My First Car: Bit of TLC and Paula was ready for adventure

Michael Redgrave’s 1929 Morris Cowley, which he named Paula, was 22 years old when she became his fi

Michael Redgrave’s 1929 Morris Cowley, which he named Paula, was 22 years old when she became his first car. Picture: Michael Redgrave - Credit: Michael Redgrave

Michael Redgrave shared many exciting and hairy moments with Paula – his 1929 Morris Cowley.

I was a wartime conscript posted overseas with the RAF until mid 1948 when I was demobbed at the age of 20. I then had to get some 'transport'.

First it was a new Raleigh bicycle, then a new BSA Bantam 125cc motorbike and finally, in 1951, a car.

By that time I was working in the motor trade and on the garage forecourt was a 1929 Morris Cowley four-door saloon with a three-speed crash gearbox in its original colours of dark blue and black – registration number PK 5957.

The owner was a retired GP who had bought it new and was asking £100 – of course I had to buy it. At that time new cars were like gold dust and used cars were fetching many hundreds of pounds over list price.

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Her condition was a bit shabby, being 22 years old. But, after four new tyres were fitted, the mechanics at the garage where I worked rebored the engine, a friend did the rewiring and after a lot of TLC, she was ready for the road. I named her 'Paula'.

I learned to drive in Paula and passed the test at the second attempt. The first time was disastrous as the driver's seat catch broke on the emergency stop and I nearly disappeared into the commodious rear seat.

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From then on, she was used every day and at weekends for countless trips around the country. We had many exciting moments, particularly due to almost non-existent brakes.

Various things happened over the years – the main rear spring snapped, the clutch needed new corks, the rear half-shaft broke while negotiating a corner, leaving a rear wheel stuck out in the road, the fabric roof blew off while driving down a slope and the steering broke and I landed up in a neighbour's garage – good job the doors were open.

Despite the mishaps, she was never off the road for more than a couple of days.

I think the peak of her achievements were a couple of laps of the Goodwood Racing Circuit when the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) had an open day to bed down the newly-laid surface.

All good things had to come to an end. A shortage of spare parts and the fact that my employer did not take kindly to seeing it parked within sight of his office window while he was selling luxury cars.

I sold her in the early Sixties to some Morris Cowley enthusiasts for £25 and my employer gave me a new Renault Dauphine to use. This car I promptly blew up on the Great West Road on the way to London – but that is another story.

Tell us about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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