First Cars

TechieDude remarks on the subject of parents, kids, and cars:

You never, ever give your kid a car. Especially when they first get their license. I let my kids use mine, if I didn’t need it, back in the day. They wanted a car? Get a job and pay for one. No better lesson can be had than watching your bank account get hoovered out by repairs, gas, and insurance. There’s more to owning a car than just possession.

Wise words indeed. Getting your first car is, or at least used to be, a rite of passage for a young man and it made a big difference if you’d bought it yourself rather than being gifted it. In my case, it was the former.

I didn’t get around to buying my first car until 1999, when I was 22. This is partly explained by my not having passed my test until I was 20: I failed the fucking thing 3 times before I passed on the fourth attempt. To be fair, my tests took place in Chichester (with complicated one way systems and dual carriageways) and Manchester; a lot of my contemporaries passed their tests in sleepy country towns with a single roundabout and no box junctions. When I passed my test I couldn’t afford a car, and nor did I need one. Then I got that job delivering cars for Danny and I didn’t have to buy one of my own.

All that changed when I had to spend the first semester of my fourth year at university doing an industrial placement, and the one I found was in Weaste, a suburb of Greater Manchester between Salford and Eccles. Getting there by public transport from Fallowfield was long, complicated, and probably about as safe as taking a bus through Syria today. So I needed a car. Fortunately my job with Danny involved going to various dodgy garages and repair shops, and one of them had a car outside for sale. To be honest, I can’t remember how I found it or who I paid, and I certainly don’t remember test driving it. What I do remember is paying £300 for a white, 1l Fiat Uno with 3 doors and skinny tyres with moss on the sides. I can’t recall how old it was, but it had been around plenty. It had an MOT for a few months, but no tax disc. That became my first car.

I quickly found out that to get a tax disc you need insurance. I called Direct Line and they were happy to insure me (it wasn’t obscenely expensive, but not cheap either), but it would take a while for a cover letter to reach me. They said the process could be sped up if I came to their office in central Manchester and picked it up in person. But what to do in the meantime? You’re not supposed to drive a car without a tax disc. I ended up putting a hand-written note in the window where the tax disc goes saying “WAITING FOR INSURANCE COVER LETTER”. I have no idea if this would have saved me a fine or not, but I got the letter in a few days, then the tax disc, and I was motoring around legally in my own car for the first time.

As could have been expected for £300, the car was not without problems. It suffered from what’s known as “run-on”, meaning the engine continues to fire long after you’ve turned off the ignition, withdrawn the key, locked the door, and walked off. Somebody said it might have been running too hot, but I don’t know for sure. I then decided to do whatever I could to make it run better, so went to Halfords and bought a new distributor cap, points, and a coil. Back in those days, replacing parts like these was a routine thing to do. I don’t recall it making a blind bit of difference, but the parts were cheap and it couldn’t hurt.

Then I thought I’d take it for a wash, so went to an automatic car wash whose owner I knew. I drove forward, wound down the window, and tried to insert the token. I couldn’t quite reach so opened the door, put it in, then closed the door. Something clunked. I drove forward, and started to wind up the window as the car wash rumbled into life. Only nothing was happening, and the handle seemed rather too easy to turn. I wound a bit faster, but no window appeared. By now the car wash was fired up and water was pissing through the open window. I put it in gear and drove out the other side, getting soaked in the process. The owner came over and asked what was going on. I had no idea, and was rather distressed as well as wet. We looked down the door seal and saw the window mechanism wound fully up but there was no pane of glass. We got a screwdriver, pulled off the inside door panel, and found it lying on the bottom of the car door. The clip holding it to the raising mechanism had broken, and when I slammed the doors shut it had fallen off. We put it back on as best we could, wound it up carefully, and worked out that you could shut the door – but only with the window wound up. If you did it with it down, you’d lose the pane in the door again. That happened a few times over the course of my ownership. The engine also used to flood, and you’d need to be careful with the manual choke. Many a time I found myself stuck, sometimes in traffic, the engine stalled and unable to restart for several minutes.

