Gary Milner, of Colchester, started looking for a Ford Popular back in 2013, hoping for one that was running and drivable that he could improve over time.

Eventually, he saw an ad for a partially restored Popular that sent him on a round trip of 690 miles to St Austell in Cornwall to buy what he described as “a pile of bits with the shell done” and bring it back on a friend’s trailer to East Anglia.

He wasn’t interested in the more up-market and increasingly expensive classics such as E-type Jaguars and the like: “I wasn’t interested in cars to race around in, I wanted something that would make people smile,” he said.

Having been interested in cars all his life and already restored several cars in the past Gary, the co-owner of a Sudbury-based electronics solutions company, was well able to take care of the mechanics on the Popular himself, something he had thought would be a six-month project.

He bought a manual and joined the Ford Sidevalve club, whose members were to prove an invaluable source of support and help.

Working on it in the evenings and weekends eventually took three years, working methodically through a plan, starting with the engine and gearbox, then the suspension, running gear and steering and brakes, to get it to the standard he wanted.

One of the most difficult projects was to obtain a V5C for the car. He did have the original log book and an old MOT certificate and tax disk from 1976 but he wanted to keep the original registration number. The Sidevalve club and members were particularly helpful throughout the lengthy process of gathering all the documents and certificate he would need to submit through the DVLA’s V765 scheme.

It was to take several months, the submission of yet more documents and the correction of registration mistakes made by DVLA, but Gary persevered and eventually achieved his desired objective. The original registration number was officially approved.

When it came to restoring the bodywork, Gary admitted he was no expert and would not be able to do the car justice.  So he brought the car to us at Motts for the finishing touch. AS he said: “it’s always better to let the professionals and experts do the bits you can’t do”.

The result is what is now one of the best models in existence and he has been invited to show it at the annual Classic Car Show at the NEC this November.

Meantime, Gary is contemplating taking the car to a few classic car events during the summer, although as these cars need an oil change every 1000 miles it is not about to become the family runabout!  But, he says, having put so much work and love into it he is unlikely to ever sell it.