My First Car

This England - - Contents -

This year saw a mo­tor­ing mile­stone with the 80th an­niver­sary of the driv­ing test. In­tro­duced on a vol­un­tary ba­sis in March 1935 it be­came com­pul­sory in June that year. Back then there were 11⁄ mil­lion cars on the road,

2 to­day it’s rather more con­gested with 32 mil­lion! Even though the num­ber of ve­hi­cles has in­creased much of the test re­mains the same with the hill start, emer­gency stop, re­vers­ing, a three-point turn and ques­tions on the High­way Code, although this is now a sep­a­rate the­ory test. There were two oc­ca­sions when test­ing was sus­pended. The first was dur­ing the war and then later in the Suez Cri­sis when examiners were needed to help with fuel ra­tioning.

Many driv­ers — in­clud­ing some of those fea­tured here — can re­call the ten­sion, trauma and, ul­ti­mately, the tri­umph of pass­ing the test. Re­mem­ber the steely scru­tiny of the ex­am­iner who barked in­struc­tions from the seat be­side you, the mir­ror-sig­nal-ma­noeu­vre mantra and, for those tak­ing the test be­fore 1975, the hand sig­nals? As you gripped the steer­ing wheel in the reg­u­la­tion 10 to 2 po­si­tion and care­fully nav­i­gated the test route, all you wanted to hear were the magic words “You’ve passed”, then you could wave good­bye to the L-plates and be on the way to your first car. And with that in mind, here is the latest se­lec­tion of your mo­tor­ing mem­o­ries — look out for more in the win­ter is­sue.

P.D. Greenwood, Chor­ley, Lan­cashire:

It was June 1970 and I was a 17-yearold ap­pren­tice elec­tri­cian. With my sav­ings I bought my first car for £110. It was a 1962 Tri­umph Her­ald 1200, red and white, wal­nut dash, the bon­net/wings all lifted up to­gether, great ac­cess for tin­ker­ing. I passed my test a cou­ple of months later. The car was a good lit­tle run­ner for about 10 months then, when the en­gine warmed up and the speed was above 40 mph, the oil pres­sure warn­ing light started com­ing on.

Yes, the en­gine was worn and needed a big over­haul. Time to get rid!

I ad­ver­tised the car in the weekly com­pany news­pa­per for £100, I said it was a bar­gain. If any­one wanted a test drive on the com­pany’s huge works the max­i­mum speed was 15 mph. A young fel­low from the of­fice made con­tact want­ing a test drive in his lunch hour. He needed a re­place­ment for the car he’d blown up a cou­ple of days ear­lier. The test drive went well, £100 was handed over and both par­ties were happy. A few weeks later I heard that he’d blown up the Tri­umph on the very first week­end. He must have gone fast and with the con­di­tion the en­gine was in it couldn’t stand it. I did hear his dad was keen to have a word with me, but some­how he kept miss­ing me!

A.P. Smith, Pul­bor­ough, West Sus­sex:

My sis­ter and I pur­chased our first car, a brand new Mini Trav­eller back in 1957, for the sum (I think) of £752. As far as I can re­mem­ber petrol was 3/10. I had just fin­ished my Na­tional Ser­vice and my sis­ter was work­ing near to where we lived. She used it for work each day and in the evenings picked me up from the sta­tion, af­ter a day work­ing in Lon­don.

One of our first hol­i­days was to mo­tor up to Scot­land from Sur­rey. We did the jour­ney in one go, swap­ping driv­ers ev­ery two hours. We made fre­quent stops just to “de-numb” our bot­toms, as the seats were a bit ba­sic in com­fort! We did many hol­i­days, Wales, Devon, Cornwall, and it was a su­perb lit­tle car — it was our pride and joy. We kept it for three or four years then up­graded to a Mor­ris 1100. When you think back to the switch levers for the lights and a pull-out choke, a but­ton on the floor for dip­ping the head­lights, the wood on the body­work, no ra­dio, no air con­di­tion­ing, how very ba­sic it was com­pared with the car I drive to­day, but you never for­get that first car.

