Nick Larkin

Nick remembers some long-for­got­ten clas­sics

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - NICK LARKIN

Our Nick get rem­i­nisc­ing about long­for­got­ten clas­sics from his youth.

One glance and I landed back in my Seven­ties child­hood with a dull, omi­nous thud. Glim­mer­ing in its metal­lic blue­ness be­fore me at this year’s Fes­ti­val of the Unex­cep­tional was Des Cooke’s Simca 1204 Spe­cial.

This ex­tra­or­di­nary show is best summed up by its or­gan­is­ers, Hagerty In­surance, as be­ing ‘in cel­e­bra­tion of the bril­liance of bland­ness.’ Yet to me the Simca stood out, even against such ri­vals as a lu­minous green Citroën Visa, a Volvo 340 and var­i­ous ma­chines of such base spec that Al­ca­traz would have ap­peared lux­u­ri­ous by com­par­i­son.

Sorry, I di­gress. This is the prob­lem with the Fes­ti­val – at­tempts to fo­cus on one ve­hi­cle are al­ways thwarted by catch­ing in the cor­ner of your eye yet an­other gem. More than two mil­lion Simca 1100/1204s were built and the car sold well in Bri­tain. Yet de­spite go­ing to lots of shows I can only re­mem­ber see­ing one other ex­am­ple in re­cent years. This car sur­vived be­cause its lady owner em­i­grated from Bri­tain to less rust-prone Spain.

It’s a top of the range ex­am­ple and the sight of the dash­board with its fake wood, and blue seats with Ch­ester­field sofa-style but­tons in them quite se­ri­ously booted me back in time. I would like to say that one of these in ret­ro­spect sur­pris­ingly stylish front-wheel-drive ve­hi­cles was proudly col­lected from the show­room as Larkin fam­ily trans­port but in fact I had to make do with snaf­fling a brochure from the lo­cal garage.

Un­ex­pect­edly re­mark­able

That got me think­ing of other small as­pects of some­times rare sur­vivors that re­ally can take you to a for­got­ten mo­ment. We had a neigh­bour with a Mor­ris 1100, and I al­ways re­mem­ber the car’s in­te­rior re­sem­bling a sur­real dis­cothèque from the light on the end of the in­di­ca­tor stalk when he was putting it in the drive at night.

Door hinges on early Mi­nis re­mind me of an early ex­am­ple owned by a friend of my dad’s, Billy Wed­dle. Gal­lop­ing rot meant on var­i­ous pan­els meant that Billy had car­ried out so much weld­ing and fill­ing that the driver’s door could no longer be opened, but at least Billy could proudly pro­claim that he was the owner of ‘a one door fam­ily sa­loon.’

Then there were bits of cars on which I in­jured my­self – the roof gut­ter­ing on a TR7 where I struck my head af­ter be­ing in­vited to sit in it by a sales­man try­ing to flog the car to my re­luc­tant par­ent; and the top of a Mor­ris Mi­nor door al­ways re­minds me of trap­ping my arm on the way home from school, my bleat­ings be­ing ig­nored by other pas­sen­gers.

For some rea­son the rear bucket seats in a Vaux­hall Viva HB SL blast me back to dank Fe­bru­ary Sun­day af­ter­noons when ‘friends’ of my par­ents, who owned one of these beasts, would call to fill the house with Player’s Num­ber Six fumes and sub­ject me to their rather fear­some off­spring. Oc­ca­sion­ally we were al­lowed to sit in the nico­tine fog of the Viva’s in­te­rior.

Even such de­tails as Triplex la­bels on win­dows reg­is­tered in my mind more than school math­e­mat­ics.

We haven’t even dis­cussed how smells and sound trig­ger mem­ory, but my sub­con­scious is spin­ning like a top af­ter writ­ing this!

Nick Larkin has ap­peared in many clas­sic car (and a few bus) pub­li­ca­tions since 1989. He joined

Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics in 1996, and re­mains a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor.

For­got­ten cars to jolt mem­o­ries at Fes­ti­val of the Unex­cep­tional.

Des Cooke’s Simca 1204 spe­cial caused a flash­back for Larkin.

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