Nearly there, what do you think? DHR 990C
My beloved, a 1968 Mkl Viva GT!
Pure art!

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My particular love affair started in 1978 when I saw a black Viva GT, with a front spoiler, in a small garage in Eton Bray, Bedfordshire. You should already know this if you've read my web site properly. Being 22 years old and stupid I immediately fell in love with DHR 990C. (This is like something out of an old Hollywood movie that brings tears to your eyes).

After driving an SL90 she was something of a shock. It took a while before I got use to driving her. The cars I'd driven before had a speedo, water and fuel gauge and that's it. DHR seemed to have dials everywhere and the difference in power made me stain my pants on more than one occasion. (Luckily my Mum did the washing in those days). Think back lads to twenty two. All I needed in life was DHR, money for petrol/beer and a girl. (Not money for a girl you understand, I wasn't that bad looking). God. ...happy times. Nothing else worried me, no thought of climate change, no thought of the cold war, no thought to where I was going in life, as long I could take my bird out, in DHR, to a pub, what more could a man want. Happy, happy days. Anyway I ran DHR for 2/3 years, sometimes leaving her in the garage for a few months as I couldn't always pay for the insurance. I used to pay it monthly in those days. Late in 1981 I had a gearbox problem, I'm not to sure what it was now, but my memory tells me it was something to do with 1st and 4th gear. Anyway I took her off the road and a local garage said to save money if I took the gearbox down to them they would repair it and it would work out cheaper for me. Being as I am a tight as a camel's bum in a sand storm, that's what I did. When I got it back, I put the gearbox in the boot of the car and like any decent man worth his salt; I left everything as it was for 23 years. She was in a council garage near my Dad's house from 1981 to 2004. After I'd built an extension on the back of my house, Joanne, my wife, agreed that I could build a big garage at the bottom of the garden especially for DHR. I finished this in June of 2004 then asked a friend of mine to come and have a look at DHR to see if she could be re-stored. Paul has always played with cars, mainly hot rods and big American things, but he did once have an HB with a V8 in it. Believe it or not after looking her over we blew the tyres up and rolled her out of the garage. Two of the tyres weren't exactly spherical but they stayed up long enough to tow her to her new home two miles away. What a ride that was! Rocking from side to side like Elvis in his heyday, because of the tyres and having no brakes at all to speak of and being towed by a 4 litre jeep on a busy duel-carriageway wasn't my idea of fun, but we got her home. (See, even being towed she could still stain my pants). After giving her a good look over Paul said she's complete so she can be re-stored. Great....bit of a clean up, weld up a few holes, slap in some new plugs and a restored car in two months. It hasn't quite worked out like that. I started stripping her properly in November 2004 and drove her on the road legally, with MOT, on the 2nd of July 2007. Why do we do it?

Me, I do it because I hanker for my youth, the days when I didn’t have a worry in the world. I had no mortgage, no children to worry about, just myself to keep. I was cosseted, looked after and generally spoilt by my Mum and Dad but didn’t realise it at the time. I was able to spend all my money on DHR and beer, I did my showing off in her and at the time, most important of all, I did my courting in her. Of course I have this sentimental attachment to her and yes I love her. Her shape, her quirks, her rattles and strange noises, every little bit of her. She stirs memories inside me. I’m also fast approaching my mid life crisis and I want something to hang on to, to remember the good old days by and she does this for me. I’ll give you a for instance here…… Because obviously just about everyone wanted to steal my GT, (poor deluded fool), I had devised my own security devise as I was fed up with taking the rotor arm out each time I went anywhere. I connected a simple on/off switch to my coil then to an earth on the car body and had hidden the switch in the glove compartment. When I left the car I always switched it on and if anyone tried to start DHR she wouldn’t fire up. Well one evening I took my latest girlfriend out to our local club, (you can see what’s coming next can’t you). Well of course when it came to going home time, DHR refused to start. So being the gent I am I asked my girlfriend to push me down the road and I would bump start her. She pushed like a women in the last stages of labour. With me shouting encouragement from the drivers’ seat she even got up some good speeds, but of course every time I tried, DHR wouldn’t start. I could tell after a while that my girlfriend was losing heart, (us blokes instinctively know things like this, it’s a gift we have), and so being the kind person I am, I suggested having a breather so she could try again a little later. As she collapsed in the passenger seat next to me, I could tell that any intension I had of a romantic finish to the evening was a non starter. (I did think about complimenting her on her wonderful biceps but thought better of it and her hair was all over the place, what did I see in her). It was at this point I remembered the switch. Oh s**t. I couldn’t tell her could I, it would be cruel. So I hatched a cunning plan. I told her to give it one more try and if it didn’t work I’d walk her home. As she staggered round the back of the car I quickly opened the glove box and switched it off. Then I let her get a good head of speed up, (well it was her last try), then I bump started DHR. I told her to hurry up and get in while the car was working then took her home. Our relationship seemed to lose something after that evening out and she was always reluctant to go out in DHR after this. But these are the things I miss. Times when me and my passengers could have a laugh together, (well once they get their breath back they can). How can I forget wonderful moments like this, they’re priceless. (My Mum use to say I should have two hand prints painted on the boot lid to show people were to push her. We did seem to start her this way quite often). This is just one example of what DHR does for me.

I, like most people my age, also look at things through rose tinted glasses, thinking that things were better in ‘our day’, even though, mostly, they probably weren’t. I also do it because I enjoy it, I’ve made some great new friends and it keeps me active and for those three reasons alone, I’ll keep doing it.

