Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Transports of delight


Fellow-passenger on a Caen-Portsmouth ferry three or four months ago was this Bugatti. It looked as if it had seen better days, and was being brought back to Blighty for some bugattiphile to do up and sell on. Or maybe to do up and keep for his (or her: I can think of certain ladies who wouldn't at all mind being, and being seen at, the wheel of a Bugatti) personal gratification. Where would you drive it as it deserved, though? It seems to me, from my occasional visits, that there are very few places left in the UK that aren't so thrombotic with traffic that you can open up the throttle and head for the horizon to your heart's delight.

I don't know why this lower-deck apparition should have reminded me of my first car, which had nothing whatever in common with that Bugatti. But remind me it did, and I was going, for your utter delectation and absolute delight, to post a photo of this car, a 1954 Ford Popular. Most of my photos are stuffed in an envelope. I shook them all out on to the dining room table, but it wasn't there. All I could think of was that at some time or other I'd used it as a bookmark, which is a habit I have with tram tickets, postcards, the occasional letter, receipts and so on. And maybe the odd photo. To find it would mean searching through - oh, I don't know how many books, but the best part of a tidy few. This is quite a bookish household.

Its registration was JST 271. If you'd like to exercise your mind's eye and substitute this for the number plate in the photo below, you'll get the general idea. To fill out your impressions, I should add that it had only three forward gears, finger indicators, a single windscreen wiper that grew slower and slower as the engine laboured, for instance when driving uphill in the rain. (Not that this happened very often: it did go uphill, but it went better if you pushed it. It was occasionally referred to as the Envy of Tantalus.) And it started with a starting handle. Look, you can just see the starting handle hole above the X of the number plate.

But I loved it. Adored it. Fiercely.

20 comments:

dinahmow said...

I'll refrain from any snide remarks about donkeys, horses, Tantalus and crank-handles. Because, I too, have a fondness for certain old cars.
One ancient Austin was known as a "Rolls Canardly."
(I expect you and Rog can work that out.)
Wouldn't mind that Bugatti!

Christopher said...

MIT: Did you think maybe that in the photo above Mrs Tantalus is negotiating with the horse for a tow?

If the Bugatti were mine to give, you would have it.

And, despite Rog and I being in hourly conclave, we canardly work this one out...

Z said...

Starting handles were splendid devices and I wish all cars were made with one.

The Sage still has his first car and so does Alex. Mine was (like Al's) a Morris Minor. I still love Morris Minors quite fiercely myself, I quite understand what you mean.

Martin said...

I was a Morris Minor man, but my older brother had a Popular, in grey. He named her 'Jezebel'.

Christopher said...

Z: Aha. I couldn't possibly have caught you out, could I?

Martin: Jezebel, a very good name.

And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she [Jezebel] said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down. [...] and he trode her underfoot. [...] And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.

Thank you for reminding me of this splendid passage of Holy Writ.

Rog said...

Lovely motor squire!

My first car was a Ford Anglia Van which is rather fitting as I now drive a Berlingo Van around East Anglia. If only I'd driven the Ford to Berlin my laboured pun would be complete.

mig bardsley said...

My aged aunties drove a Ford Popular.
I well remember trips in the Lake District with them and occasional unintended pauses to admire views from halfway up.

Rosie said...

I still have my Matchbox Bugatti. I never did get around to getting a new one.

Z said...

I suspect you are being sarky, Chris

Christopher said...

Rog: We all look on you with breathless admiration for your easy mastery of the pun. Your motto has to be Fiat punto (Cf. Latin Fiat lux, Let there be light).

Mig: When you went to stay with your aunts did they talk about having a niece up? (Please excuse me - Rog told me to put this in.)

Rosie: Good to see you - Happy New Year! You see the company here hasn't changed much. Just now I'm thinking of organising a Lydian Airs on-line Eightsome Reel. Would you be on for that?

Christopher said...

Z: If it was anyone else but you I'd say they were making a cissy fuss about nothing.

mig bardsley said...

Never Christopher. They were very respectable old ladies.

Rosie said...

Is that the same as the Gay Gordons?

Christopher said...

There's nothing to suggest that Mother Brown wasn't a respectable old lady, is there, Mig?

Rosie: You mentioned Scottish Country Dancing at your place recently, so I naturally assumed it was something you were adept at. I was hoping you would become this blog's SCD consultante, but I see I may have to look elsewhere. I might try Vicus.

Tim said...

I had the fastest Dinky FI Ferrari in the school Copse. I will explain elsewhere.

Christopher said...

School copse? You mean your school prefect system? (Ford prefect, that is.)

mig bardsley said...

With those knees?

Sir Bruin said...

You've started something now. My first car was a Sunbeam Rapier. registration was ORT 119E - no idea what the reg of my current car is. While I'm at it, first bike was a Suzuki GT185. My son has just bought a 1970's Triumph GT6. he picked it up the other day and it did 6 miles before the wheel bearing caught fire.

Christopher said...

Mig: What knees? Or did you mean Watney's?

Good to see you, Sir B. Thanks for driving by. I hope your son has never found himself in the position that someone locally did, a lad who 'borrowed' his dad's car one wintry night without his knowledge; the engine burst into flames after a mile or two - unknown to the son, his dad had covered the engine with a woollen blanket to protect it from the frost. The scorch marks are still visible on the road surface 20 years later.

Sir Bruin said...

I have no fears on that score - he doesn't borrow my car or bike and I don't borrow his. My father used to do thing with the blanket. He forgot one morning, the blanket got wrapped in the fan which came off and went through the radiator. Oh, how I laughed.