When a BP rep spotted a rusting and unrecognisable motor car nestled in a bramble bush more than half a century ago, little did he know that he would go on to love the car and own it, not once, but twice – once as a wreck and once again when it was a gleaming and fully restored Hadfield Bean.
Andrew Neate came across the 1928 Hadfield Bean while touring a smallholding near Reading to assess the scrap items the landowner, Percy Runyard, had accumulated.
Andrew, now 74, explained: “One evening, Percy and I decided to walk around the four and a half acre site looking at the various miscellanea he had collected.
“I spotted what looked like an interesting vehicle residing in a very large bramble bush.”
Hadfield Bean crashed during wartime blackout
Andrew didn’t recognise it but Percy said it was a Hadfield Bean which had crashed into a horse and cart during a wartime blackout in 1944. It had been pulled off the road but had remained there for the next 24 years. No one ever came back to claim it.
Bean Cars were made in the Black Country by A Harper Sons & Bean from 1919. The company diversified into light commercial vehicles in 1924 but suffered financial difficulties.
The steel-maker Hadfields took it over in 1926 but by 1929 it ceased car production. In 1933 Hadfield re-launched the company as Beans Industries, making components for other motor vehicle manufacturers.
Andrew loved his cars and started collecting early
Andrew loved his cars: “Apparently from a small boy I was always excited when seeing Austin 7s, and when I was 18 my mother bought me one for £25.
“I stripped down, restored it and still have it today. It is painted in the colours that I apparently said I wanted – yellow and black – and is called Buttercup and was ‘born’ in 1933.
He acquired a second Austin 7 in New Zealand in 1991: “I came across an open Austin 7 with a fishtail rear, fabric body and acquired it, shipped it back to Felixtowe where it stayed in the shippers’ warehouse for four year. It is bright red and called Poppy, inevitably – and dates from 1928.”
Andrew said the wrecked Hadfield Bean would make a great restoration project. Percy agreed though no more was said about it and the pair continued their tour.
Several weeks later Andrew received a message that Percy wanted him to have the car.
Andrew was tempted but dismissed the idea: “I explained I had just got married, had bought our first house with a mortgage and advised that, although it was very kind of him, I could not afford it.”
Percy, however, was adamant, he wanted to give Andrew the car.
As a result, a few weeks later, Andrew arranged for a friend with a tractor and trailer, to haul the vehicle from its resting place.
The Hadfield Bean had suffered considerably over the 24 years of neglect following the crash, and, due to corrosion, you could lift the entire body from the chassis.
Hadfield Bean ‘clearly too big a project for me’
“Nonetheless, it had wheels, engine, bonnet, headlamps – still blackout painted with narrow slits for light – wings and of course the chassis and wheels, though the tyres had collapsed.
“Despite my optimism when I got the Hadfield Bean home, little or no work was done.
“I managed to free the wheels, to acquire four new tyres and could move the chassis in and out of the garage to be able to work on it. But it was clearly too big a project for me,” Andrew admitted.
He then moved to Birmingham and the car went along too. “Our firstborn came along and I soon realised I did not have the time, the money and particularly the expertise to carry out the restoration.”
He advertised the Hadfield Bean for sale but heard nothing for two months when he received a telephone call from London. The caller visited the following weekend, had a good look round the car and said: “right I’ve come to buy the car, what do you want for it?”
Pearly King and Queen arrived to collect the Hadfield Bean
Two weeks later, a covered lorry arrived and out climbed a larger than life couple dressed as a Pearly King and Queen. They loaded the car into the lorry and, with some regret, Andrew watched the car go on its way to London.
“The adventure for us was over… or so we thought,” Andrew recalled.
The new owner started the restoration, and it was four years before it was re-registered to go back on the road.
Eleven years passed before Andrew and family moved to Surrey and by chance visited the Brook village bank holiday fete.
Parked up on the hillside was a small line of old vehicles. They were all beautiful, but there was something about one of them that caught Andrew’s eye.
He recalled: “I wasn’t sure why the registration number meant something to me. Then I noticed a photograph of the car leaning on the bonnet against the windscreen. Imagine my astonishment when I realized it was a picture of the Bean outside my home in Birmingham.
Andrew found the owner and asked: “Where did you find this beautiful car?”, knowing full well the answer.
“I bought it off some chap in Birmingham”, came the answer Andrew already knew.
“Well, stay seated, I have a surprise for you. You bought the car from me” Andrew said with a huge smile on his face.
Hadfield Bean transformed into the most beautiful creature
But the car had now been fully restored; the ugly duckling transformed into the most beautiful creature.
After a long discussion about the Hadfield Bean, Andrew asked the owner for first refusal if he ever wanted to sell it. The owner promised to oblige.
However, almost out of the blue Andrew’s work commitments led to him spending the best part of a decade in the Far East and he lost touch with the car’s new owner.
Back home for good in 1997, Andrew was desperate to trace the car and established that it had changed hands once again.
He learned that a doctor in Hertford acquired it in 1991 and it subsequently passed on in 1995 to an owner in Alcester. He only had the car for a year before it was bought by a man in Ayrshire who maintained the car, mechanically and cosmetically, for the next 10 years.
Love for the Hadfield Bean stronger than ever
In 2015 and still longing to see the Hadfield Bean again, Andrew contacted the Bean Car Club to establish its whereabouts.
The club passed Andrew’s details to the new owner and a few days later he was delighted to receive a call and even more delighted to hear that because the current owner was “getting on a bit” he would now like to sell the car.
Andrew said he would love to buy his old car back again.
He recalls: “Excitedly, I went to tell my wife the story, and I suppose I should say that she was somewhat underwhelmed by the purchase! However, bit by bit she nobly came round to the idea.
“So in April 2015, with a good friend with a trailer, we set off for Scotland to collect it, and it is now safely back in my hands after 41 years.”
Andrew’s family have been “amazingly supportive” about his car obsession, however, he explained: “My wife has banned me from acquiring any more without a one in/one out basis.
“I think it is because she wants her car parked in the very large garage that we are fortunate to have and where they are all are housed.”
Despite that, two years after acquiring the Hadfield Bean for the second time, Andrew’s love for what was a rusting wreck in a bramble bush grows stronger than ever.
- Adrian Flux, the specialist classic car insurance provider, produces the Forever Cars website which features stories about extraordinary people who have loved and cherished their cars, restored them and kept them in sparkling concours condition, for 30 years and more.
- Do you own a car that you just can’t bare to sell? We would love to hear your story. Contact Frazer Ansell on 0203 457 0836 or email [email protected].