My wife asked me the other day, “How long have you been crazy about cars?” I thought about it for a while and had to admit that I have been a car nut for my entire life. Well, as soon as I got out of the pram, if nothing else.
My first memories of my father were of him driving a Singer 9 Le Mans he had bought immediately after the war. Flat cap, pipe clenched between the teeth, looking like a poor relation of the pre-war Bentley Boys. The Singer had huge headlights with chrome wire stone guards. It was in British Racing Green, complete with twin spare wheels mounted on the rear slab petrol tank. Dad claimed it was one of the actual Le Mans team cars, but I doubt it. Dad was known to exaggerate a tad.
Singer 9 Le Mans
I loved that car, even though I was only five years old. It smelled like a racing car and made noises like a racing car and I was devastated when Dad sold it. However, looking back, it would be hard to imagine a car less practical for a family. It was also very difficult to get petrol of a reasonable octane in the north of Scotland at that time and keeping the twin carburetors in synch was beyond the Corness Senior’s back yard expertise. Looking back again, I am sure that all that was really wrong was worn butterfly spindles, but my father was not able to rise to the technical engineering level needed. And at five years of age, all I did was get in the way, but I did polish those monstrous headlights to perfection!
1933 Morris Minor
The next family car was a Morris Minor. No, not one of the Issigonis 1950’s Minors (Sir Alec Issigonis did design other cars before the Mini’s) but a 1933 Morris Minor, complete with one spare wheel on the tail and a central accelerator pedal. Yes, a trifle un-nerving for those used to having the brake pedal in the middle, but that was the car I started to learn to drive in at age 10. Surreptitiously, I might add. It was also the car I had my first accident in when my father lost it on the icy roads one night and we went through a hedge and I banged my head on the windscreen. Seat belts? They had not been invented in 1933 and still were unthought-of of in 1951. Morris Minor used to suffer with clutch slip after oil would come through the leather rear oil seal on the crankshaft and contaminate the clutch lining. There was an inspection hole on the top of the bell housing and we used to pour petrol through it all over the clutch. It worked for a while, but eventually it needed a new clutch and my father sold it to a wreckers yard in Edinburgh. I wanted to keep the external radiator cap, but Dad would not allow me to do that, saying we had sold the entire car to the wrecking yard. I cried all the way home. Some parts of me never forgave him. Dad has been dead for over 30 years, but it still hurts.
Since then, I have personally owned over 100 cars. Many turned out to be collectors items – but never while I owned them. There’s no justice in this world, but I have to admit, I love my cars.