Saturday, 8 June 2013

Quality manufacturing after half a century

Returning to my parents' house from central London today, I espied a Morris Cowley MCV pick-up truck, built between 1950 and 1956. At first sight, it may look like a Morris Minor - only bigger. The Cowley (and the passenger version, the Morris Oxford) were styled along the lines of the Minor, but were powered by a 1.5 litre engine rather than the Minor's 848cc power plant.

How quintessentially English, set against the mid-Victorian houses; a sight so splendidly taking me back to my childhood. Classic vehicles are treasures; their owners should receive Arts Council, National Lottery or National Trust support for keeping them roadworthy. I hope this splendid vehicle will still be gracing the roads of England in another sixty years time!

Closer to home, my parents' fridge (below), a Lec Colonial Model P.40, is still in everyday use, as it has been since October 1961, when it was delivered to our house on Croft Gardens. [The fridge was called 'Colonial'. From the word 'colony'. Which implies white British folk living on a tea plantation in Kenya or in a cantonment on a dusty plain in North-West India.]

I still remember the day it was delivered (in a dark-blue Ford Thames 400E pick-up truck with a green canvas tilt). Since that day, the fridge has been keeping the family food chilled for the past 52 years. Built by the Lec Refrigeration Ltd of Bognor Regis, Sussex, England, this wonderfully-styled fridge is fashionable once again. SMEG fridges trade on their retro style. Though not on their reliability, I am informed.
 My brother jokes that over the past half-century, the fridge has consumed tens of thousands of tonnes of coal to generate the electricity needed to power it over the decades. Its tubing is probably full of chemicals that if released into the earth's atmosphere would destroy the ozone layer and raise the temperature on the planet by 12C.

Below: original leaflet, stapled to the delivery note.
The fridge cost 49 and half guineas (a guinea being one pound and one shilling) or  £51.98. Adjusting for inflation, this is £950 in today's money, when fridges of similar size cost £200. Will they still be working in 2055?

Below: badge of pride - Lec's motto, to excel. Fifty two years of continuous service certainly confirms the excellence of this product.

Another purchase made by my parents in the 1960s that's now approaching its half century is their sofa (with two matching chairs), made by G-Plan of High Wycombe. To my great surprise when I googled it, I discovered the very same sofa is still in production (below), though now as part of a vintage range. Very Mad Men! My parents' sofa has two rows of buttons rather than one, and 15 buttons across rather than the nine here, but is otherwise identical, down to the legs.

The invoice (also preserved) from 1965 is for £153 and 15 shillings (£2440 in today's prices adjusting for inflation). Here, my parents are on to a winner; G-Plan currently charges £3,500 for the Fifty Nine sofa plus two matching chairs. Having said that, the sofa itself, which opens up as a double-bed, could do with some new springs. It's good to know then, that they are still in production!

This time last year:
Fans fly in to Warsaw for Euro 2012

This time two years ago:
Cara al Sol - part II

This time three years ago:
Still struggling with the floodwaters

This time four years ago:
European elections - and I buy used D40
[my Nikon D40 still proving utterly reliable]

The time five years ago:
To the Vistula, by bike

This time six years ago:
Poppy profusion


Bob said...

Great fridge! Just think about all the great meals and goodies that have come from that sturdy box over the years. In addition how much carbon it has actually saved by not having to replace it as often as one does these days with inferior models! Saw a beautiful wooden fronted one on a butcher's shop in Scotland recently.

Sigismundo said...

Do your folks have a thermometer in the fridge? Would be interesting to know what temperature it cools to. Our 'modern' fridges worked fine for a year or two, but now cannot be coaxed below about +10°C.

The service centre will happily replace the coolant (for a hefty fee), but will give no guarantee that it will not evaporate away within a few months.

Bob said...

Just thinking here Michal - why can't the old fridge be 'reversed engineered' to produce new models with the same characteristics, materials and parts - could be a big seller. Of course the 'box' could be made to suit modern tastes but the 'flaki' could be of the old quality.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Sigismundo

The icebox holds the cold well; never been any food poisoning in our household!

@ Bob

I fear the coolant is the problem; long banned for environmental reasons. The best bet is to maintain the retro look, but with more modern technology.