Sunday, 17 April 2011

Almost there.........

Well, eleven months after collecting her from North Wales, 'Black Bettie' is nearly ready to hit the road!

Since getting the interior done (was it really 6 months ago?), things have been pretty quiet; not that the lack of progress really bothered me over the winter, but as summer approached I was starting to get a bit twitchy.

There had been some "issues" along the way. While the bloke I bought the car off seemed to have all good intentions and certainly didn't scrimp on the materials, some of his workmanship had turned out a bit suspect (I'm being polite). The brake lines had to be scrapped and re-run, body had to be taken off so some proper high tensile nuts and bolts could be used, ditto with the rear suspension.

The target date for having her ready was April 25th - Good Friday, for the first of the big car shows in the South, 'Wheels Day'. A week ago I wasn't too confident, although to be fair, Al kept saying it wouldn't be a problem. That was until last Tuesday, when the company who were supposed to be supplying the coil-over shocks owned up that they couldn't get them - a bit of a problem, seeing as they were needed for the MOT, booked for Friday. Luckily Al found another company up North who had some in stock and couriered them down, arriving on Thursday morning.

MOT was booked for Friday morning and Al had two cars to get done, my '32 and a '55 Chevy Bel Air. Both cars got through, but according to Al, my car got the MOT testers pawing all over it and getting pictures. On the way back from the test a fire engine and full fire crew slowed down, gave Al a blast with the siren and gave him the thumbs up. Despite what he says, I think it was Bettie, not Al, that they fancied!

On Saturday the pinstriper, Simon, was booked to come and lay down the finishing touches. Simon is AKA 'Nefarious Pinstriping UK' and although I hadn't seen any of his work, Al had heard of him and seen some of his designs and assured me he was a good one - and so it turned out.

I told Simon I wanted "traditional" styling in the Von Dutch style and showed him the area I wanted striped. He was also happy doing the thin pinstripe down the sides and also mentioned that he was adept at sign-writing as well - so I showed him the lettering style I had in mind for the boot and he said "no problem" and did the lot.

Four hours later and to say I'm pleased would be an understatement and I'm also in awe of how he could start off with a simple straight line and end up with a symetrical work of art. I went for the two colours - dark red and ivory, to match up with the overall colours. Once the boot had been pin-striped and the lettering was being sketched on with a white pencil, I was a bit unsure about the size and whether it was too big - as it turned out, it was just right, although I've decided against having the Bettie Page graphic as well; I think that would be too much and leave the back looking too busy. A few discrete lines were added to the dash - literally just a few to break up the black.

So, all done now. The engine's running a bit rich and needs a bit of tweaking on the carb' and there are some screws that need capping (or painting black). A couple of leather door straps to be fitted to stop the doors opening too wide. Al's going to drive the car to/from work for a couple of days to check everything's running right and to loosen it up a bit. The engine's running OK on tickover and the fluids are all getting around, water temp is getting to the 'N' level on the gauge. As we don't have a full build spec' for the engine, other than the obvious stuff and what came with the advert, there's going to be some trial and error, but there doesn't seem to be any issues.

Friday, 11 February 2011

West Ham and the Olympic Stadium

It's been a year since West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium was first mooted by the new owners, and just over a year later, the OPLC gave the thumbs up to the joint West Ham/Newham Council bid. Contrary to popular tabloid belief, not every West ham fan is jumping with unrestrained joy.

OK, so the current ground has a lot going against it. The capacity is just over 35,000 and can't be extended further by more than 2-3,000; transport links are terrible - on the odd occasion the District Line is actually running on match days, the half mile queue that forms going in to the station isn't fun, especially when all you want to do is get home and forget another loss!

We're told, quite convincingly, that the move to Stratford will elevate the club to "big club" status. It will immediately propel us in to Champions League territory, with the world's top players queueing up to play in the claret & blue (all having admitted to a boyhood love for the club, of course). Supporters of the scheme get very excited, saying that in five years we'll be comparable to the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal.


It seems that in the year since the move was first mooted, views among West Ham fans have changed. Twelve months ago it was all about leaving Upton Park and going to a rented ground with a running track. The polls at the time suggested opinions pretty much split. Looking at the latest polls (KUMB), and the split is about 70% favouring the move. So what changed?

Well, for a start, twelve months ago the prospect of Tottenham getting the stadium wasn't on the horizon. A bit of a fast ball, that one. Tottenham, with their ancesterol home in North London looking to re-locate to E13? Were they mad? In one fell swoop, as if conjured up by the West Ham joint chairmen, Tottenham had become the common enemy; to a lot of supporters it was no longer about whether they wanted to go to Stratford, but about making sure that Spurs didn't.

While I couldn't believe the logic of Spurs moving to Stratford, I give them credit for their bid. It was honest in saying that Stratford wasn't a good football stadium and they planned to demolish it and build a purpose built football stadium, while refurbishing the National Athletics Centre at Crystal Palace. I wish our bid was theirs!

But Spurs didn't get it and I imagine that while many of their fans would have loved the thought of getting one over on West Ham (even though they usually do that twice a season anyway), I'd be surprised if the majority would have been in favour of relocation out of their heartland to the 'bandit country' of East London.

Just over a year ago the David's (Gold and Sullivan) came along and bought a 50% share in West Ham, leaving the Icelandic banks with the remaining share. Their reluctance to sell the whole is now much more apparent, with the opportunities that selling Upton Park and the commercial opportunities of the Olympic Stadium now becoming a reality. However, they are bankers, not entrepreneurs, and I wonder whether they share the same vision for West Ham as the David's. It's all well and good talking about West Ham being a "big club", it's another to make the investment needed to realise that ambition.

One thing's for sure, twelve months ago West Ham was valued at around £105m. I don't think you'd get the banks or the David's to accept anything like that figure now. Whether this will herald their exit strategy, perhaps in 3 or 4 years, is anyone's guess, but I think it's fair to say that the club I've supported since 1970 is going to undergo major changes in the next five years - and I'm not sure it's a change I'm looking forward to.

UPDATE 12th February.

Today's newspapers carry an interview with the West Ham Vice-Chair, Karen Brady, where she says that retractable seating to cover the running track for football is now an option under consideration. At £10m it isn't cheap, but it would make a big difference to how it's viewed, in more ways than one, and it maintains the principal of keeping the running track.