Friday, January 13, 2006

Memories are made of these

It’s funny how the names of cars we drove ourselves over the years , or which were in our families, generate their own particular memories.

Like the Triumph Mayflower which my Dad had when I was very young, and whose Rolls-Royce sharp-edged regal styling was its greatest asset. I saw one only the other day and it still looks as good as it did to my toddler eyes.

Then there was the Jeep Station Wagon, a two-toner, in which I recall my first motor accident when a truck ran into the side of it as we were being driven to a summer holiday in Courtown. I bawled my eyes out when I saw the dent in the bodywork.

A prosaically black Austin A30 built up much mileage as Dad ferried young amateur boxers from his local club to bouts in every one of the 26 counties. Its boot-lid flipped open downwards, hung on two cords, and was great for piling bags of spuds, fruit and carrots on when buying in the Dublin Fruit and Vegetable Market for the family shop.

The Vauxhall Wyvern that replaced it was stunning in light grey, and was the first ‘wraparound’ rear windscreen I’d ever seen. Very American and therefore very cool to me in the late 50s.

The blue Ford Consul which came next was a real milestone, in that it was the first car I ever drove myself. The real memory here is a 10-day drive with Dad around Ireland from Cork to Clifden, on which he knew fellow-publicans in every tiny town we passed through. I drove all the way, and it was the only such ‘Dad-and-Son’ trip we ever had, and therefore irreplaceable.

That car was eventually replaced with an Opel Rekord Estate (that's the saloon version above) which, in the heating and plumbing business I was operating, could carry 20 lengths of 3/4” gunbarrel piping on the roof racks, and a boiler and half a dozen radiators inside. It drove much of the time on the suspension bumpstops, but the engine never let me down and the only regular problem was the bearing that held the steering column-mounted gearshift which, when worn, would leave me with the shift lever adrift in my hand and wondering how to get away from the traffic lights?

A pair of Vauxhall Viva Estates followed (again, a HB saloon above), and they were regularly equally heavily loaded with cases of spirits for the family pub, as Irish Distillers in those days gave a generous allowance per case if we collected ourselves. The Viva could hold up to 13 cases of vodka, gin and whiskey of a trip.

I have really fond memories of a Rover 2000TC, and following it, a 2200TC, which were all leather and wood and the last of real style and quality in Rovers until the recent arrival of the 75s. They mark a time of transition in my personal life too, just prior to when I finally jumped ship from the family business.

An American Motors Hornet, already 10 years old (and much rustier than the pristine example above) when I bought it for $800 during a summer spent in Massachusetts with my wife and children, brought us over 4,000 miles on many trips around New England and was eventually sold on for the same money I’d paid. That’s about the cheapest motoring you can get.

An old Fiat 128 which was all I could afford when I started a new career in journalism managed to get me into RTE, 30 miles from home, every morning for a 5am start to getting my It Says in the Papers scripts ready. Even though there were many dark occasions on the Naas dual carriageway when I had to fiddle under the bonnet and reconnect electrical cables which had come adrift.

Around the same time there was a Ford Cortina Mk II with a bench seat which was so shook that the springs had to be propped up by shoving a timber board through it. I finally got rid of it, and some most uncomfortable driving, when its engine gave up outside the Red Cow pub.

It’s odd, though, that in recent years, when I’ve been able to afford more up-to-date cars with all mod cons, they don’t make as much of an impression. Maybe time will make them into memories too.

No comments: