Me & My Motors – Malcolm Hall

We’re talking to Teessiders about what motors get their pulses racing.

Continuing the series is Stockton-based classic car restorer Malcolm Hall, of Hall’s Motor Body Works, and proud owner of a pair of Lea Francis motors…

Malcolm Hall

From: Stockton.

Job: Owner, Hall’s Motor Bodyworks, Stockton.

My current car: I have a Volvo XC90 and a Porsche Boxter S. But my pride and joy is my pair of Lea Francis saloon and sports cars.

Best feature: The Volvo is a practical, 7-seater which I use mainly in the winter months, and I use the Porsche more in the summer.

Best drive-time music: I enjoy listening mostly to loud 70’s and 80’s rock music – the likes of Thin Lizzy, Bon Jovi and Guns & Roses.

Best place to drive it: The best place for the Porsche on Buttertubs Pass, in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s one of the best roads for driving in the UK – lots of steep climbs and bends – and has featured on the Top Gear TV programme. It really is a joy to drive in the right car.

My favourite car when I was young: My Dad, Gordon, had a Rover 2000. They were quite prestigious cars back then. I was an apprentice engineer so he asked me to do repairs on it. One day I was doing some welding work while Dad kept an eye on the upholstery, to make sure it didn’t catch fire. But guess what happened? It took a few buckets of water to put the blaze out eventually. For my Dad it was a definitely a case of spontaneous combustion! Luckily the insurance paid out and Dad gave me the burnt-out Rover. Over time I restored it, so for sentimental reasons that has always been my favourite.

My parents’ cars: Before the Rover, Dad had a Lea Francis saloon. I well remember summer holidays, squashed in the back seats with my siblings and enough clothes and supplies for a two-week self-catering holiday in far away places like Llandudno and Great Yarmouth. It was already an old car, over-loaded and on a long journey, so looking back, Dad must have had more nerve and optimism than I’d realised.

My first car: It was a Mini which I bought for £75. An apprentice engineer back then didn’t earn keep paying for repairs, so I learned to do all my own work, which is what led me into restoring classic cars.

My worst car: A Vauxhall estate car which completely defied my efforts to make it reliable!

My other cars: Dad kept his old Lea Francis which I eventually restored. I’d been looking for a Lea Francis sports car for a long time to accompany the saloon. Eventually I found one on Ebay, it was a total wreck and I paid £2,500 for it in 2004. It took me a few years to fully restore it, but now I have a matching pair which I’m very, very proud of.

My last car: It was a Mitsubishi Shogun, which was a totally reliable work-horse.

My dream car: I’d go for the original AC Cobra – or anything else with a big V8 engine. I love old American cars.

My worst crash: It wasn’t actually a crash, as such. About a week after buying my current Volvo about four years ago, we were on our way back from a caravanning weekend. Turning left at a T-junction I heard a loud noise behind. I looked in the rear-view and saw our caravan, complete with tow-bar assembly, rolling down the road towards stationary traffic. It caused some damage to a car and the caravan was theoretically a write-off. It turned out the so-called professional who’d fitted the toe-bar was clearly incompetent, he hadn’t attached it to the car properly, and luckily he was later found to blame for the incident.

The maddest place I’ve driven a car: I used to drive Formula One stock cars. We used to race at Hartlepool and Newton Aycliffe, and it used to get quite mad at times.

The car journey I’ll always remember: In a 1960s American convertible during a tour of Havana in Cuba last year. I say convertible, it was actually a saloon which had its roof chopped off and hadn’t been properly converted and strengthened! As a result the body work flexed alarmingly, the steering wheel had minimal effect on its direction and the only thing that worked on the dashboard was the horn. So it was an interesting journey, to say the least!

Malcolm Hall, from Halls Motor Bodyworks, specialises in classic car restoration.

He’s available on 07505 107465 or email hallsmotorbodyworks@hotmail.co.uk