Howard & Bar­bara Pendle­ton, Point Roberts, Washington, USA:

Our first car was a very used Ford Eight Sta­tion Wagon of du­bi­ous mileage, cost­ing £25 and re­sem­bling a chicken shed on wheels. It needed not only petrol but a con­stant sup­ply of oil as the worn en­gine emit­ted black smoke from burned oil when un­der stress.

Not lack­ing in bravado we de­cided to ex­plore the north­ern coast of Brit­tany and booked with Chan­nel Air Bridge. The plane de­parted from Lympne, in Kent, and had room for three ve­hi­cles in the front, ac­cessed by a ramp, and a small cabin for 10 or so peo­ple be­hind. Get­ting the car into the plane re­quired full throt­tle and some hu­man as­sis­tance.

We drove off hap­pily into Brit­tany. The car boasted hub caps, but on rough cob­bled roads or rail­way cross­ings these fre­quently came off re­quir­ing quick stops to re­trieve the rolling mis­siles.

The head­lights had been de­scribed by a me­chanic in Eng­land as But­ler Lamps. Who­ever But­ler was his lamps emit­ted about the same light as a can­dle! We did not do much driv­ing at night on French roads, but when we did we de­vel­oped a tech­nique of mov­ing very slowly watch­ing out for an­i­mals or pedes­tri­ans un­til a French car came speed­ing along. When this oc­curred we speeded up rapidly to fol­low it un­til it es­caped us and we were re­duced to wait­ing for the next one to come past.

As time went on the bat­tery be­came less ef­fi­cient at hold­ing its charge and we took to stop­ping near the top of a hill, so that we could roll down, en­gage low gear and hope­fully jolt the car into ac­tion. On one oc­ca­sion we reached the town quay by the wa­ter’s edge still with no ac­tion from the en­gine!

We re­turned to Eng­land via Southend and soon af­ter ar­rival en­coun­tered a very steep hill which our com­plain­ing wagon would not go up. As re­verse gear was lower than any for­ward one, we turned the car and re­versed up the re­main­der of the in­cline. We sold the wagon a month or so later for £50 af­ter it had been smartened up. Yes, we did tell the next owner of its ec­cen­tric an­tiq­uity, but he bought it nonethe­less.

Derek Scott, East­bourne, East Sus­sex:

My first car af­ter Na­tional Ser­vice was a su­perb vintage 1937 Mor­ris Eight. “EMMA” as she was af­fec­tion­ately called was bought for £75 in Stock­well, Lon­don. From 1953 to 1960 I was teach­ing at a prepara­tory school in Mof­fat, Dum­friesshire, and Emma did the re­turn trip from Lon­don to Scot­land for 21 terms with­out break­ing down ex­cept for the odd punc­ture.

My route in­volved leav­ing Lon­don at 6am avoid­ing any rush hour and head­ing up the Edg­ware Road to hit the A5 and A6, no mo­tor­ways in those days. My main prob­lem was get­ting over Shap Fell and through the Narrows at Pen­rith. As each jour­ney was over 300 miles I used to aim at 100 miles ev­ery three hours and then a break. Petrol was 2/6 a gallon. Apart from a de-coke and new spark plugs on oc­ca­sions Emma was very re­li­able and needed very lit­tle main­te­nance. I’m now 81 and, hav­ing mo­tored all my life, I have the fond­est mem­o­ries of Emma.

Ge­off Pearce, Watch­field, Ox­ford­shire:

My first car was a 1933 Jowett four-door saloon, with a fab­ric-cov­ered body, a cen­tral ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal and a seven-horse­power flat twin-cylin­der en­gine. My fa­ther owned it from 1934 and gave it to me in 1949 when I left Sand­hurst. I had helped him with its main­te­nance and re­pairs, so I knew its work­ings well. I sold it in 1955 on be­ing posted to Ger­many and I en­close a 1950 photo of it.

