My First Car: Just roadworthy Austin 7 Ruby ‘bit of rump’

Peter Elphick’s first car was a 1934 Austin 7 Ruby. Picture: Peter Elphick

Peter Elphick’s first car was a 1934 Austin 7 Ruby. Picture: Peter Elphick

Peter Elphick

Peter Elphick’s first car, a 1934 Austin 7 Ruby, was 25 years old when he bought it but his first new car was a Morris Traveller.

His first new car was a Morris Traveller. Picture: Peter ElphickHis first new car was a Morris Traveller. Picture: Peter Elphick

My first car was a 1934 Austin 7 Ruby, bought in 1959.

My previous transport had been a BSA Bantam motorcycle followed by a Norton ES2. The change was necessary for the 100-mile journey to and from RAF West Raynham, near Fakenham, in Norfolk.

I had to then change to a car as my prospective father-in-law would not let his daughter ride pillion.

The Austin Ruby – registration CPK 642 – had a three-brush dynamo gear driven off the engine with the distributor mounted at a jaunty angle on the end of the dynamo. The front seats were filled with air-filled rubber tubes, quite comfortable.

When it came to insuring the Ruby I was asked to have the car inspected by an engineer. The engineer said “the car was a bit of a rump” but just roadworthy. This was 1959 and pre MOT tests.

The car was tidied up with new wheel bearings from Hoffman’s of Chelmsford and the engine decarbonised. I fitted one new tyre using tyre levers. The road spring shackles were also renewed as they were oval, instead of round.

A coat of Valspar paint – red for the body and black for the wings – was applied and we named her Ladybird.

Ladybird took us to Somerset, The Lake District and Oban, on Scotland’s west coast, travelling up the M1, which at that time finished at Rugby. Then came the MOT test which it failed. There was a period of voluntary tests before it became compulsory and, after tightening the king pins in the front axle, the car passed.

After six years I changed to a 1936 Austin Cambridge – registration FEV 973 – which was luxury after the Ruby.

This was followed by my first new car – a Morris Traveller. A neighbour was about to buy a new car and, on inspecting the Morris, he didn’t think it would last very long!

On retirement I looked around for another Austin and found a 1937 Austin Cambridge which I use as a second car.

Tell people about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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