Such is life driving around in £300 cars. But it served me well enough, at least for a few months of daily use, until I drove it down to London in December. A few miles outside Manchester on the M6 I realised the brakes didn’t work very well and when I pressed the pedal I’d hear a lot of grinding but without much stopping. There wasn’t much I could do, so pressed on. I worked out that if I was careful I could slow down using the gears and pull the handbrake if I had to, once slowed enough. Then the heavens opened, and the road turned into a river. There was I, in my decrepit Fiat Uno, driving down the M1 with no brakes in a cloudburst. Young men are stupid and I was no exception, and looking back I’m surprised by how unconcerned I was by all this. I slotted in behind a lorry doing 55 mph, kept a respectful distance, and followed it most of the way to London. Quite how I survived that trip I’m not sure, but I did and I got a new set of the cheapest set of brakes I could find the next day. The old ones were completely shot through.

I learned a lot about the costs of running and maintaining a car with that Uno. At the end of my industrial placement I sold it, for £300, to my mate who drove it all over the place for a year, loaded down with Royal Marines and military bergens. He burned through the brakes in short order, and complained bitterly to me for installing cheap ones. He eventually sold it to some sucker for £400. By then, I was driving around in a 1973 lightweight Land Rover, which deserves a post all of its own. Nowadays I ride around in something fast and German, but I appreciate it all the more having once being utterly reliant on a £300 banger with no brakes and a window that kept falling out.

What was your first car?


45 thoughts on “First Cars

  1. White Fiat Supermirafiori with sunroof, purchased for £75, being a sports car and my first as a young man the insurance was about three times the price.

    On not giving motors to the young uns, I was of that view as well. Except my oldest son left school early and between the pair of us we negotiated that if he done x, y and z to get his life in order I would gift him my 2003 Obsidian Black, Merc Kompressor Sports Pack, leather bucket seats, low set, wide tyre alloys, lovely mahogany finish. It was one of those rare models that it was an outright keeper, I loved that car and thought it would be good for my lad to drive it and a deal was a deal. Within less than two weeks of him driving he wrote it off, no one hurt and no other damage, thankfully, he wrecked the suspensions when he hit a traffic island at speed avoiding another car according to him. You just can’t economically replace that kind of gear in Aussie and the insurers wrote it off.

  2. The window of my first car also fell through to the bottom of the driver’s door. The same perplexed winding of the lever with no result, though fortunately I wasn’t in a car wash at the time.

    I also remember getting sand in the carburettor from some crap petrol, the car was constantly stalling, even on the motorway. I perfected the art of restarting the engine whilst overtaking lorries at 80mph. The cost of fixing the carburettor was about five times the value of the car, so binned it.

    As you said, young men are stupid.

  3. Dad, can I have a motorbike?

    I don’t know, son, can you afford one?

    I did in the end. Then I sold it. Then I bought another. Finally, taking pity on a shivering girlfriend, I bought an ancient Morris Minor. Eventually we did a long motorway drive down to the South West and spent time hammering around Dartmoor. We then drove back and it pretty much expired on arrival. All I had ever had to do to it was change the oil and replace the dynamo. (N.B. not alternator. On the other hand, not magneto either.) Then I downgraded to a Vauxhall Insipid. After a few months the aforesaid gf had to sit in the back and use her knees to keep the front seat upright. Once we realised that if we lifted one of the mats we could see the road beneath I decided to trade it in. So annoying, I’d only just changed the plugs.

    The new car was … wait for it … a Series Three Landrover. Well we were hillwalkers at the time. And I’d learnt to drive on tractors so I did find a high driving position Natural and Good. Moreover the gf fell in love with it on the test drive. She’d learnt to drive on a low-slung sports car so maybe the high position was a blessed relief. And the metal roof. Anyway she needed room for her lovely, long legs. Oh yes.

