In around 1980 my lovely little Mini had reached its end. I was teaching full-time in Snodland and needed a car to get to and from school and to ferry ‘Veronica’ and her friends around, so my father, who lived in California but kept a small current account in a British bank, gave me enough to buy a rather decent, not too old, used car. I went to the petrol station/used car dealer down the road from Market Cross Cottage where they had several cars I could afford and, after trying out a couple, I decided on quite a nice Datsun which was several steps up from the mini. Strangely, though I remember it was white and an automatic, I remember almost nothing else about it!
I do remember driving to school one day. In the back seat were sitting two boys, Wayne and Jason, brothers who had moved with their mother from Snodland to West Malling. As she had no way of getting the boys to school and getting to work on time, I had offered to take them. We were sitting at the junction with the A20 where I was going to turn left. Behind me was a van. I pulled out slightly to see if anything was coming from my right and the next thing I knew we were pushed out into the road by a loud bump from behind. (Luckily, nothing was coming!) I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the van much nearer than it should have been! All I could say, when I saw the driver on foot, approaching me was, “Why did you do that?”
He had seen my brake light go off and assumed I would go and, being a man, put his foot on his accelerator and followed. He was most apologetic but that didn’t really help my poor car which the insurance people said should be written off as it would cost more to repair it than the car was worth. Needless to say, I was not happy about that state of affairs. I couldn’t afford to have the boot lid or the rear light replaced so I covered everything that could possibly damage anyone who touched it with some strong tape and covered the light with red cellophane so that my brake light would show. [I’m not certain that one could get away with that these days!] I believe I used that car for more than a couple of months in that state before I finally scrapped it.
By that time Julian and I had got together and were “an item”. We had already decided to move in together and, as Julian worked in London and had to commute by train, I used his car from then on. It, too, was a Datsun – a turquoise Sunny. After that and for a fair few years we drove Datsuns. We found them reliable and economical, although one of our Datsuns, a brown Sunny estate, proved to be anything but reliable!
All went well for the first couple of months but I began to notice a strange substance on the driveway. It was like a thick brownish foam which appeared in various places in little clumps. We found out what it was the day we were driving to Oxford along the new M25 when the car began to overheat. We pulled over to the hard shoulder, next to a gate which was always closed – but stood wide open that day. We were able to sneak off the motorway via that gate and we found ourselves near the village of Seal which isn’t many miles from East Malling, where we lived by then. We went to a garage and filled the radiator with water and decided not to go to Oxford that day but to see why the radiator had suddenly overheated like that.
It turned out that there was a design fault in the cylinder head and, after having all sorts of costly work done on the car, we traded it in for another Datsun estate, of a different year.
I loved that car! It had the best ‘turning circle’ – even smaller cars I’ve driven since couldn’t compare – and, the windscreen wipers could be slowed down or sped up , unlike today’s wipers which have slow, fast, faster or off.
When Julian started a new job it came with a company car so we had to get rid of the Datsun estate and I bought a second-hand Nissan Micra – the square, older version. It wasn’t my first choice and it didn’t have any of the little luxuries I had had in the past but it got me from A to B which is all I needed it for.
A few years later we decided to open a shop where I would sell antiques and collectables and Julian would restore old and antique furniture and re-upholster people’s sofas and chairs. He also bought antique furniture which needed restoration and sold them on once they had been restored. Julian and I were joined by Pete, another ex-teacher, who quickly became a great asset to the business. He was great at the restoration side and was willing to learn the traditional upholstery that Julian did.
Obviously, Julian couldn’t pick up huge settees in a car and we couldn’t really afford to have three vehicles so I sold my Nissan and we bought a van for the business and a car we could both drive. Julian had always liked the looks of the Ford Sierra so we bought a dark blue basic Sierra and he bought a light blue van for picking up and delivering furniture (and we also used it to go to antiques fairs up and down the country including the NEC.)
Then, I spotted the car! The one I wanted above all cars! The Chrysler PT Cruiser!
I began to look for PT Cruisers as I was driving to auctions or when we were going out for the day. Often I would spot one and sometimes 2 in a day! I looked at the red ones, the silver ones, the gold ones (NO, JUST NO!) and then I saw a black one. It reminded me of earlier cars I had seen in the movies as a child and I wanted one. I began to tell everyone that I was going to buy PT Cruiser when I had enough money. Then, I found that my sister, Jennie, actually owned a raspberry red one! JEALOUSY! Well, I wasn’t really jealous as I wanted a black one but it was close to jealousy.
When Veronica had a party to celebrate her second marriage, we toasted the happy couple in champagne. Now, I can get drunk just smelling alcohol so when Jennie offered to let me drive her car, I knew I couldn’t but I went and sat in the driver’s seat just for a few moments. That was the nearest I’ve ever been to driving my heart’s desire, I’m afraid. When I had enough to buy a second-hand car I just couldn’t bring myself to spend so much more on a Cruiser than I would on a Ford Focus, which is what I bought and, thirteen years later, am still driving. I still want a Cruiser and maybe I’ll get one when the Focus finally splutters to a stop – that is, if I haven’t spluttered to a stop first! It has been the most reliable of cars for most of that time. I bought it under warranty and within a few months the engine had to be completely replaced!
It had essentially the same problem as the brown Datsun estate. We found out about this problem not long before we moved to Broadstairs and it went to the garage to have its engine replaced only days before the moving day. Now, it sits in the driveway most days as I hardly use it. In the past couple of years I have driven fewer than 1000 miles per annum, going weekly to the shops and back and occasionally driving to a class or to visit a friend. I’m not really a keen driver any longer (I think I enjoyed it once upon a time)
We are probably at the end of my Car History but if not, I’ll let you know in another blog post.😄
Photo of PT Cruiser by Navigator84 (from wikimedia commons)
Photo of Micra by Kieran White (from wikimedia commons.
Photo of Focus by me!