Let’s See What Our Singers Worth!

Flowing curves

Jesse MortensenBy Jesse Mortensen

About two weeks ago we asked all of you what you thought our 1952 Singer Roadster was worth. The estimates ranged from $3k – $10k. That’s a pretty big spread, but that could be because there aren’t many of these around and our particular car has been modified. The drivetrain is out of a 60’s Volvo so it is a total blast to drive and you can actually find parts. The rest of car could use a little attention, but we have gone head and addressed the most pressing issues before listing it here on eBay. We have started the bidding at your guy’s low estimate of $3,000 with no reserve. So, it should be interesting to see what our little Singer is actually worth!

Working brakelights

When we purchased this Singer, the seller claimed that their grandpa had built the car in California sometime during the ’70s. That could explain the fiberglass baja buggy seats! As much as I wanted to replace those with something covered in leather and more suited to a British roadster, I withstood the urge and focused on the most important issues. Without turn signals, one quickly learns how to use hand signals. But, without brakes lights, one quickly learns what it feels like to be rear ended. A morning was spent tracing wires and tracking down the cause of our faulty taillights. It turned out to be a couple of loose connectors, so after crimping on some new ones we now have operable headlights, markers, and brakelights!

Hinge fix

Next up, were the door hinges. Hinges may not seem all the important, but when the doors flop around and won’t close properly, they suddenly become very important! You can’t exactly pick up hinge repair kits for a 1952 Singer at the parts store though, so we had to use some ingenuity here. A previous owner had just dropped a couple of bolts in the hinges and called it day. That meant they were loose and steel was rubbing steel. Not exactly the best way to do things. We paid a visit to a local fastener store and the nice fellow behind the counter went to work finding the bushings and pins we needed to refurbish our hinges. After enlarging the holes just a tad and then pounding in the brass bushings, we now have doors that open and close fairly well.

Volvo B18 Dual Webers

Finally, it was time to turn our attention to the carburetors. They had been running rich. That’s understandable though because they are Weber 45s! That big of a carb may be a little much for a 1.8 liter engine, but we thought we would try to rebuild them before resorting to more drastic measures. The rebuild kit went in easily, but we noticed that a previous owner had screwed the idle mixture screws in a little too tight (presumably in an attempt to correct the leaking fuel). After putting the carbs all back together and mounting them up, we attempted to tune them. That proved to be a challenge because of the mismatched linkage on each carb, but we did our best and although there are still some flat spots, the engine seems to run much better!

1952 Singer Hot Rod

We would have liked to do more with this project, but with more cars waiting in the wings, it was time to move on. We had a good time with this roadster and feel good about the problems we were able to address. The next owner will have some big decisions to make about what direction to take though. They could leave things alone and just focus on the issues as they pop up or they could attempt a more thorough approach. The body doesn’t have any rot that we could find, but there are a few areas that boards have worked their way loose that could use some tightening up. If you are handy with woodworking tools you could attempt to replace some of the inner structure. There is no rust underneath to worry about so that is nice.

Custom dash

The interior works, but personally I would have liked to pull out the cheap carpet and sourced some better seats. I also wanted to install a set of old Smiths gauges or something to give the dash a more period look. While I was under there I would probably redo all the wiring too. The creator of this machine may have been skilled at using many tools, but I have a feeling that a wire crimper wasn’t one of them! Luckily they used a Volvo harness though so the main wiring is all fine. With all the hard fabrication work done, this does seem like a good starting point to build your own British hotrod. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. jim s

    very well done listing. i hope it does great. i see your selling td/tf parts also. is this the only ebay account as it is listed as speedbarn not barnfinds?

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks Jim! That is our only account. Unfortunately someone already took the barnfinds username. Looks like we already have bid!

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  2. Katherine

    My dad brought back a Singer like this after he was stationed in occupied Germany. Additionally, he LOVED his 1970’s era Volvos.

