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Homepage. This page: Family cars, including an Austin 10 and a Vauxhall Wyvern, then Ken's own first car experiences.

Family & first cars.

Ken's recollections of family motors while growing up include trusty cars from the likes of Austin and Vauxhall, before he set off on his own motoring journey, beginning with a 1946 Morris Ten. This would be followed by a 1950's Austin, then an altogether different machine, in the shape of a racey Triumph TR sportscar, as he now recalls.

Motoring memories by Ken Duke.

As a post-war baby boom youngster I was introduced to the joys of motoring in the mid-fifties when my father first progressed from a push-bike to a “proper” means of family transport. It comprised an ancient and somewhat decrepit Panther 500cc motor-bike, complete with sidecar of distinctly home-made appearance. At first I travelled in the rickety sidecar - a white-knuckle ride equalling anything Alton Towers can offer - but after a while and to my delight I was allowed to swop with mum, and ride shotgun behind dad on the pillion. I was held in place by an umbilical cord of rope around our waists so avoiding the risk of becoming lost in transit. I could not have been more thrilled if it had been a Ferrari, as we chugged around the roads of north-east London, with summer trips to exotic places such as Epping Forest. The occasional breakdown only added (from my point of view at least) to the sense of adventure.
Dad bought our first car in the late fifties, an ancient Austin 10. Although an outdated vehicle even at that time, to my eyes it looked hot off the production line with it’s shiny black paintwork, sporty (?) wire wheels and real leather seats. Travelling at speeds reaching as high as 35mph it served us well, except that a dodgy clutch meant routes had to be carefully planned to avoid steep hills. It was a tough old thing, as my mother (an occasional driver) proved one day. She mistakenly hit the accelerator instead of the brakes and did a fairly comprehensive demolition job of a modern car which was unfortunate enough to be in the way.
During my early teens we upgraded to a Vauxhall Wyvern, a very smart ex-wedding hire car inside of which bits of confetti would regularly appear. Unfortunately over time it suffered from the then notorious Vauxhall “super-bug”, namely underside rust, typified once by a rear spring ripping loose from it’s mounting when a full complement of passengers was being carried. It’s demise finally came when dad jacked up the side of the car one day. As he turned the handle, he saw to his horror that the wheels stayed firmly on the ground whilst the Vauxhall slowly began to fold in half.
Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning how resourceful were that generation of motorists – money was tight and most repairs were carried out at home, in our case without a garage or even off-road facilities. No Kwik-fit then – tyres were removed from wheels by two or three of us linking arms and jumping up and down on the deflated tyre to break the seal; it must have looked like some strange pagan ritual. In those pre-Black & Decker days, dad was even known to make his own tools from scrap metal parts in order to carry out some complex repairs.
Ken's first car - a 1946 Morris 10 saloon car.
The green Morris 10, with its owner, in 1964.
Once I’d reached eighteen, started work and passed the dreaded driving test I saved up enough cash - £35 - for my first car. It was a 1946 Morris 10, hand-painted in a bilious shade of green. It drove like a typical small car of that era – you wiggled the steering wheel from side to side in order to go in a straight line. Equipment we now take for granted such as windscreen washers, heater and radio were conspicuous by their absence. Brakes were less than perfect, leaking oil seals at the back making the handbrake a purely cosmetic addition; deft footwork far superior to Riverdance was necessary when doing a hill start. Despite these shortcomings it was a grand old motor, and like everyone else with their first car I thought I was the dog’s unmentionables when driving it.
After the Morris came an Austin A50 Cambridge with knackered front shock-absorbers, resulting in a ride that would give Ellen MacArthur a bout of seasickness. One day I decided to repaint the Austin in a very pale creamy colour. After preparation and priming I spent all day carefully brush-painting the bodywork, finishing off with black for the tyres. Stepping back to admire the results, I accidently kicked the tin and copious quantities of black tyre paint shot up the side of a freshly painted cream door. My comments were even more colourful……
Once into my early twenties I had £150 to spend and decided on a sports car, a breed right out of fashion at that time (the late 60’s). I picked up a very nice TR2 [is that a TR3 front panel on it? RJ] in British racing green, today probably worth upwards of twenty grand (sob!). Fast, noisy and draughty, it was everything a basic sports car should be, powered by a lusty two-litre engine so rugged it was used in the Ferguson farm tractor. Hood down, I roared around the roads and lanes of Essex leaving my flower-power contemporaries to potter about in their Minis and VWs.
1950's Triumph TR sportscar.
The Triumph TR seen in 1968.
Several years later and suffering withdrawal symptoms after a car-less interlude, I bought a cheap Austin A40 Farina and spent many hours restoring and repainting it (without any mishaps this time!). The battery was on it’s last gasp - on a cold morning I would resemble an organ-grinder as I cranked away at the starting handle. The A40 must have been irresistible to women as I met a lovely lady and got married during this time. Once sorted, that little Austin went all over the country taking us on holidays and outings and had clocked up about 100,000 miles when we finally sold it. It’s only vice was an incurably leaky windscreen, which meant a supply of old towels formed an essential part of the tool kit. The “drought” summer of 1976 was renowned for high temperatures, and I recall feeling more than a little smug as the old A40 chugged effortlessly up the notorious Porlock Hill in 90 degrees plus of heat while numerous other vehicles were expiring in clouds of steam at the summit.
In the following years I settled down to the usual everyday mix of Cortinas, Sierras and the like, but recently had a yearning for the sporting life again. So for weekend use I bought a smart little Mazda MX5, and have recaptured at least a bit of my (very) long-lost youth. There’s nothing to beat top-down motoring when the sun shines, especially out in the “sticks” where you can get close contact with the scent and sounds of the countryside. With increasingly crowded roads and ever more restrictions imposed on the motorist by Governments, it may be the last chance to experience the pleasures of the open road. I thoroughly recommend it!
Thanks for the memories Ken, a very interesting read. Did the Morris or the Triumph survive? There are no mentions of the Triumph (XS 9670) or the Morris (GCR 668) on the DVLA website, so it seems unlikely.
More tales of car ownership in years gone by can be found in the motoring memories section.

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