Living a Dream - Franz Zammit Haber
LIVING A DREAM
FRANZ ZAMMIT HABER
Since an early age, there was only one thing on the mind of Franz Zammit Haber – that of being behind the wheel of an MG TD. In some inexplicable way, he developed a fatal attraction for that vehicle, and in his adolescence, dreamt of buying one once he started working.
In the early 1960s, Franz began a career in the civil service. Alas, real life has a habit of bringing us back down to earth with a bang, and he soon realised that with his very modest salary, buying an MG TD was way beyond his meagre means. Consequently he depressingly deposited his dream into deep freeze.
“My antennae were always on the classic car wavelength, and when I was unable to tune in onto the MG marque, I sublimated my expensive taste into purchasing a much more affordable old vehicle”, he recalls. “It turned out to be a red, 1936 Fiat Balilla. It was in a poor condition, so much so that there were gaping holes in the floor boards and light came through them. But it had a good working engine, and I drove it for many years. In the end, it developed differential problems, and my instinct told me to let it go. But while the Fiat functioned, it gave me a lot of joy. I can still clearly remember its number - 543”.
With the departure of the Balilla, Franz turned lukewarm on classic cars, and he eventually went body and soul into a totally different realm – flying model aircraft. “This was more than forty years ago”, he recounts. “At that time there was burgeoning interest in this relatively new pastime, and I became a founder member of the Malta Model Aircraft Flying Association. Over the years I saw membership soar from a handful to over two hundred and fifty”.
With his leadership skills, Franz soon became a committee member, and for ten years served as president of the association. His passion for model aircraft saw him possessing twenty first class planes of competition status. For successful model aircraft flying, he lists two essential ingredients – quick reflexes and alert senses.
On retiring from the civil service ten years ago, it started to dawn upon Franz that, when it came to flying planes, his reflexes were slowing down, while his senses were not what they used to be. Being the constant realist, he consequently started to beat a slow retreat from his passion. Four years ago, while still remaining a member, he stepped down from the committee of the model aircraft association. He also decided to restructure his fleet, keeping just four, easy to fly aircraft, while selling the rest of the big planes. “Some of the models were of an international standard – one of them was a turbo powered jet, and it was exported to the United States”.
With more time on his hands, and nostalgia on his mind, the MG TD dream of his halcyon days started to haunt him. Only now the financial barriers were not as detrimental to his dream as they were before. Subsequently he spent months surfing the net, trying to find a right hand model. He eventually found what he was searching for at a classic car company in the Netherlands. “They had two MG TFs and one MG TD for sale. For some reason or other, the latter was cheaper that the other two, later models – something which did not make sense, and I became wary and suspicious”, he admits.
Determined to clear the air, Franz phoned the Dutch company to find out if anything was wrong with the vehicle. He was assured that it was roadworthy, and that it had undergone a restoration. The only snag, they informed him, was that it had no past history.
Still unconvinced, he contacted for good counsel local classic car restorer par excellence Barry Owen, who also owns an MGTD. “Barry told me to ask the Dutch dealer to send me as many photos of the vehicle as possible, so that he could have a closer and more analytical look at it. So I did, and so did they. After Barry thoroughly inspected the pictures, he told me that it was worth it. He also concluded that since the Dutch firm was big and renowned, it had a respectable reputation at stake, which was a different proposition than buying a car overseas but from an individual”.
Thereafter a deal was reached, and in May last year, the classic car was shipped from Holland to Malta. Franz went to the warehouse, started the engine, and off it roared. Days later, while having a closer look at it at home, the dashboard wiring loom was a shambles as it seemed that someone had mistaken the vehicle to be negative earth, not positive earth system.electrical system was a shambles. He tried to repair it himself, but unaware that the vehicle was positive earth. Having had experience in electrical engineering, Franz repaired the wiring system himself, after he had bought the manual and got the needed spares from two well stocked and reliable MG parts firms in the UK.
Otherwise, the autumn red, 1950 MG TD, 1275cc standard , with twin SU carburettors, was in a very good condition and needed very little changes. Franz replaced the standard wheels with wire ones, while the carburettors were adjusted with the help of his mechanic friend Alfred of Zabbar.
The MG T series was a range of body-on-frame convertible, two door sports cars produced by MG Motors between 1936 and 1955. The series featured the MG TA, the MG TB, the MG TC, the MG TD, and the MG TF. The TD model came off the line between 1950 and 1953.
Having been in charge of the model aircraft association website for many years, Franz is now dedicating time to the Old Motors Club website, which needed upgrading and updating. He frequently takes parts in events, especially navigational runs, which in his opinion should be more user friendly as at present they are very technical to beginners.
His wife Agnes is very supportive of his hobby, while he finds a practical pillar of assistance in his son Patrick. “Although he is an off road fanatic, he loves the old car, and being technical, he is a constant stream of advice, guidance and useful help”, says the doting father.
Franz is now enjoying the dream of his youth to the full. “Considering its venerable old age, the MG TD still gives such a smooth and comfortable ride. I am not greedy for more classic cars. I have got what I always wanted, and now after a lifetime of waiting, I can sit back and relax, making up for lost time”, he concludes. The fact that he has clocked up more than 2000 miles in just over a year confirms that statement in no small way!
