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Childhood memories of motoring page 2

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Ford Consul Mk1
As a kid I'd often be riding my bike up and down the road (a cul de sac so quiet enough to ride around), and this gave me good opportunity to look enviously at cars owned by the neighbours. Next door was 'Auntie' Dorothy, who lived with her brother Ken. He drove, rather rapidly, a Mk1 Ford Consul, repainted every other year in Dulux' finest outdoor paint. I distinctly remember him having to replace the rear lamp lenses, but being too tight to actually buy some from a scrapyard, he fashioned his own from boiled sweet wrappers. Ingenious eh!? When parked in his driveway he would also hang large wooden structures on the car, presumably to stop the postman banging into the car with his push trolley.

Living opposite to the Consul was a friend of mine, whose Mum drove a yellow Fiat 127 hatchback. After the Fiat she moved on to a brand new Austin Allegro estate, finished in bright orange. That lasted for a good many years, til, in the early 80s, she moved on to a Volvo 360 GLS, which she kept for donkeys of years.

When the MGB/Toyota owning couple moved house, a Polish family moved in. For the majority of the years they lived there, I recall them owning a Morris Marina 2. It was a bit down at heel when I first saw it, and after several years of (ab)use it really turned into an old shed - painted white, it really highlighted the many many areas of corrosion that were erupting over its surfaces. The brown vinyl roof just added to the grim-ness of this horrible car. When they finally got shot of it, our hopes were high that they would see the error of their ways, and buy something more interesting. However this was not to be, and they replaced the rusty Marina with a tear-jerkingly dull Rover 213, the old thing based on a Honda Ballade. That was a painfully dull car. I was pleased when they announced they were moving house a few years later. We didn't get on with them anyway, but the thought of not having to see their dismal little 'Rover' any more was reason to celebrate.

Ford Anglia 105E
The cream Morris Minor owned by the elderly lady up the road has already been mentioned. A couple of doors up from us was a fearsome lady who scared all the children in the area. Known as the 'dragon', she would often be seen behind the curtains, keeping an eye on what we were doing. Her most redeeming feature however was the immaculate Ford Anglia 105E that she owned, probably a Super model, finished in mid blue with a white flash. It was a real bobby dazzler. Another Ford of note was a few doors further up the road, in the shape of a dark blue Mk1 Cortina. This car was really well looked after, and was a regular sight in that neighbour's driveway right through the 1970s, and perhaps in to the 80s too.

Back down our end of the cul de sac, and not quite opposite our house, was a retired couple who bought one of the early 70s limited edition Jeans VW Beetles, M registration I think it was. It was known as the Jeans edition thanks to its denim interior. They were all painted in a bright orange, with black side stripes at the bottom of the bodywork, and distinctive steel wheels. Right up to when he moved into a nursing home in 2002/3 (approx) he owned this VW, regularly having it maintained at the VW agents in Manchester. Every few years he'd have a new set of wings fitted and painted on the car, just to keep it looking smart. As his garage was a bit of a tight squeeze, he'd always push his Beetle in and out of the garage. In later years his eyesight (tunnel vision) was not all it could be, and we were amazed how he managed to drive at all without clipping the odd cyclist or push chair, but he did manage somehow.

When the lady with the 105E moved out in the early 80s, a snappily-dressed Scottish gentleman took residence. He stayed there for a few years, but I only remember him owning two cars. The first was a late 1970s (V reg) Opel Manta SR coupe, in orange, with the alloy wheels. I'd earn a few quid most weeks by washing this car for him, and I carried on making some extra pocket money by washing his replacement car, a bodykitted Ford Escort XR3i convertible. I think he saw himself as a bit of a playboy, hence buying this car. It was before the convertible XR3i, as a breed, plunged into being the automotive choice of the backstreet hairdresser, its image never really recovering. I'm sure they are getting rare now, especially as even when new the battery trays used to rot for England, but I still think their image is still haunted by the 'bottle blonde' tag of the early/mid 80s. A friend of this chap owned a Cosworth powered Caterham Seven, and I readily accepted the opportunity of a quick ride in this lightweight road rocket. To say it was quick is an understatement, we were touching 70mph up the road in no time, not really the wisest of speeds in a suburban environment I thought even then. My vision would just blur, the tiny side screens attached to the windscreen frame doing their best to prevent the mad rush of air battering away at my face as we hurtled up the road.

Hillman Imp
One door further up and an elderly couple used to live there. They ran an immaculate Mk2 Austin 1100, one of the few that didn't rot away at the first sign of an occluded front on the weather forecast. It was a light green colour, and spent most of its time in their 1950s era wooden garage, only coming out on a Sunday. In its final years it did begin to start looking its age, but I do wonder if it managed to survive or not. Sadly I can't remember the registration number. Their next door neighbour was also keen on looking after his car, a late 1960s Hillman Imp, in light metallic gold. This car was in really good nick for years, another car that rarely came out of its garage, only being sold I think in the early/mid 90s. Opposite to them was a couple who I first remember owning a rare (even then) Moskvitch estate car. The chap who drove this is the one who donated his surplus moped parts to me way back in the 1970s. He kept that Moskvitch in superb condition, replacing it with a dark green Marina in the mid/late 70s I think it was. Rarely going out, this car was in truly exceptional condition. I think it only got sold on when this couple passed away, which must have been in the mid 90s at a guess. Where this Marina ended up I do not know, but it was in such brilliant condition it must still be around. It was original even down to the optional aluminium wheel trims and British Leyland mudflaps.

Opposite to the couple with the Cortina Mk1, and next door to this Marina, was a family who bought one of the early 2 door V8 Range Rovers - L reg (1973 I think it was). Finished in a weird sand colour, with the central band painted in black, it was a distinctive car, and went on to be driven by their offspring for many years. I remember it going strong in the 1990s, so there is a chance that it is still around.

The only other car that I remember was a bit further up the road from us, next to the Cortina, and it was a silver (painted, I think, for the Jubilee year) Hillman Avenger. I never saw anything exciting about this car when it was new, and I can't find much to get excited about even now, some 25-30 years later. Most of the neighbours in this sleepy cul de sac were either retired, or not far from retirement, which may go some way in explaining their tendency to hang on to a car for a long time, and look after it. I moved out from this road in 1998, and when I go back, all but one of the occupants mentioned here have either moved away, or left this mortal coil sadly. The families are altogether younger, most homes now having more than one car, with children being a lot more prominent & numerous than when I was a nipper in that road. Anyway, back to cars I remember the family owning.

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