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Homepage. This page: Cars I remember from when I was a child

Old family and locally-owned cars

My own memories of cars in the 1970s and 1980s

The 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.

Volvo Amazon 121
The MG was ok, but it wasn't long before dad moved up in the world and bought his first Volvo, a 4 door 121, in the very pale blue that they came in. The registration was ENB 622D, a car that has long since disappeared within the jaws of the crusher I'm sure. We'd go on our annual holidays in this car, usually to somewhere in Wales, as thats where mum's side of the family hail from. My lasting memory of this car was that in summer, on a very hot day, the back seat would become rather too warm for comfort, and the vinyl became very sticky for the backs of one's legs (shorts were the order of the day). On such jollies to the seaside, we'd have a small box trailer attached to the back of the Volvo. I think it was originally a box that would fit onto the roof rack of a car, but it had been converted, thanks to a pair of indespension units, a tow ball, and a brace of lamps, into a handy little trailer. This blue box trailer would follow the 121, and subsequent cars, on many holiday trips. I guess he kept this car til 1977/8ish, as we have photos of it down at Bognor Regis during the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations of '77. Another reason that '77 stands out is that it was my first run out in a Morris Minor. An elderly neighbour owned a cream 2 door Morris, and we hitched a ride upto the roundabout at the Cheadle exit of the M56, to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty swooping past in her limousine. I was 6 or 7 at the time, and remember legging it from one side of the roundabout to the other, to catch a second look.

Raleigh Runabout 49cc
My first encounters with internal combustion under my own control (sort of), were thanks to a brace of slightly dog-eared Raleigh Runabout pedal mopeds, powered by the 49cc Motobecane 2 stroke engine. To get it going, you had to pedal the thing like crazy. You could either do this while cycling along (hard work as it wasn't a particularly light machine) or else on the stand. Originally there were two mopeds - a red, and a blue, example. Over time dad made one good machine from the two, a neighbour up the road donating some engine spares to the project. On this machine I would tear up and down the side of the house, churning up the garden at the other end as I did so. It was a fab machine to play around on, and I don't think I ever fell off. Before taking the controls myself, I'd hang on as pillion while dad road the moped around the nearby fields. As there was no pillion saddle, I had to perch on top of the rear-mounted petrol tank, which conveniently was located over the back mudguard. I had a lot of fun with this old moped. Eventually I swapped it for a Honda 50, but I could never get that to run.

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.

Volvo 144S
By the early 1980s, dad had been driving a yellow Volvo 144S, similar engine and running gear to the earlier 121 Volvo, but now with twin carbs and the first of Volvo's really boxy bodyshells. Very solid and dependable, but with all the beauty & elegance of a brick. This car had cloth seats rather than vinyl, so sticking to them was less of a problem, although both my brother and I had bright orange booster cushions to sit on, so that the seatbelts didn't chop our necks off. SNE 57K was fitted with a towbar, and the faithful trailer followed us on several more holiday trips.

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.

Toyota Crown
The husband of the MG driver always had an eye for slightly flashy cars, something that really impressed a whippersnapper like me at the time.

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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