Talking of good driving experience, in the early 1960's I owned a beast of a 1954 Standard Utility 8 in a quite fetching Peacock blue which I gave a tenner for. I knocked its original engine out on the A13 coming back from my boat at Leigh on Sea, so I thought I'd upgrade the engine from its puny 803cc one to something more powerful to give it a bit more zippyness. Being in the trade I knew all the breakers yards from where I bought many s/h bits. So I bought an ex Triumph Herald 1200 engine for about a fiver I think it was, these were more or less a straight swap as were different engines of the same make for many cars in those days. I swapped the engine over one evening after work using the garages facilities. All went well and it went like a bomb afterwards.
The following Sunday I arranged a good run out in it over to Kent with me, my mate and our girl friends. On the way back was when things got pretty scary. We were on the Dartford tunnel approach rd. On the south side that road is very wide and slopes gradually downhill for a couple of miles down to sea level. It was late at night and hardly any traffic about so I let it rip down the slope to see what speed it would do. The speedo went up to 80mph but it wouldn't get anywhere near that with the old 803cc engine.
Speed gradually built up bit by bit, 50, 60, 70, 80mph and building, speedo needle now on the stop, everything shaking, rattling, atwitter and vibrating, the girls began screeming with fear, my mate gulped and his eyes were popping out with terror. I reckon it had reached at least 90mph when the tunnel toll booths suddenly loomed up out of the gloom at an alarming rate, so on went the brakes, hard, after a few yards of slight retardation they just faded out completely and the toll booths were looming nearer and nearer at a rapid rate. I now yanked up the handbrake to help which made no difference, in fact it seemed to make it go faster. I'm now standing on the footbrake with all my might with only a slight slowage, brake pedal now spongy with overheated fluid and a horrid smell of burning brake linings, ''asbestos in those days''. Anyhow by the time I reached to toll booths, brake pedal now on the floor I picked an empty one and just shot clean through waving to the man in the box as we flew past him still doing about 70mph and away into the tunnel, there were no barriers in those days at the booths. Suddenly sirenes behind me could be heard, the man in the box had sent a tunnel police car after me, or they'd seen me flash past through the toll booth. Anyway it wasn't until we were almost in the middle of the tunnel and starting on the upgrade on the tunnels north side exit that the old Standard lost momentum at which point the police car overtook trying to stop me, luckily they didn't bang their brakes on or I'd have been overtaking them. Now under power again with the useless brakes off we exited the tunnel behind the police car where we very gradually drew to a nice and gentle halt. The copper in the police car didn't need telling what was wrong, he could smell and see the smoke pouring out of the brake drums. I explained to him what had happened and he was very good about it, I had a sneaking suspician that he'd done the same at sometime or other. I gave him the toll money which was 2/6p and he let me go and drove away. We waited for a half hour for the brakes to cool down, which they did and the pedal returned to normal and the brakes worked again as if nothing had happened at all And of course with only wee 5'' drum brakes this brake fade was bound to have happen at that speed. It was all my fault.