This series of articles is centred around the many and varied cars my father owned as I grew up in England.
The first instalment concerned the redoubtable Standard Vanguard (see Part 1) and ended when Dad reluctantly sold it in order to change to a smaller, lighter car more suitable for my mother to drive. Enter the Triumph Herald, which died dramatically on the occasion of it's first MOT test (see Part 2).
Ford Cortina Mark 1 (1962-1966)
So there we were, the whole family stranded at Williams Automobiles in Bristol. The proprietor had just delivered the dramatic news that our Triumph Herald was a death trap - it was destined for the scrap yard. "Take a look at this one", he said, ushering Dad outside to where a grey Ford Cortina was parked tight against a wall. "It needs a new engine which is coming tomorrow, so I can't start it for you" he added.
In another strange decision for a man who had good knowledge and understanding of motor mechanicals, Dad decided to buy the Cortina despite being unable to start the engine, drive it or even look at the left-hand side! Nevertheless, before long the Cortina was our new family car, complete with reconditioned engine.
For once, fortune favoured the brave; both the new engine and the left-hand side of the car were fine. I can't explain why, but the Cortina is one of only two cars from my youth of which I can remember the registration number. The other was my own first car. The Cortina's was 999 RHU. I've often reflected that in the UK now, that number if available as a 'cherished plate' would be worth considerably more than the car. (For the benefit of any Kiwis reading this, 999 is the Emergency Services telephone number in the UK, hence it's probable value)
Life with the Cortina was relatively trouble-free. It had just three faults worthy of mention:
On one occasion, Faults #1 & 2 combined beautifully to create a 'perfect' day. Mum was about to drive to her Teacher Training college in Bristol on a particularly wet morning. "Don't worry" Dad told her. "If the car stops, just call me at work - I'll come and rescue you". We couldn't afford AA membership, so family and friends were our 'Rescue Service'.
With those reassuring words ringing in her ears, Mum set off into a heavy storm. Predictably enough, as she drove along an exposed road, the Cortina's engine suddenly died, leaving her stranded on the roadside. As this was many years before the advent of mobile phones, she wound down the drivers door window to see if there was a public telephone box anywhere nearby. As she did so, forgetting in the anxiety of the moment about Dad's warning, "Remember not to wind the window fully down", there was a clanging sound as the window glass hopped off the winder mechanism and fell inside the door. The rain was blowing directly onto the drivers' door and now came inside, soaking everything including Mum.
She sat for a while wondering helplessly what to do, when a car driven by a total stranger pulled up behind the Cortina. The driver (a man) hopped out and came to ask if Mum needed help. She told him what was wrong and he immediately offered to drive her to a public telephone box so she could call for help. "Thank you, but I don't have any money" Mum told him. Remarkably, he said, "Never mind, I have some" and very kindly drove her off in his car to find a telephone box, where Mum called Dad at work and explained the situation.
Fortunately Dad's office was relatively close by, so by the time Mum's White Knight took her back to the stranded Cortina, Dad was already there, retrieving the window glass from deep inside the door. By the time he had managed that, the engine had dried itself out and started easily, allowing Mum to continue her journey to college, a little damp and stressed but still in one piece.
My only other clear memory of the Cortina involves Fault #3; rust. The keen-eyed among you may have noticed rust bubbling near the offside front headlamp of the Cortina in the "Family Day out" photo above. Slowly but surely, the rust ate away the thin, untreated steel from the inside until there was a ring of rust clearly visible just behind the headlamp.
As luck would have it, some genius had recently invented fibreglass, a strange substance that could be moulded to any shape, then set hard. Dad and I decided to 'repair' the rusty Cortina, paint it up nicely, then sell it quickly before the rust returned, as it surely would.
Many, many hours of physical labour ensued. We cut away the rusted metal and inserted a cage structure roughly fashioned out of chicken wire (yes, really). Then, we applied layer after layer of fiberglass and waited for it to cure. As expected, it set hard as rock and was extremely difficult to sand smooth. We didn't have electric sanders in those days, so we worked by hand with various grades of emery paper and sandpaper, toiling until the surface was smooth and our hands were raw.
Next, we painted the area, first with primer and then with multiple layers of the correct shade of grey paint. Finally, we stood back and to be honest, it didn't look at all bad. We congratulated ourselves and felt we would be able to sell the car before the problem became too obvious again.