    It had an interesting security feature: to keep the passenger door “locked” I had to use a little wooden wedge that I shoved into the gap above the door handle. It would have broken after one good yank, and would probably have fallen out of position after a good rattle, but nobody ever broke in. Making that wedge must have been my most fruitful single act of woodwork.

    Fifteen years later I took it in for an MOT.

    This car is unsafe on the road, sir.

    Can I at least drive it home?

    How far away do you live, sir?

    I wrote an advert “Suit welder”. And, lo, a welder and his Dad appeared from out the Fens, bought it, and drove it away. Awfully brave of them.

  4. I had a car where the throttle cable broke on the way to work one day, and I drove it around for a bit with a piece of wire through the bulkhead tied to a screwdriver which I held in my right hand – once I got the length of wire set right I could hold the steering wheel with my thumb and accelerate with my fingers.

    That and the lack of sync on 1st gear (from mfg, not a breakdown) made it somewhat tedious to drive in traffic.

  5. A green Austin metro, for a year when I was about 19. I then didn’t have a car until I was a PhD student, and only got it because I was living in Syria, sorry, Moss Side. At exactly the time you were commuting to Weaste. I was as well, but by bike. Through Syria.

    My last car was an ALFA GT, a superb driver’s car (dare I say it’s a man’s car), faster than anything on the Autobahn but Porsches and VWs (for some reason, perhaps something to do with penis size, VW drivers feel the need to always travel at top speed). It woud seemingly turn at full lock, at speed. On a wet gravelly road. With adverse camber.

    In real ALFA red. Bought 2007, drove it through most of western and a lot of eastern Europe. Over the Gotthard, through the Tatras, around Bosnian mountains without crash barriers. Even on the M6. It was destroyed in 2013 by some dickhead in an anonymous Toyota who ran a red light at twice the speed limit and nearly killed me in the process. I haven’t bothered owning a car since.

  6. Is there a club for people who failed their driving test three times? Mine were in Slough (yes, friendly bombs, feel free to do your worst) with the same examiner (#literallyhitler). I then defected to Henley-on-Thames and passed 4th time.

    My first car (complete with L-plates) was a dark blue mini van costing £25 with rust holes behind the wind mirrors so that a tight lock on a wet road meant using the windscreen wipers. It roared like a jumbo jet taking off. So cool!

  7. I am in complete agreement with Techiedude.

    I rode bikes for a long time before I got my first car, motorbikes that is. Finally got my first car when I lived in Italy, an old Alfa Romeo 145. Sporty little thing it was, great on mountain roads. Of course it had a mind of its own in a mechanical sense, but I put a lot of miles on that car. When we finally moved back to Australia I gifted it to the good wife’s kid brother. My father in law took it down to the garage and discovered that a few more miles and it would have fallen apart like the car at the end of the Blues Brothers.

    Now I too drive one of those fast German things, and I appreciate every moment of it.

  8. 1986 Vauxhall Nova, which, despite having been kept in a garage, beautifully cared for and so on, had rotten sills. Had a little shunt (own fault – no ABS and sleet on the road) and it failed its subsequent MOT.

    Replaced with a £400 1991 VW Polo with a duff battery but otherwise OK-enough.

    I then moved to Holland and got a 50cc scooter instead for a while, before buying a 1999 Opel Astra automatic which did me until 2010.

  9. 1997 Mazda B3000 pickup, grey in colour, regular cab with a manual. Great little truck, extremely simple and very easy to work on. Being rear wheel drive it wasn’t the best during our Canadian winters.

    It met its end at 110km/h when a deer jumped onto the roadway, ex-fiancee at the wheel, me having a snooze in the passenger seat.

  10. Passed my test at 17 but got my first car at 20 while at university – a Fiat Punto, which was 10 or so years old I guess. Was by all indications in good nick when I got it it, but boy, did that thing empty my pockets. Cost about £1k to begin with and about £600 to insure. Was a fun car to drive – there’s something amusing about not-too-underpowered small hatchbacks. Had its endearing quirks – rainwater would leak in where the aerial was and collect in the cabin light, and then drip out of that onto you when going round roundabouts.

