My First Car: Not quite cream of driving skills

Michael Roede hit the back of an ice-cream van in his 1939 Austin 10 Cambridge.

Michael Roede hit the back of an ice-cream van in his 1939 Austin 10 Cambridge. - Credit: supplied

Running into the back of an ice-cream van, having just passed his test, left Michael Roede feeling decidedly frosty.

My first car was 1939 Austin 10 Cambridge which I bought from a garage for £20 in 1958 – this was a fortune for me as I was an apprentice at the time.

I drove the car to a friend's barn where it was stored until I was able to pass my test. After a new coat of paint, and much cleaning, it looked good.

I passed my test OK and, full of pride, drove the 17 miles to Luton college the next evening.

Right in the middle of Luton High Street I was following an ice-cream van when, all of a sudden, he stopped, very quickly. Time went into slow motion as I hit the back of his van. Not much damage was done and, by now, two policemen had arrived, on foot.

They told us to get going, I climbed into the car but it wouldn't start. I lifted the bonnet and found the battery had come off its shelf and broken the carburettor in half, By now, quite a crowd had gathered, the police and some bystanders helped me turn the car round and push it into a car park. By now all pride had disappeared but that taught me one thing – the absolute stupidity of tailgating. Never again.

I had to get the bus home – the embarrassment – but another carburettor was obtained and fitted and this time the battery was tied on firmly.

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I had the car until MOT testing came into force. It was exceptionally reliable and never broke down after that incident.

I drove it to Cornwall full of camping gear and three friends, went to London many times – always full up with friends – and college three nights a week but, alas, when I took it for its test the underneath of the car had corroded so badly it was no longer repairable, There wasn't very much to even weld new metal to and, very sadly, I had to let it go.

I went back to the garage where I had bought it and they accepted it in part-exchange for another car but it wasn't the same.

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