    If my dad was still around I would TOTALLY be taking my iPad up to him at the assisted care place where he lived to show this listing to him!!! He would dig this so much.

    THANK you for posting on Barn Finds, my husband forwarded me your link. Your listing made my heart warm.

    –Katherine

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You’re welcome Katherine. Cars hold memories like few things can.

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  3. Mark E

    Would the buyer be able to drive the car home? (I really shouldn’t be thinking this seriously about this but I’ve been a lifelong frustrated MG TD admirer!)

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t drive it a long distance Mark. Well, most people couldn’t, but that has nothing to do with the car. With all our modern conveniences we have become weak. In the fifties it was not uncommon for people to use a roadster as their daily driver, but today it’s almost unheard of. Heck, even Miatas comes with AC! Anyway, the car runs good, shifts good, and stops good. That Volvo engine is nearly indestructible too so with a tool kit and some spares, I wouldn’t be afraid to take it on a long journey. In fact, we were planning on driving it to the rally over in Oregon, but unfortunately the funds were a little tight when registration rolled around. Now that would have been an adventure…

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Oh, I forget to mention that the Singer is a good TD alternative. Some would argue that it was even a better car when new. The Singer was claimed to be faster and it obviously had more interior room. The MG clearly enjoys better parts supply and support today though. All I know is that, for the money, this was closest I was going to get to the windscreen-down motoring experience that only a traditional British roadster can provide!

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      • Mark E

        If the bidding doesn’t pick up soon, I’ll be tempted to throw my hat in, though thinking of spending almost 1500 miles in those seats makes me want to call my chiropractor to see if they offer any kind of a multiple session discount… ^_^

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  4. Chris A.

    Just a neat car, even with the Volvo engine and drvie train. Putting this back to original Singer would be expensive, but the Singer 1500 OHC engine is enough to deal with modern traffic. The brakes however should not ever go back to the Girling Hydo-mechanical half hydraulic/half mechanical mess. We had a 1951 Riley RMA with the set up and it was near impossible to keep brake balance front and rear. Riley had a conversion kit so you could make the rear brakes hydraulic. If you found one I suppose you could make the Singer period correct with it. As it now sits, I like the Solvo/Vinger at $4K. Driving it from ID to PA would be a later day version of Peter Egan’s trip from CA to WI in a Lotus 11 replica.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The brakes on this car are a definite upgrade. A cross country trip in this thing would be heroic. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be one of those events that you’d always look back on fondly. Still, I’d want to call a few transporters first just to make sure it wasn’t cheaper to go that route.

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      • Mark E

        I’m begining to believe it, especially considering the lack of a top~ Is the top mechanism there, bows, etc? Also, are the trafficators still present? (I see slots behind the doors) My brother in law had a ’52 Beetle and found that their practical value is near worthless…people just stare and laugh at them. Still it would be cool to get them working.

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  5. Mark E

    It would be unrealistic to restore this to 100% original shape but I found an original one for sale that’s breathtaking! Way more handsome than an MG, in my opinion…

    http://classiccarslist.com/other-makes/61480-1953-singer-4ad-roadster.html

    Also I discovered that 1952 was when they switched over to independent front suspension. Which kind of suspension does this one have?

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      That is a nice one! Ours has independent suspension up front. I’ll try to snap a few photos later today.

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    • Dave at OldSchool

      red looks good, especially with the wires….., and restoration had to be more than the price of the car

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      • Mark E

        I was looking at the red one and thinking if someone tried to restore the yellow BF car to that level it would cost about twice what the owner is asking for the red one, LOL!

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  6. jim s

    that red one sure looks great. i think the high bidder on the BF car has put in a max bid. i wonder how far up they are willing to run the price. someone is going to get a fun car.

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    • Mark E

      Yep, I saw that so I just put in a bid and was bumped out by the max bid. Hopefully there will be at least two people who really want the car so it won’t be TOO good of a buy! ^_^

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      • jim s

        now up to $3500 with almost 2 days to go.

