Posts Tagged ‘car’

The Vanguard

March 19, 2016

If you look up dictionary definitions of vanguard the word you’ll find used to explain it is leader. It might be military and mean the group of soldiers leading a charge or it might be a leader in terms of technical innovation.

It was a regular name for warships, notably a battleship launched in 1944.

When the Standard car company were launching a new post war model they wanted to use the Vanguard name. It took time to persuade the Navy that this would be OK and in 1947 the Standard Vanguard was launched. Some data for the car can tell us how much motor cars have moved on for the original Vanguard took 21½ seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60mph and managed just 22.9 miles per gallon of petrol.

But Meccano Limited thought the car well worth adding to its Dinky toy range of models and guess what? I have one.

Mine is a battered old wreck so won’t be fetching an auction price of £150 which it might if it was in mint condition with original box. My view is that my old Vanguard is happily worthless as far as money goes but liked by me because it dates back to childhood.


This, clearly, was originally a fawn coloured model. I think this may have been the most common of the range made under the Dinky name.


The small rear window indicates that this was modelled on the phase 1 version of the car made between 1947 and 52. I believe the model dates from after 1950.


Here’s the base plate – a rather rusty affair but the embossed writing is still readable.



Veteran car

November 27, 2014

Nearly all of my childhood was spent about a mile from the route of the London to Brighton veteran car rally; This offered us free entertainment on the first Sunday in November as the ancient cars trundled down to the Sussex coast. Photographs certainly weren’t taken all that often, but in 1958 my dad took a few of which this is about the sharpest and clearest.


Presumably the car was in some kind of difficulty, for it seems to have pulled off the road

The car is a 1904 De Dion Bouton – a two seater with a six horsepower engine. It was 54 years old at the time.

My feel is that the overtaking car is a Humber but someone will let me know if I’m wrong. As this was taken in 1958, that car is now (if perchance it survives) at least 56 years old – so older than the De Dion was then.

I have commented on my liking for the browsability of encyclopaedia in book form but identifying the old car was a simple job for the web and we find that auctioneers Bonhams sold the very same care in 2009 (for close on £70000).image004

This image of the same car – reverted to an original registration – comes from their gallery.

First Car

September 13, 2013

I was just a bit late in life, getting to be a car owner. I ‘blame’ my father for this. I think he felt guilty (quite needlessly) about not being there for me and a car was always available. I didn’t need to buy a first car which was a 25 year old wreck, full of character. Instead, when I got a car, which would have been in 1971, it was an 8 year old Morris 1100.


And there she is – or was. Her registration was 4871 KX. Isn’t it odd how I can remember that one, but the car out on the drive now? If I thought long and hard I might come up with a registration – just maybe.

I find it really amazing to think that this car, if it still existed, would be fifty years old. That would be roughly the age of the ‘old crocks’ I used to watch on the London to Brighton rally in the early 1950s.

I can also say that cars have improved in the last 50 years – or even in the last 42 years since I purchased this one. Most of the time, that car was just fine. But with its cunningly placed distributer, just inside the front grille, it was a nightmare in rain. I remember driving back from Cornwall in wet conditions. You’d get behind a trundling lorry and feel the need to overtake. But the spray from the lorry would saturate the electrics and spark plugs no longer received the vital current from that distributer. The car went ‘chugger, chugger, chugger, phut’. Speed was lost and instead of overtaking you had to hope for a layby in which you could stand out in the pouring rain and lorry spray and attempt to wipe the distributer dry. Would we accept this today? I think not.

Another nightmare was MOT time. For non-UK readers, MOT stood for Ministry of Transport and they had decreed that all cars over a certain age had to have an annual safety test to make sure they were roadworthy. These annual tests were a source of fear for these cars rusted out. They had sub-frames and sills with no staying power. At the very least welding was always needed and sometimes expensive replacement parts.

The picture was taken on Roundway Down and I see that just near the top of the windscreen in the photo are the Devizes gas tanks. It was near there that garage owner and mechanic Ralph Merritt worked wonders at keeping our cars going.

A day out by motor in 1929

July 29, 2013

Days out, for my dad, were something of a rarity. People just didn’t have money for frippery which, of course, made those rare days out altogether more memorable.

My dad had a cousin called Walter who was the son of Uncle Joe. He worked in the motor trade and could drive. On July 7th 1929 he hired a large car and took his family (there were 5 of them all more or less adult by then) and my dad, his sister and his parents on a day out. I’ll let my dad say a little in his own words.

In 1929 or thereabouts Walter, with a job in the motor trade, hired a large car (a Cubitt) in which on one Sunday Uncle Joe’s family and our family visited relations in various parts of Sussex. We certainly visited Crawley where Aunt Mercy (Edwards, my oldest Aunt born 1878) lived in Malthouse Road. In Hadlow Down churchyard we looked at the graves of Hepzibah (my oldest Aunt of all except that she died in 1909) and alongside the grave of grandfather who died in 1913.

This must have been a very special occasion and quite a few photos were taken. I have photos of each of the graves mentioned and others taken in Mercy’s garden. And then there is this one, which shows dad and his sister, Dora, on the running board of that Cubitt car.


I suspect that was taken in Bexhill, at the start of the journey. This must have been a real adventure to the youngsters. It is hard for us to imagine what a restricted life people led then although Dad and Dora did get holidays at Firle, staying with their aunt and family. Indeed, we saw the pair of them recently on cousin Frank’s motorbike. But Crawley, where Aunt Mercy lived, was way out of normal experience. From the Bexhill home, the journey would have been about 50 miles. This day must have been a real red letter day in the lives of the youngsters.

