String and sand kept Renault Dauphine on road

Stuart Seaman�s rear-engined Renault Dauphine was tail-heavy so needed a large bags of sand in the f

Stuart Seaman�s rear-engined Renault Dauphine was tail-heavy so needed a large bags of sand in the front bonnet. Picture: supplied - Credit: supplied

Stuart Seaman's Renault Dauphine may have been rated as one of the worst 50 cars ever but he loved it.

My first car, back in 1962, was a 1958 red Renault Dauphine, with 845cc of raw power from a rear-mounted engine, which enabled it to overtake the odd ageing cyclist once in a while.

Two days after passing my driving test in her, the starting handle came close to breaking my arm when it kicked back. It was always necessary to get her moving with the handle as the six-volt battery was never strong enough for the first start of the day.

Soon after, I was stopped by the police, not for speeding, but for failing to display a front number plate. It was there OK and still attached to the hinged cover for the spare wheel. The catch had broken and it had dropped down under the car. I got away with a caution and the kind PC gave me some string to effect the repair.

Cornering was an art as the car was tail-heavy, but this was greatly improved by a large bag of sand in the boot over each front wheel.


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Rusting was the main problem, with much time and money spent on filler, glass paper and spray paint. The car just about held together long enough and in 1964 I sold her to my local car dealer, having ordered a new Mini.

He resold her to a man who was suffering hard times and wished to down-trade his Jaguar but it didn't end happily.

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Around a fortnight later, while I was at work, a policeman called on my mother. Having established she had a son with my name, he regretted to inform her that the car registered to me had been left on the clifftop at Beachy Head in Sussex, and that a body had been found. The owner details had not been updated but the shock almost caused a second casualty that day.

I did love the old car, even though the Dauphine was rated high on the list of the worst 50 cars ever, but I had much more fun in the Mini.

Do you have some tales to tell 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, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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