The very next day, an old friend and colleague of Dad's came to visit. His name was Jim Wright; Jim was a tall man I remember always having a pipe in his mouth. He was chatting to Dad outside our house, walking around the Cortina as I watched and listened. Without warning and a little strangely, he abruptly reached out and put his hand directly onto the area we had just bodged up, leaning his full and considerable weight onto the fibreglass repair. To his surprise and our horror, there was a cracking sound and the entire repair came away from the rest of the front wing and hung there by a few strands. Our work was ruined.
Poor Jim was mightily embarrassed but of course Dad never blamed him. I don't recall what Dad eventually did about that rusty front wing, but before long, the Cortina was gone from our lives, to be replaced but never forgotten.
Using the project name of "Archbishop", management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham created a family-sized car which they could sell in large numbers. The chief designer was Roy Brown Jr., the designer of the Edsel, who had been banished to Dagenham following the failure of that car. The Cortina, aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, was launched on 20 September 1962. The car was designed to be economical, cheap to run and easy and inexpensive to produce in Britain. The front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for the new Ford Taunus P4, a similarly sized model, was rejected in favour of traditional rear-wheel drive layout. Originally to be called Ford Consul 225, the car was launched as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina.
The Cortina was available with 1200 and 1500 four-cylinder engines with all synchromesh gearbox, in two-door and four-door saloon, as well as a four-door estate forms. Standard, Deluxe, Super, and GT trims were offered but not across all body styles. Early Standard models featured a simple body coloured front grille, earning it the nickname 'Ironbar'. Since this version cost almost the same as the better equipped Deluxe it sold poorly and is very rare today. Options included heater and bench seat with column gearchange. Super versions of the estates offered the option of simulated wood side and tailgate trim. In an early example of product placement many examples of the brand new Cortina featured as "Glamcabs" in the comedy film Carry On Cabby.
There were two main variations of the Mark 1. The Mark 1a possessed elliptical front side-lights, whereas the Mark 1b had a re-designed front grille incorporating the more rectangular side-light and indicator units. A notable variant was the Ford Cortina Lotus.
The Cortina was launched a few weeks before the London Motor Show of October 1962 with a 1198 cc 3-bearing engine, which was an enlarged version of the 997 cc engine then fitted in the Ford Anglia. A few months later, in January 1963, the Cortina Super was announced with a 5-bearing 1498 cc engine. Versions of the larger engine found their way into subsequent variations, including the Cortina GT which appeared in Spring 1963 with lowered suspension and engine tuned to give a claimed output of 78 bhp (58 kW; 79 PS) ahead of the 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) claimed for the Cortina 1500 Super. The engines used across the Mark I range were of identical design, differing only in capacity and setup. The formula used was a four-cylinder pushrod (Over Head Valve) design that came to be known as the "pre-crossflow" version as both inlet and exhaust ports were located on the same side of the head. The most powerful version of this engine (used in the GT Cortina) was 1498 cc (1500) and produced 78 bhp (58 kW). This engine contained a different camshaft profile, a different cast of head featuring larger ports, tubular exhaust headers and a Weber double barrel carburettor.
Advertising of the revised version, which appeared at the London Motor Show in October 1964, made much of the newly introduced "Aeroflow" through-flow ventilation, evidenced by the extractor vents on the rear pillars. A subsequent test on a warm day involving the four different Cortina models manufactured between 1964 and 1979 determined that the air delivery from the simple eyeball outlets on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was actually greater than that on the Mark II, the Mark III or the Mark IV. The dashboard, instruments and controls were revised, for a the second time, having already been reworked in October 1963 when round instruments replaced the strip speedometer with which the car had been launched: twelve years later, however, the painted steel dashboard, its "knobs scattered all over the place and its heater controls stuck underneath as a very obvious afterthought" on the 1964 Mark I Cortina was felt to have aged much less well than the car's ventilation system. It was also in 1964 that front disc brakes became standard across the range.
Ford Cortina Lotus was offered only as a two-door saloon all in white with a contrasting green side flash down each flank. It had a unique 1557 cc twin-cam engine by Lotus, but based on the Cortina's Kent OHV engine. Aluminium was used for some body panels. For a certain time, it also had a unique A-frame rear suspension, but this proved fragile and the model soon reverted to the standard Cortina semi-elliptic rear end.
