Some of you may only recognise Dave Smith by his boots and ankles, spending a large portion of his time underneath a car of some sort, either on a rally or back in his workshop in Maulden, Bedfordshire. Most of you that have competed on a HERO event however, will know him as a key part of the team of sweeps that keep the wheels turning and cars moving, when they inevitably encounter mechanical gremlins, especially on the tougher events such as LeJoG and Rally of the Tests. There’s a bit more to Dave than he lets on though, and like many in the HERO team his on event craft has been honed over many years of involvement in motorsport. With all of us having a bit more time in our schedules of late, I took the opportunity to find out a bit more about the man behind the spanners.
The involvement in motorsport began almost 42 years ago now, in 1978, working as a mechanic on an RS2000 for a friend who was competing in the Fram Welsh rally. Dave was already a mechanic on the domestic side of things, serving his apprenticeship with British Leyland, and the participation in competition was merely a hobby for the time being. Fast forward a few years though, and despite the lure of working on Marinas and Allegro’s, Dave was almost full time as a rally mechanic and was also involved in prepping and building the machines, alongside his own business as a car trader.
“The late 80’s was when things really started to change, I built two Group A Astra’s for customers, one forest spec and one tarmac. The cars did well, with the tarmac spec machine often in the top ten and the forest car achieving 8 finishes in 8 starts on the Lombard RAC Rally”.
It was through the involvement in these cars that Dave would meet Ken Jones and Guy Woodcock, as well as Andrew Duerden and Pete Johnson. Through Andrew, Dave got involved in running chase and course cars as well as becoming an R+D Engineer at famous Millbrook Proving Grounds and Vauxhalls development of the LPG Powered Vectra Touring Car.
It isn’t just about getting his hands dirty, either, Dave also likes to compete when he can and has for years taken part in 12 Cars events and Auto-tests, as well as the odd stage rally, not to mention Rally of the Tests. “I like to compete in one event a year if I can, to keep my eye in. Most recently I won the HRCR 35 with Pete Johnson, beating Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan by a second.”
Dave left Millbrook in 2010 to set up Maulden Garage, a name we are all familiar with, emblazoned as it is on the side of the familiar orange trucks. Beginning as a workshop facility for modern machines, 75% of the trade through the doors these days is classic cars and around half of that is rally car prep. The involvement with HERO began in 2012 and Mr Smith has been a regular fixture on HERO’s events ever since. But what tips can the man who has been on hundreds (more likely thousands) of rallies over the past 40 years, and had his hands in the guts of at least that many classic cars again, give all of us to keep our prize machines safe during this period of enforced inactivity?
1. Do the Job’s You’ve Been Putting Off!!!
We’ve all been guilty of ignoring that new rattle or stretching last months temporary repair out for one more event, but now is the time to get anything that you’ve been putting off fixed, or, if you’re unable to do it yourself getting it planned in to be fixed once we are out of quarantine. Your car (and your local garage) will thank you for it!
2. Deep Clean
Really at the end of each event the cars need a real deep clean. A wheel off, getting into all the arches and the underside of the car kind of deep clean. Don’t even think about storing your car away until you’re happy this is done, and it’s had a nice, protective coat of polish and wax. Besides which, with the beautiful weather we have at the minute it’s the perfect opportunity and excuse to spend some time with your car this bank holiday weekend.
Make sure there’s plenty of this in the coolant system, and choose a good quality and strength Anti-Freeze as well. It’s not so important during the summer, but is a great habit to get into when storing your car away.
Disconnect or isolate it! This can be better than keeping it on a battery conditioner or trickle charger, as the battery is less likely to become reliant on the constant power feed. There’s also nothing worse than trying to revive your classic and finding that the battery is a dud.
5. Wheels and Tyres
Get it off its wheels, or fit an old set of wheels with old tyres on them, to stop your tyres developing flat spots. If you’re going to take the wheels off completely ensure the car is secure on sturdy axel stands and ideally with the suspension taking a bit of weight, instead of hanging.
Dave reckons that 3-4 months of inactivity is about as long a you want to leave old fuel in the tank before draining it, or sticking an additive in it. The ethanol content of modern fuel will eat away at hoses after this time, as well as going stale and leave you with big problems when you try to recommission your beast for the road.
Make sure your car is all tucked in before you send it off to sleep, and cover it up! It’s a simple one, but keeps the dust off your lovingly cleaned machine and protects the paint work whilst it dreams of summer days on the road.
So, there you have it, Dave’s Top Tips! Just like the rest of us, he can’t wait to be back out on events and doing what he loves. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there” he tells me, “This all started as a hobby because I love cars and the passion for that is still the main reason I do it to this day. That and you meet some amazing people. There’s a lot of shared history between many of us in HERO, people like Bob Rutherford, Guy, George and Nick. It’s a small world really and one that I love being part of, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of looking at the results sheet at the end of a rally, knowing that you’ve helped to ensure that many of the cars on the list have finished.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Dave.