From Brisbane to London..

From Brisbane to London ….

The car started a very slow and protracted journey from Brisbane to London. The container vessel was late arriving into Singapore and missed the connecting vessel to the UK, so the car sat on the quay in Singapore for a week. Towards the end of August the car was finally in Europe, but again on a vessel seriously behind schedule, so the car was off loaded in La Spezia on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Italy, as the shipping line decided that the vessel was simply not going to stop at Felixstowe.

The container eventually arrived in the UK at the end of August, perfectly times to coincide with our summerholiday in France, literally, as the car arrived we departed – immenselyfrustrating ! We returned from our holiday and I arranged to go and supervise the unloading of the car on Thursday 11th September. It was a very early start, leaving London at 5.30am on a lovely sunny morning full of excitement at the prospect of seeing the car in the for the first time. After a quick cup of coffee with Russell from Unisystems, our long suffering freight forwarder, we watched the container being unstacked by a an enormous forklift, we cut the seal and opened the doors. The car was fine, still strapped down and had not shifted in transit. The straps were undone and I felt a massive sense of happiness as I climbed into the car for the first time to steerit as we rolled it out onto English soil for the first time. Once out of the container I rushed around the car quickly taking in the condition and looking at it for the first time – this was the first vintage Buick I had seen in the flesh ! I was elated, the car was in better shape than I expected and looked fantastic in the early morning sunlight and was soon surrounded by the first of many admirers.

The car was loaded onto a trailer for delivery down to London and arrived a few hours later. I immediately put the battery on charge as the first step to getting the car restarted. That evening I checked all the fluid levels, put some fuel in the tank and armed with a can of Easy Start I read through the starting instructions and climbed into the car and stepped onto the starter pedal for the first time. The car would fire, but refused to start and in no time at all the battery was flat, so I charged the battery overnight, but had the same problem in the morning. That evening, I stripped down the fuel lines and fitted a temporary electric pump to make sure that fuel was lifting into the carb, covering myself in fuel clearly showed that I had got fuel to the carb ! A quick spray with Easy Start and after cranking the engine for a short while it spluttered into life, this was even better than seeing the car for the first time. The lights did not work, but the issue was identified and resolved with the help of Bill in Canada and Peter, a 28 Buick owner in the UK.

Now it was time to start the process of getting the car registered in the UK, first step, an MOT (roadworthiness) test. The first test station were simply not interested and said they were booked until the end of the week, the second was slightly better, but we could not find the chassis number so the test was abandoned. I hastily fabricated a chassis plate and fitted it under the front seat, but it was quite obviously not 80 years old. But a stroke luck followed, with the help of Bill McLaughlin I had contacted Dave Wilson a former owner of the car in Australia and he confirmed that the car did not have an original chassis number and had been granted a “new” number by the Queensland Government in the 70s – this number was stamped on the chassis rail next to the engine – I found it quickly and it looked convincingly “old”. The history of the car from Dave Wilson also told us that it was a he, not a she and known as Benson. We had previously decided on calling the car Mathilda, but felt that it would not be a good idea to try and drive a car with gender issues over 13,000km ! So our 29-25 is to remain as Benson !

Early the following morning the car sailed through the MOT test, only question mark was braking pressure on one rear wheel. This meant that as long as the car was registered in the UK within thirty days, I could drive it. The first trip was fulfilling a promise to our twin nephews, they had to be the first to see the car. With lots of gearbox crunching we left London and fully prepared for a breakdown, were rather surprised when we got the South Coast, about 70 miles south of London. Bensonwas a massive hit with the nephews, there were tears as we left and made our way back to London, gradually mastering the gearbox and genuinely astonished at how well the car ran and did not really hold up traffic – we even overtook a very early Rolls Royce with a big wave from the driver !

The final step in registering the car was an inspection by the DVLA,I had been warned that if they felt there was anything untoward with the chassis numberthe car would be given a “Q” number plate, rather than an age related plate like the car would have received had it been registered in the UK back in 1929, “Q” plates are normally reserved for kit cars. I was worried as I drove to the inspection, I really didn’t want a “Q” plate. The inspection seemed to go well, they seemed satisfied with Dave Wilson’s chassis number – it was now a question of waiting. On Friday 3rd Octoberthe brown DVLA envelope arrived in the post – Benson had been granted the age related plate – BF 4951 – Julie and I celebrated with a glass of champagne.

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