The wonderful home made car-top conveyance

Cyril-over-the-road had the idea first.

Its commonplace at this time of year to see fathers stood in driveways of a Sunday morning trying to work out how to bolt a large black plastic lozenge shaped edifice to the roof of their car in order that they can cram it full of useful implements of holiday-ness when they go on their holidays – Halfords sell them by the million, black plastic roof lozenges for putting things in when you’ve filled your car with beachgear and fresh towels.

Cyril-over-the-road had a different approach to the problem.

Not having access to a design team, plastic moulding techniques or a wind tunnel, Cyril-over-the-road set about constructing the largest container that could safely be bolted to a standard car roof rack, and then he threw away the safety aspect and just made it bigger.

He invented a huge plywood box with a removable lid that exactly fitted the dimensions of a roof rack that had previously been bolted to the roof of an Austin Cambridge, which was fortunate for us because we had the same car badged up as a Morris Oxford – quite why the British motor industry thought that they could fool us all by selling the same car with two different names is beyond us all now, but there you are, it meant that Cyril-over-the-road’s rooftop wardrobe would fit our Morris Oxford perfectly.

And so we borrowed it to take on a camping holiday to France.

The night before departure Cyril-over-the-road came over the road to help our dad bolt the plywood wardrobe onto the roof of our Morris Oxford, when I say “wardrobe” I really do mean a wardrobe sized box, and not one of those dainty little Ikea numbers either, think of your Great-Aunt Alice’s monstrosity of a wardrobe that you used to play in for the whole of the summer holidays when you were a kid, the one that took eight good men true and hearty to demolish and remove from the house when she died – that wardrobe, big wasn’t it ?

The rooftop holiday storage box easily doubled the capacity of the already rather large Morris Oxford and when it was safely bolted to the roof of our car our dad thanked Cyril-over-the-road and went inside the house to commence the loading of the rooftop wardrobe.

Just as an aside here – I never saw Cyril-over-the-road use the box himself on his own car, strange that isn’t it ?

Our mother was waiting inside with armfulls of clothes that she’d been washing and ironing for weeks previously, we were going to France for three weeks and according to her she didn’t have enough clothes in her many wardrobes for that length of time and so she’d been and bought more, our, or rather her holiday luggage every year would easily stock a medium sized department store and this particular year she justified herself to take 50% more for the extra week – and the fact that we now had a wardrobe on top of our car.

It took all night to load the wardrobe on top of the car but by dawns early light we finally got around to lowering the lid on the box and clamping it down with Cyril-over-the-road’s ingenious clamping mechanism’s, backed up by two huge leather belts that Cyril-over-the-road also supplied as part of the loan arrangement.

And finally, when we were all seated in the car, covered by extra blankets, extra coats, some more beach towels and the electric iron (yes, we were camping, no there was no power supply at the camp site, yes it would have been the wrong voltage anyway – you just don’t bother explaining these things to a  woman), our mother came running down the driveway with that mornings two pints of milk that she’d forgotten to cancel, it was a scene that was played out by our parents every year, a scene that caused the first argument of the holiday every year, an argument that always started in the driveway of our house before we’d even set off on holiday.

But this year was different, our dad leaped from the car, “Ah the milk” he cried, “Allow me to put it in the car-fridge”

We had a fridge in our car ?

Ned and I gawped at each other in the back of the car, we had a fridge in our Morris Oxford ?

Our dad opened the boot and proudly placed the two pints of milk inside a polystyrene box that he’d brought home from work and in which he’d placed butter and other perishable items, “They’ll keep cool for three weeks, easy” he boasted. They actually roasted in the boot of the car, festering before we’d even got to the ferry terminal in Portsmouth.

And when we did arrive at the ferry port the matelots gazed in awe at our car, shook their heads in despair for there was no way that our much-heightened vehicle would actually fit inside the ferry, and they were right, for they tried, our dad slowly drove the car up the ramp into the bowels of the P&O cross-channel ferry only to be halted by the orange overall clad man who was responsible for cramming as many cars as possible inside th gut of this big boat, “No good mate” he told our dad, “Its too tall with that wardrobe on the roof, you’ll have to go in with all the trucks”, and so we did, to the consternation of all of the vehicle owners behind us we had to reverse back down the ramp and join the end of a long queue of French trucks awaiting loading onto the commercial vehicle deck – our Morris Oxford was now officially tall enough to be an HGV.

And of course Ralph had to follow us too for Ralph followed us everywhere in his Mini, so Ralph’s Mini was officially classified as an HGV too, even though it could easily have fitted inside our rooftop wardrobe, indeed done a three point turn inside it.

It was only on arrival at our Brittany campsite that Cyril-over-the-road’s great design flaw was revealed.

The design plan was that you loaded up your wardrobe on the roof without the need for suitcases and other such paraphernalia, then when on holiday you removed the wardrobe from the roof, stood it up in a corner and it became your real-life actual wardrobe for your holiday, no unpacking on the first day of your holiday for you had brought your own ready packed wardrobe with you, how excellent.

Four stout, hearty men stood one at each corner of the rooftop wardrobe on the first day of our three week French holiday, bolts all removed the plan was that they lift the wardrobe from the roof of our car and place it gently inside our huge hired tent.

“After three,” our dad declared, “One, two, thr… oooh my back”

It was going nowhere for our mother had packed the entire contents of our house into it, the only surprise was that the Morris Oxford had been able to drive the 800 miles to Brittany with an entire house on its roof, a true testament to 1960s engineering that car was.

Four more stout hearty men were drafted in from other tents, some of them foreign, most of them wondering what the hell was going on and after much pushing, straining and heaving they all unanimously declared that the wardrobe on the roof of our car could not be physically lifted from the roof of our car.

“Why you must have packed the whole house in that box” they all declared
“Well yes, we did actually” replied our mother as if it were the most normal thing in the world to want to bring the budgie’s cage, stand and budgie on holiday with you, in a box, on the roof of your car.

There was only one solution – we had to unpack the wardrobe, stack up everything on the floor, then get the eight stout hearty men to lift the now empty wardrobe off the roof of the car into the tent, then repack everything back into the now in-tent wardrobe – and then repeat the whole process at the end of the holiday.

Cyril-over-the-road’s wonderful home made car-top conveyance never made it through the audition stages of Dragons Den.


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