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Homepage. This page: A further selection of motoring-related memories and stories sent over by Ken.

More memories of motoring.

Ken first contacted me back in 2012 with a number of car-related stories that made it onto the site, six years later he has been in touch again with a further instalment.

Motoring memories by Ken Duke, Part Two.

I once submitted an article to this site giving a few personal memories of owning and driving various motors: see "A Morris 10, a Triumph TR plus other cars remembered". I've delved into the memory bank and pulled out a few more bits and bobs which I hope some will find interesting.

1946 Morris 10M.

My first car, the 1946 Morris 10, was like most first loves, cherished and adored despite a few little tantrums from time to time.
Morris 10M 1946
I'd not had it long when it decided to short a loose wire; this happened to be connected to the horn and occurred at 3am. It must have woken several dozen neighbours before I staggered down in my pyjamas and, though half asleep, somehow managed to disconnect a battery terminal. Not long afterwards I forgot to lock the offside bonnet section, which only flew open when I had got the old girl up to 40mph on the Southend Arterial Road. Another time I was pulled over by a couple of very officious cops, one of whom decided to check the Morris for roadworthiness. This included testing the handbrake by putting his shoulder on the back of the car and shoving as hard as possible. In fact the handbrake was pretty useless, as differential oil had leaked onto the shoes; what got me out of trouble was my foot craftily pressing down on the brake pedal unseen by said Plod. The Morris had to go after a year or so (the underneath was beginning to crumble) but I think I had a lump in my throat as it drove away for the last time.

Austin A50 Cambridge.

My second car, an Austin A50 Cambridge, caused immediate dismay when I found a hole in the floor on the driver's side. Once patched up however and with a new set of spark plugs, the old bus became a trusty steed used both by myself and by my dad for a good few years. It was no sporting model for sure, the shocks were knackered and the heater didn't work, but the trusty BMC engine never let me down, the big leather seats and column change made for a nice comfortable journey and over time I grew quite fond of it.

Bedford CA Dormobile.

For a few months I became the owner of an old Bedford CA Dormobile, bought cheaply from a bloke at work to cart a number of mates up to the Norfolk Broads for a boating holiday. The engine needed a rebore and had very little power, but the Bedford could still trundle around without getting impatient hoots from following traffic (0-60 in about 3 days). As I got it in the summer it was great driving it with the driver's sliding door open - fortunately I didn't fall out once despite the lack of a seat belt. You'd probably need the door open in winter too, sitting as you did on intimate terms with the engine cover. The CA also had the luxury of an ancient valve radio beneath the driver's seat which surely Marconi himself must have put together. The biggest problem was the column gearchange linkage, which regularly worked loose resulting in either no gears or being stuck in whatever gear was engaged; in time I perfected deft work with a spanner to swiftly get me going again. The only other trouble encountered was when the steering drop arm sheered in half, resulting in the front wheels continuing to point straight ahead when the steering wheel was turned. Luckily I was only pulling out from the kerb or it could have been disastrous.

Austin Healey 100/4 -> Triumph TR2.

I had the chance to buy a Healey 100/4 (amazingly you could pick them up for peanuts then) and having been given a test run, was hooked and put down a deposit with the private seller. Sadly I learnt the next day that someone else who had been promised the car then failed to return, had now turned up and the Healey had been sold to him with my deposit refunded. Damn! I went on the hunt again and bought a TR2 instead. This has to be my all-time favourite car, but it got off to a bad start when I drove it home for the first time. A cop on a motor-bike stopped me and told me it was too dangerous to drive – the rear nearside wheel was wobbling about and appeared ready to part company with the rest of the car. On inspection it was clear that several broken wire wheel spokes were responsible; the officer finally relented and allowed me to continue the short journey to my door at a snail's pace with him following. A lift with a mate to the local scrapyard was quickly arranged for replacement spokes. I had the TR for a couple of years, and only sold it when a company car arrived on the scene. It would be worth rather more now than the 150 pounds I got from the sale.

Vauxhall & Jaguar.

When I moved to a job with a vehicle hire purchase company, I got to drive numerous cars considered collectable nowadays, but run of the mill at that time (the late 60's). One favourite was a flash PA Cresta in two-tone brown and cream which I had for a few weeks. If ever there was a "bird-puller" this was it; shame all the birds seemed to have migrated by then. Another used for a while was a Mk2 Jaguar. It had brakes that only worked when you pumped the pedal; only a minor inconvenience of course for a young man intoxicated by the chance to drive around in a "gangster's car".

Ford Cortina.

Having moved to another job, this time with a well-known London car and motor-bike trader, I worked as a "repo man" doing snatch-backs of vehicles with unpaid loans. For this purpose I was provided with a Mk2 1.6 Cortina and a big 4-wheel trailer. The Cortina was not really up to the job, and the back end was eventually all but ripped off by the towbar as it worked loose. The car disgraced itself when I took it through a car wash and, realising the driver's window was down, quickly started to wind it up only for the mechanism to fail. I came out with that well-scrubbed look, blowing bubbles along with swear words.

A company Land Rover.

For the last 6 months of repo work, I was given a rather tired Land-Rover which at least pulled the trailer effortlessly. It was useful driving it in the Capital - no-one in a car wanted to mix it with the Landy in the cut and thrust of London traffic. I did have a hairy moment once when a Thames 7cwt van tried to shoot past my offside as I turned right; much to the van driver's dismay all his lower nearside panels were ripped opened like a sardine tin and neatly rolled up inside the Landy's uncompromising steel bumper. Another scary instance was while I was towing a front-wheel-lift trailer with extendable sides – I forgot to secure these in place and one heavy steel section flew out and bounced down the busy Edgware Road, miraculously missing following vehicles.
One amusing episode at this time was when I was sent to collect a recently purchased motor-bike from outside a plush West End hotel, after the customer complained that it needed repairing. I found the right make/model where it was supposed to be, loaded it onto the trailer and brought it back – only to be told "That's not the one!" A frantic drive back to the hotel took place, with the owner just returning from the local police station where the bike had been reported stolen. Fortunately he saw the funny side of it. A further unwanted incident took place right outside the firm's office building during working hours. When I went to collect the trailer one day I discovered that someone had already driven into the yard, hooked it on and driven away with no one in the adjacent office even noticing! The trailer was never seen again. I left the firm without regret at losing the use of the Landy – long journeys were noisy and tiring especially on motorways, and a puncture somewhere up in the Cumbrian Fells in mid-winter snow did little to improve our relationship.

Ford Cortina Mk2.

To conclude this hotchpotch of rambling memories, I shall end on a rather sad note. My father-in-law owned for many years a nice Mk2 Cortina with a few bodywork blemishes which he decided to have renovated to top-class condition. The Cortina went in for a full body repair and respray, but the day it was due to be collected he suffered a massive and fatal heart attack. I inherited it, and must admit it looked a picture in a creamy-white colour with a thin gold body stripe (see photo). I proudly ran it for a number of years and for me it finally laid the ghost of "Dagenham Dustbins" and other taunts from the anti-Ford brigade; I ran several more Cortinas/Sierras over many years afterwards. In fact the latest Mondeo is on the "hit list" for deciding on my next car!
Ford Cortina Mk2
My Cortina just before I sold it; it's replacement (a Mk5 Cortina) is immediately behind.
Many thanks for this latest instalment Ken.
More tales of car ownership in years gone by can be found in the motoring memories section.

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