Personal motoring

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At times of change it is usual to look back as well as forward. This has made me reflect on those cars which have served me as personal transport. Motoring writers are regarded as Favoured People, able to drive the latest, most exciting cars. True! But I have a theory that if one’s everyday transport is in that category some of the road-testing fun would be diminished. Drive more bread-and-dripping cars in between and those exotic experiences gain in excitement.

So, instead of dashing about in Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborginis, I was happy to leave the faster stuff to the Continental Correspondent who had long hauls to do, to tight schedules, hence his Porsches and then E-type Jaguars. When I used to pipe up about the reliability of one of my cars after a decent mileage, he would look scornful, saving it was hardly worth recording until some 100,000 miles (or was it twice that?) had been covered.

Looking back, I first relied on a well-used 1934 A7, but was able to borrow a Vauxhall Ten if I put up with the tedious run from Hampshire to Hornchurch, skirting London via the congested, badly signpostsed ring-road. This proved trying, and as soon as new cars became available after the war ended I had a Morgan 4/4. This soon seized its gearbox and even the factory hadn’t a spare one. So an exchange was done with them, for a new Plus 4. A sportscar was appropriate, and in spite of all manner of peccadillos I went on using this open 2-litre two-seater on a love/hate relationship. It survived a black-ice accident, but after Colbourne-Baber had introduced me to the Volkswagen I spent much of the 1950s enthusing over my black beetle, to the extent that some readers thought I was in the pay of the VW company not so, nor, come to think of it, did I get a farthing of commission on a Silver Shadow which someone said he had bought after reading my test impressions… VW looked after its customers superbly in those rear-engined aircooled days, and the only serious troubles I had were a split oil-cooler, a faulty front wheel bearing and a sheared timing gear key.

Then, going British, I had one of the earliest Mini Minors which I drove for more than 50,000 miles. It was fun even with its teething troubles. This was followed by a Morris 1100 which gave more problems than the Mini, such as those broken drive shaft universal joints, and a black moment when it froze up because BMC had refilled it with water instead of anti-freeze but had left a Bluecol label on its screen.

MOTOR SPORT had been privileged to publish the first test of the MG 1100, one of which I used in spite of the disappointments of the Morris 1100. Alec lssigonis was an inspiration and such a pleasure to meet.

Then came a Rover 2000TC, with more poke than its single-carb predecessor, a very nice car which I preferred to the then-current Audi Super 90. But it put one rather in the category of a spinster aunt who insisted on following the mini-skirt cult. The 2000TC ran a temperature on one occasion, forcing me back to a 1953 VW 1200, used mainly by my daughters; we can gloss over my hack Fiat 126 and Reliant Kitten and various vintage vehicles. Not all opposite-lock and ton-up motoring! I elevated myself next to BMW motoring, first with Munich’s small six, the 2500 and after that with a 520i. Wonderful!

I then again became patriotic and had a Rover 3500 V8 Automatic, which I came to regard as the thrifty man’s Silver Shadow with many of the same technicalities, as I told an R-R employee when he asked me curtly to sign for a road-test Shadow, “as it is a very expensive car”! The Rover was OK after a sort-out of an early fuel-pump failure and its departure on a transporter because of mysterious back-axle trouble.

Coming more up-to-date, I had an Alfa Romeo Six for a time, an odd model of this illustrious make with a carburetter for each of its V6 cylinders and an automatic gearbox but an Alfa for all that, with good traction and performance. Then, getting fed up with having to walk up the house-drive, sometimes at night, if it had snowed or was icy, it had to be 4WD.

This resulted in a series of Ford Sierras, first a V6, then 2-litre fours, all incredibly reliable and convenient. If I ever change, perhaps a Ford K, Ka, Kar…? Don’t today’s cars have funny names? The Renault Migraine and Refrain, Citroen Saxo Salt, Mitsubishi Shotgun, Aston-Ford, Lotus Eliza… and all those mergers Proton-Lotus, CitroenPeugeot, Rover-BMW, VW-Seat. I’m confused. But I hope we never resort in these pages to Porker, Roller, Pug, Cassie, Gal, Landie, Jagger and so on… Looking back, it seemed so much more simple then. Anyway, my road test days have ended, because the Industry has been persuaded that after the age of 65 or 70 motoring writers are too senile to be trusted with their products. WB