by Nick Arthur
My passion for motors is intertwined with lots of different stages in life, so here goes!
School wasn't really for me. I learned stuff, but it wasn't the curriculum that was planned, more a series of life lessons, so I left at 15. My bedroom walls at my parents house in Warrington were covered in car pics- e types mainly, spitfires and mgbgt . I dreamed that one day I'd own an e type roadster.
Other kids had pop stars or footballers. I had some from my beloved Liverpool F C but mainly cars. My dad offered me some stark choices when I decided I was leaving school. I had to go to work, earn money and pay rent, or go and get educated.
I opted for the latter, it seemed easier. I went to further education college. I like to think I learned lots in that year. I learned to gamble, I'd buy and occasionally steal ex juke box singles and I'd sell them on the coach going home. I saw myself as a budding if not slightly drunken entrepreneur . College expelled me. My dad offered me some familiar choices. This time with a bit less patience!
I went to work after lazing around for as long as possible. I was 17/18 by now, doing bar work mainly. Then a job on shifts when I was 18 . It was an aluminium smelting factory. Real life kicked in. Job was hard, tough folk work hard in hot and sweaty conditions. It was rightly well paid. I was on shifts and I had plenty of time on my hands and, as I was often reminded, I was living in the cheapest hotel in Warrington.
I needed a car. I badly wanted a car. My dad had company cars so I wasn't allowed near them. My mum had a very faded Red Austin 1100 - I wasn't allowed near that on my own. I wasn't responsible enough apparently. Probably right.
I changed jobs as I was made redundant - I was being taught practical lessons in politics. 'Don't mess with the unions '- as they will strike. Quickly followed by 'Don't mess with the management ' or they will stop investing and make you redundant. Strikes = redundancies, last in first out !
I got a job in a warehouse, stacking pallets, picking loads, brushing up and making tea. It paid poorly, but I got overtime and worked in a pub as well. I got by, I still had the red e type roadster on my bedroom wall.
I got in a fight, admittedly not my first - I was beer brave! Me and two mates took on a group of less drunk, much harder scouse guys in a chippy. They were mucking about, we took them on, Warrington vigilantes - we got badly beaten up. Me a bit more than the others, so enjoyed the hospitality of Warrington General Hospital.
The Coppers took our side as they were sick of Scousers coming to our town and causing trouble. I got to go in a brand new police rover SD1 and bled all over it ! But I'd been in a SD1 nonetheless . I got awarded criminal injuries and I had some savings. I could get a car, my very first car of my own - criminal justice ?
DWB 686H - a very second hand Cortina 1300 deluxe, pale blue, 4 doors, MOT. It had a few corners knocked off it but I loved that car. I did loads of stuff to it. I filled the dinks, sprayed them badly and then did it all over again. I put a 'stick on' heated back window!
I painted the wheels and meticulously cleaned the engine bay. I put a centre console in and fitted switches that kinda just switched on lights as opposed to really doing anything ! I had spot lamps with bright white covers on the front. I had a whip lash aerial.
For the first time in my life I was very nearly cool. I had a job, worked in a bar so I met lots of girls and I had a car! ( I was still a ginger so obviously unable to ever really be cool) . Me and DWB went everywhere.
I learned to drink shandy not beer anymore so we could go places. Me and my mates could go places outside of Warrington. Lock up your daughters Cheshire set, the Warrington boys were upwardly mobile. Knutsford, Nantwich, Alderly edge - even camping weekends in Anglesey. I loved DWB, it never once let me down , what could possibly go wrong?
About 6.30 am one foggy morning I was on my way to work and an uninsured driver came straight out of a junction and took me out. It was a big hit, I was ok, but DWB was in a bad way. Insurance write-off, way beyond my skills of redemption, it was towed away to a sad and lonely place.
I got about £200 insurance and at the age of 18 was back riding my old push bike to work.
