Our Old Motors


I worked evenings and weekends doling out petrol at 6s 8d (33p) a gallon at Ruffles Motors (remember the Texaco/ Regent Rootes Group concession garage next door to St Joe's?) for several months in 1968-69.
Steve Czyrko (55 ~ 64)


God, I'd forgotten about Ruffles Motors. When I arrived at Salvo in '73, there was a shiny new orange and black Hillman Avenger Tiger in the showroom. I walked past it every day and thought "What an amazing car. If I work really hard at this posh new grammar school, one day I might be able to afford a car like that".

And of all the things we've discussed over the years, particularly pubs, clubs and girls, I can't believe we've never discussed cars we once owned from the sixties and seventies.

I still yearn for my Silver Fox 1600E Cortina, as immortalised by Tom Robinson.
Paul Burke (73 ~ 80)


First car was a 1952 MGTD. Then a Triumph Herald, MGA, Austin Healey, Austin Healey bug eyed Sprite, TR3A all before 1970. How about you?
John Lockwood (52 ~ 55)


My cars were a 1960 Vauxhall Victor, Rover 2000, Ford Corsair V4, 2 Hillman Minxes, Mini Clubman, a dreadful Austin 1100, a Morris Marina (even worse), Allegro, several Maestros, Volvo 340, up to todayís Peugeot 306 with 105000 miles on. I realise some of these are a bit sad, but then, I never was rich.
Jim McDonald (63 ~ 69)


I had an Austin 1100 that saw me through 1977-9 and covered many thousands of miles of motoring without a jot of trouble. Other than petrol, the only cost I incurred running it was a new set of windscreen wipers required to get through an MOT. When it comes to really bad cars, don't get me started on the Rover 600 series!
John Kennedy (69 ~ 76)


If you want sad cars I had a Moskvitch which took me to the South of France and back.
Martin Lahiffe (69 ~ 75)


My first car was a long wheel based Land Rover - boy did that thing rattle when it got over 60 MPH! We drove from Melbourne to Sydney and back one weekend (we were in our 20's and there was a very good party in Sydney) and the drive took about 14 hours one way! When we got to Sydney it took about 4 hours before we could speak without yelling as we were still deafened from the engine noise. God I miss that car.
Tim Woolford-Smith (64 ~ 71)


Mine was (slight cough of embarrassment) a Bond Minicar 3-wheeler which I bought with my father for 10 quid. 200cc of sheer power. At one time I used it for school - driving very badly (I recall once mounting the pavement). The school sought to discourage the pupils from bringing their own motorised transport; we had to park in the residential streets opposite.
Ian Hennessey (64 ~ 71)


Yes, Ian, I remember your Bond and your passion for this type of vehicle. Weren't you involved in the Bond Owners Club (or whatever it was called?). And did some other Salvos own Bond 3-wheelers, too? The Fleet twins, maybe?
Neill Taylor (64 ~ 71)


'Bond Info' Bond Owners Club - Founder member, old chap. I hear it's still going strong. Don't recall anyone else who had one at Salvo. The advantage, of course, was that you could drive it on a motorcycle licence from the age of 16, and the motorcycle test was laughable - I bought a cheap little Honda, and a week later went for my test. For half an hour I was chased round the streets of Hillingdon by an examiner on foot, and at the end of that I was qualified to ride anything on 2 or 3 wheels.
Ian Hennessey (64 ~ 71)


I too had a Bond (mark F ) 1959 , it had a Villiers 200cc engine , no reverse gear , when I killed it I purchased an Austin Somerset A40 (ugly duckling) big fat heavy round thing with a tiny four cylinder engine that would not pull your socks off.
Tim Harrington (64 ~ 69)


So petrol was 6s 8d in 68-69. (I was 13 at the time so I had no knowledge of such things) - interesting then that it was the same price as a vinyl single. I bought Lazy Sunday in May '68 in Sopers aka Debenhams as my first single. I wonder if the price of petrol and singles still equate. Excluding charity records e.g. Band Aid and the like, I last brought a single c77. I think it was Bowie's Sound and Vision.

