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:
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.