Production 1962–1966 933,143 units
Ford Dagenham assembly plant(Dagenham, Essex, England) Ford Lio Ho (Chungli City,Taoyuan, Taiwan)
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1962–1975 Campbellfield, Victoria, Australia Lower Hutt, New Zealand Ulsan, South Korea
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon/4-door saloon/5-door estate
3-speed manual, 4-speed manual all-synchromesh Automatic
98 in (2,489 mm)
Length 168.25 in (4,274 mm) (saloon) 168.5 in (4,280 mm) (estate)
Width 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
Height 56.5 in (1,435 mm) (saloon) 57.75 in (1,467 mm) (estate)
1,736 lb (787 kg) (De Luxe) 2,072 lb (940 kg) (Estate)
This series of articles is centred around the many and varied cars my father owned as I grew up in England.
The first instalment concerned the redoubtable Standard Vanguard (see Archive) and ended when Dad reluctantly sold it in order to change to a smaller, lighter car more suitable for my mother to drive.
Enter the Triumph Herald.
Triumph Herald (1959 - 1971)
Light and shade; chalk and cheese. The Herald couldn't have been more different from the Vanguard. Where the Vanguard was heavy, American-influenced, lumbering and relatively large, the Herald was sporty, light, Italian-designed and stylish. Exciting, even. The Herald proudly laid claim to having the smallest turning circle of any production car in the world at the time. More importantly, heaters were a standard fitting! Luxury indeed.
I don't recall the reason, but Dad was in a major hurry to replace the Vanguard. He couldn't find a car soon enough. Being long before the advent of the internet, the only ways to find used cars for sale were a) at car dealerships or b) classified ads in the local Paper, the Bristol Evening Post.
Dad found an ad for a Herald, made a phone call and having been given the address, he and I journeyed to an unremarkable street somewhere in Bristol one dark evening. It was raining and when we arrived, the car was parked outside the owners house in the street. We could hardly see it in the darkness until the guy moved the Herald beneath one feeble street light that cast a ghostly orange sodium glow on the car. It was pure white and before I knew it, Dad had agreed to buy.
I was surprised but excited and we soon had the car home in Patchway. The very next day I took the photograph above showing Dad sitting at the wheel outside our house in Standish Avenue. As far as I know, it's the only photograph of that car in existence.
The Herald was a 2 door saloon and considerably smaller than the preceding Vanguard. It was too small for a family of five in my opinion, but Dad's top priority was - as ever - to do the best he could for Mum. This car certainly was lighter, easier to control and had far better all-round visibility than the Vanguard (which Mum recently told me she used to call, 'The Elephant' due to its size, colour and shape).
I'm not at all sure how long Dad owned the Herald for, but my next memory of it concerns the day he packed the whole family into it and drove into Bristol. The plan was to drop the car off for its annual safety check, known in the UK as the dreaded MOT Test (NZers would call it a WOF).
We dropped the car off at Williams Automobiles and went off somewhere while the test was done. On our return, the owner of the garage welcomed us and asked us into a little waiting room where we sat nervously awaiting the news. 'I hope you have enough money for the bus fare home' he began, 'because in all conscience, I cannot allow you to go anywhere in that car. It's a death trap."
He went on to explain that the chassis was so full of rust that he expected the floor to drop out onto the road at any minute and was insistent that it was too dangerous to even drive the few miles back home. I don't remember how we did get home, but I know it wasn't in the Herald, which was rapidly despatched to the breaker's yard.
Poor Dad never really forgave himself for buying that car. In those days, the old adage 'caveat emptor' definitely applied to buying used cars. Today's used cars are relatively safe to buy, but back in the 1960s it was a jungle out there and there was every chance of throwing your money away on something totally worthless. Dad knew very well that it was definitely not a smart move to buy a car in the dark and beat himself up about it many times over the years that followed. I don't believe any of the family gave him a hard time about it, but he was always his own harshest critic.
As luck would have it and possibly a little suspiciously, Williams Automobiles just happened to have a used car for sale that had recently arrived and was about to have a newly reconditioned engine fitted.
And so, that was soon to became Dad's next car - but more of that in Part 3.
Herald history/technical data
The Triumph Herald is a small two-door car introduced in 1959 by the Standard-Triumph Company of Coventry. Body design was by the Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti, and the car was offered in saloon, convertible,coupé, van and estate models.
Total Herald sales numbered well over 500,000, and Heralds are still seen on British roads in the early 21st century. The Vitesse, Spitfire and GT6 are all based on modified Herald chassis and running gear with bolt-together bodies.
