Paddy Hopkirk inspires a trip down memory lane

| 13 Dec 2011

It’s funny how silly little things can suddenly trigger your emotions, isn’t it? My dad sold his Mercedes-Benz A-class the weekend before last having sadly, but sensibly, come to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to drive it again.The first item that I noticed when clearing it out was the Paddy Hopkirk fuel can-cum-tool box that I’d bought him for Christmas at some point in the indeterminate past.Time could be playing tricks on me, but I reckon the first car that it featured in the boot of – judging by the selection of sump-plug washers in the box’s tool tray – was his Peugeot 305SR (below, only ours was HLG 503T in case it’s still out there!), that he bought new in ’78.

I fondly remember us doing the odd job on the car – his train-driver’s carriage key fitted the sump-plug perfectly, in fact. The French saloon was also the first car that I drove on my own, on public roads, having steered our D Spécial (identical to the one in C&SC March 2010, below) while he worked the gears on Pendine Sands in about ’72 before having a stint behind the wheel of our Mazda 1800 at the same place the following year.

It was the highlight of the holiday both times. “Take it steady, and don’t get rushing!” was Dad’s instruction as I ventured into Sandbach, solo, in the gleaming red 305. He still says the same thing now when I head back to London from his Cheshire home.From memory, the 305 was What Car?’s Car of the Year. It was lovely to drive, with nice steering and a great gearchange. And it says a lot for the Pug, given our sometimes fickle nature with cars, that we kept it for four years before chopping it in for a Citroën GSA Spécial – a twin for mine, except that Dad’s had, in used-car salesman parlance, a bidet (rear wash-wipe).After the GSA came a series of Citroëns: a Visa GT (I bought one myself after riding in his), a BX 14E Leader and then a BX 16TRS (similar to below) before a Fiat Cinquecento and then his semi-automatic A-class. That went to a builder and his mate, who probably also buy and sell cars. Nice blokes, mind: one had about half a dozen BeeEms, including an ’82 E21. Small world, eh?

Anyway, as for the fuel can, I can’t bring myself to leave it in the GSA. Too many memories. I have, of course, transferred a few of those ‘that’ll come in handy items’ to the Citroën.That said, the long-serving cardboard box I use to stow tools in the BMW has about had it, so the battered old Paddy Hopkirk combi unit might find a new home in the ’02 when I get it back.

It finally went to Lloyd Foster’s last weekend to have the nearside-front corner repaired. And I was intending to take it there just after it passed the MoT last January!