Wednesday December 18, 2019
On the 20th December, I reach my half-century. So, in celebration of my great age, here are some totally random recollections:
My First Automotive Memories:
It all began with the paternal Vauxhall Viva HB De Luxe – a two-door model finished in Turquoise. To this day, I can still recall the transmission whine of the 1,159cc engine and the vinyl seats.
We always seemed to be heading to the Hedge End branch of Fine Fare. On occasion, a neighbour would give us a lift in her maroon-coloured 1964 Morris Mini-Minor, and we would occasionally venture to Kingsland Market in Southampton – where every other vehicle seemed to be a six-year-old Ford Transit.
Of the other cars in the village, the father of a schoolfriend drove a cream-coloured Morris 1800 Mk. I and the family opposite our bungalow owned a blue Ford Consul L Estate which looked most impressive, even if it were not quite as luxurious as a Granada GXL.
There was also a Cortina Mk. I “Aeroflow” saloon with an aftermarket two-tone green paint finish, a Vauxhall VX 4/90 FB, a metallic silver Cortina 2000E Mk. III and a Volvo 221 “Amazon estate.
Another neighbour was the proud owner of a 1964 Reliant Regal Van sans heater, seat belts and many other frivolities. Riding in this fine vehicle was a truly memorable experience.
I am also of an age to be familiar with the phrase ‘kerb drill’, although the Green Cross campaign began as early as 1971 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRUBMBi_lp4. It was always a good idea to listen to Kenny Everett re. cycling - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfVp40o159E.
My memories of the “Blunders” seat belt campaign are quite vague - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR6SAxFYR6o – although I did gain the impression that the appearance of an ADO16 in any public information film was the harbinger of disaster… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c23MFIKiVdE
And in autumn 1976, someone who lived in the “upmarket” estate near the A27 ordered a brand-new Rover 3500 SD1, a vehicle second to only the Renault 30TS in my shortlist of ‘Highly Desirable Five-Door Saloons”. It was also in marked contrast to the maternal Renault R8, which shed its offside front door into a post office on one particularly notable occasion.
My First Car-Related Films and Television Experiences
Not so much The Italian Job, which I did not see until I was aged 11 as the unfortunate Hillman Imp in the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em 1975 Christmas Special.
I also recollect, another Imp being wrecked by Norman Wisdom in A Stitch In Time and, naturally, the Viva HB in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads. Other fond screen reminisces include the “psychedelic” Morris Minor Tourer in the film version of Bless This House, the Amphicar at the end of the nearly forgotten Michael Bentine comedy film The Sandwich Man and the Fourmiles’ green Ford Granada Mk. I Estate in George and Mildred. Then I saw the chase sequence in The Fast Lady - and afterwards, nothing was the same.
My First “Classic Car” Memories:
A pale grey Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, registration TVVV1 could be frequently sighted in the next village (was the property of a director of Southern Television?), but that would have been fairly new at the time.
My maternal grandparents ran a very handsome dark green 1955 Morris Minor 4-door and I still retain vague mental images of the Humber Hawk Mk. VI that lived at the bottom of our lane. At one time, our family owned a 1966 Triumph TR4A, and another car that made a great impression on my youthful self was the LHD Ami 6 that I encountered at the local boatyard.
It is important to bear in mind that Citroën only imported the Ami 8 and Super in significant numbers, so this was my very first encounter with this magnificent machine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLCIkxHleBg
Ten Motoring Sights That Seem To Have Largely Vanished:
a) Vans being driven with the offside sliding door wide open. Forty-five years ago, 90% of the Bedford CFs, BLMC J2s and J4s, Ford Transits and Commer PBs seemed to career through the (fairly) mean streets of Titchfield and Fareham with the driver exposed to the elements. The reason was ease of delivery, ventilation in summer and the need to make hand signals – both official and unofficial.
b) Wearing several duffle coats for that trip to the local newsagent during January and February. This was not an affection but a necessity, given the not overly effective heater of a 1972 Citroen Dyane 6, combined with the fact that the bodywork was seemingly designed to allow the ingress of freezing cold air at each and every opportunity.
c) Winter motoring in an era when a heated window was a luxury; I grew up at the tail end of the adhesive “Gno-Mist” panel era.
d) Various Hillman Minxs, Austin A60 Cambridges and Singer Vogues donning an improvised Bacofoil radiator mask come November. This was a cheap, and sometimes effective method, of maintaining engine temperature.
e) A “Moonroof” inexpertly cut into the top of a Ford Cortina 1.3L Mk. IV or Hillman Hunter De Luxe. Other forms now nearly aftermarket accessory include matt black bonnet, fake-leopard skin seat and steering wheel covers, tinted windscreen band emblazoned with the names “Wayne” and “Cilla”, windscreen wipers decorated with chequered bands and pseudo-Ro-Style wheels.
f) The joys of long-distance travel in cars devoid of a radio, let alone a cassette or cartridge player. All I can say is that the art of conversation did tend to descend into bickering and sullen silences after two hours.
g) Vehicles that looked as though they had recently escaped from the local scrapyard. I remain convinced that certain models seen around the Solent region had been recently the subject of a rebuild using blotting paper.
h) Little Chefs. I have previously written about this intuition, but at the age of nine, Jubilee Pancakes were a luxury on a par with a box of Rowntree’s Weekend Assortment.
i) Pre-mobile ‘phone motoring.
j) I might be wrong here, but are travel sweets no longer regarded as an essential requirement for any journey above five miles?