Towards the end of the 1950s Standard-Triumph offered a range of two-seater Triumph sports cars alongside its Standard saloons, the Standard 8 and 10, powered by a small (803 cc or 948 cc) 4-cylinder engine, which by the late 1950s were due for an update. Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald. The choice of the Herald name suggests that the car was originally intended to be marketed as a Standard, as it fits the model-naming scheme of the time (Ensign, Pennant and Standard itself). But by 1959 it was felt that the Triumph name had more brand equity, and the Standard name was phased out in Britain after 1963.
Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to style the car by the Standard-Triumph board, encouraged by chief engineer Harry Webster, and quickly produced designs for a two-door saloon with a large glass area that gave 93 per cent all-round visibility in the saloon variant and the "razor-edge" looks to which many makers were turning. As Fisher & Ludlow, Standard-Triumph's body suppliers became part of an uncooperative BMC, it was decided that the car should have a separate chassis rather than adopting the newer monocoque construction. The main body tub was bolted to the chassis and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine. Every panel – including the sills and roof – could be unbolted from the car so that different body styles could be easily built on the same chassis. Accordingly, in addition to the original coupé and saloon models, van, convertible and estate versions were on offer within two years.
The Standard Pennant's 4-cylinder 948 cc OHV engine and 4 speed manual gearbox was used with synchromesh on the top three gears and remote gear shift and driving the rear wheels. The rack and pinion steering afforded the Herald a tight 25-foot (7.6 m) turning circle. Coil and double-wishbone front suspension was fitted, while the rear suspension, a new departure for Triumph, offered independent springing via a single transverse leaf-spring bolted to the top of the final drive unit and swing axles.
Instruments were confined to a single large speedometer with fuel gauge in the saloon (a temperature gauge was available as an option) on a dashboard of grey pressed fibreboard. The coupé dashboard was equipped with speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, together with a lockable glovebox. The car had loop-pile carpeting and heater as standard. A number of extras were available including twin carburettors, leather seats, a wood-veneered dashboard, Telaflo shock absorbers and paint options.
In late 1958, prototype cars embarked on a test run from Cape Town to Tangiers. An account of the journey was embellished by PR at the time. However only minor changes were deemed necessary between the prototype and production cars. The new car was launched at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 April 1959 but was not an immediate sales success, partly owing to its relatively high cost, approaching £700 (including 45 per cent Purchase Tax). In standard single-carburettor form the 34.5 bhp (26 kW) car was no better than average in terms of performance. A saloon tested by The Motor magazine in 1959 was found to have a top speed of 70.9 mph (114.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 31.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 34.5 miles per imperial gallon (8.2 L/100 km; 28.7 mpg-US) was recorded.
The rear suspension was criticised as yielding poor handling at the extremes of performance though the model was considered easy to drive with its good vision, light steering (smallest turning circle of any production car) and controls, and ease of repair.
Standard-Triumph experienced financial difficulties at the beginning of the 1960s and was taken over by Leyland Motors Ltd in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald and the car was re-launched with an 1147 cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured white rubber bumpers, a wooden laminate dashboard and improved seating. Quality control was also tightened up. Twin carburettors were no longer fitted to any of the range as standard although they remained an option, the standard being a single down-draught Solex carburettor. Claimed maximum power of the Herald 1200 was 39 bhp (29 kW), as against the 34.5 bhp (25.7 kW) claimed for the 948 cc model. Disc brakes also became an option from 1962.
Sales picked up despite growing competition from the BMC Mini and the Ford Anglia. The convertible was popular as a 4-seater with decent weatherproofing and the estate made a practical alternative to the Morris Minor Traveller. The coupé was dropped from the range in late 1964 as it was by then in direct competition with the Triumph Spitfire.
While writing about my Dad recently around the time of Fathers' Day in New Zealand, I touched on the subject of his interest in motoring and how his passion was passed down to my brother and me.
Obviously, when you look at the number of Classic Car Clubs and related events that happen around the world, we are far from alone and it occurred to me that others might enjoy my memories of cars my Dad owned, drove and in some cases suffered with from my earliest recollections to his death a few years ago.
So, this is the first instalment. If there is interest, I will continue with Part 2.
Standard Vanguard Phase 1 (1947-1953)
The Vanguard is the first car I remember Dad owning. I know he had a couple of cars before that, but I have no recollection and an equal amount of information about those, so this is where I will begin.
