I thought it might be fun to look back and try to list all the sets of wheels we have used down the years. Briefly we even talked of collecting a set of Corgi/Dinky toys of each of our cars, but that lost momentum rather quickly, so let’s try to do it here. Trying to rediscover the registration numbers had me going back through all our photos. But this resolved itself from the early-1980s when I bought the plate RSD 800 and have transferred it onto every car since.
Part One: 1959-1980
New Yorker bicycle (mine was red)
Jane’s Trent Tourist bike
[AJS] [Norton] [James]
I met Jane at a party with a group of friends and other members of the John Wayne & Irene Toft Ballroom Dancing School (see Meeting Jane). As I describe there, my ‘friends’, seeing how I was getting on so well with Jane, thought it hilarious to let down the tyres of my bike. I had to walk Jane home wheeling that bike with a flat tire. But, perhaps getting the sympathy vote, she agreed to a date the next day. It turned out that we both cycled to school, me travelling 2.8 miles from Horfield to Cotham Grammar, Jane 1.7 miles from Clifton to Colston Girls (today renamed) – and our routes crossed in the middle, so we could see each other every morning and evening thereafter – twee heh?
[AJS] [Norton] [James]
AJS Model 31, 350cc twin
16H Norton Ex-WD
490cc side valve
197cc Villers engine
My biker period started when I was 15. My father was a fireman and he had an interesting watch team. One of these was the body of Darth Vader, Another was called Dave Maslin, and he was heavily into motorcycles, he seemed to have access to an unending supply of Sunbeams, Vincents and other legendary early motorcycles. He would take the engine onto his bench and work on them. Through Dave I joined a local bike group and rode pillion on other members’ remarkable bikes and rigs. It was courtesy of one of them that I made it back to my first date with Jane from my canoe slalom in Bath.
I caught the bug and unwisely bought a ‘basket case’, an AJS 350cc twin. I believe it was a model 31, but I soon learned that it was missing important engine components. Mine never got to look as good as the picture above, but it had cost me just a few pounds, so I put it down to experience.
My next forray was to buy for £10 an ex-WD 16H Norton, 490cc side-valve, girder front forks and no rear suspension. It came with two engines, so I assumed I would not repeat my error. I got it to work, then resprayed it and rather ambitiously drilled components at my metalwork lessons to lighten the whole. I put on a comfy seat, changed the oil tank with a plastic replacement… Using a book, Tuning for Speed, I tried to set it to Manx Norton timing. The guy who later bought it from me was a purist and put it all back to the workshop specification. Of course I bought Norton stickers for my helmet and jacket.
My sixteenth birthday meant I wanted a bike of my own that I could afford to insure and ride. My next bike cost me £12. It was a James two-stroke with a 197cc Villiers engine. It was always breaking down, in particular its rear wheel had a cup and cone arrangement that sheared several times, I can still recall the effort of lifting the back-end as I pushed it home.
[ASIDE: having a father who was a fireman was convenient, because their boots and gauntlets were great for biking, though as they were second-hand generally required the development of some sewing skills.]
[BTW: A third member of my Dad’s watch built caravans while on duty, when I knew him he had completed seven and placed them for rent down at Croyde Bay in North Devon. I saw the business opportunity but it did not catch my imagination – good call as it turns out, but I have spent far too much of my life trying to get past caravans on the road!]
Lambretta Li150 – Reg: 753 EHW
My father had a Lambretta Li150 that he used for going to/from work but he then had several nasty experiences. Stood on traffic lights waiting for green he was rammed up the rear by a careless woman driver. Then, once it was repaired, one morning he hit some black ice and ended up beneath the scooter, a regular back sufferer, he couldn’t lift it off him until someone came along. I talked him into letting me have it.
I failed, then passed my test on it and travelled extensively, including taking Jane down to her parent’s holiday on the Isle of Wight. But I was conflicted, here I was on a ‘Mod’ bike, wearing my ‘Rocker’ Norton helmet and jacket. Made it interesting when we attended bike events at Castle Combe and Thruxton.
The righthand piccy is me, I presume just taking over ownership, with my brother John on the back and my Mum over his shoulder.
