BY CALUM FRASER email@example.com
A tenderly cared for 56-year-old car which was a landmark for locals – and has provided a homeless man with shelter – is having to be scrapped after failing its MOT.
Catford resident Keith Mills, 83, has cared for the 3.5 litre Rover P5 for 44 years, after he bought it off his brother.
Keith has not driven it for months and, after a homeless man called Melvyn Miller took shelter there one night, the pensioner decided to let Melvyn continue his residence.
But the car failed its MOT last week, and Melvyn is set to lose his home.
Keith has written a letter to him, explaining the situation and asking Melvyn to remove his belongings.
Keith, who worked as a furniture remover in Forest Hill, said: “I just wanted to be a good samaritan.
I think the police heard about it. I got a call from the community service. But, I told them I’m happy with Melvyn sleeping there.
“I hope he has seen my letter. I don’t want him to lose his belongings when they come to take the car away.
“It’s such a shame to lose the Rover. There are so many memories. But sometimes things have to come to an end.”
Keith stopped locking the car doors, after it cost him so much to fix the doors after they were broken into twice. Then about eight weeks ago, Melvyn moved in.
He does not see the car lodger often, as he goes to bed early, and Melvyn comes back late.
One of Keith’s neighbour’s, Anthony Schofield, said: “At the end of its life, the car is still pleasing somebody. A gentleman is down on his luck, with nowhere to sleep.
“Then by the grace of Keith’s good will, he’s allowing the guy to have a little shelter in his car. In its final days it is giving somebody a bit of sustenance.”
Originally the car was black, but Keith decided to get it spray painted yellow after he bought it off his brother, who had owned it for 12 years, in 1974.
Anthony, 50, said: “You’ll see Keith painting a new layer on every year. I think the yellow paint holds most of it together now. “People don’t have cars as long as this anymore. This was a car that was built to last, just like Keith.
“It’s a shame that it has come to its end.” Frederick Coutain lives next door and takes care of the car whenever Keith is away.
He said: “When I come out in the mornings I always like to see how he cleans it and looks after it. He treats it well, like a child. He will miss it and I will miss it as well.”
Keith’s Rover is part of the P5 series. His “yellow pearl” was first registered on January 10, 1962. It’s a mark 1, straight-6 saloon.
The Queen owns one of the later, P5B iterations, and Margaret Thatcher was driven to Downing Street after her 1979 election victory in one.
Keith said he painted it yellow because that is the Queen’s favourite colour. Keith said: “I’ve only ever had two cars. A Ford Anglia 100E and the yellow pearl. I’ve never thought about changing car again. It’s the young man’s Rolls Royce. I really love this car.”
R and P Car Sales have bought the Rover off Keith for £150 and picked it up yesterday.
Rick Young, who owns the Sydenham-based car dealership, said: “It’s got character but it’s not a car that can go back on the road.
Someone’s even been living in it. “It’s a bit of shame. Keith treats it like a family member, but it would be a brave restoration for someone to do.”