Thursday, April 07, 2005

First Car


This week has been far too sombre for my liking and it’s time to contemplate automotive matters again. I never intended this blog to become the obituary column that it seems to have done recently. Thus today’s post is an attempt to lighten the mood and return to my original themes of “motors, memories and molecular microbiology”. So for your viewing pleasure here is a photograph of my first ever car; a 1949 Morris 8, Series E. I bought this for £12 10s (that’s twelve pounds and ten shillings in old money and for those of you who are too young to remember there were 20 shillings in a pound). I’d passed my driving test the year before and was the first person in my class at school to do so –something that gave me minor hero status. Up until then I’d been getting around on various motorcycles including the wretched BSA Bantam. Now I’ll post more on motorbikes in due course but back in the winter of 1967 I thought it was time for some maturity and I duly purchased the car, borrowing £2. 10s from my Dad in the process and telling him it would be safer than a motorbike (to this day I have a bad conscience about the fact that I never paid him back: sorry Dad but I think the appropriate karma has been transferred in the form of my daughter who not only has never repaid me for anything but seems to have no conscience either!). So back to the car. HXM 737 and I were both 18 years old. It had a suicide doors, a three speed gearbox (as long as you held it in 2nd), the rear springs were attached to the chassis by shards of rusty metal, there were no seat belts and the tyres were “bald as a monkey’s arsehole” as a friend of mine put it in a refreshingly poetic manner. It really was a piece of junk. Totally unreliable, not at all economical (I used to get no more that 25mpg) and to boot the performance was useless –I remember one lunch hour I was showing off to my friends at Guildford Tech and I managed 55mph along the Guildford bypass, flat out, downhill and with the wind behind us. I was redeemed by the fact the silencer had a hole in it so the car sounded rortier than it really was.

As you can imagine, the poor vehicle didn’t last long. At some point in the winter of 1967/68, I was making my way to work on a Saturday morning. It had been snowing and I liked the way the car felt slippy underfoot. On the Mayford roundabout, just outside Woking, I managed to get the car sideways. Great, I thought, this is just like rallying: give it more gas. So with idiotic youthful exuberance I floored the accelerator. The car pirouetted in the road, hit the kerb and toppled over. I scrambled out: another car and a fellow riding a motorcycle (what was he thinking?) stopped and checked to see if I was ok. When they ascertained that I was uninjured the three of us tipped the car back on its wheels and I continued on my way. Actually I buzzed home first to hammer the driver’s side wing (fender) away from the wheels as it marginally more dented than my pride. I also had to “confess’ to my parents who for some reason didn’t seem that alarmed. Amazing really as I could have been killed. As I recall that was pretty much the end of HXM 737. The incident highlighted the fact that car was in unsafe condition and it was financially unfeasible to fix it up. A few weeks later it was unceremoniously towed to the council dump at Byfleet although to this day I wish I’d hung on to the registration number. Oh well…


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