My Dad Had One of Those!
July 25, 2010

Yesterday we caught up with old friends from way back. They had come across for the annual Triumph TR International event being held in Malvern at the Three Counties Showground.

It got me thinking about a Top Gear publication I’d come across in book shops, ‘My Dad Had One of Those.’ I seem to remember thumbing through it and thinking, actually my Dad didn’t have any of those and neither did I!    

Before I go any further, perhaps I should explain that I am in no way shape or form a motor head. I’m not even a Top Gear regular but if there’s nothing better to do I’ll watch it.

I have, though, always been drawn to the aesthetic aspect of cars. As a kid I had a collection of Dinky models second to none (sadly all thrown out in the dim and distant past) and would dash around my home town with the I Spy Book of Cars ticking off those I had seen.

These, of course, were the days when we had a car industry and different models each had their own distinctive shape and character.

I admit my interest really comes to an end at that very superficial level. What happens underneath the bonnet has always been a bit of a mystery to me and I’ve never had the slightest desire to grovel around in an inspection pit and get covered from head to toe in engine oil.

Anyway here for the benefit of my kids, who of course won’t have the slightest interest, are those cars your Dad (& Mum) have known and loved (or not) over the years:  

Having passed my driving test as a 17-year-old, in December ’70 (spookily, I found out later it was on the birthday of my yet to be met, wife) I was lucky enough to have my own car from the outset although I was still in the lower sixth form at the time.

I had previously taken a break from school (after disappointing O level results) and worked in a bank for a year. During that time I earned enough to buy a second-hand 1960s Triumph Herald.

It was duo-tone in green and white with a walnut laminated dashboard and white rubber bumpers. It served me well, all the way through to my final year in higher education, taking me backwards and forwards from Nottingham to Birmingham. I loved it.

Chris is keen for me to point out that she also passed her test first time, shortly after her 17th birthday, having learned to drive in a grey, split screen Morris Minor passed on to her from her Mum.   

My second car was a VW Beetle (in ivory as I recall, not common white), with its air-cooled engine at the rear and luggage space up front. It had a 6 volt battery which caused a few problems from time to time, and night driving was as if by candle light!  

However, it was reliable enough to take us on our first European motoring holiday together, down through Belgium, Holland and Germany in 1975.

Next up, was a harvest gold Mini (K reg.) which was the car we went away from our wedding in, in 1978.    

Early married life saw us upgrade to a Ford Cortina (Mk3). It was red with a rakish white flash – very Life on Mars! I remember we bought it from a dealer called Clifford Duck in Hall Green, Birmingham. We must have been quackers!

I never really took to the Cortina and it wasn’t long before we traded  up for an S reg. Ford Fiesta in light blue. This was our first hatch back and we will always remember it as the car in which we drove to Istanbul and back, over 3000 miles in total. It was 1981 and, looking back, a very adventurous thing to do at that time.

In 1982 we splashed out for our first brand new car, another Fiesta, in chocolate-brown with a blue stripe which sounds awful now. That was the second of three Fiestas – we must have liked them!

Following Fiesta number three, in a nice shade of beige, we went Japanese for the first time with a Nissan Micra (in red).

Shortly after that we became a two car family. Having relocated from Brum to rural Upton and Chris being at home with two pre school children she needed her own car. With a helping hand from my Mum & Dad we were able to get her a second-hand Mini in dark brown.

Eventually Chris took on the Micra which she ran for many years before changing to a new X reg. (2000) Renault Clio Grande (blue) which was passed on to Nicci in 2007, as her first car. It’s seen better days but is still giving good service on her daily commute between Oxford and Waddesdon.

Chris replaced it with a new black Peugeot 107 which she loves and intends to stick with for some time yet (I hope!)

Meanwhile since the late ‘80s I’ve been through: a Vauxhall Cavalier Concept (white), a Vauxhall Astra Estate (green) – I was never really happy with either of those – two Suzuki Vitaras, a JLK (jade) and  a Grand Vitara (blue) – both of which I loved but they drank petrol, a Citroen Xsara Picasso (grey) and currently a Peugeot 207 SW (green).

The Picasso was lost in rather dramatic style, written off after being submerged under the muddy waters of the Avon, while parked up in Tewkesbury during the floods of three years ago!

I hadn’t realised our back catalogue was quite so extensive, between us a surprising eighteen cars in total over a 40 year period (unless I’ve missed one out somewhere!)

