Mark Thompson's 1952 Singer 4AD
Restoration Story

I was skeptical when my brother-in-law said, "I've got just the car for you!" I knew that he was in the process of settling his father's estate and had several old cars that he was trying to sell.  When he described a roadster with a wooden body, it intrigued me.  The car had been stored in a barn in Missouri for 20 years.  He was having trouble finding a mechanic that was interested in the car because of all the woodwork that had to be replaced.  I thought, "Well, I'll take a look at it".

It was love at first sight!  Even with the rusted chrome and fenders, the ivy vines attached, the squirrels' nest in the engine compartment, and the rats' nest in the boot, it had a certain appeal.  I could see it had potential.  I couldn't wait to show it to my wife.  Her first reaction was, "you've got to be kidding".  After a few minutes of reconsidering she said "I believe you could make something out of this, go ahead if you want to".  After some research on the internet at singercars.com, I started negotiating.  He asked $500 and I haggled him up to $750.  After all, it was family and I didn't want him to regret it later.  The deal was done and I took it home.

After removing the squirrel and rats nests, it took surprisingly little to get the engine running.  I had to rebuild the carburetor, mount a temporary gas tank and fuel pump, clean the points & plugs, replace a few wires, change the oil and it was ready to try out.  I hooked up a battery and pulled the starter switch.  It fired right up.  Those first few laps around the backyard were the most exciting I had experienced in a long time.  When I returned to the garage, I swept up the leaves that came from the muffler and exhaust pipe.  There were enough leaves to fill a five gallon bucket!  The engine starting up was enough to encourage me to pursue this project with enthusiasm.

Over the next two years, the excitement grew.  I disassembled the car, sandblasted and painted the chassis & engine and proceeded to restore it.  The biggest challenge was the woodwork.  I started with replacing all the wood in the boot lid.  That was straight forward and reasonably easy.  Next, I tried a door.   When I started trying to remove the aluminum door skin, I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?"  Approximately 80% of the wood in the car had to be replaced before I could start on the body work.

Once I completed the body work, it was ready to go to the paint shop.  I took the car to the paint shop in 35 pieces.  I brought the painted pieces home and reassembled the car including the newly rechromed grille and trim pieces.  Next step was the upholstery shop.  They replaced all the upholstery with leather and installed new carpet.  They also installed the top and tonneau I was able to purchase from a supplier in England.  It was ready!  When I drove it away from the upholstery shop, I felt like I was sixteen years old again and this was my first car!  I had never owned a British car or a convertible, much less a roadster.  I was grinning from ear to ear!

When I drove down the road people would smile and wave.  They would give me a thumbs up or honk their horns.  This was fun!  I had to find a way to share this remarkable car with more people.  I joined the Nashville British Car Club (NBCC).  I thought it should be a good way to make contact with people with similar interests and would be a good way to learn about other British marques.  I was right on both counts. 

I had never been to a car show.  When I heard about the Eurofest in Franklin, TN, I thought I would give it a try.  This was also my first opportunity to meet other members of the NBCC.  From the very beginning, they were friendly and received me with open arms.  As soon as I arrived, the car started getting attention.  "What is that?"  "Is that the same company that makes sewing machines?" "Is that an MG?" These questions were heard repeatedly throughout the day.  By the end of the day, I was hoarse from telling about my little Singer.  Very few people had ever heard of, much less, seen one.  I started to realize what a treasure I had. 

If the traffic got slow around my car, all I had to do was flip on a trafficator and people flocked in. At the end of the day, when the trophies were handed out and I received the first place trophy in the Roadster Class, I thought, "It doesn't get any better than this".

 In the past two years, since that first show, I have been to fourteen car shows and driven my Singer over 5000 miles.  I have accumulated 12 first place trophies and three "Best of Show" trophies.  Last September, I went to the Sir Brit car show in Newburg, Indiana.  This was the same date as the show at Stowe, Vermont, which I have not been bold enough to attempt yet.  The Sir Brit show was located near the locks and dam on the Ohio River near Evansville, IN.  The show was billed as "The Best British Car Show by a Dam Site".  I was truly surprised when they called my name for "Best of Show".  This past weekend, June 2nd & 3rd, I attended the British Bash in Louisville, KY.  This was like going back home, since I went to high school in Louisville, but hadn't been back there in thirty plus years.  This was the largest British car show I have been to and the largest turnout they had ever had.  There were 256 entries and a lot of very nice cars.  I didn't have high expectations of winning an award since as usual I was placed in a catch-all category.  The category was Others Bentley, Rolls Royce, Morgan and Magnette.  The category included a 2005 Morgan, a Triumph Herald, a Daimler and two pre-war MGs.  Thirteen cars in all.  Again my Singer was quite popular throughout the day and again I was amazed to best the competition and come away with the "Best of Show" trophy again. 

 

Singer truly is a unique marque and quite capable of holding it's own against the competition.

Back in January, I was fortunate enough to find another project car.  I found a 1953 4ADT that I purchased in Virginia Beach.  This car was in much worse shape than my first Singer but it is well under way to being restored.  Now my challenge will be how to get two Singers to a show.  Hopefully, I'll be able to bring it to the NBCC show this October.  It won't be complete, but it should show details of what the car is like without its' skin.

This page was provided the Nashville British Car Club when they featured Mark's car as the Car of the Month.