    2 months after I got it the catalytic converter packed in, blowing a hole in some part of the exhaust, so had to spend about £500 replacing most of the exhaust system. A couple of months later I drove to a footie game 70 miles away, and halfway there (as it turned out) a seal on the gearbox failed and leaked oil all over the clutch, which made for an interesting ~110 miles of motorway driving with a ruined clutch. That cost another £400something. Over the next few months various smaller (and less expensive) components failed and needed replacing. Someone also smashed off the wing mirror which cost me another £130. Close to one year after buying it it failed its MOT for all manner of reasons – chief among which were some strange results on the emissions, and part of the rear axle had apparently snapped (completely unknown to me!) rendering the thing rather dangerous. By that time it had bled me dry, so I scrapped it.

    Nowadays I appreciate predictable reliablity, so German it is…

  11. My first car was a 1964 Chevy shortbed pickup. I paid $200. The transmission was bad, but they threw a working one in the bed. It had baby moon wheels, and chrome side pipes.

    For the next 10 years, I bought beaters. I fixed them, got bored, sold them. I think none of my first 6 cars or so was over $500. At some point I gave up on them altogether, having only a motorcycle. My first new one was a new in the box 1983 virago I bought in 1985. It was $1300. Always had new bikes, and beater cars.

    I drive mostly Toyotas now. I call them my homely girlfriends that can cook. They don’t make your heart go pitter-patter at first, but they are always there, always working. You learn to love them.

  12. !st car was a Renault 4, gifted by my uncle. Brake pipes failed on my 1st drive with a friend so I hit the car in front. Undeterred and car repaired, the clutch pedal broke at 4am on the champs elysees with traffic as busy as if it was 4pm. Managed to get home by sheer driving genius. Finally the chassis broke when driving on the motorway with a couple of friends going south: I thought the car felt funny, stopped on an aire de repos and found that one the rear wheels moved sideways when I pulled or pushed on it. Straight to the wreckers then. My next car was a mini 1100. Now, that was fun.

    That said, I like old cars. Our 2nd car is a 1989 bmw 635csi.

  13. Mine was a 1l lime green Austin Metro which was almost as old as I was at the time (20). It was a hand-me-down from my nan when she finally bought herself a her car and my parents picked up the insurance (3rd party fire and theft) for the first year. Quite quick down hill with a following wind, it struggled to get up any hill beyond a gentle slope. It was eventually sold for scrap for the princely sum of £35.

  14. 1963 minivan £75, bought in 1969. I had spent summer job money learning to drive about 18 months earlier & not driven since (parents have never driven). So commuting to UMIST from Rochdale in the rush hour I was scared shitless for about 3 weeks & then got used to it. Useful for trips up to a moorland pub beyond Heptonstall with a couple of mates & then the back route round the centre of Bacup to avoid the cop land rover in the centre, stopping sometimes for mates to decamp quickly & throw up! Subsequently I had BLMC cars up to & including a SD1 Rover 3500. In hindsight I must have been mad buying that shit but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then a couple of hot hatches from new (XR3, Astra GTE) when I was getting affluent. Several company cars later of no great note I then had a Saab 9.3 and now an Audi A4 quattro. Nice car to drive but Audi can GTFO with several niggles.

  15. @monoi – I went on to own two successive 4Ls, a white one and then a red one. I loved them with their gear lever you could rest your wrist on and the sliding windows for your elbow on the sill. I never perfected the art of getting the mégot of a Gitane Maïs Filtre to stick to my lower lip but it was still great.

    From Brazzaville via Bangui, N’Djaména and Niamey across to Nouakchott I’ll bet there are loads of them limping along bravely while countless younger cars are useless hulks.

  16. A brand new Fiat Uno 45 – I rode motorbikes (and still do) until I went to University as a mature student. I used my grant to buy a brand new car on the basis that I would not have the time or resources to look after an older one and the Missus wouldn’t freeze her fundamentals off. It was written off at 650 miles (no fault of my own) and I replaced it with an identical model but an ex-demonstrator. Since then I have always bought second hand, letting the first owner take the depreciation hit and based on price and time owned, rarely broke the 500 quid a year cost of ownership.

