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Daddy Car SOS: tears as dad reveals secret Sunny to daughter
Everyone remembers their first car - but getting the keys has rarely been so emotional...
In a bitterly cold car park in Stoke, 22-year-old Shanice Stanier waited patiently by her father Pete’s rare Nissan Sunny ZX.
She was there to hand him an award bestowed by Retro Japanese magazine for the car they restored together over three months in 2015.
But unknown to her, in true Car SOS style, the award was fake, and family and friends had really gathered to see the reveal of a closely-guarded secret and a year-long labour of love.
For 12 long months, dad Pete had spent every spare hour in his workshop bringing back to life the only remaining silver Sunny ZX in the country, ready to surprise his daughter.
And when he rolled into the car park in the 1989 Nissan, father and daughter were united in an emotional, tearful embrace as Shanice’s mum Tracey shouted: “You’ve been Daddy Car SOSd.”
Finally, the secret was out and, once he’d regathered his composure, Pete told Influx how the car was a reward for not only helping him restore his own much-loved Sunny, but also for the way she’s dealt with a host of health issues in recent years.
“When she was 13 she was the Staffordshire skipping champion and shortly afterwards she started complaining of pain in her legs,” he said.
“We thought it was just growing pains, but eventually the hospital did x-rays and it turned out she had a rare hip condition called Perthes Disease. She had to have a hip replacement operation when she was 19 years old. She also suffers from endometriosis and is still undergoing many surgeries to try to alleviate some of the pain.
“It’s uncertain whether she will be able to have children and she will have to have a hysterectomy at some point in the near future.”
Despite her hip condition, Shanice had spent weeks in the garage with her father helping him get his Sunny back on the road after nine years in storage.
“I’ve done this mainly because, about three years ago, Shanice convinced me to get my car out again,” he said. “I didn’t want to, I was going to scrap it but with her determination, after about three months we managed to get my car back out.
“Even though she was waiting for a hip operation she sat in the garage, in this weather, cold, on the floor cleaning springs, helping me paint things, scraping Waxoyl off, getting it in her hair. She’s always had a love for the car.”
Shanice, clutching the keys to her first car, told us why her father’s car means so much to her and how she came to hanker after one of her own.
“It started from when I was young – we used to go out on a lot of day trips with my mum and dad, brother and sisters, so that was quite special to me,” she said.
“Then my dad managed to get my mum one, so we all used to go out together in them, but then dad just left his in the garage for nine years due to unfortunate problems that arose in life.
“It made me feel sad, seeing my dad neglecting it and not having the motivation to go out and do anything with it, so eventually I went to a Japanese car show with my fiance Nathan and came back and I just said to my dad ‘we need to do the car up, we need to get it out’.
“At first he was a bit apprehensive about doing it, he didn’t really want to but eventually I managed to get him in the garage. There were a lot of times he wanted to give up – he lost his rag when he couldn’t find the tin snips! It was just nice to make the memories with my dad, do it up together, make my dad smile again and have his pride and joy back.”
That was when she started pestering Pete for a Sunny ZX, Nissan’s answer to the Golf GTi, of her own.
“With him saying there weren’t many left, I obviously thought it wouldn’t happen,” she added, even though his disappearances at weekends and bank holidays initially aroused suspicion.
“At first, if I’m honest, I did think he’d got me a car,” she said. “So while I was pestering him for ages and ages and ages we were going to shows and I was thinking ‘is this going to be it?’ But it never happened so I just thought ‘it was a daft idea, forget about it’.
“He was telling me he was going to help his friend Colin, who owns a bodyshop, doing cars up in the workshop at the weekends and obviously I just thought that’s where he was. So the thought of him getting me a car brushed to the back of my mind.”
But it was very much at the forefront of Pete’s mind, and eventually he tracked down a Sunny ZX – one of only a handful left in the UK – for sale in Folkestone on the owners club website.
There was only one problem: it needed a huge amount of work, a challenge even for former mechanic Pete.
“It was in really, really bad condition,” he said of the car that cost only £150 to buy and another £240 to transport from the Kent coast to Stoke in March last year.
“There was no front end on it, and the guy who picked it up couldn’t get it open. He had to smash the windows to get in to it.
“I’ve had to replace the bumpers, the bonnet – every single nut and bolt’s been off it. I’ve spent every weekend and every single holiday I’ve had, bank holidays and everything, working on it every single moment. My friend Colin from One-Stop Bodywork helped me do the paintwork.
“It’s been very, very difficult to keep it secret – she even asked me ‘are you having an affair with someone from down south?’ Little did she know it was the car.
“She’s known nothing about it. She’s had little hints dropped but no, she didn’t know.”
When the pair were invited to a reveal in October by Car SOS presenters Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend, Pete had to remind the duo to keep schtum about his plans.
“They are aware of what I’ve been doing and invited us to a car reveal on October 1 last year,” said Pete. “I had to have a word with them not to mention the car. Nothing was said but she got picked to talk with them, and she loved that.”
The 1.8-litre hot hatch, producing 129bhp and nicknamed Willo because of its WLO number plate, was completed in February and passed its MoT with no advisories the following month.
And so plans turned to the long-awaited reveal, and the culmination of a dream for both father and daughter.
“I just wanted to see her face,” said Pete. “It brought tears to my eyes. It’s definitely all been worth it. Now I’ve got to find something to do at weekends.”
Shanice, initially overcome by emotion, later put those feelings into words.
“I’m really, really happy,” she said. “It’s just a feeling of happiness and excitement. It was very heartwarming to think that, after everything I’ve been through, obviously they do care, they do love me by how much effort the family’s put into doing that for me.
“Now I’ve got to pass my test, definitely, get it done as soon as I can, take it out, take it to some shows and enjoy it.”
The TV cameras may not have been there, but Tim and Fuzz couldn’t have done it better.
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