Never happier than when he has his head under the bonnet of a car John Boyce has had a lifelong love of motor vehicles.
It began when he was a young boy and his Dad Alf was a lorry driver. “When I was little he’d put me in his lorry and take me out, I used to go all over the place with him.”
And more than half a century later John is still passionate about motor vehicles of all kinds but especially the cars from his youth.
“I was brought up in a Morris 1000. The Morris 1000 Traveller, that’s the car with the wooden frame, you could convert to left or right hand drive. I’d be 8 or 9 or so and Dad put two steering wheels in it so I could sit in the passenger seat and “drive”. My Mum used to refuse to go in the front of the car.”
After that his Dad bought him what was known as a Bubble Car, a three-wheeled Messerschmitt, to play with in the back garden. John had the Messerschmitt for a year before getting a Morris 8.
“He was a clever guy, he built a sports car and converted a 12-seater minibus into a camper van. My interest in cars, vehicles of any kind, started with him.”
John, now 59, was registered blind almost from birth and didn’t walk until he was turned four because of cerebral palsy. He’s had many operations on his eyes, the last a corneal transplant, but his sight has always been too bad for him to get a driving licence.
“I can drive off road with someone sitting at the side of me, although I’ve not done it recently,” said John.
He’s been involved with repairing and restoring cars all his life. “It’s all up here,” he says tapping his head. For the last 25 years John has volunteered three days a week at what is now the Wheels Project at DECAT Co-Operative Training at the Star Works in Darnall.
He was sent there initially on a course from Grange Crescent and liked it so much he stayed on. He’s got NVQ qualifications and works alongside the students who are doing motor vehicles industry training.
“He does have a little bit of sight but it’s incredible what he can do. He’s really good at diagnostics. He’ll tell the lads what’s wrong with an engine just by listening to it,” said his boss and now good friend at the centre, Mick.
“John does a lot of preparation work on the vehicles; he’s responsible for checking the compressed air systems in the garage which is to do with health and safety. And he helps keep an eye on the students too.”
John also goes to the MOT Centre with the customer and as well as repairing vehicles John and Mick also rebuild and restore classic and retro vehicles. “We’ve done a Mini, a Ford Anglia and Suzuki 750 GT motorbike, a couple of MGs and a Rover 2000. I like all the old vehicles,” said John.
And it’s not just the full scale cars he’s into. John also has a big collection of model cars built up over the years.
When John lived at Tapton Mount School for the Blind, he used to go to the old Mappin Street Centre when he was a boy for carol services, but apart from receiving newsletters he didn’t really get involved with SRSB until about three years ago.
Now he visits every Friday for lunch and has met people he first came across at school in Manchester Road and during his time at Sharrow Lane Industries and Grange Crescent Day Centre many years ago.
He also volunteers helping put newsletters into envelopes when they are sent out every three months.
John is seen working on an engine from a 1965 Ford Anglia in the photograph above. This engine is now back in the car and John is still working on its restoration.