Cars -Chronologically.

It occurred to me that I’m about to post another chronological account of an aspect of my life, and this style of post might become a little tiresome.

But sometimes you have to go with what fits the bill.  Try doing your CV in any other style but Chronological and see how that works for you.  But as I pondered this it left me wondering “Why am I posting this subject?  Is anyone really interested? “

Thinking about it, chronological posts give more than a step by step account through your life – they show progression, development, your changing trends, fashions, needs, attitudes.  The fun isn’t typing up a list.  It’s detailing how that list has come to be.    So, I will try to do something different for my next post, but for now…

I have my dad to thank for my life behind the wheel.   He had me steering the car when I was a tot, changing gear before I reached my teens (with him pushing the clutch of course) and I was stripping his engine down, cleaning plugs and points, changing oil, repairing exhausts, even adjusting tappets, well before I could ever officially drive.  I would read sci-fi by night, and the Haynes manual by day.

My dad had a great collection of cars -well, the ones I can remember.  The green Mini with sliding windows and a cable you pulled to open the door latch.    I remember him whisking me back to the dentist in that one when my tooth was haemorrhaging.   It’s funny how you can have a happy or traumatic memory, and everything associated to it is automatically attached.   Equally, it’s not surprising I suppose that you can’t remember the car in the times between.

I remember him having an Hillman Imp, another green one, and that features in my account of a trip to London in  The birth of a life long obsession.   I remember how hot that car was in the summer.  Only years did I realise it was because it was rear engined and I was normally sat in the back seat right up against it.

He had a beautiful dark red Ford Cortina at one time.  I remember its “fins” at the back (very Gerry Anderson), the tonnes of chrome I would clean with the Autosol chrome cleaner, washing it’s big circular glass rear light clusters with what seemed like a huge sponge, the smell of the turtle wax in the bucket of warm water – a hose was a luxury we didn’t have for years- and the comforting damp smell of my dad’s old asbestos garage that we would lovingly tuck the car up in every night.  In the winter he would stand a little paraffin lamp under the engine (lit) to keep the engine block warm so that it would turn over first time in the morning.   I’m amazed it never caught fire.


I remember when my dad purchased his first brand new car, a bright orange NSU 1000 with beige real leather seats (google it) before moving on to his larger Morris Marina 1800L.    This is where I take over the story.


When I left school and started my first job (another chronical list?) my dad encouraged me to spend a whopping chunk of my £16/week wages on driving lessons, and with provisional license in hand, promptly dropped me into the local British School of Motoring shop (where Wilco’s is now up on Clumber St) and I signed up for a block of five lessons for a discounted £22, nearly in tears as I handed over my hard earned wages.

I started with a guy called Mike, in a fairly basic Ford Escort Mk 2 which was a pig to drive, and I remember well my first lesson, as I failed miserably to move the car and realised I actually knew nothing about how a car was operated.  He later left BSM and I went with him, driving and passing my test in his new Colt Lancer – equipped no less with electric windows!

My dad put me on his insurance and started giving me lessons at weekends.  His teachings didn’t always gel with Mike’s – “You can’t do 30 in this car, it will stall – put your foot down”.   “Keep away from the curb, that’s where all the broken glass is”.

But I realised even back then that driving a car with a little bit more power and a more refined set of controls really did make driving easier.

Dad fell ill with a bad back after an accident at the pit, and eventually struggled to take me out, so my Uncle Russ took over and we would drive for miles on a Sunday morning.   I felt I was really getting the hang of it.   He spent many a hour concentrating on my reversing which was atrocious.

The day of my test loomed, and almost at the same time my dad was admitted to Harlow Wood Hospital for major back surgery.    Mum was quite worried how we were going to get to visit him, but I told her not to worry, I would be able to drive her.

The day of the test arrived, Friday 13th, and it snowed.   I took a 2 hour lesson before the test and completely fluffed every manoeuvre.   Mike said “well you’ve failed but you might as well go and get the experience.”

A hour later, I walked out with my new license, and proudly cut off the L plates on my dad’s Morris Marina.   Mum insisted I took it immediately for a drive, and I fetched Sue from college on Derby Rd.  A dreadful drive if I’m being honest, and I was glad when I parked up.   But that was it, the nerves had been put to bed and the road awaited.

I took my mum to see my dad that night and broke the good news to him.

All I needed now was a car…   (To be continued)





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