My First Car: Temperamental Standard 10 Tourer's demise a moving experience
The end of the road for Charles Drake's 1947 Standard 10 Tourer was something of a moving experience on a foggy, frosty morning.
I eagerly awaited my 16th birthday to apply for a provisional driving licence in the hope my father would teach me to ride his Royal Enfield combination but the opportunity passed as, by 17, my thoughts had turned to saving up for a motor car which, of course, was even more beyond my reach.
Towards this goal, I nonetheless decided to take driving lessons at the local BSM (British School of Motoring), where I was attending college, which took me all through Central London in the rush-hour to learn the basics in a red Morris Mini Minor. I then enrolled with another driving school in my home town where I would take my test and, after two previous attempts (one the day before I was married), I finally gained a full licence.
In anticipation of this belated success, I had already purchased from a workmate at Ford Motor Company a 1947 Standard 10 Tourer with canvas hood for £35 which I drove home from Dagenham illegally and, for my sins, was the bane of my life for a few short months. A good friend then accompanied me as the required qualified driver, which he told me afterwards was a frightening experience, as I later found as my wife’s co-driver (On reflection, perhaps only demonstrating a lack of confidence in the pupil – in both cases).
I used it to travel to work throughout that winter when it displayed a reluctance to start in the colder weather, especially with a crank handle once the battery had drained, frequently requiring me to ‘bump’ it down a gradient opposite. If still failing to start, it stayed there until I found help to push it back up again.
At other times, the engine would ‘cut out’ after 14 miles, usually on my way to college, invariably as I approached Tower Bridge where there was a policeman on point duty. I would then park it in a side road and walk the rest of the way as, on my return, it had cooled for, as I later learnt, the petrol feed pipe passed too close to the hot engine block so vaporised the fuel.
While not improving its performance, I gave the old banger a facelift by painting it sky blue, making it look really smart but not for long. On a foggy, frosty morning soon after, I braked, then skidded into the lowered tailboard of a stationary removal van which suddenly appeared out of the mist – I was crawling along at 15 to 20mph). The radiator was badly punctured by the cooling fan spindle but the vacating householder kindly gave me bottles of water to keep it topped up which I replenished en route at my parents’ home before limping back to my own.
However, fate had more in store for me as I decided the car was not worth repairing, so parking it on waste ground behind where we lived. I spent a weekend stripping it of any useful parts and storing them in the boot only to find it empty the following week – plundered by some onlooker, no doubt.
As a contingency, I had also bought, from another Ford colleague, a 1953 Cyclemaster – an early ‘moped’ – for £2 10 shillings (£2.50) but it was as unreliable as the car. I spent more time pedalling it up the slightest gradient than I ever did cruising along. Fortunately, my wife’s uncle had decided to buy a new car so he offered us his black 1957 Standard 8 saloon for £100 which we promptly accepted. It served us well until we could also afford a new car when we treated ourselves to a Goodwood green Ford Cortina saloon with a 1,500cc engine (Standard models had a 1,200cc version and considered under-powered).
It was soon put to good use when we decided to pursue our careers ‘up North’ as for two months, until my wife could join me, I had a 600-mile round trip at weekends which I don’t think the Standard 10 Tourer would have managed.
Tell people about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.