Family Cars

I got into a nostalgic mood the other night and started thinking about all the cars my family had owned when I was growing up in Englad. I can’t quite remember them all, but here’s most of them.

Mum’s cars

Austin 1100

This was the car my mum and dad (and my mum after they separated) had, it’s the earliest car I can remember and still have fond memories of it. Ours was navy blue, and I think a 4 door. No seatbelts, viny seats, huge bus-driver steering wheel. But the visual proportions hold up well to this day. When you see one on the the street it looks tiny (a bit bigger than an original Mini), and makes you wonder why parents with 2 kids need and SUV these days.

Peugeot 104

The car my mum got to replace the Austin 1100 when it finally died, must have been around 1980. (There may have been a car between them, but if so I don’t remember what it was.) It was teal-ish blue, just like this one. Never cared for it much. My first accident (as a passenger) was in this car - a wheel fell of a car going in the opposite direction and spun across the road and hit the side of the Peugeot.

Dad’s cars

Triumph Toledo

My dad had a whole string of shitty second-hand cars, the first of which I remember was this Triumph. Smelled of oil and gasoline inside. Maroon, just like this picture. Didn’t last long.

Austin Princess

Another monumentally crappy car, courtesy of British Leyland. But at least it was spacious. I thought it was cool as it had a feature I’d never seen before in a car, a fold-down armrest in the rear set, where I sat. An interesting wedge shape, but horrible mechanically. Rusted quickly.

Alfa Romeo Alfetta

In one fell swoop my dad redeemed himself in my schoolboy eyes by buying a used Alfetta. I loved, loved, loved this car. Like all Alfa’s of the period, it rusted out in about a week, and a lot of the time it didn’t run at all. But when it did run, its engine was a thing of glory - this was the first time I thought consciously about the sound of the engine. It was wonderful. I have very fond memories of driving down country lanes in Kent with Buddy Holly blasting on the radio.

Ford Sierra

My dad’s first new car was a radical one, a year one Ford Sierra. This was the British equivalent of the Ford Taurus, but with even more radical aerodynamic styling.

Grandpa’s cars

My grandfather on my mum’s side was quite a car nut, and went through them at a good clip. I probably haven’t included them all here. He mostly favored French cars, being a lover of all things French. I don’t remember my grandmother ever driving, so that’s why they are “his” cars.

Land Rover

My grandparents owned a farm, and early on I remember an ancient Land Rover with canvas covers over the back. Very crude but indestructible. After they sold their farm, the family that took it over had a business modifying Land Rovers for expeditions.

Renault 4 Van

The other vehicle he had specifically for farm use was this Renault 4 delivery van. My brother and I learned how to drive in this, me at age 12 and him at age 9. Grandpa took us out to an old World War 2 aerodrome and we lurched around the weed-encrusted runway. Tremendous fun.

Peugeot 504

I always liked this car. It has quirky yet stately styling. Theirs was a cream white. I loved the armrests on the back doors, they had a great curve upward that fit my little hands perfectly. My grandmother didn’t like it because she couldn’t fit her handbag in the glovebox. But she had that same complaint about every car.

Alfa Romeo 33

Grandpa’s only dalliance with an Italian car. He must have been going through a phase, as I also remember brochures for the lovely Lancia Delta on the kitchen table, which I would have much preferred. Alfa was going through an edgy phase, and the 33 wasn’t the prettiest of cars. Quite fun to ride around in, though not as magical as the Alfetta.