First car was a Vauxhall Viva 1976 - affectionately known in the family as Ruby on account of the colour, nothing to do with Wax or Murray. Like some of the other comments, it remains my favourite car, and I wish I still owned it.
John Torpey (66 ~ 71)


My first crate was a Morris Minor, painted light and dark blue with a fur interior and "Charlie" written large on the boot.

I know that a lot of the Scared Tarts thought it was "cute", I regretted painting it the day after it was done. But there's not a lot you can do to a Moggy to make it look cool, so cute it had to be.
Robin Lambert (71 ~ 78)


I remember the Avenger Tiger too. They had a spoiler on the boot which made them appear very sporty. In truth it was probably just a marketing ploy - paint it a bright colour and stick a spoiler on it. Maybe that was the trigger that set you off into the world of advertising.

I always wanted a 1600E. Lack of funds and high insurance premiums put paid to that idea, so I settled instead for a HA Viva (1966 variety) which was falling apart even then. The wings and sills had large rust holes in them that you could nearly put your fist through.

I bought a car recently that came with a 12 year corrosion warranty. Technology has obviously moved on.
Vince Whelan (72 ~ 77)


This reminds me of when I visited the Audi dealer in St Albans, driving my 12-year-old 1973 Audi 80 (lovely car). The old card was falling apart from rust, and the dealer told me the new models had a "6 year anti-corrosion warranty" so this would happen. I explained that I'd bought the car when it was 8 years old, and still rust free, so what difference would a 6 year warranty make?

But he was certain, the new cars DID have a warranty, so they didn't rust. In the end I walked out as I couldn't explain to him that a warranty doesn't work like that!

1st car, before the Audi, was a Reliant Regal van, for which no car license was required. When I bought it, just got in and drove it home, having never driven a car in my life!
Steve Taylor (66 ~ 73)


Steve, didn't you have a vintage motor scooter in the last year at school? I seem to remember helping you try to bump start it or something similar. Do you bump start scooters? You suggested that I have a go on it along the tradesmanís entrance to the school at the back of the woodwork and metalwork shops. I couldn't get my balance and have never been able to get on any kind of motorised two-wheeler since. Sir, you scarred me for life.

Con (who once wanted to be Barry Sheen)
Conrad Jepson (66 ~ 73)


Con, quite right - a 1955 Lambretta LD150 rescued from a Breakers in Bushey by one of my brothers and slowly bought back to life with various parts found in various dumps. So it was indeed vintage as were all things from 1955! This was pre-helmet laws, and I recall the terror of watching you almost lose control of my pride and joy behind the kitchens. Pushing wasn't limited to just starting - I often pushed it several miles home as well.

However, it did come with me up to Leicester, as you may recall, where my neighbour in the hall of residence owned a 1955 Morris Minor. We both had original log books with petrol coupon entries in the early entries - petrol was still rationed in 1955.
Steve Taylor (66 ~ 73)


My first car was a viva, bought for £30 & sold 3 days later for £50 to a regular in the Eastcote Arms, where I worked. The first & second nights I drove it I was followed home (but not stopped) by a panda car. Since I'd enjoyed a few jars & forgotten such details as licence, insurance, tax, MOT, I took the hint & decided it would be wiser not to go near it again... I've had a good few cars since, but that was the only time I made money on one... Funny how a small profit on that car is memorable but tens of thousands lost on others is par for the course... Beginners luck eh?
Niall O'Boyle (69 ~ 76)


Always remember a great car my old man had... a 1966 Humber Sceptre. It was a lovely blue colour- Automatic. Got nicked from outside our house though.

Then He had a purple Ford Corsair. Nothing but trouble! Didn't Ruffles, before or after, become a HUMBER or HILLMAN garage? Or is the old mind playing tricks on me again?

As a family of near pikeys the 7 of us would drive over to Ireland every year for the summer. The best car to handle this amount of people was the old Zodiac or Zephyr 6. Had the old bench seat in the front.

My first car circa 1977 was a Morris 1100 followed by a Maxi 1500 Mc.
Martin Coleman (71 ~ 76)


Talking of cars I sell them for a large Toyota group here in Brisbane. You can own a car here for 10/20yrs and as long as you register (road tax) it every year an M.O.T. isnít required subsequently we have a lot of crappy old cars on our roads. In the other states you need an M.O.T. every year.