    Now I drive a 2000 model year 1500 cc Subaru Impreza Estate. It’s a nice car and considered to be the VW of Japan. It’ll do me until it either gets written off or becomes a scrapper. .

  17. Passed my test on the third attempt (aged 17) and bought my first car a year later. It was a red 1984 Citroen Visa (the small hatchback that preceeded the AX) and I bought it off a coworker at the garden centre.

    It was a good little runner but it as was the base model it had the 650cc, air cooled twin cylinder engine from the 2CV. Despite this it could still touch 80 mph (downhill with the wind behind it). Sadly I killed it in my first year at Uni (clipped the kerb at around 35 which bent the axle and drive shaft).

    This was replaced with a knackered old metro that a friend of my Mum’s gave me (he owned a garage), which lasted until the end of my first year then died 1 mile from campus as I was moving out of halls and back home for the summer!

    After that I bought a newer Metro for £1000 (J reg IIRC) that lasted until 2004 (fuel tank split open driving through the car park at Glastonbury) and was replaced by a Silver 1999 Rover 214 (both Metro’s had also been red).

    The Rover lasted about 7 years. I sold it as by that point I was working in London and rarely used it anymore, and it also had a leak somewhere in the cabin that led to mould growing on the seats! I remained carless until I started teaching and bought a black Honda Civic, and sold when I went to work in Beijing. When last back in the UK I ran a Red Fiat Punto for 8 or 9 months. Currently carless again.

  18. @Tim

    “Within less than two weeks of him driving he wrote it off…”


    Yes that it was, not his proudest achievement or something that you tell the relatives or anyone else about either. I was just relieved that he and it wasn’t wrapped around a tree or a pole. He got a pretty neat Nissan X Trail with the insurance payout and so far so good with that one.

  19. 1997 Suzuki Swift, but I bought it in 2000 and paid $8000CAD for it. Drove it for 13 years, finally sold it for $400 when it needed a $500 brake job. Should have paid the money and kept it, the next couple of beaters weren’t worth it.

    Before the introduction of the Smart ForTwo, the Swift was the smallest and cheapest North American production car. The speedometer stopped at 140km/h (this got me out of a speeding ticket once when the copper asked “do you know how fast you were going” and I was able to honestly answer “no”), the tyres were smaller than frisbees and the engine lost half its horsepower if you dared to turn the air conditioning on. Loved that thing.

    These days I drive a boring Asian mid-size family sedan.

  20. Passed test at 18 but I was 24 when I actually first shelled out for a car of my own in California. Cheapo hyundai rebadged as a Mitsubishi. Cost $2000 or so IIRC and was at the time at least 5 years old. worked surpriaingly well for abut 4 years before having major engine/transmission issues. Mechanic told me it would cost another $2000 to fix and would need more not much later so I donated it and bought a brand new VW beetle about a month after they were launched.

    When I was a student various friends of mine had quality sub £100 cars so I got used to door handles falling off, seeing the road beneath the feet etc. We drove a bunch of them from the UK to Austria for a caving expedition. The one I was in had a persistent oil leak. We filled it up on the ferry. filled it up again when we stopped for petrol in Luxembourg, filled it up again in/near Munich and one more time somewhere in Austria. But it got us and all our gear there which was all that mattered because we had AA Roadstar that guaranteed to tow the car back to the UK. The AA weren’t best pleased because three out of the 5 cars at the end of expo needed to be towed back. I’m actually amazed no one died, especially given that one of the cars had a brake failure going down a pretty steep set of hairpin bends

  21. 1974 Fiat 124 bought for R1200 in 1981. It also suffered run-on after turning off the ignition. I think that’s probably a feature of the Fiat. Great little car but leaked oil like a sieve eventually sold it for scrap and bought a Mazda 323 which I ran for 7 years until it got nicked outside work one day. Probably ended up in a chop shop in Tembisa township.

