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Cars

 

Never having had a job involving much driving, all our cars have been bought for purely private purposes and on a budget.  Maybe one day our lottery numbers will come up, and that elegant Mercedes will appear in the drive.  Meanwhile, I’ve listed for the record our family cars. 

 

It was a sign of the times:  we had our first car at almost exactly the same time as our first television.  Like most people, we lived happily without both until then.  Now they loom large in most people’s lives.

 

This was our first car at home in Derby.  A second-hand Morris Minor convertible bought in 1954.

 

By the time we got it, it was working on no more than two cylinders, I swear, and when we took it to Devon on holiday, I had to get out and push up the steepest hills.  Really.

 

Both Mum and Pop learnt to drive in it, and so did I, though I took my test after Pop had changed it for a new Wolseley.

 

The Wolseley 1500 was, unusually at the time, a small but relatively powerful car, being built on a Morris Minor chassis with a 1.5 litre engine.  It had a high top gear, which allowed it to cruise easily at approaching its top speed, about 75 mph, but the handling was poor on twisty country roads.

 

I passed my test in this car, and drove it regularly thereafter.

 

 

 

 

The first car I owned was an old 1936 Austin 10 Sherbourne.  I paid £55, I think, and I had it during what would now be called a ‘gap’ year, except that I didn’t go anywhere exciting and spent most of the time working as a factory hand and/or driver’s mate for the Hereford cider makers, Bulmers.

 

 

 

I had no car at university, but was allowed to drive the family car during vacations:  Pop changed the original Wolseley for a new one after a few years, but, as is the way with these things, we never liked the replacement quite as much.

 

 

 

 

After I started work, I longed for a car again.  For my budget of £200, this is what I got – the very basic Ford Popular, only three years old.  It was no more sophisticated than the pre-war Austin above – cable brakes, no heater, no direction indicators, vacuum operated wipers etc.  The engine was also very worn:  I used to stop every hour to check the oil and top up as necessary (it usually was). 

 

 

 

During the severe winter of 1962-63, I managed to return to Hereford from Cheltenham most weekends, sometimes having to stop a dozen times to keep the unheated screen clear of ice.  This car had one very strange trait.  Water must have penetrated the steering gear, and in the icy weather it was impossible to put on a left-hand lock until it had thawed out a bit.  Made backing out of the drive just a bit tricky.

 

 

 

 

This second-hand Morris Minor 1000 was a welcome upgrade, with a decent engine to go with the excellent Minor chassis.  It drove well, though a little noisy from a worn gear-box and the ‘town and country’ tyres fitted at the rear.

 

 

My first new car, a 1966 Austin Mini.  The mini’s driveability set new standards then, though reliability was not so good.  The boot was just about big enough for my tennis kit – my main recreation at the time – but hopeless when buying in bulky stocks of crisps and snacks for the club bar.

 

Pop changed his Wolseley 1500 for a Triumph 1300 at about this time, but I have no memory of driving this car at all.

 

 

 

In 1972, Japanese manufacturers were just starting to make an impression on the UK market, and from the Datsun 100A Cherry, and its better-known Italian rival, the Fiat 127, it was easy to see why.  These early ‘super-minis’ offered specifications, performance, reliability and price way ahead of their British rivals at the time.

 

I settled for the Datsun, and had many years of good service from the little car.

 

 

 

On the strength of my satisfaction with the Datsun, Pop followed suit, and bought a Datsun 120Y Sunny, of the same colour.  While this car offered value and reliability, the Sunny, unlike the front-wheel drive Cherry, had antiquated engineering, including a solid axle and cart-springs at the back, which made handling a problem on any but the best of roads. 

 

It was, however, popular with learners, and had quite the smoothest gear-box I have ever known.

 

 

After we moved to Darkes Farm, we borrowed the car for the school run for many years.

 

 

We replaced the Datsun Cherry with a second-hand Volvo 340, our first hatchback.  It was a two-door model – safe for the children but awkward when the front seat tilt mechanism broke.

 

Half of Gloucestershire seemed to own this model in those days – apart, that is, from those that could afford something better and they all had the larger 700 series.

