My First Car: Rumour has it Marlene the Metro was no pushover!

An Austin Metro similiar to John Cowan's first car that he called Marlene.

An Austin Metro similiar to John Cowan's first car that he called Marlene. - Credit: supplied

John Cowan's relationship with Marlene the Metro was eventful from day one with a little knock that was turned into some kind of 'ram-raid'.

The first car that I owned was a 1981 two-door Austin Metro 1.3 and, during the 18 months that I owned it, both myself and the car went though many adventures.

The car itself was in very good condition when I bought it from a guy near Great Yarmouth in January 1996 for a total of £450 which seemed like a fair bit at the time.

On my first day of having the car, we were to have our first little bit of excitement as a van reversed into the Metro, which I called Marlene, causing a bit of damage to the bodywork.

At the time I was a student and was doing some part-time work at Virgin Direct. During a break on one of my shifts one of my co-workers asked what had happened to my Metro and I said that we had been involved in little accident and the car was in the bodyshop. By the end of the shift the rumour had gone round the Virgin Direct office that somehow I had crashed my car into The Body Shop store in Norwich, like some sort of ram-raider, and that the car was surrounded by soaps and aftershaves. The reality was far less exciting as the car was being repaired in a bodyshop that mends cars.

One of more surprising things I found out about the Metro is that the keys did funny things. At Snetterton, after the 1996 British Touring Car Championship racing, I walked back to the car park, unlocked the door of the car, jumped in and turned on the engine. It was only when I went to put the radio on – which this Metro did not have – that I realised that not only was there no radio but that car I got into was not Marlene but a Metro that belonged to someone else! Needless to say, I soon found my actual car and headed back for rather uneventful journey.

After playing in a football match not far from home, the pressure plate on the clutch failed although I was able to get a tow back home. The problem was that home was half a mile from the local garage and, rather than pay for the car to be towed to the garage, I decided to get up at 5am and push the car to the garage.

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The worst part about pushing the car was getting it up the slight slope to the road – it must have taken me about an hour to get the car on to the main road through the village which was only about 10% of the distance to the garage. After much pushing, and some at almost the pace of a gentle jog, the car was finally at the garage at 7.50am on a Sunday.

Tell us about your first car and the adventures and scrapes you had – 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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