Not cool. Time to find a new motor!
by Nick Arthur
So after the brutal demise of of my first love, my faithful pale blue MK 2 Cortina, or just plain DWB as it had become known, I was left as a 19 year old with a pushbike, a kinda homemade push bike , not much cash and a poorly paid job.
Things got better, I got promoted to Fork Lift Truck driver, then Supervisor then full time delivery driver. Don't under-estimate the pride of being a full time driver - even if it was a derated class 3 . A professional driver.
I would take out 4 ton deliveries on the back of a very tired old Bedford as new drivers weren't allowed anywhere near the sparkling new Bedford TK's. Mine was a very faded red massively high mileage abused wreck of thing that was just waiting to be traded in or sold off .
It had nothing in the cab, no radio, no creature comforts- it would just about make 50 mph flat out. It had a tail gate and canvas flap for access to the load. It had air brakes and a sitty up driving position that felt like you were sitting on the rusting cow bars on the front .
It wasn't an easy beast to work with. No side doors, so everything got loaded and unloaded by hand. No pallets on and off as it had wooden floor boards and couldn't take the weight of a pallet truck and a fully loaded pallet without splitting the floor. Tell tale holes showed me where other had tried before me! Those holes proved useful if you were caught short and a long way from a W.C, if you follow my thinking.
I loved this old red truck. We had a couple of years covering 1000's of miles. We new the streets of most North West towns. No sat nav then, just a box of Ato Z's and a Collins road map. I loved my Bedford, can't just recall the full reg- FED was the starting point.
During this year I saved enough money for another car. A maroon 1500 avenger. Much more modern in looks than my mk2 cortina. I'd love a mk 2 now, but back then it was considered very boxey after the shapely mk1 and the American looking mk3 - went back to being boxes in mk4 times
I contemplated putting a "Starsky and Hutch" stripe on my Hillman Avenger but my friends reminded me that this was early 1980's Warrington, not downtown Manhattan. I settled for black louvres on the back window, mud flaps that said 'dirty mean and nasty ' on them and sheepskin seat covers.
The car regularly jumped out of third gear, but that wasn't an issue to a boy racer. My maroon Avenger gleamed when polished. The black vinyl interior came up a treat. It was dark inside with those louvres. Black on black - my very own voodoo lounge!
Eventually I got to drive the New Bedford TK at work. It had sliding loading doors , a radio and a heater that worked. Oh yes, I was no longer the newbie. I was sad to see my old truck getting sold to the gypsies. Not sad cos they were getting it, just sad that in a strange way we'd become attached ! In its latter days I'd wired a cassette player into it and put a speaker in the box. Earth Wind and Fire booming out of the back, that's living alright !
Anyway I got a shiny new big red Bedford TK. Essentially I was nearly cool again (albeit still ginger) and I got to pick my deliveries. I also got to drive the managers' cars when emergency runs out were required. They had Marinas, all mustard yellow in colour.
The boss had a Wolsey Ambassador wedge in red , with black vinyl roof - It was top spec, fully loaded. It was different to the Austin variant. This beauty would do over 100 mph on the Widnes to Speke by- pass - sorry Mr Turner! I'd never driven a car that had velour seats and smelled brand new. A proper privilege that of course as a 21 year old was seriously abused!
They promoted me to warehouse manager, but they laughed at me asking for a company van. The status quo remained, then it dawned on me- to get a company car, you had to be a salesman.Salesmen had mustard marinas - One day I would have a mustard marina !!
There was a whole hierarchy that I wasn't previously aware of that would come to really matter.
Some had Marina coupes, some had 4 doors and some had a better spec. Not just old and new like vans and trucks. Like I was used to The senior had more add ons than the junior. You could tell rank of the man by the car, it was a whole new world!
The salesmen came to work later than me, went home earlier, earned stacks of wonga, they worked in clean smart clothes while I had second-hand light blue overalls. They had mustard marinas and just signed for their fuel - an epiphany moment. "I will be a salesman", I decided - what could possibly go wrong?
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