Restoring The Rolls
Feature from 2011
As reported in late 2009, Eric’s first Rolls Royce was saved from a scrapyard by Carnforth business man Peter Yates, who intended to rebuild it and add it to his existing fleet of unique wedding cars. Over 12 months later we caught up with him to check on the progress.
Originally Peter was not looking for a Rolls Royce as the market value was pretty low and as far as wedding cars go, are practically to be found anywhere. Instead he was hunting parts for one of his other cars in a scrapyard in Shrewsbury and asked the owner to let him know if anything interesting came in.
A little later Peter received a call informing him of a soon to be scrapped Rolls Royce. As the man had obviously gone to the trouble of contacting him, Peter made the trip to view the car. As he had suspected, it was inches deep in water and was not really worth the effort of restoring it.
“I took the chassis number,” Peter says, “just to be kind really. He had made the effort, and even though I didn’t want the car I thought I would look interested so as not to offend him.”
“I have a friend who has access to the records and handed him the number in case there was anything out of the ordinary. I was astonished when he came back saying it was Eric Morecambe’s car, complete with special accessories which made it unique.”
Peter went straight back to the scrapyard and returned the wreck to his garage in Carnforth.
“It was in a hell of a state,” he continues, “it had been re-sprayed gold and someone had added a blue leather roof. The original colour was Shell Grey and that’s what we hope to return it to.”
It was then down to Peter and his team to strip down and re-build the car to its former glory.
“We had to replace the bottom seven inches of metal all round. Because it had been sat in water the metal was too corroded to try and patch up, so we simply replaced it all.”
Despite this though the car was in surprisingly good condition for its age, even after its seven previous owners. Originally purchased from Barclay’s of London in 1972, as proved by the log book, over its life it had only done 104,000 miles. The engine was in perfect working order and a new gear box had been added. If it wasn’t for the rusted shell, it could have been driven. Even the interior was good, the seats were original and in very good condition.
“The carpets were rotten though,” Peter says, “all that water had ruined them. The carpets were special, made just for Eric. Normally you would only get one leather heal pad in the driver’s side but Rolls had put one in the passenger side too. Eric asked for it because he was often out bird watching and of course his boots would be dirty.”
The original eight-track was missing, but Peter has located the exact same model and plans to fit it once the car is ready. At the moment the re-building work is now complete and the car has been stripped down to the bare metalwork in readiness for spraying. Once complete, the engine, interior and famous front grill can all go back on.
“I’ve also made a small change to that.” Says Peter, bringing out a small blue box. Opening it reveals a silver mascot in the shape of the Eric Morecambe statue. “This will replace the silver lady, but can be switched back to the original if required.” The new mascot looks brilliant and once on the finished car will set it apart from any other Rolls Royce.
Also in the box was a small silver frog, about one inch long. “I found that in the air conditioning.” Peter laughs, “I have been told it was actually Eric’s. He used to have it hanging from his fishing knife. He must have lost it and it somehow managed to get lodged in the system.”
“We are hoping to unveil the finished car in a very special way,” Peter continues, “by re-enacting the whole thing on the 40th anniversary. We are taking it down to Barclays on 4th April 2012, exactly 40 years to the day. Mike, Eric’s chauffeur, will be driving and playing the part of Eric will hopefully be Bob Golding. We met at his show, Morecambe, and have kept in touch.”
It’s been a long job, but even in its current bare state, you can imagine how it will look when it is finished. The front grill is in near perfect condition and with a bit of polish and the Eric mascot will top off the whole car brilliantly. The date is now firmly in our diaries and we can’t wait to see the finished article.
This wasn’t the only time that Peter has been involved with Eric Morecambe though, in the eighties when he was a keen rally driver he had another more worrying encounter.
“I was driving towards Morecambe from my home,” he says, “a little too fast if I’m honest, and I saw this man walking along the path. He suddenly walked into the road ahead of me without looking. It was really very lucky I was sharp, any other driver would have hit him. I had to throw the car into a handbrake turn, coming rest so close to him that he fell forwards onto the bonnet. I didn’t actually hit him, it was the sudden appearance of car next to him that I think shocked him.”
“My heart was pounding and I just sat there staring at this bloke. He looked up and it was Eric Morecambe. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘have we had an accident?’”
“I replied, still in shock, that we hadn’t actually collided but it was very close. He smiled, said ‘Oh, OK then’ and walked off. I was left sideways in the middle of the road wondering if I had just dreamt the whole thing!”
Little did Peter know that over 30 years later he would be restoring that man’s car and laughing at the initial meeting.
We would like to thank Peter for taking the time to talk to us and allowing us to view the car.
© morecambeandwise.com 2011