My First Car: Far from perfect 1953 Ford Prefect 100E but reliable 1984 Reliant Fox!

Duncan Bradford working on getting his 1953 Ford Prefect 100E roadworthy. Picture: Duncan Bradford

Duncan Bradford working on getting his 1953 Ford Prefect 100E roadworthy. Picture: Duncan Bradford

Duncan Bradford

Duncan Bradford’s first car was a 1953 Ford Prefect 100E, his second – a Reliant Fox – was his first, and only, new car and he’still driving it.

Duncan Bradford is still driving the 1984 Reliant Fox  his one and only new car. Picture: Duncan BradfordDuncan Bradford is still driving the 1984 Reliant Fox  his one and only new car. Picture: Duncan Bradford

I have cheated a little here – my first car and my first, and only, new car.

My first car was the fulfilment of a long-held ambition – to become a motorist. Through my mid-teens I’d learnt to drive a succession of cast-offs on my friend’s dad’s farm. Notably a 1950s three-litre Vauxhall Velox, shaped like, and driving like, one of Dan Dare’s rockets... when it started that is. After a long morning trying to get it going, with luck we would hone our skills steering at speed down the long drive, veering between twin perils of bottomless potholes and the all-enveloping towers of chicken manure heaped along the side. Not usually with much success.

When I got my first car – a 1953 Ford Prefect 100E for £20 – I spent the summer before my 17th birthday getting it roadworthy and, soon after, passed my test in it.

Driving on a proper metalled road seemed to come easily. The car took me all over the place that summer and the next and, finally, 200 miles away to college in Scarborough. It had its 21st birthday treat driving up the castle mound, only to arrive in a cloud of steam. What I had thought was a gasket problem was in fact a cracked engine block.

It wasn’t this though that rang the death knell for the 100E. Terminal rust did it, as it did for every car in those days. All four roof pillars were rusting through. I was keen to cut the roof off and make a detachable plywood top so I could have a blend of ‘estate car’ and open tourer, but my enthusiasm dwarfed my actual skills. Instead the Ford was replaced by a very long string of interesting vehicles, that mainly went the same way until in 1983 my father sent me a newspaper clipping, with a note attached which read ‘Remembering your plans for the 100E, what do you think? I’ll lend you the money’.

That’s how my first new car came about.

The clipping announced the launch of the Reliant Fox. Described as a lightweight glass fibre four-wheeler on a galvanised chassis, powered by Reliant’s own all-alloy 850cc engine, it came as a basic open pick-up, with a choice of tilt or panels to turn it into van or estate as well.

I took proud delivery of it in February 1984. When I bought it, at £3,500 it was nearly 50pc dearer than the similar Mini pick up, which created a bit of a dilemma. But I knew which one would last more years in one piece. In fact, 34 years later, it is still my daily driver. It has had its fair share of maintenance, including a respray. It is basic and lacks all the ‘conveniences’ and comforts that those with newer vehicles have come to expect. But there is nothing much on it that a set of spanners won’t fix, and driving it is enormous fun.

I run it as a pick up still because, over the years, I have also acquired the estate car version and even the rare camper van model. The three together completely satisfy my transport needs.

Tell people about your first car – 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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