A Warwick man at the cutting edge of the automotive industry who once repaired the car of a famous fighter pilot has just celebrated his 100th birthday.
Eric Meredith was still working - and dancing - up until the age of 90.
He also drove his own car until he was 93 and was flying out to the Canary Islands up to last year.
Born in Avon Street, Warwick, where he still remembers carrying candles up to bed at night, Eric became an apprentice woodcarver at the age of 14.
It was a skill that was to stand him in good stead with the developing automobile industry that relied on coach-built car bodies.
But when Eric began cycling to Coventry to work for Cross and Ellis and then the Standard Motor Company, he found the assembly lines soul-destroying.
By 1932 he decided to stay closer to home and took at job with Avon Bodies in Warwick, which experimented with their own vehicles as well as building car bodies for other manufacturers.
It was a company that Eric would eventually run as the managing director. And it was a place where he repaired and restored an old Alvis owned by disabled fighter pilot Douglas Bader.
With the help of his carpenter brother Clarence, Eric also made the first prototype body for the Morgan 4 x 4 sportscar. The vehicle had been a three-wheeler before that.
He said: “I didn’t like assembly line work and I didn’t much care for getting behind a desk and becoming a managing director.
“I like using my hands. I most enjoyed being in the experimental shop and going off to Olympia and Earls Court in London with new models of our Avon cars built on the Standard chassis.
“In the 1930s we were on an equal footing with what was then Swallow Sidecars - the company that became Jaguar.”
Eric married in 1939 and he and his wife Doris had one son, John, who organised a party at the Whitnash sports and social club last Saturday to which nephews from Australia and New Zealand were among the surprise guests.
With the war starting, Eric was asked to turn his sklls to modifying aircraft. He also became a volunteer fireman and remembers long nights fighting the bomb damage in Coventry and Birmingham, where men fell asleep still holding their water hoses...yet still turned up for work the next day.
Today Eric still lives in the house he and Doris bought, just off Cape Road, when they were first married. Sadly, not long after his first retirement - in 1978 - Doris died.
He found some solace in restoring antique furniture for local shops and vintage cars, including a Rolls Royce and a Sunbeam Sports Coupe.
Eric never wanted to travel abroad until, at the age of 87, he was persuaded to get a passport and flew out to his son John’s holiday apartment in Lanzarote.
In the 1980s he also took up sequence dancing which led Eric to find new companionship first with Olga, and then Joan, whose sons were among some 60 very welcome party guests last Saturday.