  22. I found this hilarious. Someone starts talking about first cars and everyone starts up with their own stories, each amusingly showing how crap young people are at looking after things and how poor they were.

    The right wing bias here shows in car stories. No magic money trees appeared in these stories about parents buying cars for them. No stories about how easy it was to run a car on no money. On Mumsnet there was a discussion about whether the parents should sell their 4-5 year old second car and use the money to buy a *new* mini for their 18 year old daughter to have. I was tempted to write “no fucking way, let her save up the ungrateful cow” but a few more polite responses were ahead of me saying how important budgeting was so it should be a loan etc. Only one person had the courage to say no as people only learn by saving up themselves. So there may be an entire generation growing up feeling entitled to stuff as their parents bought them things to avoid the kids feeing any hardship. Frankly that hardship is what drives savings and self reliance and at the end it drives right wing views.

    Nowadays I see college kids in London going to school in baby Mercedes and VWs which are leased for £200-300 per month. I remember spending that on a whole car.

    My first car was a hand-me-down Morris Marina 1.3l on which I learned my mechanical skills. Crappy brakes. Crappy 135/75 tyres but rear wheel drive so rear wheel sliding was possible. Ended up with a rear door of a different colour as I misjudged the distance between car and parked lorry carrying a bulldozer. I was going to work at the time and was late so literally learned a right wing lesson.

    First car I bought with own money was a 1973 mini. Red with white roof and steel wide wheels, and rust and a big exhaust and headers and reworked carb. 175 tyres so fantastic grip and four wheel slides were the result of you went mad enough. Driving skills took a beating one night as I failed to turn on a right angle entry onto a dual carriageway and went straight across the central reservation with a bang. Had presence of mind to straighten wheels when I realised we weren’t going to make it so came off unscathed otherwise it would have been written off after ripping off the front suspension. Had installed a summary guard so another right wing lesson of preparation.

    Also had Austin Marina 2.0HLS. Quite fast in a straight line but horrific understeer.

    Then a 309Gti with a huge black whale tail. Faster still and great handling until the rear subframe rotted away and could only be replaced with something from a shopping trolley. Drove it through France in the winter with no heating with my then GF, now wife. Sold it to someone who didn’t send off their part of the registration doc and drove it uninsured for 6 months until tax and MoT expired then parked it somewhere to accumulate parking tickets rather than scrap it. Another right wing lesson – lock the bastards up who break the law as the pain falls on the little guy (me who had to explain why I shouldn’t pay).

    Got a BMW.

    Now a 2002 M5 which I have had for 14 years now. It’s actually going up in value. It’s still quite fast and I can’t hope to slide it safely as the tears are 275/35 and more than twice the width of the tyres of my first car. Two new tyres cost more than I spent on my mini.

  23. Completely agree with TechieDude.

    My first car was a Lanchester 14, with fluid flywheel and pre-selection box. Easy for a new driver like me, and smooth as silk.
    My uncle, unlike Monoi’s, charged me £15. (This was 1968.) I hitched down to where he lived and found it sitting forlornly in a field, but managed to drive it slowly home. My father, who’d worked on Queen Marys in the Western Desert, found it had only 2½ working cylinders, which he promptly sorted out. The bodywork was in good nick though.
    The heater was a weak, separate electric affair – no hot air vented from the engine. Once drove gf to see Dr Zhivago in the depths of winter and the lack of heat made it feel more like Russia than the Cotswolds.
    Even when running properly it was rather under-powered; on the M5/M6 up to Liverpool U I could just about overtake lorries as they laboured up the steeper inclines, but they’d go bowling past me again on the way back down!
    Ah, memories.

  24. It had an interesting security feature: to keep the passenger door “locked” I had to use a little wooden wedge that I shoved into the gap above the door handle.

    The only way to lock the sliding windows on my old Land Rover was to shove bits of window beading in place. On a similar note, I was once told that the first 20 odd years of JCBs all used the same key.

