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Old family and locally-owned cars
My own memories of cars in the 1970s and 1980sThe Motoring Memories Project has been set up to collate personal memories of the motorcar from years ago, whether this dates back to the wartime era or much more recently. I grew up in the 1970s and can remember many cars, both owned by our family and those who lived nearby, that are already rarely seen in regularly use today. Elsewhere on this site I've rambled a bit about the olde worlde cars that I've owned since passing my driving test in 1987 (my own classic cars), but here I've plundered my own recollections of cars that I grew up with, when I was confined to pedal powered 2-wheel transportation for my own mobility.
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In the early 1970s, at about the time dad still owned a 100E Ford Popular I think (the full account of his vehicular activities can be seen here). However my vaguest early memories are of a duo tone MG1100 that he had, and somewhere there are photos of a very young me, in the land of nod on the vinyl back seat. The grille from this car hangs in my garage to this day, and the big valve cylinder head (not a 12G 295 but close) is around here too somewhere.
It was in the 1970s that my uncle ran a GTM kit car, a fibreglass rear engined machine (HTU 880K) powered by one of several tweaked Mini engines that he had 'in stock' in those days. One memorable trip in this car was down to visit my great Aunt (who originally owned the A40 that I now have), down in Exmouth, Devon. We went to visit in this little two seater, and even now it was one of the quicker cars I've ever been in, certainly between the bends. I distinctly remember glancing at the speedometer and we were cracking 1xx mph at one point, and in something so light and low it felt like you were flying. Another ride in this car around the lanes of Wales a couple of years later was equally interesting. Sadly that car ended its days full of water and up to its knees in grass outside my uncle's house, its backend having been substantially modified by an errant Vauxhall Carlton driver. Unc then went on to buy a SAAB 99L, in bright yellow. Not the most obvious machine for having a fun drive, but when a Triumph Dolomite Sprint engine was squeezed under the bonnet of the SAAB, and coupled up to the front wheel drive arrangement of the Swede, it really flew. I think the registration was WXF 149M. That car was sold on a few years later, converted (sadly) back to SAAB engine before the sale. Since then he has run more sensible cars, for years sticking with rather sedate Volvo 240s before switching to an E34 5 series at the turn of the millenium.
Mum has a brief flirtation with a rose taupe coloured Morris Minor but that went after a few months as she didn't like it at all.
The only incident of any note with the 144 that I remember was one morning, with the car parked out on the road. Our neighbour, who lived directly opposite, had a then-new MGB GT, the rubber bumper thing in that horrible mid blue that all BL cars came in. She was a spirited driver, but not one who trifled with the delicacies of motoring, such as looking in her mirror (apart from when touching up the make-up) when reversing. Dad's car was hardly ever parked in the road, so was not usually an obstacle to reversing out from her driveway in one go. This morning she screamed out of her driveway in reverse as normal, without noticing that 1.5 ton of Swedish breeze block was parked in the firing line. Rather than coming to a halt as usual against the kerb, her rearward motion was halted somewhat prematurely by the aforementioned Volvo. The hefty rubber bumper on the back of the MG had done a fine job in demolishing the front wing of dad's Volvo, itself a sturdy vehicle in most situations. The MGB got off very lightly, just a few shards of orange Volvo indicator lens embedded in its rubber bumper. The Volvo's wing however was very poorly, and had to be replaced, I think, with a fibreglass replacement.
He had one of the early Toyota Celicas, in silver, and that was a really cool looking car (at least I thought so then!). He followed that up with a real Jap gin palace, in the shape of a dark green metallic 70s Toyota Crown Super 2600, a chintzy barge of a thing, loaded with groovy toys such as electric windows, and a tape player, but to a young kid in the 1970s it was the mutt's essentials.
We went for a ride in it once and I remember being amazed at how quiet and smooth it was. The passage of time hasn't been too kind to the image of these barges, and very few survived in any condition much beyond the 1980s.
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