A decent 63/64 MGB will fetch $13000 66 Mini 5/7000 dollars.
Laurie Hill (63 ~ 67)


My father's first car was a pre-war Standard Flying 12. It had mechanical brakes which, if you stopped in a hurry, would lock on. You had to engage reverse momentarily then they'd release with a clunk. I was about 7 when he traded it in.
Ian Hennessey (64 ~ 71)


I had a 1971 Vauxhall Victor FD as my first car. It had bench seats front and back, and the handbrake was set into the steering column.

Apart from that, it's major failing was in the front wings. Some genius in Vauxhall's design department decided to create a cavity around the headlamps that was open to the water, mud etc. thrown up by the front wheels. Naturally, there was no way of draining it without drilling your own holes to allow it to dry out. Result - the front wings' undersides on mine looked like a colander - but still rotted away in double quick time!
Michael Griffin (66 ~ 73)


What better way to clear the air than with a litany of cars and other forms of transport departed? Here is my contribution:

As a teenager, I often drove my dad's grey Ford Anglia 105E as he liked to share things. Its keys often worked with other grey Ford Anglia 105Es and vice versa. I once drove away in someone else's grey Ford Anglia 105E by mistake that was parked adjacently from a pub car park in Muswell Hill. Back to the pub but had to park the grey Ford Anglia 105E in another bay so had another pint and then drove away in mine.

My first car I owned was an Austin Maxi with a cable gear box not rods. Some people described the Austin Maxi with a cable gear box not rods as a Shakespearean hero of a car. The most ideal car was the Austin Maxi with a cable gear box not rods but it had a fatal flaw. All other cars except the Austin Maxi with a cable gear box not rods had rods. I now know why.

Now I am Mondeo man. I work in London.
Now I am Mondeo man. I report into London.
Now I am Mondeo man. I catch the train.
My wife is Mondeo woman. She works from home and supports Ocado.

Why do I own a car?
Andy Collins (62 ~ 69)


Built in design faults. My first car was a minivan. The designers had cleverly put the distributer directly behind the front grill so whenever it rained the distributer filled with water and the car stopped. The standard cure was to tie a piece of hardboard inside the grill as a rain deflector. My memory is that the AA carried ready cut out bits of hardboard with them.
Bob Sayer (63 ~ 70)


My first car was a Vauxhall Cavalier, very clean & pretty until a builder pulled out unexpectedly in front of me whilst I was returning with my sister & her bridesmaids from her pre-wedding hairdressing two hours before her wedding.

The car looked like an extra from Mad Max with the front stoved in hissing steam. I drove it like that for nearly a year. Funnily enough, driving down narrow roads, cars coming towards me always pulled in, reversed, hid, etc. Never any road rage!!!

I never needed to lock it and found that by pumping up the rear tyres to 50psi could do pretty impressive rear wheel burn-outs & was a frequent visitor to Bushey Breakers for used tyres & spares. Many of the vehicles in the breakers were in much better condition. I was not surprised when eventually it did not pass the MOT.

I passed my motorcycle test on a 125 having just missed the 250 law change Having bought my next bike I visited the opticians with eyesight blurring problems, apparently z1300's do that, and CBX 1000's, so I got a sports 750 with a fairing & still poodle about on bikes.
Declan Galvin (76 ~ 81)


My first car was a Ford Y Type 1936 - side valve engine and rod brakes. To adjust the brakes one had to find a piece of concrete road and deliberately lock the wheels, then tighten up the rods for the wheels that did not lock. Kept on doing this until all wheels braked the same. Lasted about 1 week before needing doing again.

No heater, so I made up a funnel that clamped on the back of the radiator and piped it to a home-made fan and on to the inside. Worked quite well.

At 50 mph this car felt like it was flying and likely to turn over at any minute. This was about 1958.

Before that I had a Zundap 198 (wish I still had it!). Superb motorbike, leading link front forks, bags of power and very fast for its size.

Never did get a licence until I passed my car test.

Since those days I have had dozens of cars, now a Vauxhall Zafira (auto). Cannot complain, this one has never missed a beat! And is a pleasure to drive. Carries my model aircraft and all the bits required to fly.
Michael Southwood (44 ~ 49)


Was trying to add up the total number of cars I have owned, gave up when realising how much they had all cost, the opposite to Mr Tesco, buy high sell cheap.

