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In the cold light of New Year’s Day we assessed the damage, it wasn’t too bad but we thought it was going to be very expensive to repair the neighbour’s recently acquired car. It could have been worse, if I hadn’t been so observant, we might have been coughing up to replace the car and the garage!

It all started some months previously when one of the members of our small group of vintage machinery enthusiasts won a box of fireworks in a raffle. Bonfire night was the planned date when we would set these off but for some reason, now long forgotten, we didn’t and decided our New Year’s Eve party would be an appropriate time. Back in the 1980s fireworks for new year were not the norm and in order for the younger children to go to bed decided to let them off well before midnight.

The box of fireworks were a bit of a disappointment really, lot’s of smoke and very little action and after watching a few we decided to set off one of the rockets. This shot up vertically for a few metres, then turned sharp right and continued horizontally in an arc and we saw it crash into a neighbour’s garden, or so we thought. The rest of the fireworks went off uneventfully and we were about to return into the house when something caught my eye, was that a flame I could see through the window of the neighbour’s garage?

I alerted the others and we ran down my friend’s driveway around the corner and up the driveway to the neighbour’s garage where we found the door open and a small fire burning on the roof of the car within. Legend has it that one of our group extinguished the fire with his pint of beer, but I suspect that was an embellishment of the tale, which I can tell you was frequently related at many a gathering over the coming years.

Hilman Avenger - link to wikipediaAs was to be expected, the neighbour was none too pleased, he had just acquired the car, a slightly damaged Hillman Avenger which he was rebuilding to use as his own transport; on the roof of the car had been a pile of old rags which he had been using to T-Cut the body work, and you know where our rocket landed? To make matters worse, the car was fitted with one of those vinyl roofs that were so popular in the 1970s and it was this, helped along with the rags, that was smouldering and melting in a gooey mess atop the vehicle.

The vinyl roof would have to be replaced, there was no way round it, and we were going to have to foot the bill. One of our group was not terribly concerned, he could get the covering at trade price and fit it himself, to which the owner and the rest of us agreed, I think it cost us £30. After we had done the deed the vehicle was returned to the garage and as far as I can recall the neighbour never finished the car during the time my friends lived in that street, they moved a year or two later; who knows, the car may still be there!