Bond Three-Wheeler Reg: WHU 625
Jane sat on the Bond
John sat in the Bond
I was dating Jane and couldn’t wait to be seventeen, and be able to get a car. So still 16, I bought a Bond Three-Wheeler, this had a T-keyed bonnet so that you opened this to kick-start a rather familiar 197cc Villiers engine. I then T-keyed the lid, and baled in through a flap window in time to slam my foot down on Jane’s before it stopped. It had a hard-top, so was a convertible! We went everywhere in it, but after courting up on Durdham Downs it rather ruined Jane’s mood when she needed to bump-start the Bond.
Ford Prefect – sit-up-and-beg (black)
An elderly lady, across the road from us, surprised me with a very kind offer. She had a sister across the city who she liked to visit and proposed that she would buy a car (she couldn’t drive), and that if I drove her across and back once a week, then at any other time I could use her car! She paid the insurance etc, I had only to pay for my own petrol. This was brilliant – the sit-up-and-beg car was none too cool (or ‘fab’ at the time) but the convenience trumped any concerns on that score.
Ford 100 E Prefect (fawn) – Reg: FGL 292
My uncle Tony had a company van and a second saloon car, that he seldom used. I bought the Ford 100E Prefect from him for £35. It was a great car, it was reliable and there was a readily available set of go-faster kit parts like four-branch manifolds, high compression heads… I used it at college, where I had two particular mates one with a similar runabout, his was an Austin A30, but the third’s father had a garage business and he therefore had a Triumph TB sports car – were we jealous – yes!
Mini Van conversion (grey) Reg: 180 ELB
I started work with Sweda Cash Registers (8 Apr 1968) and needed a more business-like vehicle, particularly as the registers were heavy, and I split my trousers several times lifting them out or into awkward places. So the converted Mini Van was purposeful. The little workhorse was the car we used to leave our wedding reception. However when we married I found its one flaw was on moorland in rainy conditions. My first patch, Devon and Cornwall, had three very rainy moors – Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor! It seemed that rain affected the front-located petrol pump – but I soon learned that sticking a plastic bag over it seemed to work.
Singer Chamois (green) – Reg: DAE 950C
Jane’s father had driven a Singer Chamois for some time, and we bought it from him. By now we had Sarah as a baby and were popping up and down to Bristol to parade her before the family. The Chamois has vents beside the back window and when, on the Cullompton by-pass (No M5 back then) our windcreen was smashed, for no apparent reason, we found out why this was a design fault. Normally, if a screen is out, there is a speed above which the car sets up a sort of buffer so that the wind does not whistle through the car. But the Chamois delivered a gale of arctic wind – around our new baby!
Vauxhall FB Victor
(the same colour, but not mine!)
I was by now making some money and wanted a flashier car – big mistake. I bought this Vauxhall FB Victor 1600cc which was in and out of the garage and cost me a fortune in repairs.
[ASIDE: In those days there was a tax arrangement that when you paid for your own car as a ‘traveller’ who had to visit customers, then at the end of each year you could claim tax back on all your costs, including repairs, and these were deducted from your top-rate tax paid – it felt like a lovely end-of-year bonus – but of course you had paid it out, so it was actually a reimbursement. There were later schemes to pay towards your suits (as workwear) and another that rebated tax if you were out of the country for over 28 days. All have disappeared today.]
Morris 1000 Traveller (blue/green)
My District Manager (and Best Man), Ken, at Sweda could see that it was affecting my sales and offered to loan me some cash so that I might get something reliable. I bought a Morris 1000 Traveller and it lived up to its reputation for reliability. Our finances settled down and Jane would later pass her driving test in it, while seven months pregnant with Matt. It was the shortest of tests with no emergency stop, the tester being terrified she might give birth!
Ford Escort (white)
(mine did not have spotlights)
I craved proper sales and marketing training, so joined Xerox in 1971. I received this Ford Escort as my first of many company cars. Jane promptly took over the Morris 1000 Traveller. Inheriting a territory where my predecessor had done a lot of dodgy deals (underwritten) by free reams of paper, despite winning accolades for sales done, my rental base was showing a net loss in revenues, restricting commissions.
Mini Traveller (grey) [Jane]
Having passed her test we got Jane this Mini Traveller. The rh picture shows it at Thornbury with Matt in the foreground.
