Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My first car

It was, I think, in 1961 that I bought my first car - a 1935 Ford 8. I was extremely proud of that car, even though it was already more than 25 years old and had covered goodness knows how many miles. I seem to remember that I paid £20 for it. On a downhill road with the wind behind me I did once manage to get the speedometer up to 60. I would call in to the garage and ask them to fill up the oil and check the petrol!

It was soon after I acquired this spectacular mode of transport that the new cathedral was consecrated at Coventry. I saw the pictures in the press and determined to visit this splendid building myself. So when my holiday came round, I tossed a few bits onto the back seat of the Ford and set off for Coventry. I can't remember the route I took from Brighton to the Midlands, but I think it was probably fairly circuitous in order to avoid having to drive across London. Anyway, I reached Coventry and was stunned by the new cathedral, although I think what made the greatest impression on me was the cross of nails and the carving behind the altar in the old cathedral - "Father forgive".

I slept in the car in a car park somewhere in the city, and the next day I gave myself another treat: I drove back along the M1. England's first stretch of motorway had been a short piece of by-pass (round Preston, I think) but the M1, an 80-mile road linking London and Birmingham, was a sign of the future. I cruised down towards London in the nearside lane, doing something like 45-50 mph, on an almost empty road, but I remember being overtaken by two cars at once. A Jaguar passed me in the middle lane, possibly doing 60 or more, and as he did so, a Rolls passed him in the outside lane. Just why that incident should stick in my mind I really can't imagine.

That poor old Ford 8 eventually gave up the ghost just up the road from my then girl friend, later to become the Old Bat. We had been out somewhere and the engine went BANG and stopped. It transpired that the core plug had blown out. My future father-in-law borrowed a friend's car to tow me back home the next morning. Our route took us across Preston Circus, which in those days was a large roundabout standing at a major junction in town where one of the roads was the one from London. It was a Sunday at the height of summer, so there were hordes of cars streaming into Brighton. The tow rope snapped as we were going round the roundabout and before anyone could do anything, the traffic was snarled up for what seemed like miles. Three policemen appeared from nowhere and told the Young Bat to get behind the wheel, never mind that she wasn't insured to drive the car. They helped push it into a side street from where it was eventually towed home. I rang a scrap merchant who charged me £5 to take it away.

Happy days.

1 comment:

not your Uncle Skip said...

A little irony - one of my best friends from high school had a Hillman Minx in 1961.
He called it Coventry's Revenge.