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My First Car: Ford Popular doubled up as twins’ shared transport

Having washed his Ford Popular in front, John Telford is pictured around 1962 cleaning his friend's Hillman Minx. Picture: John Telford

Having washed his Ford Popular in front, John Telford is pictured around 1962 cleaning his friend's Hillman Minx. Picture: John Telford

John Telford

John Telford and his identical twin shared a Ford Popular but sometimes it ended in double trouble as he recalls here.

I’m an identical twin, so my brother and I took driving lessons in Finchley where we lived, shortly after we were 17 in 1961.

My brother passed first time but I failed so had to beg him to accompany me for practice until I passed.

Our parents never had a car but had bought us a used, beige Ford Popular – registration 54 DAR – from a garage in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. We had to share the car, its cleaning and expenses. I was working, but my brother was at college, so I had to take most of the costs!

The car had a starting handle and no heater so ice on the inside of the windows in winter. It had three gears, with no synchromesh in first, and a top speed of about 50mph. The wipers were on compression, so stopped when going up a hill. It had winking indicators, and headlights that emulated the minimal light allowed during the wartime blackout.

In the picture taken around 1962, having just washed 54 DAR, I have moved on to cleaning my mate’s Hillman Minx of the coveted bench front seat and column gear change. While, by today’s standards petrol was incredibly cheap, we didn’t do much mileage or travel far but the Scout badge just visible in the rear window of the Popular reminds me we would drive locally to Scout campsites in Mill Hill, Shenley, Hemel Hempstead and Cuffley etc.

I recall driving each Christmas from Finchley to Hatfield, up the old Great North Road, with my girlfriend (now my wife) to see her relatives. The car was freezing so scarves, gloves, blankets, hot water bottles and the journey, which now takes around 30 minutes, seemed to go on forever.

Once, when I arrived home very late, rather than park in our rented garage, I left it in an adjacent street. To my amazement I found it on the other side of the road the next day with the handbrake still on. I realised I had parked across someone’s drive but how it was moved still defeats me.

On another occasion, my brother woke me in the middle of the night to tell me he had a problem with the car. A friend was also dragged out of bed to drive us to Barnet Rugby Club. A stream, with quite steep sides and only one bridge, runs through the middle of the car park. On leaving a disco in the early hours, and with poor lighting, my brother had made for the exit and forgotten the stream. The poor old Ford (excuse the pun) was suspended across the stream. The front wheels had jumped the gap, the rear wheels were in the water and the stream was running through the back seat! We tried to tow it out but a tow truck had to be summoned. Amazingly, after drying out, the Popular seemed to have no lasting damage.

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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