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      • Mark E

        My bid was $3500 and that’s about as far as I can go – transport fees would be about $1000-1500 whether I flew out and drove it home OR had it shipped. -_-

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  7. Mark E

    Two bids last night. The previous bidder’s high bid was $3501 and bidding now stands at $3650 with a day and a half to go! Starting to get exciting…

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    • Mark E

      I put in a bid partly to round up the irregular number – it’s now 3800 with just under 8 hours to go. Wish this was local and I could get the wife to look at it. We’d probably go to $5k for it but transport will be in the $1200-1500 range for me… >_<

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      • jim s

        sold for $ 3850. did you buy the car?

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  8. Smitty

    Is the entire drive train Volvo? Just thinking about the differential as well as getting parts to replace brakes and all that if it becomes a daily driver of sorts.

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  9. Mark E

    Thought everyone would be as amused by this as I was…

    Ebay sent me a warning that the auction is ending soon, encouraging me to bid again. They’re also suggesting similar cars (I’d love to see the algorithms that determine this):
    Besides the ShalaVette that was featured on here, they also suggested:
    1953 ALLARD J2X $59,995 or BO
    1970 Siata Spring $6500 OBO (well, it’s more affordable)
    1975 Bricklin SV1 (truly WTF?!??)
    and in the “at least it’s also British” department
    1959 PEERLESS GT $20k OBO and a 1967 Wolseley Six

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  10. Mark E

    The bidder that first outbid me won at $3850. Hope he/she enjoys the car as much as I would have and isn’t just a flipper…

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    • Smitty

      Nope, I’m not a flipper. I’m just not right in the head. I’m currently working in Oman, but I’ll be back to California in 10 days. I’ll drive it down to Sacramento. I was going to drive my NSU Sport Prinz up to Tacoma in late July for the microcar show, but I’ll probably take the Singer instead.

      I’ve got a wood working friend that will help me make a walnut dash that we’ll artificially weather with chemicals to make it look old. And another friend that’s a ’60s Volvo freak that will help me with the carb problem (although he already offered me a B20 motor).

      Ignore my previous comment about the rear end. It’s mentioned that it’s Volvo.

      I’ve gone a few years with just owning motorcycles so I’ll be driving the Singer as much as possible.

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      • jim s

        i hope you enjoy the car. please keep us all updated. thanks

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      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Congratulations! Let us know how things go!

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      • Dave at OldSchool

        Hey Smitty… great companion for the the NSU . If my driver had not come thru Boise Saturday, the car would have been heading to us in Alabama, to keep company with the Volvo444 and Buckler/Volvo race cars.

        I’m sure your ‘friend’ will trade you for a B20….LOL……….the Valve cover, dual Weber setup w/ manifold, and headers indicate the motor is probably worth more than the price of the car…. and is the main reason I was interested in it…………. just download the Redline Weber setup instructions and follow then EXACTLY, and all will be well.

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  11. jim s

    i wonder if it is someone else on the site bought the car. looks like there is some money to spend on the BF project cars or buy yet another one.

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  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Well, it looks like the market has spoken! Our Singer is apparently worth $3,850. I personally thought it might go for a bit more, but we can’t complain. It does seem like a good deal when you consider what MG TDs go for. The B18 is probably worth most of selling price anyway. Barn Finds reader Smitty placed a last minute bid and won the auction by a mere $50. As he mentioned above, he plans to drive it back home to California so hopefully he will take photos along the way and keep us all updated on his adventure!

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    • Smitty

      Ha, I’d been poking up the bid waiting to see it get higher all along. I’m glad (for me) it was just $3850. I shouldn’t have bought it. I also bought a 1947 Velocette 350 MAC last year when I was just showing up to Oman. So much for money I should’ve saved while relaxing in the Middle East.

