Nick remembers some long-forgotten classics
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.
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.