CARS:

            Although I have owned hundreds of cars, I have never been a dealer, though many people thought I was. Also, my hobbies do not include photography so there are not many original photographs of my vehicles. However, some that may be of interest are depicted below, even if the images have been collected from various sources. The only new cars I ever had were provided by my employer; all others were used bargains either purchased or exchanged, usually to my advantage.

            I do not claim to have any particular knowledge of cars, other than that which I have acquired as an enthusiast over the years through experience, interest, listening, reading, repairing, memory, etc. Please forgive me for any errors of dates, models, engine sizes or whatever but I have tried my best to be as accurate as possible. Because this is a hobbies page, I have included a few cars that I have not had any experience with but found to have interest value, at least to me.

            My interest in cars began when I was a junior.  With no recall of whence it came, I had acquired a Dinky Toy car.  It was a circa 1933/9 Chrysler; big, green, streamlined (for the year) and very beautiful with a huge vulgar chrome radiator grill extending across almost to its wings (fenders).  I had not seen anything like it in England where all cars looked like rectangular boxes on wheels.  Whatever came of it I know not but it stuck in my memory and my vision of it is still perfectly clear today.  Here is a somewhat similar example.

Another American car that impressed me when I was still a schoolboy of about ten or eleven years of age was a brand new Packard Clipper parked in the Finchley Road, London, outside the now long gone Lindens store (it probably belonged to the owner or VIP visitor) and oh so (jelly-mould) streamlined.  Once again an American car had made a lasting impression on me.  Never have I seen another Clipper. Note the Trade Mark "shoulders" on the radiator grill. Studebaker shared the stable.
            At about the same time, or a little before, I saw the only Cord I have ever seen, parked in Golders Green, near the famous old oak tree opposite the Express Dairy depot.  It was perhaps a decade older than the Packard and had a long powerful looking bonnet.  It was not the barely-existent streamlining that made an impression on me but the sheer brutish power that it exuded.  It looked so macho and all conquering that even now I can picture it as well as the two mentioned above. Sorry this is only a photo of a model but I do not have any other picture.
I regret to say that my first car (after a long succession of motorcycles) was a c 1930s Hillman Minx that I bought from my new father-in law. A rectangular box on wheels. It lasted four days before the engine blew up.  No oil. Lesson one, or perhaps two! The picture is of a similar car.
           Drawing on my already formed ideas of what a car should be, I bought an ex American military staff car.  An old three-litre Ford V8.  What fun. I used to start it up, put it in top gear and then walk alongside it.  It was so smooth and quiet that it was impossible to hear it running, even with ones ear pressed against the radiator grill, truly.  Side valve you see. I even took my driving test in it and passed after smearing the examiner over the windscreen on the emergency stop.  I don’t think he had ever experienced power brakes before. Amusing was that, being in the RAF, often when I drove through the camp main gate I received the slope arms.  What a hoot. That car was eventually replaced by a 1949 Ford Mercury, similar to the one depicted below.
Al Capone would probably have liked it too but he was incarcerated and dying of syphilis by then, if not dead already.  He should have paid his taxes. So should the previous owner of this Mercury; it was a Customs and Excise confiscation from a USAF air base. The propshaft had been removed by Customs but I soon had another made up for me.

            Since then I have owned several hundred cars, a few smaller ones like the Granada 3 & 2.8 litre versions, Rover V8s, big Wolsley 6s, some English, some continental (BMW 3.0 SI, 730, Volvo 164, 264 GLE, 760 GLE) and a great many American.  I have neither owned, nor driven, a Bentley or Royce despite several opportunities to so do.  Most just did not appeal to me.  They seemed to be out dated, part American hybrid, cornered like a waterlogged barge, not fun to drive nor very attractive, except the Continentals. Sure, they impress bank managers but so what?  Our Cadillac Eldorado did that, if and when necessary, and it was fabulous fun to drive. I would have loved a BMW 850 V12 Sport.

In 1972 my employer provided me with the new 2 litre Vauxhall VX 490 shown here. For its time it was quite a performer and turned several heads.