Joseph Busuttil Old Motors Club Photos: Tony Vassallo Old Motors Club
Website: www.oldmotorsclub.com Email: email@example.com
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Alfred and Simon Castaldi
Alfred and Simon Castaldi
OLD MOTORS ENCOUNTERS – ALFRED AND SIMON CASTALDI
Many an old car has a personal history of the owner that is as interesting as that of the actual vehicle itself. In 1933 Royal Air Force captain H.G. Williams bought a brand new Hillman Minx that was his pride and joy, giving him and his wife immense pleasure as they went for drives through the lush English countryside. The car – AAE 984 - was so beloved that the couple nicknamed it Annie. A few years later, with the United Kingdom drawn into the hostilities of the second world war, he garaged the car for the duration of the war as he was called on frequent duty defending his country as well as flying sorties over enemy territory.
In 1941, he disappeared without trace while on a mission, and was never heard of again. His wife kept the Hillman in the garage, initially hoping against hope that he would somehow return. When harsh reality set in, she still kept it garaged in memory of her hero. It remained gathering dust until 1989, when the widow passed away and the car was then sold. For many years it was harnessed for special events like weddings, until eventually in 2011 it was sold to a car dealer who advertised it on the net.
At around that time, Alfred Castaldi was surfing the net to enhance his two classic car collection with something having an older pedigree. He saw the 1933 Hillman Minx, and it was love at first sight. He immediately phoned the dealer in Derbyshire, enquired in general about the condition of the car, and told him that he was coming over to inspect it in person.
‘’ Along with my son Simon, we took the first available flight to England and headed straight to the dealer. On inspecting the car at close quarters, we confirmed its very good condition, and a deal was struck on the spot. The dealer had all the logs and papers pertaining to its history, and this further endeared the Hillman to me. After a test drive, we put it on a trailer, and two weeks later it was in Malta’’, says Alfred enthusiastically. He adds that the car needed nothing except for a change of battery.
Proudly clutching many written documents, he says that Annie cost 179 English pounds when it came out, with its sun roof thrown in for an extra four pounds! The black vehicle was fitted with a 1185cc side valve engine, while its sales pitch boasted of wind up windows, concealed direction indicators, triplex toughened safety glass, and a roof lamp.
Alfred admits that his interest in old cars stemmed from his frequent visits over many years to the classic car oasis that Joseph Pace nutures in Kalkara. However a very busy life style and time constraints meant that he had to wait for retirement ten years ago to get his hands on his first old timer. His choice fell upon a 1968 old English white Triumph Herald 12-50 convertible. The vehicle, manufactured at the former Malta Car Assembly in Marsa, was in a very good condition, and needed very little to return on the road.
Five years ago, seeing that his son Simon was showing greater interest in old cars, Alfred decided to pass the Triumph over to him. However, he immediately bought another two old vehicles. The first one was a 1964 Mini 850, also in old English white, that after a little adjustment to the brakes, took the place of the Triumph. The second purchase was totally different. Alfred takes up the story. “I went to see an old Volkswagen in Birzebbuga, liked it and bought it. A problem arose in that it was at the back of a garage with thirteen other old timers, some of which did not work. We spent a whole day pushing the other vehicles – many with jammed wheels - out of the garage in order to get the German car out”.
The 1970 Volkswagen needed a full nut and bolt restoration project, which is still ongoing. Alfred says that among other things, the mudguards, floorboards and running boards had to be replaced. The task is nearing completion, and he hopes that the maroon and off white coloured vehicle will be on the road again later this year.
Although Simon leads a very busy working life, he was always determined not to follow his father and wait for retirement in order to enjoy old cars. After getting the Triumph from his father, he bought a 1970 Austin Healy Sprite from Joseph Pace . Simon, who is technically gifted, dismantled the car and started working earnestly on it. Presently it is back from the panel beater, and awaiting a spray in British racing green. Another car which Simon bought from the same source is a 1968 blue MGC. It also needs a restoration job, which he will begin once the Sprite is completed.
A few years ago, Simon decided to go to the Beaulieu car show, together with his father as well as their friend Joseph Pace. Initially his eyes fell on a Morris 8, but on looking further afield, he espied a quaint 1933 Austin 7. “Once its owner started the engine, I was mesmerized by the sound and smell emanating from the small vehicle, that had stood the test of time in no small way”, he recalls. The battery was weak, but both the body as well as the engine were in perfect order. Once he bought it and shipped it to Malta, the maroon body with black mudguards vehicle needed only a replacement petrol tank in order to get back to showroom functioning.
Despite having four old cars in his stable, Simon still harbours a dream – that of adding a TR3 to his collection. On the other hand, Alfred feels satiated with his old timers, and has no further desire other that of enjoying his vehicles, especially outings with Annie!
Besides classic cars, both Alfred and Simon share a passion for old motorcycles. In the 1950s Alfred used to ride a BSA which eventually he had to sell. But four years ago he decided to turn back the years and bought a 1963 BSA 2.5 Model C12 – which sits in a showcase on a stand! Simon opts for less powerful two wheelers, and owns three old Lambretta Innocenti.
Joseph Busuttil Old Motors Club Photos Tony Vássallo Old Motors Club
Web site www.oldmotorsclub.com Email info oldmotorsclub.com
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The sweet aroma of freshly baked Maltese bread wafts invitingly into the early morning air as the baker delivery man distributes his warm wares from the back of his old vehicle to housewives awaiting on their doorsteps or huddled in small gossipy groups. The old deliver/ van halts at short distances, then is driven again effortlessly along various streets in IJorrni and Siggiewi, with the baker's son - still in his early teens and barely visible in the driver's seat - behind the wheel.
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Anything but standard
From an abandoned wreck, Carmel Vella restored his Standard Ten to showroom condition.
“We found the window rubber in twoStandard 10 doors that were on a roof of a house in Dingli – they were being used as the ceiling for an animal coop”
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