Back to the Future! Will it be Orange?
July 6, 2010

It’s 25 years since ‘Doc’, Dr Emmett Brown, built his DeLorean time machine and as he said to Marty McFly at the time, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”   

Yesterday the internet was alive with reports that we had reached the first target date, July 5th 2010, set by Doc in the first Back to the Future movie. It was even backed up with what appeared to be a screenshot of the DeLorean time control panel, taken from the film.

Unfortunately it all turned out to be a hoax and we will have to wait another 5 years to celebrate what is now being called ‘Future Day’. That will be on October 21st 2015, which is where the main characters find themselves when Back to the Future 2 opens. Pencil it in your diary now!         

I wonder what Doc and Marty would have made of the following news stories from July 5th 2010?

‘A Miserable Little Compromise’

Following yesterday’s grand announcement of the electoral reform referendum, Jack Straw rained on Cleggy’s parade by reminding him that just a few short weeks ago, before the election, he had described the proposed AV voting system as ‘a miserable little compromise’. What, Jack the giant slayer asked, had changed his mind? MPs joined in the pantomime by chorusing the answer, ‘POWER!’    

The Times projected that, if the last election had been run according to the AV system, the Lib Dems would have gained 22 seats and Labour 4 with the Tories down by 26. This is why DC is insisting on including constituency changes as part of the package, as it is expected they would off-set the AV effect.    

Ronaldo’s Little Dribbler!

Now we know why Real Madrid  galactica Cristiano Ronaldo was off his game for Portugal at the World Cup. He’s just become a Dad! The Portugal national daily, Diaro de Noticias, has announced that Ronaldo will have ‘exclusive guardianship’ of the child who was apparently conceived through surrogacy, in San Diego, and will be named after his father.

I wonder if Ronaldo junior will dribble as well as Dad!    


Stig is top of the Dump!

BBC Worldwide have announced that ‘Top Gear’, presented by Clarkson, Hammond, May and the mystery racing driver Stig has generated more revenue than any other show. This amounts to around £30 million and includes proceeds from  selling the series to foreign broadcasters, an international live tour and a whole range of merchandise including Top Gear Scalextric!   

Perhaps the Stig could road test Doc’s DeLorean, through time and space, in a Back to the Future Top Gear special!  

Back to the Future Education ?

I’m not sure what Doc and Marty would make of education secretary Michael Gove’s announcement that he has scrapped Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, axing at a single stroke 715 planned rebuilds and refurbishments. Labour might have dug a ‘black hole’ but at least their investment in schools and hospitals helped improve public services, whilst creating jobs and property assets.

Gove, seen above struggling with some big words, has also announced a review of  A levels. This would seem to be a good call.  For too long our public examination system has been kicked around like  a political football. Time and again hard-working students achieving ‘A’ grades have had the wind taken out of their sails, caught between successive governments maintaining standards have gone up whilst top universities and employers claim they have dropped.

I agree it is high time A levels were returned to their ‘gold standard’ status and a full review involving secondary schools, universities and employers needs to be carried out. But I have an uneasy feeling that everything will be tailored to the  needs of Oxbridge, and the already advantaged pupils from their independent ‘feeder schools’.  

I would add I’m not anti Oxbridge. One of my daughters is a Cambridge graduate but she did get there via our local comprehensive school!

Blazing Saddles        

I profess to knowing very little about cycling but I do love the three-week soap-opera which crosses our screens every July, Le Tour! It’s only the third stage today and they haven’t actually reached France, yet the controversy, complaints and protests have already started.

The usual question marks around le dopage, particularly with regard to seven times winner Lance Armstrong, were raised before the event pushed off, in Rotterdam, with the prologue time trial on Saturday. This has been swiftly followed by a series of calamitous crashes in stages one and two, with our very own Mark Cavendish cast as villain of the piece after Sunday’s pile-up. Belgian TV called him the ‘assassin’ whilst the French paper L’Equipe labelled him a ‘pyromaniac’.

I’ve heard of ‘Blazing Saddles’ but that’s going a bit far!   

Will the Future be Orange? 

Could it also be back to the future for Dutch football team?  Holland are forever revered for the total football philosophy that took them to successive World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978. But everyone’s favourites lost on both occasions, even with the sublime skills of Johan Cruyff and co on display. Will the current crop of talented, but more prosaic, players put the record straight – will the future World Champions be wearing orange? We’ll have a better idea after tonight’s semi final against ‘dark horses’ Uruguay.