduku Reserve to make a makeshift ox cart. My search for the missing parts started in earnest.
I found the missing engine and radiator in a gum tree plantation half buried in the soil and the cowl nearby. Everything including the body was rusted but not unrestorable. After weeks of searching, the Chief, who owned the rear chassis and axle, was located. The wheels had collapsed so the cart was out of action and I negotiated with the Chief to trade the remains for half a bag of mealie meal.
On a trip to Salisbury to auction my tobacco, I mentioned the old car to someone who told me about the old car club in Salisbury. I contacted the Chairman, Alan Phillips, on the same day and he subsequently became a close friend and restoration advisor of the Model A Ford Pheaton.
Many bits and pieces were still missing and it became a family pastime on weekends to search for them. The area near Umtali was rich in wrecks of various old cars and eventually I had almost enough Model A spares to build two cars.
During 1966, the Salisbury Club arranged an old car rally to Beira from Salisbury to be held in June 1967 arising from an invitation from Club 100 located in Beira. My goal was to attend this rally. The engine was sent to Salisbury for rebuilding and the restoration of the rest of the car was in my hands. My labour force at the time consisted of 35 workers and on rainy days all helped to scrape and clean the rust off the Ford using another piece of sharp metal. As the farm had no electricity, paraffin lamps were used at night to continue with the restoration work and I managed to spray the whole car using hand pumps connected together hand operated by six assistants.
Two days before the start of the rally, the car was started for the first time. On the trip to Umtali the day before the race, I realised that I had installed the clutch plate back to front which resulted in the release bearing touching every time the clutch pedal was depressed. The problem was rectified that night in front of the Meikles Hotel in the light of a petrol pump with the help of my six assistants who had travelled the 65 miles to come to my aid.
My friend Ettienne de Villiers and I made the trip to Beira the next day spoiled all the way by our Portuguese hosts.
The same car is currently being restored for the second time since 1967 and will remain in the Lombard family as an heirloom.