 

Our Vauxhall VX490 2 litre ohc Our BMW 3.0 SI 3 litre Driving our Rover Sterling V6 2.8

            In 1963 my employer provided me with a new white 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr Six. Most people, having seen "Z-Cars" on television, got out of my way upon seeing me coming. Crossing London was a doddle!

            Vauxhall's reply was to introduce the 3.3 litre Vauxhall Cresta. I had one similar to the 1966 job shown here and later I acquired it's successor, the flatter looking version.

            Not too unlike the Volvo 264 (not shown) was our Peugeot 604 similar to that shown below.

Zepher Six c1963 like mine Vauxhall Cresta c1966 like mine Peugeot 604 like mine

            Our 2.8 litre Volvo 760 GLE (similar to that depicted) had quite a creditable performance and was sometimes known as the flying brick. It sported the registration plate ROD 7 05N but I got cheated out of that. It does not seem to pay, being too trusting. Actually, I'm quite a mug trusting the wrong people. In the past we also had a Volvo 164 similar to the one below and now quite rare.

Volvo 760 GLE 2.8 litre like ours Volvo 164 3 litre like ours

            Among my favourites were the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado 7+ litres, front wheel drive. The film stars Sammy Davis Junior and Diana Dors both owned one. Seven plus litres driving the front wheels and every conceivable accessory as standard. An American colleague told me it had dragstrip performance when it came off the production line. Perhaps. I used to tow a heavy twenty-two foot caravan with it, sliding the whole lot sideways around wet roundabouts and powering out. The engine did not even seem to notice. No wonder it cost Sammy Davis his eye (he crashed his).

            Another favourite was my seven-and three-quarter litre Oldsmobile Rocket 98 convertible (similar to that depicted below left).  It used more rear tyres than gallons of fuel and would pass anything except a petrol station.

            The first front wheel drive American car for decades was the Oldsmobile 7 litre V8 Toronado (below right) with a chain drive Hydra-matic transmission and 385 bhp. That would be around the mid sixties. I have not owned one but have owned the Cadillac Eldorado that followed later (picture above), both being General Motors products. (Incidentally, the Jensen FF four wheel drive has a similar system driving the front wheels).


            I owned several other American cars but also quite a range of Jaguars including an SS, Mk V11, Mk V11M, Mk V111, XK120, XK150, Mk X, 420, 420G, several XJ6’s, a 5.3 litre Daimler Double Six and a Daimler Double Six Vanden Plas. Possibly the all-round best was a 3.8MkII, which in my opinion was the definitive Jaguar Saloon and in which I passed every E-Type that ever challenged me and also every Aston Martin too.  I kept up with a Ferrari for about forty miles but could not get past it; he was too fast on the straight, though he did acknowledge me with a smile and approving gesture when we separated… no not a rude one but one indicating speed and enjoyment. He probably had not been pushed that hard very often. That was why I never owned an E-Type; I felt that the 3.8 Mk11 was almost as fast and a lot more practical.

To the left is an SS Jaguar similar to the one I ran around Stevenage in for a while, and for which I paid £12.
My XK 120 and Mk V11 Jaguar

Our Mk VIII 3.8 Jaguar
Our 3.8 Mk X Jaguar. Ex Richard Lindley, the broadcaster and journalist. The later model was 4.2 litre.
In this 3.6 we toured Morocco; 3,500 miles in four weeks, I drove it almost to the Sahara desert and back through Spain and France from Northants.
A later version than my Daimler Double Six Vanden Plas 5.3 litre

            The only other car that I could not pass after a thirty-mile burn-up was a Shelby Mustang GT 350 but we had some really hair-raising moments through the MI traffic, which seemed to be traveling backwards at sixty mph, and then in the country roads.  The next time I saw him, about half an hour later, he was competing in a drag race at Santa Pod so I didn’t feel that I had done too badly, especially as we were five up!  Admittedly the prop shaft fell on the road when we returned to Edgware, just as I reversed to park up.  If it had come off at the the 130 mph we were doing you would have read this in the press.   Vibration was somewhat excessive! The 3.8 Mk 11 was raced successfully for years by Jaguar and others.

