It’s a time capsule of my life and I almost lost it: Clare Brookes tells Charlotte Vowden how her father’s beloved Ford Consul Corsair nearly became the one that got away in this remarkable tale of betrayal, serendipity and hope.
One of Ford’s more exotic looking conceptions, the Corsair had a relatively brief production run between 1963 and 1970. Today, less than 300 of the 300,000 that were made have survived, which makes the Consul that belongs to Clare Brookes even more exceptional
“I’ve owned well over 100 cars, so I have many stories, but this is the most amazing one. It’s about a classic, a rare 1965 Ford Consul Corsair, that’s like a time capsule of my life.
My grandparents bought the Corsair for my mum and dad as a wedding present when they got married in March 1973. I was born in December that year and the Corsair was the car they brought me home from hospital in. Funnily enough, I can’t remember the journey, but it was the first car I rode in. Doing the maths, I hope I wasn’t conceived in it too!
Formerly and affectionately known as Betsy, the Corsair was a 1500cc and we went all over the UK on holiday in it as a family. Unfortunately, I was terribly car sick as a child so my early memories of road trips are mostly of that.Wherever we went my dad made sure I had a bread bag to be sick in because mum had done a remarkably good job of taking some carpet from the house and stitching it together to cover the Corsair’s floor and he didn’t want me to make a mess of it!
Betsy came off the road when I was about 10-years-old because she was playing up and needed a bit of work. At that point we got another ‘new’ old car, a 1968 Vauxhall Viva, and the Corsair was sent to live at the bottom of the garden. Mum told dad to get rid of Betsy no end of times but he wouldn’t part with her.
Years later, worried Betsy was going to rot away and having acquired some paint, dad decided to re-spray her. Although he was a very competent sprayer, it looked awful. It wasn’t the colour he thought it was going to be, it came out a horrible shade of putrid green. Dad didn’t like the colour but he didn’t have it in him to do it all again because it was such a big job. ‘I’ll do it one day,’ I heard him say, so many times.
Having brought Betsy into the garage, she stayed there on axle stands for the rest of dad’s life. He died suddenly on the 10th December 2003. I’d just ordered a silver Corsair model car for him for Christmas when there was a knock at the door; my best friends were there to give me the awful news. The model car ended up in his floral tribute and we put an image of Betsy on dad’s headstone – in putrid green!
When mum decided to downsize she asked me to do something with the Corsair. A friend felt that he could restore Betsy, so I said if you restore her you can have her, and if you don’t, I want her back. He parked it up in his dad’s garden, lost interest, and there it remained, waiting once again. Eventually, his father got so fed up, he sold it. That wasn’t part of the deal, I hadn’t ever given permission for her to be sold, and I was saddened to have lost my connection with her.
I was always on the lookout for dad’s beloved Corsair, I knew he would have wanted her back where she belonged, and I felt quite guilty that I had no idea where she was. Exactly eight years to the day after his death I was enjoying a glass (or two) of rosé in his memory and browsing eBay. I typed in ‘classic car,’ which is a very broad search term, and the first car to come up was a green Corsair. I scrolled through the pictures and it was starting to look very familiar so I called mum and asked if she could remember the registration number; it matched the one on my screen, AKV 610C! The advert said no calls after 9pm, by this time it was after 10 o’clock, but of course I had to ring! The man who posted the listing had gone night fishing but I told his friend the story.
The following morning, as I was about to get in the shower, I had a call from the seller, a man called Derek Brooks. He told me someone had been coming to view the Corsair, who was also called Brookes, but that he wanted the car to be mine. He’d called the Corsair Kermit, and that morning I pulled a random pair of knickers from the drawer with Kermit on them. There are so many coincidences, or maybe it’s fate, that even my pants have become an integral part of the story!
I paid two and a half grand and brought Kermit [formerly Betsy] home in the new year; I even had an ignition key that was never handed over and used it to start the car. It was like a time capsule. An umbrella that had been put on the parcel shelf when I was a kid was still there and so was the carpet, albeit a bit mouldy. For some reason, perhaps so that he could prove it was his car if someone nicked it, dad had taken the steering wheel apart and put a sticker in there with our name and address on it. Well, that was still there too!
The first place I drove Kermit to was the cemetery to show dad I’d got his car back and would you believe it, the thing refused to move. Dad had a great sense of humour, he would have been in stitches watching me and my wife bump start Kermit in the cemetery.
With an intermittent electrical issue poor Kermit hasn’t been out much over the years and therefore has come to rest once again. This time in my garden, again, patiently waiting. I’ve said, ‘I’ll do that one day,’ so many times, just like dad did, but it’s my fiftieth birthday this year which is a good reason to get the restoration started. That’s the hardest part though because I’m afraid of what I might uncover.
Having worked at Morris engines in Coventry as an engineer, dad was a real craftsman and taught me so many skills, most I never mastered, but I’ve tried to retrospectively make him proud. The Ford Corsair Owners Club have said they would like Kermit on the stand at the NEC Restoration Show and have offered their help. One of them came out to do an appraisal and said the bubbly bodywork looks a lot worse than it is, which is a relief, but the paintwork is going to take some serious prep; in addition to the green, a previous owner covered it in glitter. My plan is to put it back to the colour it was when I was a kid, a beautiful racing green with a brown roof which is very in Vogue.
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