Nice and greasy does it

Hannah Lau, (MEng Design Engineering, fourth year) can’t wait to get back to Jezebel, the 1916 fire engine at the heart of the RCS Motor Club garage.

Interview: Lucy Jolin / Photography: Emli Bendixen

Portrait of Hannah beside JezebelWhen I get some spare time, I like to hang out at the Royal College of Science (RCS) Motor Club garage – with Jezebel. She’s a 1916 fire engine that the RCS acquired from a soap manufacturer, Joseph Crosfield and Sons, back in 1955. The RCS offered £50 but the factory decided to donate her, and she’s lived here ever since.

Not many people pass by the garage: it’s tucked down behind a chemical engineering lab, next to the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre. It’s a bit messy and greasy because of the work we carry out on Jezebel, and there’s plenty of clutter. Clem lives next door – she’s the 1926 Morris truck that belongs to the Royal School of Mines Motor Club.

There’s plenty of history and memorabilia here, too. We keep all the parts of Jezebel that we have replaced, and we have a board with plaques from the rallies we’ve attended with her. Someone made a sign for it: Midnight Welding Since 1955.

I’ve always enjoyed old things and engineering. Working on Jezebel is a great combination of the two. Fixing her is quite a technical job and I’ve learned a lot from my time at Motor Club, which is definitely enhancing my studies. It’s not textbook learning: it’s very hands-on. Sometimes it can feel almost like a job – especially when she breaks down just before an event, and we panic and try to get her back on the road. But most of the time we’re pretty relaxed.

It’s not just Jezebel who makes the garage my favourite place: my fellow club members are important, too. We sometimes have film nights and the like, but mostly we’re working on Jez or taking her out, to the pub, or to Sainsbury’s! We get a lot of interested looks when we do that, particularly from kids. We’re a niche club and there aren’t many of us. Our alumni are very engaged, though, and often come down to help out. It’s great to gather in the garage for fun and a chat – I’m looking forward to the chance to enjoy that sense of camaraderie again soon.