My First Car: Arrival of MOT test was make or brake time for Renault

Malcolm Ireson and his wife, Yvonne, had a Renault 8.3HP as their first car which needed some planni

Malcolm Ireson and his wife, Yvonne, had a Renault 8.3HP as their first car which needed some planning to stop. - Credit: supplied

Malcolm Ireson tells to fashioning a handbrake for his Renault 8.3HP to keep it on the road when the MOT test was introduced.

My first car was a 1939 8.3HP Renault – my mode of transport until then had been motorbikes.

The Renault had a four cylinder side-valve engine, three-speed gearbox, a six-volt battery, dynamo, coil, cut-out, ammeter etc and independent wishbone springing on front and one leaf spring on back.

The drum brakes were operated by cables attached to four lugs on a cross shaft under the car. When the foot pedal was pressed it turned the shaft and pulled on the brakes – usually. The handbrake was a pull type lever under the dash and, when turned, locked the foot pedal in the 'on' position. I hand painted the car and it looked good.

We drove to Kent in 1960 for our honeymoon in our little motor, remembering when applying the brakes to allow a big stopping distance! We had no heating, but a 28ft turning circle – it turned on a sixpence.


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This before the Queen Elizabeth Bridge or the Dartford Tnnel and the Tilbury Ferry was the way over the Thames at that point – we just managed to get there to catch the last one that night.

When the MOT test came in, I think around 1962, my local garage man said the car wouldn't pass the test becauss it had to have a separate handbrake system. I mumbled something to the effect that the car was built like that, but he insisted.

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That weekend I welded a five-inch long piece of metal to the underside of the cross shaft and connected a bicycle brake cable to it and the handbrake lever.

I went back to the garage on Monday morning and persuaded the engineer to do test which, at that time, was done on the road. I drove with engineer sat in passenger seat with a 'pendulum' type measure between his feet. I applied the brakes when asked, first the foot brake and then the handbrake. The engineer, with no questions asked, was satisfied and produced the MOT certificate – obviously the hand lever was doing exactly the same as the foot pedal.

Those were the days.

Tell us about your first car and the adventures and scrapes you had – email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to motoring@archant.co.uk or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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