That lingering fondness for your first car... whatever it was

19

Author: Martin PortPublished:

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…

 

Comments

Chris Martin

Just to confuse things, I can claim two, my first car, then my first LEGAL car.
At the age of sixteen I was living in a large Victorian house share with a strange assortment of hippies and bought a multi-coloured upright Ford 'Pop' known as the 'Dagenham Dustbin'; but then I suppose half the old Fords on the road then were called that.
It had a busted diff but was otherwise sound and cost a fiver. While I spent the next week conning mates into trawling around the breakers looking for a back axle it sat in the drive.
Until one day, somebody wanted to move another non-runner and pushed the 'DD' out into the street.
When I came home later it was gone, and although it would be hard to believe anyone would steal it, I called the cops.
"Try the council, they have been having a clean up this week" was the reply, and sure enough I got through to the right department just in time to be told it had just gone through the crusher a few minutes before.
It was not taxed, ok, so fine me, but to tow it away without even the usual 7 day notice on the windscreen was a bit naughty.
Anyway, other untaxed and uninsured (don't try this at home kids) 5 pound bombs came and went, Anglia, Minx, A35 etc but a couple of years later I finally thought maybe I should get a licence and be a responsible citizen, and with that achieved my first LEGAL car was coincidentally another Pop, one of the last, a 1959 103E in good nick and then treated to a gold metalflake 'fogging' over dark blue.
Taxed and insured - I had finally grown up.
(I'll post a photo on the forum if I can get it to work).

 

colinb

My first car was what economists would call a "distress purchase". I'd passed my test but used my Norton 99 for daily transport until the dread moment of going back to college loomed. I had nowhere to live and needed something with which to transport my worldly goods whilst seeking shelter (come on, this was the '70s ... ) So I needed wheels. With a roof. Fortunately Dad had a "friend" who had a 1960 Mini for sale. Twenty five whole pounds. Dear reader, I bought that car .... One new sub-frame and lots of wire brushing and painting later it had an MoT was running. It was a singular beast. The synchro on the gears was non-existant. The previous tenant had handpainted it orange and black. And it had a plastic nose. No, not like a clown - well, not much - but at least it tilted forward giving a fair amount of access. Which was useful as some serious spannerwork was required to make it go faster. Enter a seriously well worked head job running a 10.5 :1 compression with a big single SU at one end and straight through pipe at the other. Much better ... shame about the brakes though. Advance notice was needed for any serious reduction of velocity. It had seat recliners fitted and the obligatory smaller wheel. All in all it was brilliant. It gargled oil for breakfast but went remarkably well. I learnt all about brake fade very early on, but most of all, it carried all my college reading material plus a sleeping bag and eiderdown. It was home, office and entertainment all in one until the inevitable moment when the tinworms finally refused to hold hands any longer. I loved that car even though its carbon footprint in today's terms was truly appalling. The worst thing is I look at the cars my two offspring had as their first sets of wheels and sigh ... I rather think they missed out, although I'm none too sure on exactly what.

Don Callum

Mine was a 1966 Bermuda blue VW Beetle with a worked-on engine and a Holley 2-barrel carburettor, though as an early '66 it had a 6 volt electrical system. A 10.2 gallon tank with gas at 30 cents per gallon meant 3 dollars ran the car all week.
It's sunroof allowed cool air to enter and amazingly never leaked. I am
6' 2" tall and was always comfortable in that car. My dad and I changed the brake master cylinder on the floor of our garage one cold winter night which gave me a whole new appreciation for professional mechanics.
One weekend as I neared my girlfriend's family's cabin in the Pocono Mountains I smelled smoke inside the car and I screeched to a halt outside in the yard, pulled my gear out of the backseat and pulled up the seat cover and sure enough the bracket that held the battery in place had shifted so the metal had heated up on the terminal and ignited the seat cushion padding. I yelled at my girl who had come out to greet me and she ran back inside to get a glass of water with which I doused the small flame.
I used to love when it snowed as I would have the roads to myself and used to have a rally course that I used to drive whenever we got more than 8 inches of powder which contained a downhill section with a 90degree left-hander at the bottom that often left us on some poor people's front lawn.
Ahhhhh the good old days....

Don Callum

Mine was a 1966 Bermuda blue VW Beetle with a worked-on engine and a Holley 2-barrel carburettor, though as an early '66 it had a 6 volt electrical system. A 10.2 gallon tank with gas at 30 cents per gallon meant 3 dollars ran the car all week.
It's sunroof allowed cool air to enter and amazingly never leaked. I am
6' 2" tall and was always comfortable in that car. My dad and I changed the brake master cylinder on the floor of our garage one cold winter night which gave me a whole new appreciation for professional mechanics.
One weekend as I neared my girlfriend's family's cabin in the Pocono Mountains I smelled smoke inside the car and I screeched to a halt outside in the yard, pulled my gear out of the backseat and pulled up the seat cover and sure enough the bracket that held the battery in place had shifted so the metal had heated up on the terminal and ignited the seat cushion padding. I yelled at my girl who had come out to greet me and she ran back inside to get a glass of water with which I doused the small flame.
I used to love when it snowed as I would have the roads to myself and used to have a rally course that I used to drive whenever we got more than 8 inches of powder which contained a downhill section with a 90degree left-hander at the bottom that often left us on some unfortunate people's front lawn.
Ahhhhh the good old days....

jasper3934

Ooooer..................... mine was a Morris (badged Austin) 1000 van

Wouldn't want to drive now but had so much fun and learned a lot about cars in 60k miles before it died

flattop72

Mk1 Escort 1300GT with 'arches'. Oh how I wish I kept it. But in reality it was rusty as hell and a fire-hazzard.

Cliver

Mine was a 1958 4-door Austin A35.  I remember the nearside lever arm damper would vibrate violently when travelling downhill, resulting in a very entertaining wheel wobble.  And the cable-operated rear brakes only worked on alternate Thursdays.  I loved that car dearly and attended to its every (affordable) need.  I was once intercepted on the A23 by a member of Her Majesty's Constabulary who told me that he was checking all the cars that were owned by "student types" because he believed that most of them were unfit for road use.  He spent 20 minutes on the car and couldn't find anything to get me with.  His parting remark was that there was bound to be something - he just hadn't found it.  I sold it after 2 years for £5 more than I paid for it and I would buy it back in an instant.

bazza

My Father and I purchased a part built Austin 7 special.
It had a Ford 10 engine and Wolesey Hornet gearbox.. Fibreglass body. The Most expensive thing on the car was the hood which cost £35.00 to have made. I drove it for a year with no side screens or functioning heater, although the engine kept yiour feet hot. The doors were held closed with bathroom door locks, aah those were the days. Had lots of fun sold it to a Major in the Army Catering Corps, and bought a Morris Minor Convertible.
I wonder were that special is now? KG1371 was its reg.

Chris Martin

Can...................
worms............
opened....
well done Martin, I thought this one would fly.!

 

jagnut12

My first car was a 1970 Capri 3000E,I really wanted my dream car an E-type,but only had a £650 budget and at the time most of them were over a £1,000 for a nice example,my father and I looked at many around £400-£600 ,but all were just then passable for MOT,but would today fail in many area`s,so I saw a nice Capri in the Exchange & Mart,a quick arm wrestle from £725 to £650 and it was mine.I did progress onto an E-type around 2 months later a White FHC 4.2 1965,£580 drove it back from Ongar in Essex.

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