My First Car: Flight of fancy for Mini adventure

The Mini being loaded into the plane in France for the return journey.

The Mini being loaded into the plane in France for the return journey. - Credit: submitted

Chris Bowler relives the adventure of flying a trusty Mini, fully loaded with four people, food and camping kit, to France for a memorable holiday.

My husband and I were married in 1963 and six weeks later we bought our first car as a married couple – an almost new Austin Mini.

It was green with a cream roof and the registration was PPV 2. Throughout the years this is the only car registration number that I have been able to remember with ease.

A few months later we decided to go camping in the south of France, along with my brother and his girlfriend. We loaded the inside of the Mini with tins of food as we were on a restricted budget but also because we were not sure whether we would enjoy the French cuisine as we had never eaten any French food at that time.

My sister in law (as she later became) and I rested our feet on the tins and we sat on four sleeping bags which we spread over the back seat. Our heads were almost touching the roof of the car.

The boot and a roof rack were filled with rather primitive camping gear and two suitcases, one for each couple. After spending our latter years riding round in the comfort of an S-type Jaguar we find it difficult to believe that we packed so much into such a small space and yet we don't remember any discomfort.

First of all we headed for Lydd in Kent to a small airfield where the four of us, together with our Mini, were loaded into a transport plane.

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Once over the Channel we landed in Le Touquet – another small airfield in Northern France – and from there we set off with great excitement and the confidence of youth to a place we had barely heard of called Le Lavandou on the coast of southern France.

We drove along winding roads, through small French villages, with overnight stops along the way at camp sites with very basic facilities.

When the weather became hot and sunny we wound down the windows because of the heat. Occasionally a sudden storm blew up which was frightening in its intensity. We drove over the Alps and finally down to the coast, never doubting for one moment that our trusty steed, the Mini, would get us there safely. Aand, amazingly, it did.

We spent a wonderful two weeks in the sun and then it was time to return home. During our last night, camping in le Touquet ready for our flight home the next morning, we had another terrible storm. Our tents collapsed and the four of us spent the rest of the night in the Mini, feeling very snug but warm and dry.

Two years later, with the birth of our son, we realised that our two-door mini was not really baby-friendly.

In those days a baby travelled in a pram top or a carry cot on the back seat of a car. This was very difficult to get in and out of the car on a daily basis so, alas, we had to put family before car and sell our beloved Mini.

Years later we bought a child's model toy Mini car, the same colour as ours had been, and it is still displayed on a shelf in our study as a reminder of those mad, but happy and carefree, days.

You never forget the adventures you had in your first car. It doesn't matter how old it is, just email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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