Best car was the first car, a VW Beetle 1500 E, air cooled little tough nut of a car, made circa 1965 and still spotted locally pottering about South Bucks, after years of waiting for buses it gave the freedom I had been dreaming about, it went as far north as Edinburgh and Glasgow, taking in an Old Firm game, and as far south as Newton Abbot taking in some low grade National Hunt racing, stopping on the way at Lancaster Uni and another in East Anglia, all in all covered about 50, 000 miles and it never broke down once after mastering the low voltage battery by having a spare on under the rear passenger seat and jumping it. Latterly it looked a little sad as an Indian woman reversed into me in Birmingham, she denied this manoeuvre claiming I had shunted her from behind, luckily a local plod saw the incident but sadly she gave me a moody address. The poor old beast thereafter had to travel the UK with a scarf holding the bonnet to the chassis.

Worst car was a Saab 900 Turbo Limited Edition, spotless black and alloy wheels, sunroof ... the biz, all except it went back to the garage 48 times for various faults, none of which were ever really cured by the technicians. I found out who the Chairman of Saab UK was and where they were based and took the car up on a low loader to their HQ and dumped it in his parking spot with my phone number stuck on the windscreen ... did me no good as they repaired it again only to stop in the middle of the road outside the garage, practically gave it away to a Saab enthusiast.

My most scary journey was in Dublin, after being picked up at the airport by a member of the Sweeny clan he decided to give us a quick tour of the city before we caught our train down to Clonmel for some racing. 99% of the trip was on two wheels culminating with him driving up the platform at Huston station having to leap out and catch the moving train. Ireland has the worst drivers and roads in Europe, so combined a real lethal combination. Any of you living in or around London will see Sweeny trucks all over the place, stay clear.

Luckily have only had a few crashes, first one wrote off the old manís Audi 80 and three other cars in Ruislip after the cricket match I was playing in was called off due to rain, some clumsy idiot pulled out in front of me, skidded and flipped it over on to the top of the parked cars by the side of the road. The idiot drove off leaving me to deal with the owners who had been enjoying their Sunday lunch. The other memorable bump was during one of my first jobs, the boss had a convertible Roller, brand spanking new from Jack Barclay in Berkeley Square. Being the boy on the firm was always being tossed keys by people to park up on meters around the West End, two problems, never had a licence and never driven an automatic. So roof down put the beast into D and just touched the accelerator and the 5 litres lurched forward in to small Morris Minor, luckily damage was not great and petty cash tin raided to cover expenses.

Martin Lahiffe also worked there for a few weeks and being the sort of guy he is lent me his newly purchased Viva to drive about and learn on, once all the way back from West End to Harrow in a thick pea soup fog which took about three hours, driving about up there helped me pass my test pretty soon after, top man.
Paul Green (69 ~ 75)


I've always loved cars and am impressed by a lot of the group's knowledge of how they actually work. I have no idea what goes on under a bonnet and have no desire to know either. It would be like letting daylight in upon magic. I adored my Mk II Cortina 1600E. I bought it around 1982 and it was already thirteen years old. It was gold with a black vinyl roof, the lovely wood dash and seats the colour of Caramac. I paid £500 for it and a few months later, a bloke jumped out at a set of lights in Pinner and offered me a grand for it there and then. He took my phone number and turned up that very afternoon with £1,000 in cash.

A bit of a result then? Not really? I bought a much newer, much blander Ford Escort with the proceeds but missed the 'E' like a gorgeous girlfriend I should never, ever have chucked.

Leaving me alone with a copy of the motoring Exchange & Mart was like leaving a junkie alone in a chemist and one Thursday at work, I spotted one in the office next door. Before I knew it, I'd drawn £600 out on my Access card and was on my way to Colindale to have a look at a 1970 Silver Fox 1600E. It was immaculate, even better than the one I'd had before. I couldn't believe my luck and ten minutes later, I was driving away in it. I think I'd still have it now if it hadn't been nicked form the car park of the Whittington Hospital (That'll teach me for being a good Catholic boy and going to visit my Nan). The Norwich Union paid out £300 even though as a collectorís car in near perfect nick, it was worth about five times that. And so began my life-long loathing of insurance companies.

