In an odd way, I think we all have a secret soft spot for our first car – no matter how rubbish it seemed at the time.
Mine should have been a Morris Minor. I’d accumulated the money, had pictures on my wall and was completely besotted with the idea. I spent my spare weekends at the ‘sales branch’ of Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre at Inkpen near Newbury and was overjoyed when a maroon two-door saloon turned up for sale at somewhere around the £500 mark.
So how come I ended up with an Austin Metro instead?
Well, I have my father to blame for that – curiously, the same person that had initiated my obsession with the Minor. For reasons that, to this day I’m still not entirely sure about (should probably ask really!), he thought that it would be better for me to drive around in a 1981 Austin Metro, bought for the princely sum of £450.
To be fair, it was the done thing at that time. Your first car was either a Metro or a MkI Fiesta and, seeing as everyone I knew seemed to have a Fiesta, I opted to be ‘different’ and go Austin.
That decision was also due in part to the fact that one of my teachers at school drove around in a Fiesta and I figured that copying him would definitely not be very cool.
Of course I wasn’t ever cool so that didn’t really matter and the purchase of a Portland Beige two-door Metro certainly wasn’t going to change that.
One reason why it was so cheap was because someone had tried to break into it by forcing the driver’s lock, resulting in a rather rusty hole just above the door handle. Port senior once again decided that we would just buy another door from a breaker’s yard which, curiously, seemed to be more difficult than you would imagine. Eventually though, a metallic green one was bought from a scrapper and duly fitted.
Of course, this meant I had freedom and I temporarily forgot about the dream Minor. The Metro transported me to my last few days at sixth form college and then took up its main task: a daily commute to art college – all of 20 miles away.
There, the Metro met a companion: a 1981 Ford Escort owned by another student – Kevin. Over the first year at college, Kevin and I argued which of our car stereos was better – my Goodmans cassette player or his Aiwa, complete with four speakers. The truth was that his was far superior, but I had bigger speakers. The fact that they were completely unsuited to the radio and would distort if you tried to turn it up to an audible level didn’t matter too much.
Kevin’s Escort was all one colour too, which was a definite advantage over my mismatched body panels, but the killer blow came courtesy of my then girlfriend. I should put the emphasis on ‘then’ because she decided that clearly I was too masculine and what my car really needed for the back window was a fluffy bunny in a hammock.
I think it lasted one day (clearly the minimum ‘thanks for this, I really like your gift’ time) before it ended up in the boot, but in hindsight I should have made some ironic anarchic statement and kept it in there with the addition of a beer can and a fag in the hammock. Maybe not.
The Metro managed a year of commuting thanks to regular topping up of the hydragas suspension until I realised that something wasn’t quite right on the way home one night. Turned out that there was no clutch fluid thanks to a blown slave cylinder seal.
We overhauled the slave which then insisted on popping the dust seal off every time the pedal was pushed to the floor, so Port snr wrapped a length of coat hanger metal around it to keep it in place and decided it was time to sell.
That was when I finally got my Minor, but by then I had officially been robbed of being able to call it my first car…