My First Car: Chugging along, enjoying life with my 1933 Austin 7

Bernice Hartley with her 1933 Austin 7, called Chug, near Abergavenny in south-east Wales. Picture:

Bernice Hartley with her 1933 Austin 7, called Chug, near Abergavenny in south-east Wales. Picture: Bernice Hartley - Credit: Bernice Hartley

Bernice Hartley's first car was a 1933 Austin 7, called Chug, and it certainly did after she drove into some flood water and had to be hauled out by a tractor.

This is me with my first car – a 1933 Austin 7, called Chug, in 1961.

I had bought it the year before from Austin 7 enthusiast Chris Dawes who then lived in Newport, in south-east Wales. It was powder blue and black and had very comfortable upholstery.

I used it for the occasional holiday – it took me and a friend to Wales and back – but mostly for my daily commute between Sawston, in Cambridgeshire, and Clavering in Essex. I taught in Clavering village school from 1957 to 1964. On the way I would pick up Gwen Driver at Langley who also taught there.

One day, on leaving school, we were negotiating Blacksmiths Corner in Clavering when there was a sudden bang, the car lurched and a scraping noise accompanied by a shower of sparks marked our passage to a halt at the crossroads. A main spring had broken at the back.

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Another drama was when I drove into some flood water at Wicken Bonhunt and flooded the engine. Marooned, a kind farmer hauled Chug out with his tractor.

I enjoyed some years driving my Austin 7. I learned to double de-clutch, gave excellent hand signals (it had no trafficators) and coped with a very slow windscreen wiper when going uphill and pressing hard on the accelerator... a common occurrence with these old cars.

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When I married, and we acquired an A35, I gave Chug to my brother but he didn't keep it very long before selling it to someone in Norfolk. The last time I saw it it had fungi growing through the floorboards.

I wonder if the new owner gave it a new life – I hope so!

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to

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