David Clay­ton mo­tors along

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We were lucky to have a suc­ces­sion of dif­fer­ent fam­ily cars when I was grow­ing up. My fa­ther’s job as a sales rep meant his car would be re­newed reg­u­larly. They were in­vari­ably Fords. One car has stayed with me sim­ply be­cause I prob­a­bly learned my first swear word while rid­ing in it!

Our 1958 black Ford Pop­u­lar was blessed – or should it be – cursed with just three for­ward gears. This was when I was about seven, so had be­gun to un­der­stand the me­chan­ics of a car and why you needed to change gear. The prob­lem with the Pop­u­lar was sec­ond gear was too low and third was too high or to put it an­other way, the ra­tios of sec­ond and third were a long way apart. Thus, Fa­ther would at­tempt an over­take of a lorry or bus and drop down to sec­ond for a hope­ful burst of ac­cel­er­a­tion. Such was the dif­fer­en­tial be­tween the gears, the en­gine would scream in protest and there’d barely be any no­tice­able boost of speed. At this point Fa­ther would curse with a range of colour­ful lan­guage and aban­don his over­take. Mother would tut and chas­tise him. The same gear prob­lem would be ap­par­ent on hills, es­pe­cially when the en­tire fam­ily was on board. We grew up in North York­shire – North York­shire does hills!

Sur­pris­ingly he didn’t re­mon­strate at the ab­surd wind­screen wipers which went slower the faster you trav­elled. Oc­ca­sion­ally they’d ac­tu­ally stop mid-wipe and this could be at full speed, al­beit barely 60mph back in the day. If Fa­ther started slow­ing down, they’d go into a fran­tic,

swish­ing wip­ing mode. I thought this was well worth a jolly good swear­ing at. Had I ac­cu­mu­lated a de­cent vo­cab­u­lary of ex­ple­tives my­self, I’d have helped him out with a few. I won’t bore you with the bizarre me­chan­ics of this an­noy­ing sys­tem, save to say the words “vac­uum” and “man­i­fold”. Ford driv­ers of a cer­tain vin­tage will be nod­ding sagely.

Fa­ther must have made his dis­plea­sure known to his bosses be­cause we got a Ford Pre­fect next, after the usual ac­cu­mu­la­tion of an­nual rep’s mileage. This pretty much looked the same but had four doors and was a bit bet­ter equipped all round. It had four gears. The swear­ing stopped.

Thanks to me bump­ing into Bill Cather­all, through our mu­tual love of the York­shire Dales, I can now put some flesh on the bones of all this. Bill is the proud owner of a 1960 Ford Pre­fect 107E and ex­plained the evo­lu­tion of the car. The body shape was the first of the more modern post-war de­signs and Ford made jolly good use of it for a decade or so. The Pop­u­lar, Anglia and Pre­fect all had the same body shape but dif­fer­ent lev­els of trim, luxury and cost price. As the 1950s turned into the 1960s, Ford was work­ing on its next range of more modern, stylish cars and quickly needed some­thing for the four-door fam­ily mar­ket. Its Con­sul Clas­sic was on the way but to bridge the gap un­til it was ready in 1962, Ford put its bet­ter en­gine into the Pre­fect/Anglia/Pop­u­lar body shape, titi­vated it up a bit and mar­keted it as the Pre­fect 107E. That’s what Bill has now and a pretty lit­tle car it is too.

Bill had owned the slug­gish three-geared Ford Pop­u­lar too, back in 1968. It was his first car and well sec­ond-hand by the time he bought it for £ 50. Mind you, he used it for two years and sold it on for – wait for it - £ 50! Those were the days.

It’s funny how we stay emo­tion­ally at­tached to our first car. When Bill was get­ting close to re­tire­ment, he pledged to get him­self a Ford rather like the one he’d first owned. He saw the 107E ad­ver­tised lo­cally but nearly didn’t buy it. “It was all over the place on the road on the test drive,” he said. The rea­son was it had old­fash­ioned cross-ply tyres. A quick switch to more modern ra­di­als and all was well.

Bill hasn’t over-re­stored his car be­cause he doesn’t want it to be like a mu­seum ex­hibit. He says he just main­tains it but also im­proves it. For ex­am­ple, he once ran out of petrol, leav­ing him stuck at the side of the road. Back in the day, cars didn’t have haz­ard warn­ing lights but in­ter­est­ingly you could get a con­ver­sion kit. He looked for one on an auc­tion web­site and winced as it reached over £ 90. Shortly after, at an au­to­jum­ble, he spot­ted one for sale for £7 and bought it. Un­daunted that it was miss­ing one im­por­tant part, he went search­ing for it and found the bit he needed for a fur­ther £12. His 1960 Pre­fect now has haz­ard

Bill hasn’t over­restored his car be­cause he doesn’t want it to be like a mu­seum ex­hibit.

warn­ing lights. He’s also added an ad­di­tional brake light which sits in the back win­dow. Es­sen­tially, he’s mak­ing the old car safer for to­day’s mo­tor­ing en­vi­ron­ment. When I went to see him, he was just off to buy some seat belts for the car. It is per­fectly le­gal not to have them fit­ted in clas­sic cars but, of course, you might want to.

Bill laughed when I re­minded him of the in­fer­nal wind­screen wipers. His car still has the in­fu­ri­at­ing “wipe slow when you go faster” sys­tem. I don’t re­mem­ber Fa­ther do­ing this, but Bill has ac­tu­ally pulled over in a tor­ren­tial down­pour sim­ply be­cause he just couldn’t see where he was go­ing. I do recall Fa­ther press­ing his nose to the wind­screen in the hope of ac­tu­ally see­ing what was in front of him and sol­dier­ing on – but back then fewer cars were about and they weren’t go­ing par­tic­u­larly fast.

I talk to many own­ers of clas­sic cars and due to my age, I’m drawn to those mod­els from the 1950s and ‘60s. I pushed Bill to re­ally ex­plain why he loves his Pre­fect be­cause he has, after all, a modern car to get about in.

“I love driv­ing it, it’s mo­tor­ing how you re­mem­ber – on ‘B’ roads, be­fore mo­tor­ways,” he said. “It takes you back to when driv­ing was a plea­sure and you didn’t have a lot of money but enough for a cou­ple of gal­lons to take a run out some­where. We take so much for granted now.”

And you know, I think he’s right. I looked at that lit­tle Pre­fect and had a flashback to my younger sis­ter on my mother’s knee in the front (when you could do that), me squashed in the back with my two older sis­ters and ev­ery nook and cranny of the car packed for a hol­i­day, barely 70 miles away from where we lived. It was spe­cial. It was an­tic­i­pated to the point of un­bear­able child­hood ex­cite­ment. The Pre­fect strug­gled to get us up hill and down dale but it got us there. It was Man (my fa­ther) ver­sus Ma­chine (the three-speed gear box). There was a pal­pa­ble sense of achieve­ment when we got there.

I can hear Mother now: “Don’t you lot run off and leave your fa­ther to un­pack the . . .”

Bill Cather­all pol­ish­ing his Ford Pre­fect.

Lov­ingly re­stored, Bill’s mo­tor is a pretty lit­tle car.

The bon­net of Bill Cather­all’s beloved mo­tor.

The dis­trinc­tive Ford Pre­fect let­ter­ing.

The in­te­rior of the Ford Pre­fect.

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