One man and his car

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By Robert Harland

Motoring

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I'M ON holiday with my family in the UK and we’re staying in East Boldre, a small village in the heart of England's fabled New Forest.

To my great surprise and pleasure, I discovered that a college classmate and friend, John Stolper, lives and works just a few kilometers up the road so I decided to pay him a visit.

John and his wife Jackie, a national dressage rider, run the very successful Flanders Farm horse riding and dressage center in the village of Lymington.

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John, who is Dutch, but spent his childhood in South Africa before moving to England, is also a long-standing petrol head.

I first met him back in the early 1960s when were both teenagers at Southampton Technical College.

He was already a speed merchant with his Vincent Black Shadow 1000cc motorbike. He sold that and moved to fast cars and over the years he's owned a succession of formidable classics including Jaguars, Morgans, Ferraris, BMWs, MGs, Lancias and Alfa Romeos.

These days John lavishes his attention on three cars - a Lotus Elan, a Jaguar XJ8 and the real love of his auto life, a 1935 Singer Le Mans, which he owned for more than 30 years.

"When I bought the Le Mans from a lady in Kent county, it was in quite bad shape, but after a lot of work, we brought it up to tip-top condition and we've worked hard ever since to make sure it stays that way," he said. "Of course, it has none of the modern car comforts like power steering, but it's a real pleasure to drive."

John explained that spares for the Singer were easy to get these days as a number of companies make them for classic cars. As for fuel, older cars like John's, run on leaded gas, which is no longer available, but this is not a problem as oil companies make special supplements that go into the tank along with the unleaded gas.

Singer Motors Ltd was a British motor vehicle manufacturer, founded by George Singer in 1874 as a bicycle manufacturer.

From 1901 the company also manufactured cars. Essentially, it focused on small economy cars and was very successful. By 1928 it was Britain's third largest auto maker after Austin and Morris.

Although the company concentrated on family cars, it flirted with motorsports in the 1930s culminating with the Singer Le Mans, which was an outstanding car in its day.

Encouraged by reliable performances in the 1934 Le Mans race, Singer prepared a team of lightweight two-seaters for 1935. These cars could hit 90 mph (145 kph), and did well at Le Mans and in races at the renowned Brooklands track.

With that brief history, John suggested we went for a drive. And what a treat that was. Driving along the leafy lanes of rural England in such a classic car was really stepping back into a different era.

Okay, we had none of the creature comforts of a modern car, but this was real down-to-earth motoring even though we did get rather wet when the heavens opened and down came the rain!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 16, 2014.

Lifestyle

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