A 3.8 Mk 11 Jaguar like ours. One of the best and fastest saloon cars and the most notorious getaway car. The engine could be tuned and balanced, the 4.2 could not.
A Shelby Mustang GT 350, similar to the one mentioned above that I kept up with at 130 mph but could not get past.

            Another really fast one was a one-off Jaguar XK120.  It was a certified, (and signed by the Jaguar Chief Engineer), replica of one of the cars that Jaguar took to Jabbeke to stretch it's legs.  The car exceeded 147 mph average over both directions of a measured mile.  I took two larger rear wheels off my MkV11 and put them on the XK120. Allowing for wheel slip but the larger diameter of the wheels and centrifugally expanded oversize tyres, I reckon to have clocked up 160 mph down hill on the M1, the fastest that I have ever driven (a later version of the XK 120 with a bubble-top cockpit exceeded a shattering 170 mph at Jabbeke).  The chassis was twisting so badly that I could see the bonnet swaying one way whilst the cab was swaying the opposite way.  The two wing mirrors twisted through ninety degrees, parallel to the car and the plastic side-screen tore free of the car, before I could save it, and ended up somewhere on the M1.  It really was scary but irresistible.  Without knowing what a rare and valuable car I had, I swapped it, with a dealer, for an XK150 and actually gave him a considerable sum of money.  He sure saw me coming.  The XK 150 was a great disappointment, not being a patch on my XK 120.   If that XK 120 is still around, probably in some collectors stable, it will be priceless. I believe the XK 150 came from Duncan Hamilton, Stirling Moss's co-driver.


My Mk VII M (manual gear shift) and unique XK120 Jabbeke replica; both 3.4 litre. The XK 120 had tuned copper exhaust pipes etc. What a beautiful song it sang. The exhaust resonated at seventy miles per hour. At races the XK 120 had a string of firsts from 1949 until 1953.


My disappointing standard XK150 3.8 litre. Quite a performer but not a patch on my XK 120 pictured left. Not so sporty looking either.

 

My favourite continental cars were a BMW 3.0 SI, now a collectors classic (shown above) and several versions of the Mercedes S-class including a 280SE six cylinder, a 350SE V8 hybrid, a 350 SE V8 and a 500 SEL; also a classic and my favourite of them all for comfort, looks, style, safety, practicality, power and speed (around one-hundred-and fifty mph though I have not proved it…yet)!  I still own a twenty-year old Mercedes but cannot afford to run it for more than six miles per fortnight shopping.  Only my wife drives it. I do admit that the Daimler-Jaguar XJ range just pips it on looks and possibly smoothness of ride but only just. The Mercedes wins on quality and reliability every time.

To the left are pictures of our Mercedes 500 SEL (5 litre, long wheelbase) and a little of our prettier Jaguar 3.6 litre that it replaced. The Mercedes is seventeen feet long and six feet wide thus cannot be garaged locally which is one reason why....

...I reluctantly sold it before local vandals destroyed this beautiful classic. I have replaced the radiator grill, badge, headlights, sidelights, turn indicators and door lock but they did not manage entry. It is unlikely that I will ever own another car or drive again but my motoring experiences have been most enjoyable.

This is similar to one of our earlier Mercedes
A 350 SE of 1967 era. Note the stacked headlights, American style (see Pontiac below).

Some long time ago back in London, I owned an American 1949 Ford 3.5 litre V8 convertible. Probably the big brother of the UK 1949 Ford Consul/Zephyr Mk 1 range.


            Much later we acquired a newer and larger 7 litre Ford Custom 500. Here it is being driven by my wife Antonietta. With a few more electrics added Ford named it Galaxie but I believe this one was ex American Police. With the suspension strapped down, a Galaxie was brought over to the UK and using only top gear beat all the Jaguars competing in a race. The well known American driver who perpetrated the act was Dan Gurney; what an eye opener. Actually, it is both interesting and puzzling that America has long straight roads, yet gears its cars up for tyre smoking acceleration with top speeds of only 110/120 mph. European cars are geared up for maximum speed instead despite having narrower roads and lots of bends. Most large V8 American cars could top 200 mph when properly tuned and geared. Just look at their oval track racers, now at Rockingham too.