[1974Escort] [1974Cortina] [1975Granada]
Ford Escort (silver)
Ford Cortina/s -1600 GT and a 2000 XL in a variety of colours
Ford Granada/s – at least two
In 1974 I returned to cash registers with Hugin, joining as Special Applications Manager, but changed roles so many times acorss the three/four years. It was a company-car-conscious organisation and to resolve what I actually drove at this time is therefore complicated – have concluded an Escort, 2 x Cortinas and 2 x Granadas.
The Granada had a similar problem to the old Mini, it would occasionally cut-out and the only way I discovered to get it going again was to pop off the top of the large carburation filter, hold a rag over it while someone else started it, and hey presto! I kept the necessary spanner and rag in the car, one summer in the regular crawl between Taunton and Bridgwater I saw a Granada on the hard shoulder (a stretch of the M5 was now open) up ahead stopped with its bonnet up and the driver looking defeated. I waited until I was past him pulled over, walked back with my stuff, didn’t say much, just popped off the filter lid, held my rag over it, when he tried it, it of course started. Popped the lid back on for him, got back to my car and felt it morally justified to drive up the hard should for three-quarters of a mile, past the bulk of the hold-up.
[Note: do see in the ASIDE (here) an amusing interchange on cars at Hugin.]
VW Transporter (grey)
My family lived in Stockholm for several months as I worked on the ECR projects. I had no car but was given free reign to use the company Volkswagen Transporter that we used to ferry around visitors to the factory.
[ASIDE: I remember being out late one night ferrying a group of British clients around restaurants and clubs in Stockholm, in that VW bus. We pulled up at a T-junction and there was a local guy, swaying and well-pissed, stood at the corner. We all watched him struggle trying to get his overcoat large button into his suit jacket button-hole – he was totally bemused and could not work out just what was the problem.]
Ford Capri (red) [Jane]
In the meantime, Jane had upgraded her car to a red Ford Capri.
Ford Cortina (2000 XL) grey-black Reg: DPP 32T
I briefly joined Senelco, they had a Xerox-like rental approach for their anti-shoplifting system, but became much more interested in their export business than the UK, where I was operational. I moved on quite promptly.
MGB GT (blue) [Jane]
Jane had upgraded during this time to an MGB GT, we had decided that my car was the family saloon so Jane could have something more interesting. That was one heavy car, as I learned when she broke down on a mini-roundabout behind Platform One on a busy Friday night. I had to push it away from the chaos and kept accusing her of having it in gear or her foot on the brake – it was hefty!
Triumph 2000 Mk 2 (white)
Citroen CX2000 (brown) Reg: SKV 886R
Sarah and Matt at Platform 1
with the Citroen sat behind
[I know Matt hates this piccy (0;]
I joined KeyMed and they gave me two company cars across the period. A Triumph 2000 to start, then a Citroen CX2000, The Citroen had a floaty suspension that made one-in-three children puke in the car. The Citroen had another oddity. We ordered a brown one for me, and a blue one for Keith, the Export Manager. Mine arrived two days before his and bore the reg plate SKV 147R, when his arrived it had the same one! It was mine that was wrong, it should have been SKV 886R. We did wonder if anyone would have noticed had we carried on using the same number.
Austin Princess (orange-yellow)
I joined Texas Instruments as Personal Computer Manager and for my company car received an Austin Princess aka ‘Wedgie’, with its distinctive chamfered nose.
Ford Granada (green)
I got head-hunted to help set up a Dixons Group wholesaling operation, ACE, as its Sales Director. We provided major multiples with games consoles, the Acetronic MPU 1000 and Mattel Intellivision. The notion didn’t have legs, and after two years I left amicably, with six months usage of the Granada to help in setting up my own business.
Morris Metro (blue) [Jane]
When we moved to Carlton Jane’s pattern of life changed so that she needed a four-door to ferry the kids about. Initially she went for this Morris Metro – quite a decision MGB GT-to-Metro, but I guess I was between things and she had become the taxi of Mum.
Morris 1800 – can’t recall colour
Ford Capri (bronze)
These two cars are a bit of a mystery, I do know I had both of them. I am assuming these were what I used once I handed back the Granada to Dixons. This was when I developed Agenda Marketing including a spell as consultant Sales Director for Mettoy to launch its Dragon 32 and subsequently developed Electronic Insight, which would become Micronet 800.