Departure from Camp

January 25, 2013

I think this must have been the first year my family went camping with our own equipment. What we didn’t have was a car or any method of transporting our weighty tents and equipment. My dad hired a local farmer who took us using his car and a trailer.


It looks like a scene from the distant past, as indeed, for many people it is. Well, it was 1954 which was 59 years ago. We were being collected, probably after a fortnight of isolation on our remote downland spot.

It has to be said that the journey has not burnt itself into my memory. I am sure that for the next four or five years we hired a small lorry and travelling in the back of that is how I remember the way we went.

You can get an idea from that heavily overladen trailer that we did take everything, including bikes. There were no modern materials for the tents. The canvas was heavy duty, thick and the poles and frames were substantial wooden items. These days lightweight man-made fibres are supported, often, on fibreglass structures.

I do not know who the farmer was, but I guess that is him at the back of the trailer. My guess is that it may have been Tom Ellis who farmed in Ifield. My suspicion that it is him is based more on the car. In later years he drove a car like that around the farm. He had a limp and didn’t walk all that well. The car is definitely an Austin. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what model it is but if it is the one I remember it was a light green colour.

These cars had a badge on the back which said ‘Austin of England’. It was in script and I found it hard to read. In fact, for years, I thought it said, ‘Almighty England’ and that phrase is still used by me if I see an old Austin.

I love my country (which is the United Kingdom), my continent of Europe and my world. I don’t see one part of my country (England) as more mighty than other places in the world. So that ‘Almighty England’ phrase just makes me laugh.

A Happy Nerd’s Christmas Present

January 1, 2013

Actually, a happy nerd gets much the same kind of Christmas as many other folks in the UK. He eats too much because the food is so yummy. He sees his family – both close and more extended and, with many of them, he exchanges presents which include yet more food, games, puzzles, clothing and, in particular, books. It’s a happy time and I wonder if it is because so little alcohol is consumed that we don’t seem to have rows. I read somewhere that the first family row, on average, happens at 10.30 on Christmas morning. I don’t think it does in our house.


I could feature a number of presents given to me in this blog but let’s start with one little book. I would say this is one for the super nerd (which I most definitely am not) but I shall read it, maybe learn a little bit of a very niche branch of history, before making the book available to a wider public at our local museum.

Well I did say ‘niche’. It’s a book about number plates and it’s full of useful information like the fact that the letter combination of BF was banned at one time for being too rude but came back into use without a murmur when available letter/number combinations were running out.

There’s a section on number plates that people pay huge sums for and I am reminded of some local plates I see from time to time, run by Wadworths, the brewery in Devizes whose best known product, 6X lends itself to number plates. One car I have seen had the registration BUY 6X. Going back to my childhood, the owner of a local company, British Manufactured Bearings, lived in a big house near me. He drove a ‘Roller’ with registration BMB 1.

Books like this number plate one are, perhaps, great for nostalgia. Here’s a photo from ‘Number plates’.


This is the Exeter Bypass in 1963. If you are old enough and lived in Britain back then you’ll remember that summer Saturday news bulletins always included information on the length of queues on the Exeter Bypass. This is a glorious period photo what with the style of cars, the AA man and that flared skirt the girl is wearing. I suspect it brings back unhappy memories for some – motorists trapped in those queues.

But they were not new. My wife’s grandfather was a commercial traveller in the Manchester area in the 1920s and 30s. He had a car and he also had a mother who lived in Cornwall. The family holidayed in our western county, taking two days for the journey. There was no Exeter bypass then. They went through the town where Granny would get out and do the shopping needed for the holiday and walk a few yards up the street to get back in the car, snarled up in the queues. The bypass was designed to alleviate the problem and maybe it did for a few years.

But for Granny and Grandad, they probably still had a queue for the ferry across the Tamar at Saltash. No wonder the journey took two days.

Nowadays we zap round Exeter on the M5. The AA route planner now suggests about five and a half hours for Granny and Grandad’s journey.

First Family Car

December 23, 2012

For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a carless family. How different life was then. Journeys to see grandparents started with a mile walk to Ifield Station (It was properly Ifield Halt at the time)  and then at least one change of train along the way. Two bus services passed by our house. For us, both went to Crawley and both were operated with what I now know were venerable old buses. Usually we cycled to Crawley but in any case, much of our shopping was dealt with at Howlett’s Store which was just across the road from our house.

My dad had acquired a driving licence during World War II. By 1959 the family finances were deemed sufficiently firm for a car to be added to the household effects. It was a pre-war, 1937 Austin 10. Here it is, outside the house with mum admiring it. Dad, obviously, took the photo.


As far as I remember, my dad paid £50 to get us on the road. Some of its faults can be seen – the rusted running board under the doors and the dented rear wing are fairly obvious. It had other quirks. The gear stick wouldn’t stay in first gear unless it was held there. If there was a front seat passenger, then it was their job to hold the stick in place. My dad attached a piece of elastic to loop over the stick for solo driving. Then, the force of gravity was stronger than the petrol pump. On steep hills, petrol failed to reach the engine and the only option was to turn the car round and reverse up hills. Later, one of the rear wings partially fell (or was knocked) off. It was held in place by wire but from then on that side’s rear door couldn’t be used.

None the less the old car – first registered in Southampton and with the number plate of BCR 337 got us about.


That’s mum again, and a grossly overladen car arriving at our personal camp site. A box looking like a picnic hamper has been unloaded. It actually contained the family cat who came camping with us.

In 1960, the car testing regime was introduced by government decree. There was no way old BCR 337 was going to pass so, sadly, off she went to meet her maker. A new(er) car was bought – a mere dozen years old. The motoring age had come to stay.