Back to DHR. The intension was that I would do everything myself. This meant learning to weld. What a disaster that turned out to be. Well it might as well be brain surgery to me. ‘You’re moving it to slow’, ‘the torch is at the wrong angle’, ‘you’re to far away’, ‘you’ve got one leg longer than the other’. It’s driving me insane. All I want to do is stick two bits of metal together what could be simpler than that, nuclear physics probably. I bought some six by four metal sheets and set about practicing my new skill on some ‘smalloff cuts. The problem was the rate I practiced I would have needed to order at least another two sheets and that’s before I welded anything to the car. Now I know a bad workman always blames his tools but the silly handheld welding mask that came with the welder is rubbish. Not only do I have to use one hand to hold the damn thing but it’s so dark even when I’m welding you can’t see where the join is to weld. Anyway I decided I couldn't trust myself with my beloved so I decided to farm the bodywork out. I had removed all the underseal from beneath the car and the paint from the offside panels, roof and front end before giving my baby away to Dave Wheatley in Harlow. Now I cannot praise Dave too highly. If you want your car done properly, take it to Dave, you will not be disappointed. His workmanship is second to none and he cared for my car as if it was his own. He agreed to repair any damage to the bodywork and spray her for me. I wanted her tFront nearly finishedo go back to her original colour of Monaco white and a shiny black bRear Finishedonnet. (Speaking to her last owner, who had her sprayed black, he told me she was unusual because her bonnet wasn't matt black but gloss). I borrowed a rear axle, front sub frame and four wheels from Edd from the Viva Outlaws, which enabled me to clean and paint the originals, while DHR was away. This I did and completely stripped, washed and sandblasted all the bits before painting them. They came out looking okay and everything seemed to work okay. I renewed all the bushes, shocks, brakes, callipers, bearings and bought new discs as well. I managed to break one of the rear springs when trying to dismantle the rear end so had to get replacement rear springs as well. Now all I needed was DHR.

I went to collect DHR from Harlow on Sunday the 17th of December 2006. When Dave opened the workshop doors and I saw what he'd done to DHR, I nearly cried. She was beautiful. I do know I just kept walking round and round her, staring at every last detail. What a contrast from black, it took a bit of getting use to and as long as you had your sunglasses on you wouldn't need your cataracts done. God she looked good! Trouble was I was frightened to touch her, she was immaculate. What I remember thinking was she would never look this good again. First Sight

Going back to the colour of DHR. As you may have gathered DHR 990C is not the car's original number. It's a '65' plate and DHR came off the line in March/April 1968. (This information I got directly from Vauxhall's). Her original number is a mystery as the DVLA have managed to lose all the information on DHR before 1975. Years ago I queried the registration number with the DVLA and they sent me a list of previous owners, the first being Vauxhall Motors and the second was Bill Blydenstein. Since the DVLA can no longer tell me what the original registration was, or give me a list of previous owners I have been researching her history as best I can and believe her registration could have been VLT 513G. I have an article from a magazine which shows the car and gives a write-up about it. Everything in the article is on DHR down to the Cosmic wheels and best of all it was Bill Blydenstein's personal run-around. (The article is in the gallery section). I am still trying to find this information but most of the leads I've followed have come up blank. Steve Cook, the owner before me, has been really helpful and did confirm that she was owned by Bill Blydenstein and also confirmed all the modifications were done by him.

Once I got her home I set about putting her back together almost immediately, but it took me ages as I was scared of damaging all the good work Dave had done. Just fitting the door handles, window and gutter trim took me three weekends. Gradually I got there and with a little help from the Viva Outlaw lads, the engine went in on the 17th of March 2007. From then until June I had the gearbox and clutch in and out three times and the engine out twice. This was due totally to me messing up anything I touched. I sheared three bolts on the clutch housing, I bent a valve after I lost my temper with her and god knows what I did to the speedo drive as that's never worked properly from the start. (Don't tell the MOT man). I had my original exhaust, including the manifold, copied in stainless steel from a company down near Guildford; this ended up taking ages and cost an arm and a leg. I bought five new tyres which ended up having to be replaced as I'd ordered the wrong size and most of the joints I'd made on the stainless brake hoses leaked. As you can tell I'm not blessed with natural talent when it comes to car restoration.

The trip to the MOT man on Friday the 29th June 2007, one week before Billing, turned into a nightmare. My local garage had said I could bring the car in on the Friday and they would look it over for me before the MOT, which was booked for the Monday. (I still hadn't got her battery, windscreen washer, some of the interior and other assorted bits sorted). I drove her the quarter of a mile to the garage and as I turned into the garage there was a huge 'clunk', the front offside dropped down a bit and the steering went all funny. The garage guy said to put her on the ramp and he'd have a look. I'd forgotten to put the nut on the top wishbone bolt and because I never bent the towing point bracket back into position, the bolt had fallen half way out. The garage still checked her over for me and put the bolt back as best they could, (they didn't have an imperial nut that big), and they said she would've passed an MOT if I tightened up five other front suspension nuts and put three others on which I'd completly forgotten. I remembered then that I'd put it back together but never got round to finishing the front end. I can imagine after I left they had a great laugh at my expense. Still that's what I'm here for, to give others a chuckle. Anyway...all's well that ends well and after a weekends work she passed her MOT on Monday the 2nd of July and we would be going to Billing together.

We went to Billing the following weekend and had a great time. She drove really well, (although Spot made me keep to 50 mph). She was only really missing the extra front anti-roll bar, the new windscreen and rubber, the new rear screen rubber and the front bumper. (My bumper brackets turned out to be HC ones and the HB bumper didn't fit properly). My boy came with me and had the time of his life. Another Viva owner in the making.

Billing 2007