A major advantage of an American car is the huge amount of boot (trunk) space available as can be seen below in the picture of our Pontiac Parisienne (Catalina in the USA). One of my sons and a friend were cleaning the car. A lot of work, it was eighteen feet long. Quite pretty too.
To the best of my recollection this was the first American car that I acquired after having removed to the Northampton area; it is a 1961 Plymouth Belvedere. There is not a lot to say about this vehicle except for the rather unusual appearance in probably the most flamboyant motor styling era of the USA. It even had a rectangular shaped steering wheel. The rear view of the car was in conformity with the front but slightly less flashy. The car depicted was not my actual vehicle but identical in all except colour, mine was red.

            A rare, luxurious and exotic car we kept for a little while was a Fiat 130 Coupe. It was similar to the car depicted right but more wedge shaped. It was a terrific performer and years ahead of it's time but horribly unreliable and spent more time in the workshop than being driven. Its shape was reminiscent of the wedge shaped Aston-Martin-Lagonda. Whilst I would not swear to it, I believe the engine was a Ferrari V6. The picture on the right is not truly representative.

A very long time ago, I bought one of my daughters a little Honda S800 saloon, the high powered roller-skate pictured left.  In profile it looked like a scaled down Aston Martin. It was powered by a high revving 800cc engine with roller bearings and, if I remember correctly, topped 110 mph.  The zero to sixty mph time of 10 secs was very fast indeed (an E-Type Jag takes eight point two seconds).  Jack Brabham raced them professionally. My daughter spun hers on a bend but damaged neither the car nor herself. Her pride was a little dented though! She is the one standing next to the VX 490 pictured above.
            Once I waived the opportunity to acquire a Bentley Mulliner Park Ward (very like the Royce Corniche) that had slight crash damage to one front wing but I feared chassis distortion that I could neither check nor repair if necessary.  Sometime later I saw the same car, repaired and for sale, at ten times the price that I foolishly refused to pay.  That was one that got away. Here is a similar example.

            Before leaving the RAF in 1958, I acquired a Studebaker Champion. It did not have a great performance but looked like a spaceship when viewed from any angle, especially the front with apparently three large 'bullets' protruding. The rear looked as if it could be the front of an aircraft. The rust bucket shown below right was not mine but the same model. Whenever I returned from having parked it, there was always a mystified crowd standing around trying to figure it out
An identical model to mine and in similar condition This is the only rear view that I could muster up.
My friend in the USAF had a much more powerful Studebaker Golden Hawk that we used to cruise around in...it was a good puller and was probably the car that the "Batmobile" was based upon. Here it is. It was my intention to buy it when my pal had to return to the States but he was not permitted to sell it to other than fellow servicemen. At one time Packards and Studebakers shared the same stable but unfortunately neither survived.
            Here is a car that I would have liked to have owned at one time but not now.  It is the American Ford Edsel, the greatest failure in American motor manufacturing history. It was only made for two years then dropped. The front seemed to be somewhat European (at a stretch) even if the rear was reminiscent of the famous (I can't think why) '57 Chevrolet that I never desired at all.
There is another car that I would still like to own but never will and that is the Facel Vega HK500.  Stirling Moss had one that he called his fast transport between races.  If I recall correctly, it had a top speed of around 160 mph, was a saloon equipped with every conceivable electrically operated convenience, was Chrysler powered and French bodied; a real stunner for its time and jolly expensive. Very successful professional people often owned them. Prices of even the old ones were out of my reach.
            Actually, I do regret never owning a Dodge Charger, the hitman's car in the film Bullit. It is a real muscle car and among the highest performing large American saloon (sedan) cars of its time. A real tyre smoking fun car.
Although I do not care for small cars, I would not say no to a Shelby Cobra, but then not many car enthusiasts would.  Wheel-spins in any gear. English lightweight body (AC Ace) with an American Ford 4.7 or 7 litre V8. 0 to 60 mph in the time it that takes to black out, or 200 plus mph if one could handle it. Many UK replicars have been made, usually with Rover 3.5 litre V8 power units for the faint hearted. Carrol Shelby also designed and built the famous GT 40 for Ford to trounce Ferrari at Le Mans. I believe Dan Gurney was one of the drivers involved. The Cobra was recorded at 183 mph along the motorway M1 resulting in newspaper headlines and the eventual 70 mph speed limit being set. Some other drivers also contributed to the limit e.g. the woman who overturned her Mercedes doing over "the ton", I remember.

