My Cars in England

1936 Austin 10

I have owned a lot of cars in my lifetime both here and in England. Most were just run of the mill cars with no particular story to them. Others warrant a bit more space as they have something to say. Some cars, I can’t even remember the make.

The very first car I owned was an English 1936 model Austin 10. I was about 20 or so when I bought this and to me it was the greatest car in the world. It was like a box on wheels with a very small 4 cylinder motor and could seat 4 normal people. I say normal as I worked for a big pipeline company in England and we moved around a lot on pipeline construction. My Foreman at the time, asked me to stop by the train station to pick up 3 hulking great contract laborers that were employed as piecework trench diggers in areas that it was impossible to use heavy equipment. My little car did not like the weight of these big Irish guys and as we screeched around one corner, with me showing off my youthful driving skills, and leaned pretty heavily to one side. One of the guys started shouting that he was being burned. We stopped to find out the problem and it turned out that their weight was so much, that as we turned the corners, the tires were rubbing against the inside of the wheel wells which these big guys were partially sitting on. Everyone, including the burnt guy thought it very funny but I did slow down a bit taking the rest of the curves.

That job lasted a couple of months with the same routine of me picking up these guys. My boss was rewarding me with free gas (petrol) so it was a good deal for me. However, this is not the end of the story. I was making the trip as per usual when all of a sudden, there was a loud bang and the cab filled with smoke. I brought the car to a stop and we all piled out. Closer inspection of the engine revealed that the motor had given up and one piston had blown through the side of the block. That was the end of that little car but I shall always remember it.

My second car was a Sunbeam Talbot and was a couple of years younger than the previous car which put it at a 1938 model. This car was much more substantial than the Austin 10 and was more like a sports car with a hard top. It actually was very nice but like all cars of that era and age, required a lot of upkeep. Can’t remember what happened to this one but I probably ran it into the ground.

I traded this car in for an E Type Morris again, just a little family car. I had to change out the motor in this car also and I remember, I had a lot of trouble in timing this car but luckily, I lived on a long series of hills so with frequent stops to adjust the timing, I finally got it right at the very bottom. Good thing as I would have had a hard job getting back home.

We were at a party with some friends when we were living in Wales and the conversation turned to cars specifically Jaguars which were the top car in England at that time. Jaguars came in two models, sedan and sports car. The sports car was called the E-Type so when the conversation turned to the E-Type, I nonchalantly said that I owned one and it was parked outside. I didn’t tell them mine was a Morris and not a Jaguar. Anyway, they all piled out and I stayed inside and was rolling on the ground with amusement as they all trooped back in. They didn’t see the joke in it, I don’t know why.

I sold the E-Type after I had oil pressure problems and bought a Renault with the engine mounted in the rear. I will never know why I bought that car as I came closer to killing myself in that in all the rest of them put together.

The previous owners had fitted it with a four barrel carburetor to try to get more speed out of it. Well it was fast, bloody fast especially from a dead stop. It would jerk your head back it was so fast. The problem was that it was not designed for the high-speed and was much too light a car and with the rear mounted motor would fishtail all over the road. I was surprised I wasn’t dead I had so many near goes with that thing. In the end, I traded out the four barrel for a two barrel and the car turned into something reasonable to drive.

The next car was another Austin 40 which was of much later vintage. I was now getting into the era of “modern” cars but like a lot of us at that time, did a lot of my own work including changing out the engine for a good used motor that I purchased. By the time of owning this car, I was married and raising a family.

After a couple of years, I bought a Ford Consul. That was a very nice car even if it was a Ford. There are a couple of stories with this car worth mentioning. Remember, I lived way out in the Country so any trip to town meant driving and preparation. Not like here where you only need your wallet to drive 500 miles.

Anyway, to Town we went and on the way home, the back roads were very windy, twisty and narrow and like the usual idiot I was in those days, I was driving way too fast and tore around a corner just as another car hit the same corner from the other direction. This was driven by an older gentleman accompanied by his wife. We scraped the side of the cars really badly in fact smashing the entire side to my car. I jumped out and the first words out of my mouth to the older gentleman were,”Look what you have done to my bloody car”. Took a couple of months to get both cars fixed and of course, it was my fault.’

We had one more incident when the Ford wouldn’t start for some reason. We were renting one side of a farmhouse at the time and the Farmer let me borrow his tractor to tow the car. All well and fine except my wife was not a driver but I instructed her on what to do and she said she could do it. Did I mention that the tractor had a big row of hay tines sticking out the back of  it. These were like a giant comb with tines about 4 feet long with pointed ends  six inches apart that were facing my wife, the driver of our beautiful car.

We got going with me towing the Ford on a fairly long chain to give plenty of stopping space. The Ford started and my wife didn’t realize that it had and kept driving after the tractor. I stopped the tractor, she kept going and lo and behold, the car was impaled at six-inch intervals.

We won’t talk about who was the maddest, me or her and we were not helped by the Farmer who was watching and was almost rolling on the ground in hysterics. I suppose it was funny but not at the time.

What a mess but luckily, most of the damage was superficial and with bondo and a can of spay paint looked as good as new, well almost.

The very last car I owned was a Morris Mini very similar the ones on the road today. Mine was a little station waggon and was a very nice little car. There were six in our family, four kids and wife and myself and we all used to pile into this little car and bomb all over the place. We had this little terrier dog named Toby who would go with us everywhere we went and would sit in the back with the kids. The only problem was that Toby was prone to letting forth wind and the cries and shrieks from the kids as he did was the signal to pull over and all pile out until the air had cleared. Even Toby had to get out as he couldn’t stand it either.

That car had a slipping clutch and required considerable skill in climbing any incline. It had a transverse engine and I didn’t feel competent enough to change the clutch on it and couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it. So we made do, somehow. Can’t imagine driving a car with a slipping clutch nowadays.

When we eventually left for the States, I was able to sell the car slipping clutch and all.

I have only ever owned one motorcycle in my life. It was a small 250 twin Ambassador. it was a real nice little bike and I had it for some time before I bought the E-Type Morris. I had this young girlfriend who was of much higher class and breeding than me but was somehow attracted to construction workers with good physique which mine was at the time. Or maybe it was the motorcycle. I shall never know.

I digress, to get back to the story, we used to drive around all over the place on this bike and one day took a trip to Lewis. Well, we started off with she on the back and pulled into a line of traffic. The car that was passing at the time caught my leg and next thing we were both on the ground. Luckily, only a few scrapes and bruises. The problem was, I didn’t have a motorcycle licence, only a Learners Permit which resulted in my later court appearance for which I received a fine.

I did go and get my full licence after that but I think her mother was so mad that I lost my girlfriend.

Another time, I was driving home from one of the pipeline jobs I was on and hit a patch of wet and rotting leaves as I was going down a hill. I came off and the bike slid away. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet but I landed on my knee and bruised it pretty badly. The rest of the pipeline workers were following behind in one of the big trucks, stopped, picked me up, put the bike in the back of the truck and drove me home. Two hours later, my knee had swollen up so badly I couldn’t walk and ended up taking two weeks off work to recover. I believe to this day that the injury was the later cause to some of my knee problems. That is, other than getting kicked a million times on both knees playing soccer.

I got the bike repaired but decided that my biking days were over.