Barnfind... The term that is used more and more to describe some dirty, rusty, crappy hunk of worthless metal that was abandoned not too long ago because the owner lost interest in it, but now he wants to sell it on. It seems to me that as I trawl through all the listings on ebay-land more and more cars that were abandoned in the recent past are being advertised as barn finds, even if they've never been in a barn, or for that matter a garage! Don't get me wrong, there are still hidden gems out there, languishing in barns and garages across the land, but some of the ones that I've seen turn up on ebay just lately haven't even been off the road all that long. Infact, one of the ones I saw lately only ran out of MOT less than a year ago. How much of a barn find can that be? Anyhoo, I'm not here to discuss the credibility of some of these so called barn finds or the people who 'discover' them and sell them. No, what I want to discuss is this...
A 1981 Mitsubishi Celeste... To be more precise my 1981 Mitsubishi Celeste! Despite how the photograph looks this is not a barn find, it's not even a garage find, it was never lost. I knew it was there all along, I've had this car a long, long time. Infact this little story started before the turn of the century, in the mid nineties. I was at home, and the phone rang. It was a friend of mine who said he had a car for me, and I was to meet him at my garage. I protested a lot about this, and I was adamant that I didn't need another car. I especially didn't need to buy a car from a guy whose main source of income was collecting scrap cars. I didn't need another car, and I really didn't need a project. For about twenty minutes we argued on the telephone, he just kept saying to meet me at my garage as he had something that I needed. Eventually I gave in, and trundled off to my garage to meet him, and see whatever this scrapper was that I allegedly needed to buy. I wandered around the corner to be confronted with this sight...
I've got to hand it to my persistant friend he was right, I needed this car in my life! I just said, right, put it in my garage! We unloaded it, I gave him £100 and it was mine. The whole car was grubby, and inside it was particularly filthy. It took me the whole weekend and several week nights after work to get it anywhere near where I thought it was clean enough to be driven. I then put it in for its first MOT in my care. Which it passed! I drove it for several years putting thousands of miles on it, and every year I put it in for MOT it would go straight through without any dramas. To this day this irritates my friend who hates the thought that he has sold someone a bargain! I, on the other hand find it highly amusing! So fast forward to 2005. By now I'd owned this, my second Mitsubishi Celeste for nearly a decade, but there's a problem. The problem was that Mrs Clint had managed to get herself knocked up. I don't know if it was the hormones speaking or what it was, but she had decided that a 1981 Mitsubishi Celeste with no seatbelts in the back was not the kind of car we should be driving around in with a baby in the back. In her opinion I needed to sell the Celeste, and buy something more baby friendly. I asked her what she had in mind for our new car, and what requirements did it need to meet? She sat there and thought for a while, and eventually she came up with the criteria that the new car needed to meet. According to Mrs Clint our new car needed to be a as new as possible, seat four, be from a mainstream manufacturer like a FORD (not a kit car or something obsolete), and lastly be as cheap as possible! The Celeste was 'sold' and I came home with a brand new 2005 Mustang, which although clearly wasn't what Mrs Clint had in mind, did actually meet all the criteria she had laid down to the letter! So that was the end of the Celeste... Except it wasn't! As far as Mrs Clint was concerned it had been sold, but actually I just rented a council garage instead, and put it in there for safe keeping, and there it sat, um next to my secret motorcycle! I kept it there, but I used it every once in a while just to keep it going. I kept it MOT'd, taxed, insured and ready to go whenever I felt the need for a little run in my cool little car. The Mustang is great, and you'd think it would fulfill all my motoring desires, and to some extent it does, but for me there is something very pleasureable about driving an older car. I made an excuse to secretly take it out atleast once a month. Often Mrs Clint would go to see her friends, or be working late and I would be off to my garage, with my new born baby for a very careful run in my Celeste.
Over time however the runs became fewer and fewer until in 2008 I went to take it for a run, but the battery was flat. I took it off to charge it, but it wouldn't charge. I meant to get a new one for it, but I never got around to it. Then the insurance ran out, then the MOT, and finally the tax ran out. Every year I planned to get it out, to get it back on the road. But as often happens other things took priority, other things got in the way. Then last year I was at a car show called 'Simply Japanese' (Episode 5. Simply Japanese 2017. if you're interested) talking to a friend of mine who I actually met when I sold him my first Celeste project, and I said that I was definately going to get the Celeste on the road for 'Simply Japanese 2018'. He thought that would be cool. To be fair, so did I! So nearly a year goes by, and a couple of weeks ago I thought that I really needed to pull my finger out if I'm going to make the next 'Simply Japanese' show which is in July. I thought that at the very least I should go and look at it! I went to look, my garage was a bit overgrown, but after about half an hour of pulling on the door I got it to open, and I was in, looking at my Celeste for the first time in a long time! I tried to push it out, but the tyres were flat. So I figured that I would pull it out, however there was a small problem with that. Idiot that I am I had just sold the mighty Chev-suzu so I had nothing to pull it out with... IDIOT!!
