My First Car: Bit of TLC and Paula was ready for adventure
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.