Arnold Wade, Newquay, Cornwall:

In 1963 my wife and I bought a 1934 Austin Ten for £40. No one had any train­ing in ve­hi­cle main­te­nance, but by chat­ting to friends and col­leagues in en­gi­neer­ing in Coven­try I could re­pair and main­tain ev­ery­thing on the car. The elec­tri­cal sup­ply was from two six-volt bat­ter­ies slung un­der the wooden floor­boards be­low the driver’s seat and ac­cess to top up with dis­tilled wa­ter was fairly easy. The floor­boards were loosely fit­ted and when it rained our feet got wet.

Punc­tures were a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence and mend­ing them was a job at home us­ing tyre levers, but tak­ing great care not to nip the in­ner tube. It was like mend­ing a punc­ture on a bi­cy­cle, but much more dif­fi­cult.

The method of in­di­cat­ing your in­ten­tions to other driv­ers was by us­ing hand sig­nals. Be­fore ex­e­cut­ing a left­hand turn the right arm was ex­tended out of the win­dow and waved in a large anti-clock­wise cir­cle while steer­ing the car with the left hand to­wards the cor­ner. Driv­ing test examiners were keen to see the proper use of hand sig­nals. Con­cen­tra­tion on driv­ing while tak­ing the test in the win­ter was dif­fi­cult with the win­dow wound down!

Hand sig­nals were su­per­seded by traf­fi­ca­tors, which were il­lu­mi­nated ar­rows about six inches along at­tached one ei­ther side at the top of the door pil­lars. When en­er­gised they would flick up at 90 de­grees. Of­ten, when can­celled, they did not re­turn to the ver­ti­cal po­si­tion and a smart blow on the door pil­lar was nec­es­sary to en­cour­age them to drop down. Some­times both traf­fi­ca­tors pro­truded at the same time and the car would fly around a cor­ner with two minia­ture wings on view.

One jour­ney was from our home in the Mid­lands to Cardiff to see two aunts. They were keen to visit Caer­philly Moun­tain, but the car re­fused to climb a steep gra­di­ent. The aunts, sit­ting on the back seat, were urg­ing the car by pitch­ing for­ward in uni­son, but to no avail, the en­gine was rac­ing but we were sta­tion­ary. Clearly the clutch was slip­ping. Just then some­one drove down the road, stopped, and pointed out that it got steeper fur­ther up. I have yet to see the top of Caer­philly Moun­tain!

Even­tu­ally the Austin had to go in favour of a bet­ter model, but de­spite all its short­com­ings a sense of nos­tal­gia re­mains with a lit­tle re­gret that we could not have kept “her”.

David Luck, Le­ices­ter:

My first car caught my eye, and my heart, as it stood gleam­ing in mag­nif­i­cent Bri­tish Rac­ing Green in the show­room win­dow. It was a Singer Le Mans, re­named from a Singer Nine, when the model fin­ished 13th at Le Mans. If my mem­ory serves me cor­rectly, the price was £265, which in 1950 was a con­sid­er­able amount of money. I had re­cently re­ceived a be­quest from my late grand­fa­ther, which for­tu­nately cov­ered the cost. The pur­chase was made and CMF 845 be­came mine.

Many trips were made and ad­mir­ing glances be­came com­mon­place. One fate­ful day I drove the car to Bournemouth where I met a de­light­ful lady and be­came so smit­ten that Le­ices­ter to Bournemouth was a reg­u­lar run for the Singer and me. The out­come was in­evitable. To help me set up home with my new love, I sold the car to help with ex­penses. How­ever, mem­o­ries never fade and I of­ten won­der what be­came of CMF 845? Shortly af­ter mar­ry­ing my Bournemouth Belle, I made this mon­tage of a red Singer Le Mans from a cal­en­dar, with a pho­to­graph of my Singer, with my wife and I on ei­ther side. It had pride of place on one of our land­ing walls.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.