When we was very young, we drove cars…


See that car (above), its a British made 1973 MGB GT with wire wheels, in deep blue, its nice isn’t it ?

I’m not a car person, I don’t covet cars like some people do, I don’t drool all over cars in car parks like some people do, I’ve driven dozens and dozens, possibly hundreds of cars since I passed my driving test in 1975, the very first day after I’d passed my driving test I walked into the office and they threw me the keys to a Ford Transit Van and told me to take it to Manchester to empty a building site at the nearly built Arndale Centre, the only car I’d driven to that date had been a driving school Austin Allegro half the size of a Transit and only capable of 30mph, if you were lucky.

After that I drove everything in the company car pool, from Ford Escort vans that required you to pull a piece of cable to release the clutch (the company idea of “maintenance”) to the most dangerous car ever built in England the Triumph Toledo, a Mk1 Ford Granada that had all the maneuverability of a World War One Tank to the Directors brand new red Audi 100 a car easily capable of 120mph on the A64 Malton bypass, a fact that I discovered by complete accident one day, honest, I didn’t know it was going that fast, I was just clinging hold of the steering wheel staring out the window at the blurry fields whizzing by like a deer staring down a hunters gun barrel.

But back to the MGB GT, John the Electrician had one, in dark blue, with wire wheels and it was a car to covet, and just in explanation as to why a simple lad like me might covet a car like the one that John the Electrician had, here is the car that I owned at the same time …

Vanden Plas

A 1968 Austin 1300 Vanden Plas which despite having a cocktail cabinet and walnut tables in the back and enough switches on the dashboard to confuse a Boeing 707 pilot, did not say “I’m such a cool dude that you are not even worthy of looking at me” in quite the same way that the MGB GT did.

And before you ask, yes, it was an Austin 1100 (same shape) that Basil Fawlty gave a damn good thrashing to in that episode of Fawlty Towers, I too had to give my Austin a damn good thrashing to get it to start on frequent occasions, I also filled almost every square inch of its steel body panels with fibreglass resin and sheets of steel mesh as it rotted to death in front of my very eyes, such was the enjoyment that we teenagers got from our cars.

Not that John the Electrician didn’t have problems with his MGB GT either, it too required weekly attention with the fibreglass and steel mesh for it to was rotting to death in front of his very eyes, when any of us young men in our hopeless old cars would have even a minor accident, say, nudging a traffic bollard at low speed, the road would be covered in piles of rust and splintered fibreglass, indeed the council had a special van dedicated to sweeping the roads clean of splintered fibreglass after such minor shunts in those days before the MOT test declared that all cars should be capable of standing outside their owners homes in the rain for more than six months after purchase from new before rotting to death from rust, things don’t always change for the better, todays kids know nothing of cars, we at least new how to build a car from scratch, albeit a car made from fibreglass and steel mesh.

Anyway, again, back to the MGB GT, hardly anyone ever had a ride in John the Electricians MGB GT mainly because it was a two seater and mainly because his mate Sam was the one who had dedicated his life to being the one in the other seat, so we other mortals could only stand and admire from afar and remember not to lean on it in the parts that were made of fibreglass and steel mesh.

And then one day I had a little prang in my Vanden Plas, pulled out in front of another young kid driving a Mini who discovered then that the brakes that he had just “serviced” that weekend no longer worked in quite the same way that they had done before he had “serviced” them, so he used the back door of my Vanden Plas to stop himself with, all was well, no person injured in the making of the accident, but I required a new back door.

After a Sunday lunchtime session in The Fox it was decided that John the Electrician would take me to a scrap yard on the A64 where he was certain they would have an Austin that had been more badly damaged than my Austin all apart from the offside rear door and by means of morphing the two cars I’d end up with one good one, sounded like a plan after three pints of Tetleys and so off we set.

As I’ve mentioned, it was a two seater and with John the Electrician and Sam his Mate in the front there was nowhere else for me to sit other than be squished onto the back parcel shelf like a discarded nodding dog, it was a tad uncomfortable particularly as John the Electrician drove the MGB like John the racing car driver Surtees but eventually we arrived at the scrap yard and John the Electrician and Sam his Mate spent some considerable time extracting me from the parcel shelf at the back with the aid of some tools and only one broken limb.

And we found an Austin that had every panel bashed up apart from the offside rear door and with the aid of tools we extracted its door and paid the man at the scrap yard a few pounds stipend for the pleasure then went back to the MGB GT and stood and stared at it for a long while as we all thought the same thing – how the hell do you get three people AND a car door inside THAT.

Just to give you a clue, this is the inside of the MGB…

MGB int

Not much room to fit another car door into is there ?

Oh how they laughed at the scrap yard as we tried every combination of body and door while still leaving a smidgen of room for John the Electrician to be able to drive the ensemble, but amazingly we eventually came up with a solution that only involved breaking two more of my limbs so that I could lay completely across the back parcel shelf and the car door would lay on top of me as long as we wound the window down first so I could stick my head through it, I can’t tell you how uncomfortable the ride home was other than to imagine yourself squashed into your bread bin while someone else shakes it about an awful lot, and you’ve got a car door wrapped around your neck too.

After all that, we never fitted the car door to my bent car, for my bent car was too bent for it to fit properly, I had to pay someone a small fortune to unbend it first and then he charged me some more fortune to fit the door for me.

And it was the wrong colour as well.



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