Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's The Only Way To Live

In Cars.

I was thinking today about what a crazy thing memory is. I am convinced that the way the mind works is topsy-turvy. Memory ought to be assigned starting with the most important things getting the biggest block of mind-RAM, things like your bank account number, your address, the location of your keys etc. and less important stuff, such as who the director of That Touch Of Mink was, the jingle for Carling Black Label, what a pangolin is, who played Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride etc. assigned lower amounts of memory, only to be accessed during episodes of Jeopardy!  and quiz nights at the local tavern. Sadly, though, it is the other way around. I can remember all sorts of completely useless stuff - the number of my first bank account (01008060), my NatWest cheque card number (all the teenyboppers going what the heck's a cheque card?), and the model of all the cars I or my family have ever driven, including some of the license plates. Why do I remember this? Search me.

Let's start with my Dad. He had a Morris Minor 1000 that was white, but I don't remember it clearly. I've seen pics of it, I'm sure I rode in it a time or two, I have heard the story of our trip up to Birmingham in it when the exhaust pipe kept falling off many a time, but I can't remember seeing it. I'm sure I was too young. First car I remember him driving was an Austin A40. Looked a bit like this. My grandfather Len had one too, but that's only because I've seen it in home movies. His was blue with a black roof, Dad's was maroon all over. License was something like BPD 567D, so about the same year as the one pictured.

The other car was Pinky. An Austin Cambridge.
Like this.

I'm putting pics of the front and back to show the sheer size of this thing.

He had bought it from a mate for the princely sum of a bottle of Scotch. You don't get deals like that any more. The story was that it had been taken to be resprayed and the garage or whoever it was that painted it had some red and some white but not enough to do the whole thing, so they mixed it. It was bright, I mean bright pink.  We christened it The Pink Panther.

The brakes were not the best and we went one day to visit the fellow who had sold Dad the car. He lived on a hill. We parked and went inside. On coming out a couple of hours later Pinky was about 10 feet further down the hill from where she'd been parked.

My Grandad owned one too, but his was a rather more sedate maroon.

Grandad's next car was a Humber Sceptre. These were kind of more upscale than the Cambridge, like the English Buick. I remember the nice leather seats, and the fins. I think the license plate was FKR 569D, but don't quote me on that.

His was a light metallic green with tan leather interior and walnut dash. Nice.

Before long he changed it for a 1968 Triumph 2000, reg. UPB 321F. Dark green and pretty, it was the one I remember most as being our transport to Butlin's and on many fishing excursions. Also the first car I remember having a fold-down arm rest in the middle of the back seat. A nice divider between my sister and I.
In the late 70s he got a Citroen GSX, white, registration KKR 407P. It had a hydraulic rear suspension, which we would feel elevating in the back seat, shortly before takeoff. This thing was like a rocket.

Then he had two Honda Accords, back to back. The first was a sedan, silver blue, reg. DHC 883W. Like this.

Then a silver hatchback version. I cannot remember the registration, but  it was an A reg. My mother owned it after he bought a Lada estate.
Ladas are built like tanks. Before they were Lada they were known as Polski Fiat, engines designed by Fiat and built in Poland. His was a Lada Riva estate (that's station wagon for you across the pond) and it was tan(ish).
It was around this time that my mother surprised everyone including herself by learning to drive. While learning she bought her first car, a Peugeot 104.

Hers was yellow, and a nippy little thing, although it had its share of mechanical issues. I remember she drove my girlfriend and I down to the sea at Camber one day, or tried to. We got about halfway there and after clearing a small humpbacked bridge the muffler, well.... ceased to do its job, shall we say. We turned around and drove slowly home while the muffler (which turned out to have a small hole in it) made the car sound like a double-decker bus.

Around the same time my best buddy Nigel had learned to drive and had gotten a Peugeot also, a 304. HAE 549N.  This was dark blue and the issue with it was that one of the rear doors did not shut properly. I remember one night being jammed in the back with about four other people, going down Reading Street Hill at a rate of knots, and clutching on to the door handle with all my might for fear of falling out. I think whoever was sitting by the other door was doing the same thing.

My friend James has had several cars, but the two I remember most distinctly were the Hillman Imp and the Ford Capri.
The Imp was I think Jimbo's first car, and I remember going over to his house in Ox Lane one day and seeing it in the driveway. A funny little thing with a back window that flipped open like a trapdoor and a button for the windshield washer fluid that was less a button, more a rubber dimple, similar to the primer button on a gasoline-powered mower. The amount of fluid dispensed was directly proportional to the amount of pressure on the dimple. If you pressed it with all your might, the fluid would shoot over and above the car and wet the ground behind the car.

A few years later Jim had a Mk3 Capri, black with a black interior, one of the last ones to roll off the production line at Dagenham before they stopped making them in 1986.Beautiful car.However, I fear the car was not beautiful after what happened when I and my girlfriend at the time, whose name I will not mention so as not to embarrass the poor girl, visited James and his missus at their Ashford abode. We went over for dinner, and afterwards we sat and had a bit of wine & cheese. Blue cheese. Nice and stinky.

We were in the back of the car on the way home when she felt a bit ill. She evidently had been raised by a stern father who did not like messes. She was also a bit claustrophobic, and because she was worried she might getl sick, this brought back memories of her dad, and then she was terrified of making a mess when throwing up, which made her feel more tense and worried, until she finally upchucked blue cheese vom all over the lovely black interior of the car. Needless to say the odour will always stay with me. And probably with James, too.
I cannot talk about cars without mentioning my friend Alastair. He bought a Triumph Spitfire from the local junkyard for a song, with the intent of fixing it up. He worked on this thing for months until finally one day my mother, sister and I heard a vroom-vroom from out front, and went to investigate. There outside sat Alastair in his pride & joy, his Spitfire which he'd painted red, and said "Who wants to go for a spin?". Well, of course we all did. However, it only had two seats, so we had to take turns. And there was a small hole in the floorboard which terrified my mother and sister. Here's Al with said motor, a photo I took one freezing night in Hastings, Sussex. We had driven down in convoy with Nigel and friends to go to.... somewhere. Not sure where. See what I mean about memory? If I could remember anything about that night other than the car journey and listening to Radio Caroline playing Genesis' Abacab on the tinny little radio the story might mean more. But try as I might, those are all the details I remember. Ah well.

Now, where did I put my keys?

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