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16 October 2014

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Nigel Davies: Passion - One of the Old School

Passion - One of the Old School

By Nigel Davies
October 2001, Wrexham
A digital story from Capture Wales

A Vintage Mechanic


Nigel's a former steel worker. He's currently the Employment and Training Manager at Caia Park Partnership, Wrexham.

My father had become a legend in his own lifetime when interviewed by the Wrexham Gazette in 1970.
My Life as a Taxi Driver - one of the old school.

When I was born, my father had his own taxi business in a time when motor vehicles had their own identity: Austin, Morris, Triumph, Rover, Alvis, Lagonda, Singer, Hillman, Humber and Rosie.

I remember the smell of leather, real wood and the feel of non-plastic surfaces that made up the motor-car of that era.

I can be seen here in one of my father's taxis, complete with own baby seat and steering wheel.

A new-found vocabulary became the norm - gearboxes, gaskets, cylinder heads, distributor caps, plugs, points, fuel pumps, cold plugs, water pumps, radiators, axles, differentials, idler gears, synchromesh, overdrive, trinions, ball joints, steering boxes and columns - just to name a few.

I was told about one of the legendary people of the time - Tudor Jones, senior mechanic and my father's mentor in his apprenticeship in the Wrexham Motor Company of the 1930s. "The only person in North Wales at the time with a certificate to work on Rolls Royce motor cars," my father used to say in a proud proclaiming voice. My father looked up to this man as a great mechanic who passed on his abilities in many ways.

He told me about one of the McAlpine family who had a Lagonda serviced at the Wrexham Motor Company. A straight 12... and Tudor was the only one entrusted to carry out work on it. On one of the engine rebuilds the car was taken out to test. Not just in the Wrexham area, but on a tour of Scotland to run in! That doesn't happen today!

For his labours as an apprentice, my father received four shillings and six pence a week. Out of this he bought his own books, tools and paid his mother for his keep. Methods that would be considered unorthodox today were also passed on:

To replace a head gasket, use high-melting-point grease so the head can be removed easily next time.

Old paint can be used to replace cold plugs on the engine instead of gasket cement.

A valve spring can be replaced without removing the head by making your own special tool and inserting it into the plug hole.

Did you know that if you placed the rear differential of an Austin 7 the wrong way around you'd get three reverse gears and one forward?


My father died in 1990 after suffering for nine months from lung cancer. Before he died, when walking with me around the garden, he said; "Son, I wish I had more time. There is so much I haven't done, and so much more to pass on."

One thing he did pass on was his passion for motor vehicles.


What do you remember about your father Nigel?
When I was born, my father had his own taxi business in a time when motor vehicles had their own identities.
I remember the smell of leather, real wood and the feel of non-plastic surfaces that made up the motor car of that era.
In my work now, I develop training and education initiatives for local residents, and have been involved in delivering IT courses.

What's the area like?
Caia Park is the largest local authority housing estate to have been built in Wales, and contains two of the most deprived wards in North Wales, with male unemployment running at 16%. I deliver projects developed in response to local need, and work in close consultation with the community.

What's Passion about?
My story is a memorial to my father, his craft and his love of motor vehicles. Just before he died he said to me: "Son, I wish I had more time, there is so much I have not done and so much more to pass on." One thing that he did pass on was his passion for motor vehicles.


Your comments

"Exciting story! A real view of a valuable past, by someone with a vested interest. Fascinating and very enjoyable." Andrew, Columbus, USA.

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