I've become a late convert to eBay and they frequently have 1600Es for sale. It's only a matter of time before a middle-aged man trying to recapture his youth makes a daft and impulsive purchase.
Paul Burke (73 ~ 80)


Various tales of car crashes remind me of a summer job I had once during College days. I spent from 6pm to 6am 7 days a week as a security guard for Group 4 driving an Escort van from factory to factory around the Manchester area checking that the premises were OK. To earn more money, I also often did a 6 hour day shift in the back of a large security van delivering money to banks or collecting cash from casinos.

After a couple of months I was suffering from severe sleep deprivation and regularly hallucinated at the wheel, in a scary unchemically enhanced manner. Inevitably I had a few bumps, but only one bad crash, when I fell asleep completely and wrote off my van at 2am. Luckily I was only shaken and not hurt.

Back at my office, they gave me the insurance claim form and showed me exactly where I had to fill in the part about me having to swerve to avoid hitting the drunk who had stumbled out into the road thereby causing the crash. It appears this was the industry standard to ensure payout from insurers.
John Kennedy (69 ~ 76)


Salvo virgin, Sadder still ... I (quite recently) had a Discovery II ... Hated it the second it arrived ... justified it to my hip, trendy kids because it could "Go Off Road".

Took it to Corsica ... air-con packed up on second day ... and then ... for the first time ever ... took it "Off Road". Well ... it was just a bumpy track really that we found Fiat Uno's able to navigate ... and it broke down (throttle thingy bust) 4 miles from the nearest civilisation. We had to get towed by a German in a Range Rover who thought it was enormously funny. A Corsican bandit then took it away on the back of a lorry for 5 days - and brought it back again the same as it went - but dirtier.

It limped back to the UK, rear suspension evaporated on the way through France ... finally arrived in sunny Enfield - the air con flooding water all over the interior - throttle giving out randomly every 100 miles or so - no suspension at the back - my children referring to me as "The Arsehole with the Disco".

I put it on an RAC van and told them to deliver it back to the garage I bought it from and send me a cheque for the scrap value. My children cheered when it went.

I now have a family sized Daihatsu Copen.

Unemployed, Fat, Bald (still), and outrageously happy living in a caravan and reporting to nobody in Boston.
Steve Sparke (69 ~ 76)


We were all virgins at Salvo Steve, or isn't that what you meant...?

Thanks for your e-mail I was seriously considering a second-hand "disco" last year but couldn't afford it and got a Freelander, since then I've been thinking "if only", so you've cured me of that. It's already paid for itself when I was hosing it down and could shout at passers-by "don't laugh, a bit of Bob Innis and next year it'll be a Range Rover".

I must admit though, that I've lost the "car gene". I used to be able to identify any car at any distance, at night, from the reflection in puddles on a damp roadway, now I can't differentiate a Mazda from a Merc. There must be something in this reincarnation lark because I'm slowly turning into my Dad.

What a thread, I dragged out the picture of my old Moggie minor, remembered how I lost my virginity in the back of it (with a nurse from Hillingdon Hospital) and how cool it was to have a car at that age, even though it was older than I was. Looking out of my window I see the current teenies olds driving around in flash VWs, Smarts, and three door saloons all under two years old and paid for by the parents. But do they have as much fun as I did? (... Only if they know the nurses at Hillingdon Hospital!)
Robin Lambert (71 ~ 78)


From the age of 18 I drove "company cars". Boring, new, but quite a pull with the girls (I needed all the help I could get). You could always spot mine - red and looking like a porcupine! I was in the radio communications business and used to have carphones and two way radios installed (even in 1977) and the roof and back wings were covered in aerials. I got so bored with what I was driving that I bought the most ridiculous car I could find - a 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station-wagon. It had a 350 cu inch V8, hydromatic drive, and could take 10 in relative comfort - 2 bench seats and 4 in the back. Ideal for road trips.

I now own one of the most bizarrely named vehicles - a Mazda Bongo Friendee.
John Pilny (70 ~ 75)


Talking of cars anytime anyone is in brissie and need a set of wheels please advise.
Laurie Hill (63 ~ 67)


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