Cars, Mum and me!

My Mum on her wedding day
c 1943
Ford Anglia 1952

Cars and driving have always fascinated me, and I believe this lifelong preoccupation began when I was about six years old. I caught polio as a three-year-old, and after a three-year stint in a hospital, I returned home to London to find a pretty little black 1952  Ford Anglia parked outside our flat. Hardly anyone owned cars back then, but my Dad, an ex-serviceman, had contracted multiple sclerosis while on active service during the war. He was provided with the vehicle by the War Ministry as part of his benefit entitlement. My Mum had to drive because my Dad's disability meant he couldn't. 

Although I don't recall many journeys, I know the little car was put to good use. I do remember one trip to the famously steep Box Hill in Surrey. We had managed to get about halfway up when steam began to billow out from under the bonnet. We pulled off the road, and Mum got out and lifted the bonnet. After a quick look, she told us the fan belt had snapped. A few moments later, and without fuss, she removed her stockings and created a temporary fan belt which she tied around the fan and engine pulleys and off we went. Impressive stuff.

I'm not sure what became of the beloved Ford Anglia, but a Ford V8 Pilot replaced it.
Ford V8 Pilot
 The car was a monster; it was black, heavy and thirsty. It was the kind of car that featured in nineteen-fifties gangster movies. It had three gears and a column gear change, and no powered steering. My Mum was five foot two inches tall in her bare feet. I have no idea how she reached the pedals, but reach them, she did. I have no memories of being driven in it, and I don't think we owned it for very long.  

A lengthy period of motoring abstinence followed, but in the early 1960s, we went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

My mother had obviously learned from the V8 Pilot experience and decided to downsize, so she brought a
green second-hand Austin a35 saloon.
Austin A35
 As previously mentioned, she wasn't tall, so the car fitted her like a glove. It was fabulous when she was on her own but very uncomfortable when all of us piled in. It was an ideal city car, but long journeys were strictly limited. We had to unfold ourselves on arrival anywhere. Pins, needles, and stiff joints were the inevitable consequence of travelling in it for any longer than thirty minutes.  

We kept the little Austin for a year or two before buying what turned out to be our last family car, the ubiquitous Morris Minor. The Morris was Britain's answer to the VW Beetle, and although it was very popular, the Beetle sold vast numbers worldwide. I was about eighteen and have clear.
Morris Minor
Memories of trips out in this engaging comfortable, and reasonably nippy little car. Once my sister passed her driving test, she used the car more often than anyone. She used to take me to places and did so as quickly and as hair-raisingly as possible. My sister loved to drive fast, so every trip was a bit of a white-knuckle ride. I never felt frightened by all the speed because she didn't take excessive risks. Morris Minors were not renowned for attracting boy or girl racers, but we had a lot of fun in ours.

To finish this trip down memory lane, one more vehicle deserves mention.

When I was school-age, my disability meant frequent trips to the hospital for outpatient appointments or sometimes periods as an in-patient. These trips invariably meant travelling in a London County Council (LCC) Daimler Ambulance, a wonderfully smooth, quiet, comfortable, elegant, but thirsty vehicle. (8.2 miles to the gallon).
Picture of a white Daimler Ambulance by the side of a road with the driver getting out.
Daimler Ambulance 

Sadly the Daimler's soft suspension induced travel sickness in some passengers, but not for me; I just loved being in the thing. The longer the journey, the more I liked it. These lovely old vehicles were 'de-commissioned' in 1972. To me, there has never been a more elegant, luxurious or distinguished vehicle to be sick in!

Next time I will write about my experiences driving an invalid carriage, famously" renamed" "Noddies" by those of us silly or courageous enough to drive
Tippen Delta

one. 

See you soon 



 

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