Having scrimped and saved to buy their first home with three young children to feed and clothe, Mum and Dad had made do without a car for several years when one of Dad's work colleagues - a man by the name of Len Prankerd - offered Dad the chance to buy his Standard Vanguard for £30, which was apparently a bargain price. This would have been around 1965, so I'm guessing the car was something like 18 years old by this time. I know that Dad's Vanguard was a 1940's model, as I clearly recall that it had only 3 forward gears and a steering-column mounted gear stick. The details later in this article tell us that in 1950, Standard introduced a gearbox with overdrive, so it certainly wasn't a 1950s Vanguard.
To this day, in my mind I can hear the odd whining sound the Vanguard made as it lumbered up through the gears; Dad used to say it sounded, 'Like a coal lorry'. Anyway, being a car-crazy 7 year old boy, I was desperate to accompany Dad to collect the car, which was parked in the road outside Len's house when we arrived. Dad went inside to 'do the deal' and I was thrilled to be allowed to sit inside the Vanguard to wait for him.
Imagine my terror as a nervous, shy lad when strong winds suddenly got up out of nowhere and the car began rocking from side to side. Petrified, I was convinced the car was literally about to be blown away and I pictured myself going with it a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I have no idea why I didn't simply get out of the car, but I sat there genuinely frightened until Dad eventually came to my rescue.
So, the Vanguard was the first family car I knew about. It enabled us to have a very low-budget family holiday at Weymouth on England's South Coast. The few memories I have of that are:
Some time later, Mum enrolled at a Teacher Training College and needed to learn to drive. She felt the Vanguard was too big and too heavy for a lady driver (women driving a car was still relatively rare back then) and reluctantly, Dad sold the Vanguard for £20 and bought something altogether different. But car #2 can wait for the next instalment ...
Fast forward to 2012 and I had emigrated from England to the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand. I was out driving one day, going nowhere in particular - exploring, basically - when to my surprise in a very small settlement called Te Awanga, I came across the proudly-named, "British Car Museum". Now, I had for many years hoped to see a Vanguard like Dad's but despite visiting many more illustrious car museums, had never seen one.
So imagine my surprise when there, tucked away in a massive and cluttered shed in a rural backwater of New Zealand, were not one but several Vanguards! And not just any old Vanguards, but the exact same model and colour as Dads. Apparently, most of them were in fact grey, but never mind. There was even one of the original sales brochures and a workshop manual.
Naturally I took photographs and here they are:
Around 14 months later, I had the good fortune to meet the Brock-Jest family who run Hooters Vintage and Classic Vehicle Hire Ltd here in Napier. David Brock-Jest is both a great chap and a genuine petrol head, with a collection of amazing British and American cars dating back to the 1920s.
I am fortunate enough to be allowed to drive many of the splendid cars in David's collection for tourists. But I digress ... the point is that I had never seriously considered owning a classic car. However since becoming involved with David and his daughter Ana at Hooters I must admit the thought occasionally crosses my mind. And of course, should I ever get around to doing something about it, at the very top of my shopping list would be - you guessed it - a Phase 1 Standard Vanguard. In drab grey, naturally. David Brock-Jest would, no doubt, shake his head in disbelief, but that's where my heart lies.
So, that is the story .. or at least it's my story ... about the Standard Vanguard Phase 1. For now I will leave you with some history & a few technical details of the Vanguard along with some stock photographs giving a better idea of how the car looked.
The Standard Vanguard was a car produced by the Standard Motor Company in Coventry from 1947 to 1963.
The car was announced in July 1947, was completely new with no resemblance to the previous models and was Standard's first post-Second World War car. It was also the first model to carry the new Standard badge, which was a heavily stylised representation of the wings of a Griffin.
In the wake of the Second World War many potential customers in the UK and in English-speaking export markets had recently experienced several years of military or naval service, therefore a car name related to the British Navy carried a greater resonance than it would for later generations. The name of the Standard Vanguard recalled HMS Vanguard, the last of the British Navy's battleships, launched in 1944 amid much media attention, permission to use the name involved Standard in extensive negotiations with senior Royal Navy personnel.
The styling of the car resembled the pre-war Plymouth with a sloping "beetle-back", although the Russian media claimed that the styling of this car had been in part influenced by Russian GAZ-M20 Pobeda, which had been in development from 1943 and went into production in 1946. In 1952 The Motor magazine stated that the Soviet Pobeda "shows a certain exterior resemblance to the Standard Vanguard", disregarding the fact that the Pobeda had been launched a year before the Vanguard.
