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My First Car: Playing Austin 7 hide and seek was all part of fun

PUBLISHED: 12:31 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:31 25 September 2018

Roger Norvill with his 1931 Austin 7. Picture: Roger Norvill

Roger Norvill with his 1931 Austin 7. Picture: Roger Norvill

Roger Norvill

Roger Norvill found life with his 1931 Austin 7 could be an uphill struggle but playing hide and seek after fellow Servicemen’s good-humoured antics were all part of the fun.

I purchased my first car in 1959 while completing my National Service at RAF West Malling in Kent.

I sold my Velocette 350cc motorcycle for £15 and acquired a 1931 Austin 7 from another Serviceman for £10, negotiating a significant reduction from the asking price of £15.

The car was painted pink, with maybe spots and various writing with pictures etc which had been applied with considerable expertise. Not wishing to be conspicuous, the first task was to paint the car green.

I had no driving lessons but spent a few days, with friends on board, running round the airfield perimeter track, before driving home on leave to Hampton in Middlesex.

The car had a few design problems. The fuel tank was mounted in the engine compartment gravity-feeding directly to the carburettor so no pump required. There was no fuel gauge so lack of fuel was indicated by the engine stopping.

Coming back to camp in the early hours from Maidstone, on reaching West Malling, we decided there was insufficient petrol to climb the last couple of miles to the RAF station. Fortunately, there was a small garage in the village with an old-fashioned pump and a night bell. The attendant was a little grumpy, coming out in his dressing gown, but sportingly provided half a gallon for two shillings and sixpence (12.5p) – all my friend and I could afford.

The car was not noted for hill-climbing and it was sometimes necessary to ascend in reverse, up inclines a modern vehicle would barely notice. On another occasion, when taking someone home up Detting Hill, near Maidstone, the car came to a ‘sulky’ stop. I had to turn round on the hill hoping the car would not tip over sideways during the procedure.

I’m not sure of the top speed as the speedo needle ‘vibrated’ but I think it could achieve about 40mph downhill with a following wind.

I took my driving test after a couple of months in Teddington, Middlesex, while home on leave. The test today is quite intensive and many people find the process of learning and passing very stressful. I must confess, being under 21 and having the experience in my car, I felt totally confident and passed. The test then was very simple and could be taken in your own car.

During the test I was waving my arm out of the window, signalling in theatrical fashion, when the examiner asked me to close the window and use my indicators. I informed him the car was not fitted with any so this function was unnecessary.

The car wasn’t secure when kept in the camp so other airmen would often hide it in the night, leaving my friends and I to find it. This was done in good humour, with no harm done, but once, having searched the usual areas, someone noticed a haystack, which looked newly built, in the next field. My car was underneath.

Nostalgia is a great thing, and I recall all the fun we had with GV 578 with great affection.

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to motoring@archant.co.uk or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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