Foreword by Mark Jennings
Along with my younger brother and older sister we had a good education and a nice house, but the family budget would never allow for an expensive brand new shiny car. To be honest, even if my dad could afford one he'd still probably elect to get a bargain basement banger to run us all around in. His attraction with pretty British sports cars such as the Jaguar XK series or Austin Healey, definitely didn't rub off when choosing the latest family car. I'm probably being a little harsh, but when you're a pubescent young man pushing your dad's clapped out jalopy around a major roundabout just as the local secondary school kicks out for the day, was just one of many experiences any teenager would want the earth to swallow them whole!
The family holiday was always an experience. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the actual holiday, but getting there was always stressful especially for the poor man driving with three argumentative kids in the back and nagging wife in the front, not knowing whether the car would actually make it there, let alone back.
Living on the south coast it was always a cheaper alternative to drive to southern France rather than flying. So we'd jam pack the car full of mainly my mothers clothes, neatly stuffing toilet rolls in places that would easily fall out on the road as soon as the boot was opened in an emergency, then head off to the nearest port just about making it off the drive without pulling the rear axle off with all the weight!
Anyway, that's enough from me. I'll now leave you with the humorous but audacious history of my dad's rubbish car collection in his own words (some names and local places have been censored to protect the innocent, or guilty). Happy Father's Day dad!
By Byron Jennings (aka Dad)
"I will try to remember all the cars I’ve owned and cherished, but some details, inevitably, are veiled in the mists of antiquity, and the chronology may not be exactly correct, but here goes...
The first was in about 1973, a 1959 Austin Cambridge, which cost £50. It was listed as the A55 Mk ll, with a 1489cc engine and large tail fins. They were good old cars – comfortable, easy to maintain and with a cavernous boot. It wouldn’t do much more than 65mph, but there were many fewer motorways in those days anyway.
Doing all my own servicing (which was easy on cars like that – all the engine parts were instantly recognisable, all your tools fitted, and so on) and buying spares – even including an entire exhaust system - from the scrappy, I managed to keep it running for a few years. Eventually, the underbody rot became uneconomical to repair and I sold it to a British Rail porter at the Docks for banger racing. (He did the banger racing at a rally cross track, not at the Docks).
I think my next foray into automotive whimsy was the royal blue 2-door Mk l Ford Cortina. This cost the princely sum of £25 and was acquired from a copper I knew who lived in a nearby town – his son had been using it, but had moved on to something more modern. I can’t remember how long this lasted, but not all that long.
I remember, one morning on my way to work, I was driving through the town Square when I was stopped by a rather pretty young WPC who informed me that the offside front wing was hanging off, and that it was dangerous. I was able to reply – in complete honesty – ‘It was ok when I left home a few minutes ago, officer. I’ll fix it in a minute.’ When I got to work, I borrowed a drill from the marine workshop and duly secured the wing with a few self-tapping screws. Shortly afterwards, the engine started to burn oil at a horrendous rate, and, rather than go to the expense of buying the expensive, new stuff from Halfords, I got the workshop manager at the local Renault garage to allow me to help myself to the contents of the ‘used oil’ barrel in the corner of the workshop, which I was getting through at the rate of about a gallon a week.
One morning when you were at school, I told your brother that I would take him for a ride (this must have been about 1980, when he would have been 4). We got about 2 miles when the engine blew up, and we had to walk home. I think I arranged a tow and sold it for a fiver. When I spoke later to one of the mechanics at Renault, and asked him exactly what went into the ‘used oil’ barrel, he replied, ‘Oh, everything goes in there, mate. Engine oil, brake fluid, diesel, the lot.’ Not exactly Castrol GTX, then.