‘Pushbar’ made motoring bit hairy – but never dull

‘Pushbar’ had started life as a 1936 Austin 7 box saloon but had no roof or doors and tiny aero scre

Pushbar had started life as a 1936 Austin 7 box saloon but had no roof or doors and tiny aero screens but was cheap transport for many motoring adventures. Picture: Barbara Mellor - Credit: supplied by Barbara Mellor

Barbara Mellor tells of motoring adventures in 'Pushbar', a modified Austin 7, which came with a few quirks for the bargain price of £5.

We bought 'Pushbar' between us in 1953 for the princely sum of £5.

She had started life as a 1936 Austin 7 box saloon and somebody, before we owned her, decided to slice the roof off. There were no doors and no windscreen, just side panels instead of doors. We had to leap over the side to get in, and the tiny aero screens did nothing to protect us from the elements.

We were living in Buckinghamshire at the time and, within a few days of our purchase we were due to go on holiday to Tintagel in Cornwall. In those days, that was quite a long trip for a new car, let alone our £5 bargain.

We set off not knowing whether we would ever arrive in Cornwall.

We soon discovered that she was using more water than petrol as there was a leak in the radiator. So, it was frequent garage stops to top up with water while the petrol seemed to last for ever.

With motorways unheard of, we decided to take the even more scenic route and went via Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon. However, when approaching Porlock Hill, panic set in as the brakes were virtually non-existent and discretion stepped in and we retraced our steps and made a long detour. After that, if we were ever approaching what looked like a steep hill, one of us had to run to the top of the hill and judge whether or not we dared to negotiate it. More often than not, we didn't.

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However, we eventually arrived in Tintagel and had a wonderful time driving all around the area with, amazingly, very few further problems – providing we remembered to top up the radiator. And, even more amazingly, we made it all the way back to Buckinghamshire.

I might add that because of the lack of windscreen, and the fact we wore woolly hat and sunglasses, when we arrived at the hotel they looked at us rather strangely. We didn't realise, until we looked in the mirror, that we had filthy dirty faces with just white around the eyes where the sunglasses had protected us.

To explain the name 'Pushbar', it was a short version of my name and the fact the starter motor didn't work so it was my job to push from behind to get us moving and then leap in over the side when the engine fired.

We had another problem every Thursday evening. We were both paid weekly,on a Friday, and by Thursday evening were both very hard up. Unfortunately, Pushbar had a gravity feed tank and we lived at the top of a steep hill which curled its way round through a wood. Invariably, we would get halfway up this hill when the petrol ran out so had to get out, manhandle her round a very narrow lane to face the other way, and finish the journey up the hill to home in reverse gear! Thank goodness there was no such thing as an MOT test.

Motoring was much more fun in those days, if a bit 'hairy', but never dull.

Tell us about your first car? The adventures, scrapes, breakdowns, mishaps and maintenance just to keep it on the road. Email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to motoring@archant.co.uk or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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