      Dave at OldSchool, my friend who offered the engine exchange would’ve been kidding. I’ve known him 25 years or so and he knows I don’t know anything about Volvos (yet). Thanks for the set-up instructions. I’ve noticed over my life that people tend to overcarb cars (although with motorcycles if it’s a carb problem it’s probably electrics).

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      • Dave @ OldSchool

        Smitty, the 45’s will be fine on a B18, I have the Buckler motor set up that way.. I also have a B18 with a 390cfm Holley in the ’57 444 Volvo

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  13. Smitty

    Nice set up, Dave @ OldSchool. The Singer would look pretty good with the carbs sticking out of the hood like that!

    I’m curious how well the Singer handles. I’ve got a friend in Portland that makes rubber suspension bits for MG-Ts and he said Singer stuff is pretty similar. I’m not sure if he does suspension stuff for old Volvos.

    Another friend who sells old cars in England just posted on my FB, “A B18 on that car… That thing will fly. I just sold our TD. Lovely gearbox but I felt horribly vulnerable in that thing. The owner part exchanged it for an XK 150. I drove the jag there and the mg back. He told me to keep the revs high for the first couple of miles until the engine got on song. I lost the tail at the second turn, I was going at 30mph. Enough to get killed in it. The razor sharp steering helped me saving the day. Nice thing, but not for me.”

    I’m pretty excited about the drive from Boise to Sacramento staying off the interstates as much as possible.

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  14. Dave at OldSchool

    LOL…the 4 bbl carb does not stick out of the hood..the car is a bit of a sleeper

    You lost the TD at 30 mph….???? Must have been sand on the road…. I have a Touring TD …it has the Studebaker Light Six w/ overdrive conversion , done in 1960.

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    • Smitty

      I didn’t lose the TD. I only ridden in one once or twice. I’ve got an Italian friend who picked up a job helping sell cars in London. He gets to drive all kinds of beautiful cars.

      I’d see the number plate and the roll bars and then I’d think, “Yeah, but it’s a 60 year old Volvo — it can’t be that fast”. Then I’d probably lose my pink.

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  15. Bob Gressard

    The suspence is killing us. What did the Singer sell for? $3800?

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yep, $3,850 to be exact!

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  16. Smitty

    Hey, Jesse! It’s been a few days since money was wired. I tried to get in touch with you on your personal email, the eBay email and from posting on Facebook’s Barn Finds, so I figured I’d try here.

    If you didn’t get all the money (international transfers aren’t always correct), I’ll bring cash along with a 6 pack of microbeer. If I overpaid you by a little, don’t sweat it.

    I plan on driving the Singer to Sacramento. It’s 9 hours on the interstate, but I’ll be on side roads. There’s stuff that I need to buy in advance before I try this.

    First, is the Singer registered or titled?

    I have a list of stuff to do when I pick up the car. How much have you done since you bought the Singer? Have you driven it very far?

    Oil change
    Check levels in gearbox and rear end
    Replace: plugs, wires, cap and rotor
    Reset/replace the points
    Set the valves
    Change valve cover gasket
    Replace water pump and hoses
    Flush cooling system
    Flush gas tank (?)
    Fuel pump (maybe bring up an electronic one)
    Fuel filters

    How old are the tires? I’ll probably replace those as well. Is there a spare rim or do I need to bring up a Volvo rim with me? What size are they? Do they rub on the body?

    The clutch and brake master cylinders are both leaking. I’ll probably replace those as well before the drive.

    I’ll also probably get a Pertronix set up. Would you tell me the distributor part number? It should be stamped or on a plate on the side of the distributor.

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  17. Doug Towsley

    I am looking forward to seeing the Singer in Person, I know Dave aka “Smitty” and good guy. I understand this whole thing wasnt without some drama. Apparently the starter had issues? But cool car, Dave has discussed painting it British racing green and redoing the interior so if so, this will be a great looking car. Dave helped out 2 years ago when i painted one of my FIL’s MG projects, and just in time, we have a TD coming up soon for paint, so be interesting what my FIL and his MG club think of this thing.

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