Like a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire I phoned a friend and said, can I borrow you and your truck? He said that I could, and ten minutes later arrived with his Navara. We hooked up his tow rope, and pulled it out into the cold evening air for the first time in a decade!
Once out in the fresh air I decided to pump up the tyres. I had brought with me my foot pump and started to try to inflate a tyre. Fifty pumps in and my old foot pump gave up the ghost! Damn! I still had three and a half tyres to inflate. I asked my friend if he had a foot pump, but he didn't. We tried to push the Celeste back into the garage, but we just couldn't move it. I got my bicycle pump out of my car, and started to pump up the tyres with a old plastic Bluemels bike pump! It took nearly a thousand pumps with that thing to get each of the tyres to look anywhere near round, but we did it! Although, we both thought our arms were going to fall off by the time we had all four of the tyres inflated!
They weren't really as hard as the needed to be, but I hoped that we might be able to push the Celeste back into the garage. Of course, as usual, I was wrong.
Even though the tyres had air in them we still couldn't push it. It would appear that now the problem was that the brakes were seized on a little.
This meant that it wasn't going back into the garage. I had the Celeste booked in to my friends workshop for the following week, so I figured that I might as well take it to the car park where I work so that I can have a little look at it before taking it to my friends for re-comissioning, and MOTing! I phoned my Brother and got him to bring my A-frame to my garage so that we could hook it up to my friends Navara and tow it home.
Once hooked up, it was just a five mile drive across town to where I would leave it for the next couple of days or so. It was pretty dusty, and I sort of hoped that the drive across town would blow some of it away. I sort of hoped that the drive across town might help the brakes to unseize themselves too. It didn't, and after blocking the road outside my workplace I had to call my Dad to come and help us push the Celeste into the car park. We were really leaning on it, and it just didn't want to budge, but with us all leaning on it, we eventually pushed it off the road for the night.
Well the following day I guess the car fairys had been to give the brakes a look over, as I was able to push it into the car park alone. I won't say I did it with ease, but I didn't struggle like we all did the evening before. The car fairys hadn't cleaned the dust off though!
As dusty as the bodywork was the interior looked pretty good. Infact I would say that it is as clean as it was when I last used it back in 2008. I decided that as I had a couple of days before I was scheduled to take it to Coltech Classics for its re-comissioning and MOT I would see if I could get it to start. I bought it a brand new battery, disconnected the king lead from the coil, and cranked it over until I had a bit of oil pressure showing on the gauge. Once I had oil pressure showing I checked the fluid levels in the engine, and as they were ok, I tipped a couple of gallons of fresh petrol into the fuel tank. The gauge was showing empty, so I guess that there really wasn't too much ten year old petrol in the tank, a couple of gallons added, the fuel gauge was now showing 1/4 full. I re-connected the king lead, and started to crank it over in the hope that it would start. Ten minutes of cranking, and it still hadn't started. I figured that I would use the dregs of the petrol left in the fuel cans to tip into the carburettor to see if that would start it. It did... Briefly. It would start, run for a second or two, then just die. I went on with this method until I had no dregs of petrol left in my cans. I was pretty gutted, I felt like I was so close to getting it started, but it just didn't want to play. Did I really have to go and buy another gallon of petrol just so that I could continue to try starting it by tipping drops into the carbutrettor? A quick search around my workplace turned up two things that I thought might burn, the first thing was WD-40, and the second one was Methylated Spirits! I gave the carburettors a good blast of WD-40, followed by a splash of Meths. Much like before, it started, ran for a second or two, then died. I did this a couple more times, and on the third time it fired, and ran, and continued to run! It wasn't running well, but it was running!
Now it just needed a good clean, and I would be ready to take it to Pauls for further work. I must admit that I do feel quite lucky to have such a line up of cars. Over the next couple of days I continued to start the Celeste two or three times a day, and let it run up to temperature. I also tried to unseize the brakes. I did manage to get them to be a bit more free than they were when I dragged it out of the garage. But they were still binding a little. However I thought that they may well be good enough to get it to my friends workshop forty odd miles away. But that will have to be a story for another time! Stay tooooned!!