A man found his father’s beloved old yellow car from the 1930s going up in an auction, and with his son’s help bought and restored it over the course of the pandemic, reuniting their family with a rare and treasured heirloom.
Every family has its stories—the ones heard around the dinner table a hundred times—and for the Sterns of England it was about Grandad’s bright yellow Talbot-Darracq motor car.
Bought in 1935, proud Alec Stern, a Londoner who made his bones parking cars in a city garage, used to drive his wee son Malcolm around town whilst reveling in the long, sloping fenders, chrome grill, and banana yellow bodywork.
Then in World War II, when the British Government ordered the evacuation of children to the countryside, young Malcolm Stern remembers being driven away on a coach watching his dad follow along behind in his Talbot-Darracq.
And that was it for the story of Alec and his yellow car, who sold it in 1942.
Fast forward to 2020 and Malcolm was 91 years old looking for a new hobby when he decided to buy a 3D printer to make small models. That’s when he got the idea to make one of his father’s Talbot-Darracq; a grand idea, but he needed to understand the dimensions of the real thing before he could scale it down.
It only took a few clicks and keystrokes on the computer for Malcolm to locate his father’s actual car—plate numbers and everything—because it was being auctioned.
“An amazing story of serendipity,” Malcolm’s son Jonathan told The Washington Post. “To find the car by just coincidence. We were egging each other on, ‘Oh Dad, you’ve got to buy it…’” he remembers saying. “‘You can’t let it go again.’”
The cost was £8,000, or just over ten grand, a price indicative of fortune since Jonathan was able to afford it; but being of an age quite similar to Malcolm, it was in bad need of repairs before hitting the road.
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Jonathan was at first doubtful that his father was up to the manual labor required to refurbish the car, but in Malcolm’s garage in Rickmansworth, a British town north of London, he launched a 3-year project, hiring professionals when he needed to, doing everything else himself, and even using the 3D printer which would have otherwise almost certainly become a coat rack in the face of the restoration of the Talbot-Darracq.
Then the day came, 3 years after repairs first started, and with Malcolm (and the car) 3 years older, when the engine groaned to life, and even though the nonagenarian struggled with the heavy steering and ancient transmission, Malcolm and his son rumbled 15 miles to the parking lot of a local watering hole where a gathering of vintage car enthusiasts were meeting.
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Arriving in the Talbot-Darrcq with a fresh coat of canary yellow paint, those gathered were in awe of the old man and the old car.
“The two of us, I think our faces hurt from smiling so much,” Jonathan said. “He [Malcolm] was the star of the show. Ninety-four years old, driving around this great big yellow car.”
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