  25. But it got us and all our gear there which was all that mattered because we had AA Roadstar that guaranteed to tow the car back to the UK. The AA weren’t best pleased because three out of the 5 cars at the end of expo needed to be towed back.

    Genuine LOL!

  26. I love the way that people announce that they finally ended up with an Audi or BMW for the reliability. Don’t people remember that it was the Japanese who ‘invented’ reliability, the Germans, complexity? I mean, for the last three years running the bottom two manufacturers of the JD Power reliability ratings have been – drum roll – BMW and Audi.

  27. Oh, I don’t expect my German car to be reliable. I owned a Mercedes in Dubai and a Toyota in Sakhalin, and the Toyota beat the Merc hands down in terms of reliability and costs. The only advantage the German cars have over Toyota is (slight) performance and aesthetics. As manufacturers have known for years, when it comes to cars and aesthetics, men are absolute suckers. If this wasn’t a factor, I’d have bought a Toyota Camry and never given it another thought.

  28. Toyota do win the reliability and longevity performance stakes hands down, it is no secret to those that seek these qualities that life begins at 300,000 km for a Toyota Hilux.

    And if they lack a certain pizass in the sedan range you can also go up to the Lexus range which undoubtedly provides the most luxury car for your money at the lower high end.

    Also the comment on final choice it is always a bit early to say final but I have my target set on an Aston Martin.

  29. 7 year old Austin Metro 1.0. From a state of total mechanical ignorance, I quickly learned how to tune the engine, change brake fluid, clutch fluid, brake pads, spark plugs, air filter, oil, and a pile of other stuff I will hopefully never have to remember. At least I can say “once I was a mechanic”. My subsequent vehicle was a Subaru sportswagon (one of the greatest misnomers of all time, a 4 cylinder 1.8 ltr engine that forced you to turn off the aircon and radio when you were going uphill). I replaced the tape deck, obsolescent when it rolled off the production line, with a CD player 20 years ago, and I am happy to say that was the last time I have dealt with a car’s internals.

  30. “On a similar note, I was once told that the first 20 odd years of JCBs all used the same key.”

    See also, Ford Fiestas. Though I think there might have been only three different keys.

    First car : Y-reg Talbot Samba. It was my Dad’s, but he was looking to sell it as a company car was on the way. I think he realised that the number of buyers for that make and model was approximately zero, so he sold it to me (though I don’t remember ever paying him). No great tales about it, it was perfectly fine – if under-powered, as the thing seemed to be made of half-inch sheet steel – until during some shocking weather, water got into the electrical system, and having replaced cabling, plugs, distributor, what-have-you, it was never as reliable*. Probably PX-ed it for a Citroen AX11, which was fine, until it went through that phase of developing a series of independent faults over 6-9 months, and realised that if it continued for another 6 months, it would have cost me the same as a brand new one, so got shot.

    Had a Mazda 323F, which was frankly brilliant, and eventually ended up with a 1996 Landcruiser, which appears to be indestructible.

    * For certain values of reliable.

  31. My first car was a diesel Toyota Hilux.
    Cost me a perfect 2 years wages.
    Drove it for 14 years.
    Only parts I had to replace were tyres, battery, fan belts, filters, and distressingly, a gearbox bearing.

  32. Toyota Hiluxes…the Toyota I refer to a few comments up was a Toyota Surf, the Japanese name for the FourRunner. It was basically a Hilux but with a full cab. It was agricultural, but superb. The only reason I sold it was because I left Sakhalin.

