Robert Duncan takes the A road to motoring history…
All those avid readers of my blogs, who hang on my every word in an attempt to gain insight into (a) my exciting world, and (b) how to be involved with it for a few brief but golden moments, will know that I love going to events with my family, and especially my little boy Jamie. Seeing any event, especially to do with transport, through his eyes is good wholesome fun. And we all like that don’t we…
I have stood on underground stations as trains come and go, and then rapidly changed platforms to see them coming from the other way. And then changed again to see the first lot again. This can be a bit boring after about half an hour, especially since on one occasion it shortened our proposed visit to the London Transport Museum, with its brilliant collection of old buses and trains, by about thirty minutes. And we’ve been to the Car Museum too (somewhere up the M40) and on virtually every old railway in the country. We’ve watched trains and boats and planes to the extent that I could have given Burt Bacharach a run for his money.
So the Vintage Car Rally in Aylesbury was a no brainier (to slip into the vernacular for a moment). The sun was shining, and so was a field of the most wonderful old cars you’ve ever seen. There was a Rover 75 just like my dad’s. There was an MGB GT which reminded me of the one I owned in the sixties round about the time my gorgeous wife was born (way too young to take her out in it). Cadillacs that were so long that an 8ft bloke could probably lie down lengthways in the boot (sorry, the trunk). Austin Sevens. Triumph Stags – originally designed as the dream car, to look at home on the quayside at St Tropez as the sun sets behind it, and the grinning occupant gets out, straightening his bow tie. Old buses that we were allowed to sit in. Three wheelers that we didn’t dare sit in. A Ford Prefect like Auntie Doris used to have. A Ford Zodiac like her rotter of a husband had. An Austin 1100 identical to the ones owned by (a) my mum and (b) Cathy’s grandfather. Old cars that had been cared for to the extent that they probably looked better than when they left the production line all those years ago. Obviously the pride and joy of the men and their long suffering wives, who sat on deckchairs behind them, aching to show you the gleaming works under the bonnet. (Of the cars, not the wives). And so on. Probably 200 gleaming masterpieces, from Model T Fords, to Austin A30s to a fine pair of Bristols. (Oh please…)
And so on to our photograph. The Isetta bubble car. Made by BMW before they realised how groovy they were – with a little sign outside rubbishing the story I was about to tell of a man who drove into his garage, not realising that there was no reverse gear, and having to stay there for years because the only door was at the front. Apparently they all have reverse and it never happened. Somebody will tell me that they don’t really go at 85mph in second gear next. Jamie loved it as the most observant among you will notice from the picture – and we tried to remove from our minds that this was probably Sam’s dream car.
Time for coffee and a sticky bun, and to watch a dog show which was there for some reason. I told the little lad that the dogs would probably race the cars but he didn’t believe me. Instead they just walked round, cocked their legs, and barked at each other. And that was only the owners.
Tired but happy (isn’t it always the way?) we drove home, imagining that road sixty or seventy years ago when these classic machines were cluttering our lanes, breaking down on steep hills and, when they were working properly, transporting cads with flat caps, goggles and flowing scarves to some lovely country location to have dinner with Rodney and Bunty before strapping the trunk on the back, or filling the dicky seat with a few hearty chaps, and dashing back to town at a crisp forty miles an hour.
These motorised treasures are still cared for, polished daily, and adored by proud owners, and put up with by their infinitely patient wives.
I suppose you haven’t got a brass manifold nut for a 1959 Morris Traveller?