My First Car: memories of my two little gems
- Credit: Archant
Like one of the car owners previously featured, I also spent my National Service at Bulford Barracks, Salisbury Plain, and learnt to drive at Houndstone Camp, Yeovil, Somerset.
I did have my National Service deferred due to my apprenticeship, so I learnt to drive when I was a married man of 21. When I left the army in 1961 I continued my previous employment, but then improved my job prospects.
In 1963 I was approached by one of my colleagues who was selling his three-year-old converted Austin 748cc with additional seating fitted. He wanted £170, but I explained I only had £85, so we agreed that I pay the other £85 in £5-a-week instalments.
This was my first car and my first ‘little gem’.
Some older readers may remember the bad winter of 1963 when snow was piled up for months, but my little gem never let me down. I would get out my starting handle and after a couple of turns she would roar away. Many times other cars would not start and my littl gem would give them a tow start.
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Our little gem gave us some very happy times. My wife’s relations lived in Wisbech, so we, along with our two girls and my wife’s parents, would travel the 100 miles and back for £1 10 shillings (about £1.50 today). Back then you could buy four gallons of petrol and two shots of Redex for £1.
The little gem was also a working car for some years. One day I was driving home when the steering became difficult. I coaxed the Austin home and found that the four bolts on the steering column was down to one and a half bolts. I repaired this and part exchanged the Austin for a a nice six-seater green Hillman Minx.
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But I did miss my faithful little gem. Note the numberplate - my wife’s name is Maureen Morris! What would that numberplate be worth today
Years passed until the early 1980s when my second little gem arrived - which we called our yellow devil. Our Ford Escort 1600 Sport in canary yellow went all over the south and Midlands.
One day we were waiting at a set of traffic lights when cars of two or three-litre capacity drew up beside us. We could tell what they were thinking, but when the lights changed I would unleash the little devil and leave the other cars standing. Eventually they would catch up and show their approval.
After many journeys on the A13, A127, A12, M25 and the City, people used to say “I saw your yellow devil”. People would even leave notes for me when they spotted the little devil in car parks.
I had this little gem for more than 20 years, along with other second cars, but still my wife would say “let’s go out in the yellow devil”.
Alas, the day finally came when my mechanic could not stop the rot any longer. But all was not lost and the yellow devil made its last appearance racing round the track at Arena Essex - a fitting end.