My Firs Car – uphill battle to get on road and keep mobile

Jeff Hurst and his friend working on his 1937 Ford 8 Model Y.

Jeff Hurst and his friend working on his 1937 Ford 8 Model Y. - Credit: supplied

Jeff Hurst tells of learning to drive in and learning how to mend his first car – a 1937 Ford 8 Model Y.

In 1962, when I was in my very late teens, the opportunity arose for my girlfriend – later fiancee and wife – and I to buy a car between us.

It was a 1937 Ford 8 Model Y and cost £15. Neither of us could drive, but that was not seen as a problem as my dad, having been a chauffeur in buskins and a cap and could drive anything on wheels, said he would teach us.

We started off by dad driving us down to Walton Avenue in Felixstowe, which was paved, but terminated before reaching Dock Road. There we learned to start and, more importantly, stop as the Ford's brakes were mechanical and not very efficient. Once we were proficient at this phase we drove along the seafront to get home.

One day, being a bit more adventurous, dad asked me to go up a very steep hill. The old Ford had only a three-speed gearbox and was not that powerful. Instead of stopping and selecting first at the bottom of the hill, as I should have, I swung round the corner on to the hill in second. Of course, halfway up I had to change down into first, a tricky job at any time on the Y, and I stalled it. On went the handbrake and, to my horror, it didn't hold and we started to run backwards! Talk about 'Don't panic chaps' but my old dad calmly took the wheel and steered us into the kerb. 'Off you go again boy,' he said.

At that time we were both busy with rehearsals for a pantomime at the Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge and some of our lessons were to drive along the old A1098 Martlesham road to and from Woodbridge, stopping at the traffic lights at Martlesham Aerodrome Runway to let the planes land and take off – always an exciting sight.

By this time, a friend whom I had known since starting primary school, and whose dad owned Clarkes Garage in Beach Road East, Felixstowe, had passed his driving test. He and I had been taking cars to bits since we had been about 14 – either ones at his dad's place, or helping my Dad with his old wrecks.

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He was now a third-year apprentice at Howes Garage in Ipswich, and he helped greatly with the maintenance on the Ford and with the driving tuition along with a professional driving instructor at the princely sum of 15 shillings (75p) an hour – I was earning £3 12s 6d (£3.65) a week. Eventually I passed my test and we went all over in the old car, even as far as Norwich!

I worked at Stoke Bridge in Ipswich so my friend and I used to car share, accompanied by fiancee, girlfriends and various mates. One week in his flash Opel, or one of his dad's taxis, one week in my old Ford. I used to use four gallons of fuel and two pints of oil a week which cost £1.

One evening we were out in the Ford and I reversed into a farm gateway, when I went to drive forward it wouldn't go. My friend tried but could not move it either. He left me with the car, walked to the main road, thumbed a lift and brought one of his dad's taxis to tow me home. We took the car to my good friend Charlie Bartholomew's garage in Constable Road, Felixstowe. The diagnosis was a broken half-shaft in the rear axle.

I thought the old girl was finished but, as luck would have it, a chap at work had a Model Y he was breaking in his back garden somewhere in the sticks. I bought the complete rear axle for 10 shillings (50p), got it home and, after much struggling and cursing by Charlie and I, got it fitted. We were mobile again.

Charlie indulged me with more or less the full use of his garage and tools over the following 10 years and I did all sorts of work on the Ford and my subsequent cars – A40, A35, Ford Consul, Mini Cooper, Daimler V8, until I moved away in the early Seventies.

I had the Ford for about another year, sold it for £25 and bought an A40 Devon which I swopped in another year for an A35 which I regularly used to drive to Devon on holiday – it took 11 hours at 55mph flat out, four up.

Over the subsequent 55 years I have had many cars. I now have one of the last direct descendants of the Model Y – a 1953 Ford Prefect, the last of the roly-poly Prefects – but will always remember those happy years with my old Ford 8, my good friends and my old dad with love and affection.

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