My First Car: Labour of love to restore Renault Dauphine’s dignity

Sally Palmer, whose first car was a Renault Dauphine, sitting on her dad's Dauphine.

Sally Palmer, whose first car was a Renault Dauphine, sitting on her dad's Dauphine. - Credit: supplied

Sally Palmer's first car, a Renault Dauphine, which she restored, with the help of her dad and sister, was a labour of love.

Clutching three £10 notes in my hand, I bought my very first car – a Renault Dauphine.

A dirty black and rusting second-hander, it was so depressingly awful on the eye but I was confident I could help it regain its dignity to once more grace the roads of Norfolk and beyond.

After all my dad was a mechanical engineer by profession – handy! He began to deal with the rust and tinkered with the engine until it was safe and reliable. Then it was up to me.

I persuaded (possibly, if I'm truthful, bribed and blackmailed) my 20-year-old sister to help repaint it. Parked in my parents' driveway, we laboriously rubbed down the paintwork... day after day after day. My beautifully-manicured, varnished nails took quite a hammering, but it was worth the pain. Certainly it was – just ask my sister!

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Together we hand-painted the bodywork white and contrasted the wheels with a bright red. Yes, it may well have looked hand-painted but pretty impressive all the same. At least I was impressed.

Once completed, it took on the persona of a happy, pretty looking little car of which I was so proud. And it was mine, all mine. The fact that almost every cold, damp morning I was head under bonnet – the engine was in the back – wiping condensation from the plugs before it spluttered into life, mattered little.

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Frugal would best describe the state of my wage packet at that time. I was working at the Telephone Managers Office in St Giles, Norwich. So, if my car needed a spare part, it was down to my dad who owned a very pretty primrose yellow Dauphine.

Don't we love our dads? He would take the necessary part off his car to replace my faulty one. I can never remember being charged though. Three cheers to all those dads out there.

In 1969 I was married and, since neither my new husband nor I had a penny to rub between us, either my car or his van just had to go.

Since he owned a garden shop in Mousehold Lane, Norwich, and needed transport for deliveries... well you guessed the rest. Sadly, I took my precious little car to a local auction where it sold for a pittance – just £10. It was necessary but that didn't prevent tears rolling down my cheeks.

In my opinion, Renault Dauphines were the prettiest cars on the road back then but, sadly, with their aggressive rust issue, very few survive today.

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.

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