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Standard starter for 10; living & family.

Byline: BARBARA GOULDEN

IT seems nobody ever forgets their first car. When Evening Telegraph reporter BARBARA GOULDEN asked a few well-known local people about their first motoring experiences the memories of dodgy gear sticks and chilly repair jobs just came flooding back.

BARRY LITTLEWOOD, chief executive of Coventry Transport Museum, remembers that his first car was a nine-year-old Standard 10 which he bought with a loan from his late father Ron.

Barry said: "It was 1964 and I was 20 at the time and worked as a wages clerk for Coventry City Council earning pounds 5 a week.

"The car had been made at Coventry's Standard factory in Canley. It was grey and I bought it from a garage near Berkswell for pounds 95.

"I remember the clutch went after six months and I had to put it up on bricks in the back garden so that I could put in a new one. Not many houses had garages in those days and I remember spending lots of winter evenings working on that car with the snow lying all around me.

"The next year I used the car to follow Coventry City on their Easter tour. I drove my mates to see the game at Manchester City on Good Friday and then we headed off to Cardiff for Easter Monday.

"The engine blew up on Barry Island but we still managed to make the game and then I had to nurse the car all the way back to Coventry.

"I had to learn about engineering like everyone else - you didn't go to a mechanic, you borrowed a book from the library. If you didn't have the right tool you'd perhaps know somebody, who knew somebody who had. Fortunately my father and all my uncles knew people and were able to give advice.

"I kept that car up until Christmas 1965, when I missed a corner in St James' Lane, Willenhall, and smashed the suspension. One of the wheels fell off and it just wasn't worth repairing.

"Sadly I was still paying my dad back pounds 5 a month for his original loan. Even though my first car was no more it still took another six months to finish paying for it."

TODAY: Barry drives a Rover MG ZT saloon.

I filled up red Metro with canal water

LOUISE BEARD, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, bought a bright red Metro with her first wages as a graduate human resources trainee with the Asda supermarket chain.

She admits: "I definitely bought it because of the colour and the fact that the price was right - I hadn't a clue what was under the bonnet."

That was 20 years ago and Louise, now aged 40, reckons she paid about pounds 2,000 for that first set of wheels.

The motorbike-loving chief executive added: "That car broke down the first time I ever took it out.

"I lived in Stourbridge and think I'd driven to the Merry Hill shopping centre when it first let me down. All the electrics failed. I remember ringing my dad at home and he got on to the garage that sold it and shouted at them!

"They came and sorted out the problem but it was the first of many, many breakdowns. These were probably wholly my fault as I never looked after that Metro - it was always running out of oil and water.

"Once when it ran dry I filled it with canal water. I think it completely died a couple of months later."

TODAY: Louise drives a Rover 75.

Anglia was a top present

COVENTRY CITY director Joe Elliott was given a new Ford Anglia to mark his 16th birthday - and felt as happy as if it had been a Rolls Royce.

Joe, who last year sold the family business, Elliott's Car Accessories, still feels nostalgic about the white Anglia's slanting back rear window. And remembers how he instantly became a "Jack the lad" zooming off to London for the weekend.

Now aged 61, his love of cars is one of the reasons he became chairman of Coventry Transport Museum.

Joe, who is also a director of city centre management company CV One, has retained a small interest in the family firm set up by his grandfather in 1908. But these days he is keen to spend more time in the sun with his wife Beryl.

Believe it or not, windscreen wipers and rear-view mirrors did not come as standard accessories on early cars.

After they became legal requirements - in the days of Joe's late father Frank - the business on the corner of Gulson Road became even more successful.

Joe said: "I was in the Coventry League Division One tennis team at what was then Earlsdon Lawn Tennis Club (now Beechwood) and so the Anglia was also useful for driving my team-mates to matches.

"I was lucky that my parents bought me the car although I had to tax and insure myself so it was a good job I started work in the shop at 15."

TODAY: Joe drives a Jaguar XJ6.

Mechanical tricks got Morris started

I REMEMBER my lovely Morris Traveller, made in 1968 with the wooden station wagon effect at the back.

