It was actually Louis, a one-time friend (since shamed and now deceased) who first muted the obvious - scrap metal. I had done scrap metal before in my younger days and found it to be a good earner. I knew Malcolm Drew, who is a scrap metal merchant and has a breakers’ yard. I have always gone to him for all my spare parts. I explained my predicament to Malcolm, who implied that I could bring anything in to him; what he didn’t see, he couldn’t stop from being tipped.
It didn’t take long to find scrap metal lying around. First, by asking friends, then by advertising for it. Soon, I was busy every day. I targeted an area for each day, creating a ‘round’. One day, I would cover the Penzance area, the next Camborne/Redruth and so on through the week. Some days were better than others, especially considering the poor prices paid for scrap these days. At the end of each ‘round’, if I had time, I would offload at Drew’s, otherwise, next morning. I really took the piss at times. The van was overloaded on more than one occasion. It also had roof bars, so I utilised that space. Fortunately, I’m skilled with securing loads, thanks to my years as a lorry driver. I had first become involved in that industry at a time when sheeting and roping loads was still common practice, so had learnt that skill. I loaded the roof with as much as I could. The lads working in the yard were great, too. How it is that I never got stopped is a mystery.
Tom put me in touch with a bloke called Jim who bought certain vehicles and engines to be exported to Africa. It was good money, too. Sometimes, I would have to get the engine running first, even if the fuel had to be fed directly to the engine by bypassing the normal route.
It didn’t take too long for Tom to be paid all that I had cost him. He was amazed at how quickly I managed it. At the end of each week I would drop in on Tom and give him whatever I had earned that week. Some weeks it wouldn’t be much, some was a good amount. I always left myself with a working float, though.
In the course of collecting household scrap, I picked up a lot of bicycles. They were a nightmare. They took up a lot of space and returned very little. Then one day, I noticed an ad. asking for bicycles. The advertiser was a proper Cornish bloke from Redruth. Due to his ‘bumpkin’ ways, Dave could easily be overlooked. His education was probably very basic and he has no trade or other professional skills. He lives very simply in a rented bungalow with his wife, dogs and loads of cats. His diet is also very poor. However, what he does is awesome! He gets hold of old bicycles, repairs what he can and uses those that are too far gone for spare parts. The repaired bicycles are then given to anyone who can’t afford to buy one! On occasions, he comes across something a bit special; tandems, trikes and rare bikes, etc. These, he sells in order to raise funds for various consumables needed. I would stop off at his place to drop off any bicycles and load up any scrap; always stopping for a cup of tea and cake!
Another friend, Owen, took washing machine drums. I could’ve weighed them in with the rest of the scrap, but gave them to Owen as he made installations with them. One year, for example, he made a model of Stonehenge at a Glastonbury Festival.
My mate Malcolm had an old tow bar laying around, unwanted. I took it off his hands and fashioned it onto the van. That way, I had the option to tow. I pulled a few cars to the scrapyard. I then found a little 4’x4’ trailer going cheap. That gave me extra loading area. Bulky items take up a lot of room and are sometimes too heavy to lift onto the roof.
I also did a few jobs for Malcolm. He had an old Mercedes 611 which had long since been converted into a live-in vehicle. We did the clutch on it. That was hard work. Whenever things were getting ‘difficult’, Malcolm would come out with some quip. I would end up laughing. We’d have (yet another) cup of tea, then get back to it. It was a few weeks later that I happened to mention doing the job to Tom who went on to tell me how I had done the job the hard way and explained how I could have done it without the grief!
It pays to know what you are doing. One time, Malcolm had had some-one look at the rear brakes. They couldn’t get the brake drums off. He said that they had spent ages bashing the drums with heavy hammers, trying to free them. I said I would have a look. Malcolm went off to make a cup of tea and a sandwich. In that short time, I had one of the brake drums off and was examining the condition of the brakes. Malcolm almost dropped the plate of sandwiches, etc. “How did you get that off so quickly?” He asked, surprised, “Matey was bashing hell out of that and couldn’t shift it!”
“Did he remove the nuts holding the half shaft in position which in turn holds the brake drum in place?” I asked.
That poor old van suffered with body rust. I did a beautiful job checker-plating the entire skirt. Sadly, there were just too many problems with it in the end and so was sold on.
My mate Woodchop has a smallholding in the sticks between Falmouth and Helston. I have often parked on his land over the years. The cats would clear his land of the rodents that devastated his crops. He had my horse trailer parked there for a long while. He had an old C15 van that was just dumped. I started to raid it for spares. Before long, I simply bought the whole van. He also had an old Land Rover sat around. It had great big off-road wheels on it and a winch. He wanted rid of it. I got hold of John, the Land Rover man, who bought the vehicle less the wheels and winch. I had them! I intended getting another Landy at some point.
I bought an LDV crewbus with the intention of selling it to Africa as the body was too far gone to bother welding. However, it turned out that the Africans don’t want turbocharged engines. I had to hang onto it. I got offered silly money for it from people who thought that I was desperate for money, but I held out and got the right money eventually.
I was proper ingratiated into the scrap world.