 

 

 

 

Pop eventually replaced his Sunny with another Japanese offering, the Suzuki Swift.  This small, light car was immensely quick off the mark and manoeuvrable in traffic, and I borrowed it regularly for the school run.  Oddly, it must have been the only Japanese car which didn’t come with a radio fitted as standard.

 

Pop drove it very little, and, after trading it in, we had a phone call from the eventual purchaser who just couldn’t believe the minimal mileage was genuine.

 

 

I had been intrigued by the Renault Espace when I first read about it, and, when Jay was born a few years later, and we needed something with more than five seats to take the whole family, we tried to hire one.  They were not very common but eventually one firm tracked one down.  We were so impressed that later that year we got one.

 

Of course, they, and their growing number of imitators, soon became de rigueur for the school run, replacing all the up-market large Volvos and the assorted down-market Bedford and Toyota midi-vans.

 

 

Pop never drove it, but Teresa took him and Mum out two or three times a week, and there was still bags of room for Juliet and her push-chair in the back, plus all the shopping.

 

 

Teresa inherited this Renault 5 when her step-father died – her mother not being a driver.  She drove it virtually into the ground taking Jay and her friends to their endless round of activities:  ballet, swimming, drama, Kumon maths, music – the list seemed endless.

 

Helen learnt on it too, and we were glad when she could drive herself to her own gigs when she was at home.

 

 

When I retired, we had to revert to one car, so this was the one to go.  Most of the fittings were beginning to fall off by then, and, though I tried to clean it up, it had to go for scrap.  We got £15 for it and were lucky to get that.

 

 

 

 

Eventually the Espace too had to go.  Teresa liked the look of the Rover range.  A bit like the Volvo 340s some 15 years earlier, Rovers seemed to be the cars of choice for a large number of people in Gloucestershire, and, as the ailing firm were offering very good deals, we joined them with a Rover 45.

 

 

 

 

As remarked earlier, it is rarely possible to repeat something exactly.  We had been very happy with the first Rover, so replaced it with a second, but with a few extras, such as air-conditioning (which we wanted), alloy wheels and spoiler (which we didn’t) and leather seats (which we didn’t particularly want at the time, but how grateful we were for them when Jay was a horse-owner depositing mud all over them – they just wiped clean).

 

 

 

But it didn’t seem as solidly built as the earlier one.  Maybe it was the fashionable silver colour, but it seemed like driving a giant tin-can.  And following  the demise of Rover we lost most of the three-year guarantee.

 

One acquisition was not a car at all:  we had been thinking about getting an old banger for Jay to learn to drive in, but, as all her interest was devoted to her four-footed friends rather than the four-wheeled variety, we decided to provide Clyde with transport instead.  Hence the old Bedford horsebox.  Jay was able to compete regularly while we had it, and her success made it all worthwhile. 

 

We sold it after she had gone to university.

 

 

 

When Jay’s interest eventually turned to learning to drive we saw a couple of pale blue Fiat Seicentos, but initially rejected them.  Then we failed to strike a deal on a different car we selected, and went back to get Fizzy.  Jay was delighted as she fancied it all along.

 

Small and nippy, it was ideal for parking in Winchcombe – and it meant no clash of transport between Roger’s bowls and Jay’s riding.  To date, it still soldiers on with Jay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After over eight years we got around to replacing our faithful Rover, which was starting to look its age, though it had never let us down.  An updated version would have suited us fine, but of course Rover no longer existed, and we had not been able to agree on what to get.   That changed when Teresa noted a tempting offer for the Skoda Octavia on the radio, and Roger recalled that this model came as close as any to the Rover 45 concept.  When we looked for our nearest dealers, we found that one was the Bowling Green Garage in Powick (near Worcester):  it looked like an omen.

 

Accordingly,  we went for a test drive and were suitably impressed.  The model advertised was selling so well that it needed to be ordered, so we actually ended up with a similar deal on a car already in the showroom.  Unfortunately, the car was destined to be with us for little more than three years, having been written off after an accident.

 

 

 

 

Its replacement was another Skoda Octavia, two years younger, an ex-demonstrator of the so-called Black Edition:  a good looking car with a lot of extras.  But, as I have remarked before, like for like replacements never seem quite as good as their predecessor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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