           The Porche is a wonderful car, beautifully engineered, superb road holding and incredibly fast. However it is not a car that I would like to own; just not my style. Once I did look at a Targa version for one of my daughters but it was not a good one so I declined. A bad Porche is not worth having. She had to settle for a rather nice Mazda 626 coupe instead and with which she was very pleased. The car depicted below was not the actual one but similar. Now she has a Nissan 200 SX.

A later version of the Targa that I rejected An uncommon Mazda 626 coupe

           A very young yours truly driving a Lotus Eleven (but not mine) at Castle Coombe. I ran rings around a faster Cooper driven by an obscure so-called ex race driver. Note the number seven, Sterling Moss's racing number but no connection unfortunately.

I did once own a 1930s McLaughlin Buick straight eight that had pram spring suspension on the back and was a real handful to corner; it over-steered like crazy on fast bends and needed all the road and sometimes more! Then it fishtailed for the next few hundred yards before being tamed again. A Buick trade mark worthy of note is the two spare wheels, one on each running board. Later Buick cars sported port holes along the sides of the bonnet. To the left is one similar to mine.
           I suppose my wife's Ford NASCAR deserves a mention.  It was a sort of scaled up version of a Mustang Mach 1 fastback.  It looked quite intimidating but was too austere for my taste.  All it had inside was seating and room at the back for a very small hamster. My wife seemed to enjoy driving it though but the hamsters gave her indigestion. Here it is on the right, looking ready to go as always. Incidentally, the NASCAR racers were developed from the necessity for bootleggers to outrun the the untouchables during prohibition.

I feel that I have to mention the OM (Officine Meccaniche or perhaps Milano Workshop?) of Breschia. Although I have never owned one, I did once see one in the car park of Decca Radar, Walton-On-Thames; it was around forty years old then, I guess and rather neglected looking. Unfortunately the OM seems to have been forgotten. I have not seen it pictured or mentioned in nearly all the car, racing car and classic car books that I have come across over the years. In fact the only reference to it that I have ever seen is in "Great Cars, Sports and Racing" by Doug Nye. It is from there that I found the picture above. It seems amazing to me that such a car should apparently be forgotten when it has such a distinguished history. The six cylinder versions came fourth and fifth in the 1926 Le Mans. Not just that but the OM cars came first, second and third in the first Mille Miglia ever run, which was in 1927. In 1928 an OM came second. So why has it been forgotten? Supposedly too old like I am. Actually, it is a lot older than I.

         Finally, I have to admit to always wanting the thunderous little toy depicted here, the 1956 Chevrolet Corvette; one of the original American sports cars. Somehow I never even came close to finding one. The straight line performance was shattering on long American roads, but perhaps the Corvette was not so suitable for the UK where we have peculiar things called bends. Stirling Moss said that straight roads were just the bits that connected the curves. It would have been nice if the Corvette could have negotiated the bends but somehow it was reluctant. Chevrolet's later Corvette Stingrays and Mako Sharks did improve though. Just look at the Mako Shark of a decade later.

  
The original Chevrolet Corvette ..... ..... and the Mako Shark, a decade later

         Actually, I have always considered saloon cars more practical and more fun. For example the E-Type Jaguar. It has great looks but to me, curving the sides underneath the body smacks of cheating to achieve the slim look. Also, with the body sitting on the wheels rather than between them, it reminds me of a roller-skate; a beautiful one of course. As for the European sports cars, well, the majority are not proper sports cars; they are just sporty looking cars, mainly owned by pretenders. Sorry to all Ferrari lovers, I do not find them pretty at all, Jaguars being much more elegant. But how fortunate it is that we all have different tastes or the whole world population would probably be driving Escorts (or rickshaws).


About Me
Hobbies
Ham Radio
RodLog Ham Radio Logging System Software
Experimental Multiband Aerial
Magnetic Loop Antenna
Computers
Reading
Gardening
Classic Films
Sailing
My Diet
Links to other sites