It wasn't a pretty colour - a sort of murky brown - and four years old by the time I started driving it in 1972.

But it was built like a tank and engendered a feeling of safety sitting behind that solid bonnet.

My dad had loaned me the pounds 650 to buy it - I don't remember bothering to pay him back - and a boyfriend had a friend who promised to maintain it.

Dad was a joiner and so while he ended up replacing the wooden sides, he was always worried about high maintainence costs. There was a timing problem but I learned an impressive engineering trick. Whenever the engine cut out while waiting at a traffic light I would dash out, lift the bonnet and press the solenoid starter button.

All honking queuing motorists waiting behind me would be amazed by my lady mechanic prowess, as I hopped back in and drove off.

I did pay my family back by taking them all on holiday to Scotland.

Only trouble was driving instructors didn't teach you about motorways in the old days.

The M6 wasn't all that busy as we headed for Carlisle. But every time we passed a long sliproad intended for cars joining the motorway my nervous dad - who only ever drove an invalid car - used to tell me to move over into what we thought was the slow lane!

How we all survived as the road narrowed, and then on to the hard shoulder, I'll never know.

My beloved first car eventually died when its big end gave out in a layby near Moreton Morrell 27 years ago. Morris Travellers weren't collector's items then. I remember the garage wanted us to pay them to come out and tow it way.

TODAY: Barbara drives a Vauxhall Astra.

Austin eventually fell apart

DESPITE what my offspring may tell you my first car was not held together with string.

But it did have a resident clothes peg to hold the choke out, otherwise I'd never have been able to start the engine.

I was 19 when I spent my last pounds 70 to become the proud owner of an Austin Seven - shiny black, lace-effect rust trim with the unique feature of a jagged hole the size of a cow's head over the nearside rear wheel.

Not that a cow's head ever passed through, but most other things lying about did.

Like the time I was revving up for a quick exit from a field on a dark night when mud and goodness knows what else flew up and hit the boyfriend in the back of his neck. No, he wasn't future husband, just someone who wanted a girlfriend with a car.

My kids also refuse to believe I once removed my stockings to make a temporary fan belt.

Sad to say, my affair with my little Austin lasted only a few hair-raising months because flying cowpats, pebbles and puddles enlarged the hole to the point where the rear end fell off. All I could do was sweep it up and save for a newer model.

I've lost count of the number of cars I've owned since then yet that first one holds the most memories. It was unreliable, uncomfortable, noisy, smelly and tremendous fun. And it was mine. Your first car is a bit like your first kiss - something you can never forget.

TODAY: Maureen drives a Ford Fiesta.

I loved the thrills of my speedy Hillman Imp

LIZ MILLETT (right), chief executive of city city management and tourism company CV One, recalled: "My first car was a Hillman Imp and it was a present for my 18th birthday.

"I can still remember the number plate - UWD 918G - and the thrill of driving off to the Burton Dassett hills with my boyfriend of the time.

"I also remember being stopped by the police coming home from Brandon Hall Hotel one night when I was giving about five or six friends a lift home. The police asked me if I needed a licence to be driving a public service vehicle!

"My Imp was a sludgy-grey, not a very exciting colour, but it was fast - it beat most of the other cars away from the traffic lights.

"I remember the accelerator cable kept going but my dad was able to fix it. He worked on the track at the Standard factory and my mother worked at Renold Chain. We lived in the steel houses in Canley - some people called it tin-town - and they must have had to scrimp and save to buy that car just before I went to university.

"After a trip to Wales the cylinder head gasket went. I remember helping to grind down the spark plugs to put back in after dad replaced the cylinder."

Liz, aged 48, said: "I've always loved cars, which is probably why my first job was in the financial department at Rover."

TODAY: Liz drives a company Jaguar S-type.

CAPTION(S):

ON THE ROAD: Barbara Goulden with her Morris Traveller. REPAIR JOBS: Coventry Transport Museum's chief executive Barry Littlewood with a Standard 10 similar to his first car. Picture: JOE BAILEY; D25169_6
COPYRIGHT 2005 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 29, 2005
Words:1728
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