We went motoring into married life in our Rover 10

Michael Sibley’s 1931 Rover 10 saloon with his wife, Gill, sitting on the bonnet.

Michael Sibley’s 1931 Rover 10 saloon with his wife, Gill, sitting on the bonnet. - Credit: supplied

Michael Sibley recalls his 1931 Rover 10 saloon and the days when maintenance and repairs were simple... but frequent.

I was 24 years old before I started to learn to drive. Years of full-time study and two more doing National Service meant it was 1958 before I could afford to invest £45 in a 1931 Rover 10 saloon.

The car was two years older than me. Driving lessons cost 15 shillings each – out of an income of £15 a week – and I was saving up to get married. Or my fiancée was.

Lessons progressed well and after only seven – things were simpler then – I passed just three weeks before the wedding bells rang out. Had I failed, we would have to honeymoon by train.

It took us safely to Devon but needed several pints of water at the top of Porlock Hill – there was a tap at the top for this purpose.


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On the way home it shed a rear wheel in a Somerset village. There was no serious damage and we were soon on our way after a mechanic welded the hub back on again. Such a simple repair would not be allowed today.

Seeing this model of Rover was a rare event in the three years I had the cars. I only saw four others and three of those were in scrapyards when I was looking for spare parts.

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The only one I saw on the road was on holiday in Anglesey. We were crossing a remote junction and both of us stopped as soon as we met and we swapped stories.

This Rover had a low-slung worm and wheel drive to the rear axle which, after so many years use, was well worn so there was an interesting pause between letting in the clutch and the car starting to move. I soon got used to this but the mysteries of the advance/retard lever on the steering wheel never became clear. Perhaps it was never connected to the ignition system.

Maintenance was simple, but frequent.

There were 14 greasing points on the chassis, much oil was consumed and we were often followed by a blue haze of engine oil smoke. This caused 'coking up' leading to burnt valves and frequent regrinds.

My wife, Gill, became adept at this skill – and still mentions her expertise. Though seen sitting on the bonnet, she was allowed inside when she had swung the starting handle successfully.

The end came suddenly on the way home from my mother's after Christmas when the distributor drive failed for the third time. The rescue man offered me two pounds to take it away. I pocketed it rapidly. It was 30 shillings more than I thought the remains were worth.

Tell us about your first car and the adventures and scrapes you had – 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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