My First Car: Fun and fear from the Flying Farina

Spotting an Austin A40 identical to her first car reminded Rosemary Dixon of the 'Flying Farina'.

Spotting an Austin A40 identical to her first car reminded Rosemary Dixon of the 'Flying Farina'. - Credit: Rosemary Dixon supplied

Rosemary Dixon paid £15 for her Austin A40, dubbed the Flying Farina, which didn't break down... or even brake!

After I passed my driving test on a frosty day in January 1973 I was keen to get a car, living as we did in the depths of the Irish countryside.

The idea was that I would drive over to Ballymena – about 10 miles away – on Sunday mornings and pick up my grandfather so that he could spend the day with us.

It just so happened that an old neighbour was disposing of his Austin A40 and I had first refusal. Unfortunately, I said yes – to the tune of £15. My grandfather paid for the insurance cover which cost slightly more than the car.

I remember I used to buy 50p of petrol to half fill the tank.

The A40 was a total stranger to the inside of a car repair shop and I had a large bottle of water permanently on the back seat for emergency application to the radiator.

Anyway, the car, dubbed by my brother the Flying Farina, did good service for about eight months or so before I went off to university in England.

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Two adventures with 'the FF' stick in my mind.

One dark winter's night, my friend Hazel and I set off in it to a dance in a country hall about three miles from home. We got halfway there when the car bumped and swayed more than usual – a flat tyre. Well, in those days, I was quite adept at changing a wheel and it was no more than an hour's hard labour before we were on our way again.

On another occasion, I was heading back from Ballymena – luckily, not with my grandfather in the passenger seat – and picking up speed down a hill, at the bottom of which was a crossroads at which I was supposed to give way and carry over the crossing up the hill.

Confidently pumping the brakes, I approached the crossing. The car shot over without lessening speed and slowly came to a halt halfway up the hill, with me clinging to the steering wheel a gibbering wreck. The handbrake was just an ornament, of course.

It was shortly after that I parted with the old girl, and there has been no one like her since – except maybe a temperamental Kermit-green Citroën Dyane I acquired a few years later. My mother declared on first sight of it 'You'll have no luck with that car'. And she was right, but that's another story.

You never forget your first car so share your memories of adventures and disasters of your first set of wheels. 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.