My Motoring Memories part 1 (the early years)
I learned to drive in a friends Squire estate version of the Ford Popular 100E series, similar to photo.
After passing my driving test in Walsall Town Centre, during 1959, and apart from driving my friends Squire, my early driving experience was to take the following relatives out at weekends, and evenings ,using their vehicles.
Uncle Bert Gilbert, who worked in Brownhills signal box, and aunt Bertha, owned a black Ford 100E Popular, similar to the photo.
Aunt May Brown, and her husband, Tom Brown (known locally as Tommy the Black), both had hairdressing shops in Brownhills High Street. They owned a large red Wolseley 4/50 Saloon, I think the registration was NDH 621.
My Grandparents William & Maria Yates, who had previously owned Yates cycle shop in Brownhills High Street, ran a 1946 Austin 10 saloon registration EDA 341.
When my grandparents, and my Aunt Florence moved to Pelsall, I was offered the Austin provided I would take my grandmother out for a drive on occasions. How could I refuse?.
No heaters or de misters, in cars of that era, so travel rugs and extra strong mints, made winter motoring more enjoyable. A small paraffin sump heater kept the windows frost-free while we were in the pub. Petrol was available in a selection of octane ratings, and one could purchase 4 gallon(18 litres) of 4 star and get change for £1.00. MOT testing or the 10 year test as it was then called, only covered Brakes, Lights & Steering, for vehicles over 10 years old. Two large headlamps gave adequate vision, with the offside light switching off in the dipped position, whilst the near side light was mechanically dipped by means of a solenoid, which pivoted the reflector inside the lamp casing. In the event of a following vehicle dazzling the driver, a roller blind could be deployed to cover the rear window, by means of a cord manually actuated by the driver’s door. I fitted a set of flashing indicators as an improvement to the standard semaphore system. In 1963, the Austin 10 developed major engine problems and was sold for spares.
Soon after parting with Edna as we called the Austin 10, I spotted a car for sale a few yards away on the Pelsall Road. This was a 1953 Austin A40 Somerset Reg OOC 189 for £125.00.
After a road test with the owner Roland Bragg, I purchased the car. I now needed insurance, as my grandfather had insured the Austin 10. A work colleague recommended a broker, W E Emery of Bloxwich, where 12 months insurance cost me £5.00. A further outlay of 2 guinea’s enrolled me in the AA. The Somerset was a much improved model from the Austin 10, giving a more comfortable ride with the better suspension, and the hydraulic braking system was a vast improvement from the mechanical braking which used inter connected steel rods. And YES it had a heater. It had a bench style front seat, a 4 speed column change syncromesh gearbox, and a telescopic hand brake. What luxury. After 10 years the car had developed a few rust spots, so I decided to re paint the lower half. According to the log book Windsor Grey was the colour, so off to Roberts the Brownhills ironmonger’s, and purchased a tin of Valspar Windsor Grey. Too late I discovered that Mr Valspar & Mr Austin had different ideas regarding Windsor. The Somerset was now Two Tone Windsor Grey.
A small tin of Austin Windsor Grey touch up from Kennings completed the make over. Whilst I ran the Somerset I fitted oil control piston rings and fitted flashing indicators to replace the existing semaphores.
Also in the 1960’s I was employed as a service engineer for BIPEL, installing, and maintaining, injection moulding machines, in the UK and Europe. For this position I drove an Austin A60 Countryman.
In those early years I was also a Retained Fireman for Staffordshire Fire Brigade, at Brownhills Fire Station, which was situated on Chester Road North opposite Holland Park. When I was 21 I passed a Brigade test to drive Fire Service Vehicles including the following.
Leyland open cab Major Pump
Bedford TK Water Tender reg JRF 716B Fleet No 134
Bedford TK Water Tender with 40ft wheel less escape Reg 712 FBF
Dennis F12 Water Tender converted from pump escape.
In 1969, a new Fire Station built at Aldridge, meant the closure of Brownhills and Rushall stations. So ended my Blue Light driving.
In 1967 I purchased a Morris 1100 saloon, reg No PBF 121D from Bunns Garage in Aldridge.
At the time of buying the Morris my brothers shared a Ford Popular saloon,so I passed the Somerset to my brother James and Peter had the Ford.
After a few years of trouble-free motoring, rumours began about rotting sub frames, and failing constant velocity joints, in the 1100 series. With this in mind I decided a change of vehicle was due. A number of garages refused to take the morris in part exchange, but eventually I traded it in for a Triumph Herald 13/60 saloon from Hewitts Garages in Walsall, with a registration of RDH 900F.
Routine service for the Herald was made extremely easy, as the whole bonnet and wheel arches could be tilted up to 90 degrees, and expose the engine, and front suspension. I repainted the lower half of the car with dark Blue Tekaloid coach painting enamel. This resulted in a two-tone effect, with a contrast to the top half,which remained in the original colour of Valencia Blue, as in the sample photo.
In 1972 we decided to move out of rented property and purchased our own house in Walsall Wood at a cost of £4950.00 freehold, a colossus amount in those days. With savings all gone on the deposit, and a mortgage to find, I took on a part-time job of taxi driving for Jack Wickson of Clayhanger who had a fleet of Ford Zephyr’s and FX2 black cabs..
As well as taxi’s Jack started to build up a coach fleet, initially with a mini bus, & a 41 seater, Thames Trader coach.
I then took a course of driving lessons and passed my PSV test in a Leyland Leopard at Don Everall in Wolverhampton, part of National Express.
I also did some casual coach driving for Chase Coaches in Burntwood.
In 1977 I bought a Ford Cortina mark 3, reg No BOF 487K, from my employers, B I P Engineering. Due to a fault in the Silver Metallic paint, most of it had peeled off, down to the primer, which meant a re-spray. I decided to have it sprayed the Ford colour of Connaught Green.
After 12 months of trouble-free motoring, I was offered a job as Works Engineer at Peerless Plastics, which came with a company car.
To be continued in part 2