My Dad’s cars (1)

My Dad, Fred’s, first car was a Connaught green Austin A40 Devon, registration number “LXJ 701” (“seven-nought-one”). This car had been acquired in the early 1950s with the help of his in-laws, as a bargain for the newlyweds. It had previously belonged to the owner of a cement factory near Manchester, and for this reason, it proved almost impossible ever to get a good shine on the vehicle, as the painted surface had absorbed such a huge quantity of cement dust through being parked all day long in the office car park at the works. Here is a car of the correct colour, although it has been modified for use as a taxi:

I really wish my Dad had bought an A40 of this revolting bright blue. And I’m an absolute sucker for white wall tyres:

Fred never seemed to use the car an enormous amount, but, like so many people during this era, we often went out for a drive as a family on a nice Sunday afternoon. I remember that on occasion we used to go out on trips towards Repton, but I cannot really recollect anywhere else that we went, although Fred assured me in later years that we had visited destinations as far afield as the church at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Calke, Staunton Harold and Swarkestone Bridge:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The one thing I do recall about these trips, though, was parking the car one day in a sunlit grassy field, and leaving all the doors wide open to let in the fresh air. The car had rich brown all leather upholstery, sewn lengthways in distinctive style:

I must have been a very small boy indeed, when Fred had a crash in this car. We were out somewhere in the lanes around the village of Smisby, perhaps somewhere towards Pistern Hills, and I remember that at a T-junction, we failed to turn, but just drove straight on, ploughing into the bank below the hedge at the far side of the road. The Orange Arrow points at Pistern Hills where this accident may have taken place:

In the days before seat belts, I was projected forward, and the ignition key somehow smashed into my forehead between my eyes. I certainly was not taken to hospital with what in the 1950s was just a minor injury, but instead, I was transported to the nearest country cottage at the side of the road. All that I can recall now is sitting at a wooden table in an almost bare kitchen. A woman came in. She was wearing a white blouse and a voluminous long skirt. She was plump and reached up to the wooden shelf which ran all the way around the room, some six feet off the ground, because she had to stretch to reach the tin she was after. She passed it to me. It was a tin of biscuits and she let me eat a few. I do not remember any more. I still have the scar on my forehead.



Filed under History, Humour, my Dad, Personal

18 responses to “My Dad’s cars (1)

  1. We are all pleased you survived, John

  2. GP

    Glad you’re here, John. I love the style of car, but not that blue.

    • I think it’s a colour paid for by the car owner. I certainly can’t imagine that a staid company such as Austin would ever have sold cars of that colour.
      On average, most cars in Britain, over the years, have been either black, white, silver or red, with relatively few other colours represented. That dark green of my Dad’s car, though, was the colour used by racing cars in Grand Prix before around 1960.

      • GP

        Those colors are basically what you see here too, but that blue has been popping up lately. (I think it’s Nissan)

  3. A beautiful classic model. How fortunate you were that the collision with the ignition key missed your eyes!

    • It certainly was. That was long before the days of safety belts which first came out, I think, by Volvo in the mid-1960s.
      The Volvo engineers invented them, and in the interests of road safety, they gave away the plans, the designs, everything about them, to every other car manufacturer in the world.
      It isn’t very often that a commercial company stands on the side of saving lives rather than making profits, but it can happen.

  4. Joe Mac

    Interesting story, the Devon looks to have been produced from 1947-1952 according to this. Thinking it would be very hard to tell the differences between those years as guessing it was only a slight cosmetic change. Kinda reminds me of those MGB of certain years, they are looked alike to me.

    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      I agree with you about the very slight changes between 1947-1952. Cars back then, though, did not have all the various extras they have nowadays, so differences may have been few and far between.
      Thanks for the link. I’d never seen either the A40 Tourer or the Dorset before. Such nice colours too!

  5. Another great story John.

    My dad had a Ford Anglia. One time on holiday in Norfolk it rained continuously and the brakes became sodden. At a T junction Dad failed to stop and slew across the carriageway. My Mum said “Ivan, why didn’t you stop?” I heard him whisper under his breath “I would have done if I could”.

  6. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. My Dad also had a Ford Anglia which will figure in the second part of this series.
    My Dad was very lucky indeed to have two people offering him advice on how to drive. My Mum sat in the front passenger seat, and was always the first to make constructive comment, and Granny was behind her on the back seat, making sure she had her “six pennorth” in any discussion.
    I always wondered why my Dad, at least once in his life, didn’t pull in to the side of the road, get out of the car and leave them to drive it home themselves.

  7. Chris Waller

    A car was quite a rarity even in the 1950s – post-war austerity and all the rest. I doubt your dad would have met many other cars on the roads. That is a car built by a country which recently had an empire. It was like driving around sitting your front-room sofa. I see it had a column gear-stick. I imagine it did very few miles per gallon – possibly why it was rarely used. It is a reminder of those times when people engaged in a pastime called ‘motoring’.

    • Hello Chris! Yes, it was a different world back then. Hardly anybody commuted to work, and most people, including my Dad, were classified as “Sunday Drivers”.
      The standards of driving may have been pulled down even further by the fact that if you had driven a vehicle during the war, you didn’t have have to pass a driving test. My Dad had driven lorries on air bases, so he was covered by this. The slight problem was that the air bases all had a strict one way system, and my Dad drove his lorries for several years before, finally, in 1946, meeting any oncoming traffic on a public road.

  8. It’s good to hear you survived John. I can’t imagine the NHS giving you a tin of biscuits these days especially as a remedy for a key between the eyes, they must have been magic ones as they clearly worked. We had, what I seem to remember, a standard Pennant; it eventually broke down and then sat out side our backdoor for ages until it was disposed of. We then had a Herald in which we travelled to Skye (from Leicester). That was a journey and a half I can tell you!

  9. Everybody seems to remember the cars of their childhood. There is more to come about my Dad’s cars but it’s interesting how they all mirrored either family life, or events in society as a whole.
    To be honest, my Dad did not seem to like driving too much. Given his experiences in the war, I always felt that, all the time, he expected either the engine to burst into flames, or, worse still, a German night fighter to appear on the road behind him.

  10. Beautiful cars. My eldest maternal uncle loves them. He had a similar one for a long time and we called it frog-car 😊 . I am glad you were not too hurt. Was your father hurt and others ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.