Chassis and running gear
The car used a conventional chassis on which was mounted the American-inspired semi-streamlined four-door body, which resembles a Plymouth. Suspension was independent at the front with coil springs and a live axle and leaf springs at the rear. Front and rear anti-roll bars were fitted. The brakes were hydraulic with 9-inch (228 mm) drums all round and to make the most of the interior space a column gear change was used.
The same wet liner engine was used throughout the range until the advent of the Six model in 1960 and was an overhead-valve unit of 85 mm (3.3 in) bore and 92 mm (3.6 in) stroke with single Solex downdraught carburettor. The compression ratio was 6.7:1. Wet cylinder liners were fitted. The engine was very similar to the ones made by Standard for the Ferguson tractor that they were making in large numbers.
The transmission at first was by a three-speed gearbox with synchromesh on all forward ratios, controlled using a column-mounted lever. The option of Laycock-de-Normanville overdrive was announced at the end of 1949 and became available a few months later, priced for UK buyers at slightly under £45 including purchase tax.
Broadening the range of available bodies
An estate car joined the range in 1950 and, for Belgium only, some convertibles were made by the Impéria coachbuilding company. The body was updated in 1952 with a lowered bonnet line, a wider rear window and a new grille featuring a wide horizontal chrome bar in place of the narrow more closely packed slats of the original grille.
Road test data
A car tested by The Motor magazine in 1949 had a top speed of 78.7 mph (126.7 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.5 seconds. A fuel consumption of 22.9 miles per imperial gallon (12.3 L/100 km; 19.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £671 including taxes.
My Dad wasn't easy to tell. He hated attention. Not because he didn't want to be loved but because outward expressions of emotion embarrassed him. He used to say, "I know, you don't need to tell me". Among his last words to me as he lay dying in a hospice bed were, "Don't talk about that, it's boring." I had just walked in and asked him how he was.
So, I sat beside him and held his hand; no words came to me, so I simply sat there quietly with him. He closed his eyes and drifted in and out of consciousness; whether that was the morphine or the illness, I will never really know. His hand felt cold and hard; almost as if he were already dead. I knew the end was near, but never seriously thought this would be the last time I'd see him alive. What would I have said if I'd known? I really don't know. At that moment, I could only have said things I knew he didn't want me to say. Anything else would have seemed utterly inappropriate and trivial.
Instead as I sat there holding his hand, I reflected on my memories of Dad. I remembered how excited I, along with my brother and sister were every Friday evening as he always brought home little treats for us. Usually a chocolate bar or something similar. I remembered if we were naughty, Mum would utter the ultimate threat: 'Just you wait till your Father gets home!' That one always worked on us, even though he would always come in and be lovely to us all.
One day in 1963, he promised to buy each of us a record and said we could choose which one we wanted. He must have been feeling flush just then, as I believe 45 rpm singles cost around five shillings at the time. Dad was working seven days a week to make ends meet, so he didn't have spare money. Anyway, he asked which record I wanted and I asked for Del Shannon's 'Runaway'. Not bad taste for a 5 year old!
When Dad came home that night, he gravely told me he was very sorry but the record I wanted was sold out. To make up for the disappointment, he had bought me two records instead; a different Del Shannon song called 'Two Kinds of Teardrops' and another one by a new English group called The Beatles. The song was 'She Loves You' and he'd been informed by the shop assistant that it was the No1 song on what we used to call the Hit Parade that week. I remember it had a black label with the Parlophone name curled around the outside. Under the song title, the then almost unknown names of the songwriters appeared in silver italics: "Lennon-McCartney". And so began my lifelong love of The Beatles; to this day I still listen to their recordings. Thanks for that, Dad.
So, I just want to say, 'Happy Father's Day and thanks for being such a great Dad. I love you and I miss you every day. Too bad if that's embarrassing - you can't stop me now!'
I'm pretty sure he knew anyway, but it feels good to say it just in case.
There are several astonishing aspects to this tragic incident:
What were they thinking?
That's the point of course - they weren't thinking, else they would not have been there at all. The parents and the instructor are wholly to blame. As a consequence, the instructor lost his life and that little girl will live with the memory for ever.
