Nostalgic Motoring: Beyond the Bodywork – old school car maintenance


AT WEEKENDS it was common to see the neighbours heading to their cars carrying a bucket of water with a few caps of Turtle car wash added. After washing the car, a leather would be used to dry-off the bodywork before polish was applied – bringing out the shine with a clean chamois was the finishing touch before we’d stand back and admire the sparkling motor. The bodywork looked showroom new but what about under the bonnet, wheels and brakes?

Where’s my tools?

Whilst we were never expected to fit our own tyres on the driveway, there were days when we rolled up our sleeves, grabbed the tools and got to work changing spark plugs, oil, air filters and brakes. A lot of the the practicalities of car maintenance have been firmly shifted to the local garage, but here we’ll reminisce on some of the advertising for the essential components that kept the motor running smoothly, safely and efficiently.

My tyres stick to the road like Super Glue 

Gripping the wet road, sweet cornering, long lasting and durable – the attributes we want from a tyre. The advertisers would woo us with boasts about exceptional tyre performance. Motor rallying sponsorship helped reinforce their claims of best in class. Today the manufacturers know that motorists are more likely to search the likes of National, Kwik-fit and Euromaster to find the best deal … price and discounts reigns over brand loyalty.

Oily business

5/40, 10/40 or 15/40? If you’re a motoring enthusiast you’d probably be able to explain these numbers detailing viscosity flow rates and temperatures on an excel graph – for the non-enthusiast these are just some random numbers on the side of the can that looks more like odds in a bookmaker. Shell, Duckhams and Castrol were regular advertisers -liquid engineering that kept the car running smoothly. Again motor rallying sponsorship added weight to advertising. Curious about those numbers? Go find the motoring geek on your street then listen and learn.

I can do it

Spark plugs, brakes pads, oil filters, air filters – the motorist with knowhow had these all essentials clutched in their hands whilst leaving the motor shop. They may have a Haynes manual to help suss out those complicated bits as they got stuck into the challenges beyond the bodywork.

It’s not my job … it’s yours!

As cars become more reliable and hand car wash services are a regular around town, the car bonnet of the next door neighbour stays firmly shut at the weekends. The bucket of water with car wash and sponge is slowly being shifted out of our residential streets – responding to the question of plans for the weekend with ‘washing the car’ or ‘doing an oil change’ will result in raised eyebrows. For many (me included) beyond the bodywork has become a strange, unfamiliar mish-mash of components, wires and pipes – a scary place where where only garages and competent mechanics dare to touch and explore.


Nostalgic Christmas present? The book Section N Underpass features memories of the Ford Cortina, Capri and the Austin Allegro. Essential reading for memories of the 70s and 80s. Release date 14th December. Get the rundown and pre-order here:

Want more about motoring from yester-years? Check out Yesterday’s Drive: Yesterday’s Drive: A brief review of car advertising in the 70s and 80s

All images in the blog were kindly supplied by Yesterdays Drive via twitter (@YesterdaysDrive)

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