  33. First cars, eh?
    The mention of preselector gearboxes prompted a memory hasn’t been visited for many a year. The very first car was a part share in an Armstrong Siddely. I seem to remember it cost us a hundred quid, so split 3 ways with a couple mates, an investment of £33.6s.8d. It was very large, very black, very square & very pre-war. Amazing what could be picked up in the 60’s before people realised there were such things as antique cars. It was used for going on the prowl. With the bench-type front seat (& I think it had a couple of seats folded down out of the back of the front seat, facing the rear) it had ample room for it. There was a night we went to Southend in it 6 strong & returned with a scrubber each & a couple of spares, just in case. Southend was like that, in the late 60’s. You could get most anything round the Kursaal, including some things you’d be needing antibiotics for later. So we all had a girl each, sitting on our laps – including the driver. Very…er…romantic, like. Or put it this way, don’t think any of them were still wearing knickers when we got to Ilford.
    Of course I’m a totally different person now. I run one of those big American people carriers with black glass the bad guys always have in TV action movies. And the chicas all speak Spanish..

  34. Of course I’m a totally different person now. I run one of those big American people carriers with black glass the bad guys always have in TV action movies. And the chicas all speak Spanish.


  35. Armstrong Siddeley – brings back a memory. The guy living next door to us when I was a teenager was a bit of an Arthur Daley character but rather more up-market, and he had 2 Armstrong Siddeley Sapphires. One was the pre-selector version & the other an automatic. Anyway the guy had a massive heart attack one night & died. His wife found a buyer fairly quickly for the preselector one but the other sat outside our houses for over a year, on a moorland track. Eventually I asked her if I could try to get it going, and eventually managed it, even though the battery had lost one of its cells. I used to drive it up & down the track. She offered it to my dad for £50 but he wouldn’t buy it for me! She then sold it to someone else & I helped him to make it roadworthy before he drove it off. Lost opportunity there.

  36. Renault 4- I loved them with their gear lever you could rest your wrist on and the sliding windows for your elbow on the sill. .

    I owned one. The previous owner was a large and heavy man, apparently- the seat springs were knackered so my arse was barely above the floor.

    The handbrake was also at dashboard height. If released carelessly, it snagged the accelerator cable, pulling it loose, so that I had to turn off the ignition and go under the bonnet. (The unsnagging of the accelerator cable set the engine was at full revs – I used to get looks of pity as if I was deliberately revving a Renault 4 at traffic lights!)

    I am not mechanically minded. However, I had Meccano as a young lad, so I could figure out the Renault 4’s engine quite easily.

  37. Passed my test in Newcastle at first attempt at 17, but I didn’t buy a car until I was 32, because I was saving to buy a house, and I could borrow and hire cars. Then I bought (1985) a Volvo 360.

  38. If this wasn’t a factor, I’d have bought a Toyota Camry and never given it another thought.

    2008 Hyundai Sonata. A couple of times a year I take the money I save by not owning a luxury performance vehicle, go down to the speedway and drift a $100,000+ supercar around a track for an afternoon.

    This spring I’m either going to trade it in for an off-lease Miata or mothball it for use as a winter beater.

  39. My first car was a Triumph Spitfire Mk. IV. I dropped a Buick 215 engine in it with a manual transmission. I paid a total of $500 for everything. I’ve always been a car guy since I was a boy. That car was dangerous as hell. I also replaced the Lucas (The Prince of Darkness) electrical systems.

    I like some British vehicles. I have an older Range Rover that I beefed up just for 4 wheel excursions. It gets about 9 miles per gallon. Right now I’m looking at a pair of 1958 Jaguar Mark IX’s that are for sale cheap to make a touring car.

  40. As a consequence of not bothering to learn to drive until I was 30 (and only then because my current job paid for lessons), it was a 3.6 Jaguar Sovereign in BRG. Beautiful car, both to look at and to drive.

    A friend of the family who was a professional chauffeur sourced it from him many contacts, and when we went to look at it, it was immaculate. Quite low mileage, too.

    Sadly, after a few years, the saloon configuration got too restricting, and I traded it in for a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Still miss it.

  41. First car in 1982 was a taxed & questionably MOTd (from mate’s dad’s garage) £75 Skoda – the old rear engine type. A surprisingly good car.

    Tests? Passed car & bike first time when 17.

    The rear engine & bike thing lingered and now a 964C4 & a ZZR – both 160mph+ vehicles.


    I love older Jags, the newer green blob designs are not distinctive.

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