Sadly the NRA will continue its powerful lobbying and prevent US law being changed to protect the nation's children; we will inevitably see this happen again.
"Those who live by the sword, die by the sword."
Think about that, America.
I had a little surprise last night.
Against my better judgement, I used Moonpig again, and to my surprise found they had refunded the cost of the items not delivered to Doris & Boris originally (see my 'Elton John was right' piece).
But I come back to communication - they didn't tell me they did that. And they still haven't said 'sorry'. If the mantra of Real Estate Agents is, "Location, location, location", for customer service it should be, "Communication, communication, communication".
#It's sad, so sad ... It's a sad, sad situation ... and it's getting more and more absurd#
"Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"
"1978 Blue Moves album" chirped the OCD Pop Quiz voice in my head. "Great sleeve artwork, so-so album, although 'Tonight' is an overlooked Elton classic", it added.
That voice got me into trouble many years ago when, along with 3 friends, I won a company Pop Quiz Night. Had I realised the 1st Prize was the 'honour' of organising the following years' quiz I would have made like a professional cricketer and thrown the last few questions in order to come 2nd and win some goodies instead. The organisers knew what they were doing, keeping it quiet!
Anyway ..... the topic of today's article is again, Customer Service. I could have titled this article, "How to lose customers by failing to do the easiest thing of all when they complain", but somehow that didn't grab me as overly catchy.
I have been a happy customer of Moonpig, the online personalised greetings cards company, for around 6 or 7 years now. They have been good to me: they give me a huge selection of designs available right here on my computer screen, their prices are reasonable and best of all they remind me of everybody's birthdays so I never forget. So, Happy Paul.
Until the other day, that is. Now I'm the first to agree that anyone can make a mistake; sometimes things go wrong despite all best efforts. We have to understand that and allow for the occasional error, right? Provided it's put right quickly and properly, they tell us complaint situations are somewhat paradoxically an opportunity to improve relations with our customers.
Two old and close friends of mine - I will refer to them here as Boris & Doris or B&D - recently moved house in England. Being so far away in New Zealand I decided to use trusty old Moonpig to send them not just a 'Welcome to your new home' card, but also a personalised mug for each of them as little house-warming gifts. So, the big day arrived and B&D moved as arranged.
The next day, I had some slightly odd messages from them and eventually discovered that Moonpig had only delivered one mug. The second mug and the card were conspicuous by their absence. Boris was thrilled with his mug, but Doris was not at all happy - why had I sent a gift for Boris but nothing for Doris? Why indeed.
So, I called the Moonpig Customer Service Hotline. 15 minutes of infuriating 'hold' music on an International phone call later, I gave up and emailed them instead. Two days later (now 3 days after The Big Move as far as B&D were concerned, I received a response from them. Here is the content:
Now, don't get me wrong; I was pleased they had acted to correct the mistake. I was relieved to know Doris would soon receive the missing mug along with the card I had so painstakingly selected and personalised.
But something was missing; Moonpig hadn't said, "Sorry". I was annoyed by that. Very annoyed. And then to see the comment they put against "Payment Type" - 'CS goodwill". Isn't that what companies say when they think they've done nothing wrong, but give you a freebie to make you go away? I had paid in full for everything I wanted, so now I'm even more annoyed.
Had Moonpig answered their darn phone within, say 5 minutes, it could all have been different. Had they replied saying, "Sorry about that - we are sending the missing items right away", I would have been happy. But they didn't, and I'm disappointed.
This may be the end of a beautiful friendship - and all because they failed to use a few little words that would have cost them nothing. Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word as far as Moonpig Customer Service is concerned. It's their loss. Great song though - I'm off to listen to it over a coffee!
Back in the bad old 1980s while working for bad old NatWest in England, I had a boss called Graham. Graham something; I forget his second name which is probably just as well.
He was a Yorkshireman, but that's not the point. Now I come to think of it, he was not your typical Yorkshireman as he was doing his level best not to mimic the interpersonal skills of Sir Geoffrey Boycott, that well known Yorkshire Insulter of the day.
Graham liked to think of himself as the Champion of the Customer. He used to organise Customer Forums - where you invite a dozen or so of your loyal customers to come and tell you what they really think of your
service - face to face.
Brave, and definitely pretty innovative for Financial Services in the late 80s when High Street banks and insurance companies still clung to the last shreds of institutional respectability. His peers probably thought he was a bit of a loony, but his heart was in the right place.