More Nostalgia

Discussion in 'The Village Square' started by Doghouse Riley, Oct 13, 2020.

  1. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley In Flower

    Oct 17, 2019
    Likes Received:
    South Manchester
    A discussion on "Boys Toys" on another board progressed to the cars we drove and then I started thinking about the first car I had when I was seventeen in 1958.

    This might be never know!

    This is the only photo I have, (I lost others I took, in house moves) this was taken by my then ten year-old sister on her "Box Brownie." It's of our father leaning on the back of my car, he didn't learn to drive until about ten years later.


    That set me looking for some photos of the exact model, which by chance I found on the internet, even down to the same colour,

    It was a 1937 Austin Seven Ruby AAL Convertible.

    My cousin worked in a garage and a customer, an architect who lived in a house on Wimbledon Hill, had brought it in to be renovated for his wife. So it had the engine and transmission overhauled and had new seat covers and a new hood. But she found she couldn't manage the Bendix cable brakes, where your stopping ability depended on how hard you could press on the brake pedal.
    The best procedure I found for an emergency stop in it, was to grip the steering wheel hard and pull yourself up on it so your total weight was on your right foot on the pedal.

    So he asked my cousin if he knew anyone who'd buy it, he mentioned it to me. so I bought it for £35, which at the time, by modern comparisons, doesn't seem that cheap for a 21 year old car, but given the market at the time, actually it was, as it was in excellent condition.


    The windcreen was hinged at the top and opened at the bottom, you could raise it up and lock it in any position until it was horizontal.
    I used to go out on a few trips out on Sundays with my girlfriend at the time.
    You could sit on the bonnet with your legs dangling inside and use the windscreen as a picnic table.
    We went as far as Brighton one Sunday, all of 45 miles!

    The single windscreen wiper worked on a vacuum tube from the inlet manifold. Going uphill in the rain with your foot on the floor, it would stop. So you had to momentarily lift your foot off the pedal, when it would give a frantic few wipes, so you could see where you were going and then put your foot hard down and be almost "blind" again.

    No wind-up windows, four folding side screens which you could fold back or take out completely. The hood folded down completely but rested on the body behind the back seat.


    I replaced the semophore arm indicators (seen behind the door handle) with some of those new fangled flashing lights.

    If you look you can see the door handle doesn't have provision for a key so you could never lock it . I drove to work up from Morden in it for several months. I parked it all day every week-day in front of All Souls Church near where I worked in an office in Regent Steet. (Edmundo Ros's nightclub was in the basement) and it was never stolen and anything I left in it (not that there was ever much) was always there when I returned to it of an evening.

    Later our office moved to a new building in Knightsbridge. The company had a couple of parking spaces allotted to them. I used the managing director's space. He used to come to work by train, so he let me use it, more to stop anyone from another firm in the building using it. Again anyone could have opened a door and got in it, it would have been easy enough to steal, but it never happened.

    There was no boot, just a cover over the spare wheel. There was room for a jack and the starting handle. But you could remove the cover and fold down the luggage rack and then replace the cover.


    There was no syncromesh on the gear box, so you had to master the now lost art of "double de-clutching."
    Look how much travel there was on the clutch pedal, about three inches at most. So until you got used to it, it was either "in or out."


    After I bought it, I drove it around for a couple of months, insured, but without L plates (naughty) and then took my test and passed first time. Such is the confidence of youth. But I didn't drive to work in it until I'd passed my test.

    I did have to buy a set of tyres (re-treads) for it £3.50 each and spent a shilling, (5p) on a new bearing for the dynamo.My cousin had diagnosed the fault and replaced it for me when I went round to his house.
    Imagine that, walking into a Lucas depot and asking for a bearing for a twenty-one year old dynamo and the assistant finding it straight away. Now you'd have to have a new alternator.

    This is where I used to park it. You could get a few cars "nose in" around the church. It was shortly before parking meters began to be installed in the West-End.


    Of the many stories I could tell of my time with this car this is my favourite.

    It was after I passed my test, I started to let a friend the same age as myself, drive it when we went out together, which was quite often, to give him some experience before he took his test, (he passed first time too, sadly he died last year of a heart attack), So some days I had L plates on it when we were going somewhere and mostly when he wasn't, none.

    One day as I was about to go out there was knock at the door, it was a policeman.

    "I've come about the little Austin outside, is it yours?"


    He'd obviously been tipped off, as he didn't ask for my father.

    "I want to see your insurance and driving licence."

    I gave him my insurance certificate and my licence.

    He looked at that and said

    "This is a provisional licence"

    "Look in the back

    Inside the back page was a scruffy bit of pink paper, it was my driving test pass slip. You didn't have to get a new full licence until the provisional expired.


    "Who tipped you off?"

    "I can't say, but you've obviously got some nosey neighbours."

    "Is that it then? As I'm going out."

    Oh yes! couldn't give me a lift back to the station could you?"

    So I did.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
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  3. Growingpains

    Growingpains Young Pine

    Aug 13, 2008
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    Riley, I enjoyed your story entirely. I have pictures taken with my first camera, a Brownie. The car is a beauty! Ahhh, the good ole days. Technical things are time savers, but I miss connecting with a human in most transactions.

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