by Mark Smith
I passed my driving test in August 1976 at the second attempt.
The first test didn't go to plan when I accidentally selected third gear instead of fourth on the hill start and got stranded in the middle of a busy junction (Toledo gearboxes) and followed that with a sideways emergency stop, luckily on a quiet road!
Well it was hardly my fault that my test took place on the first morning of rain after a long dry and warm Spring - didn't stand a chance! Anyway, the second one must have been deemed better as the Examiner handed me a pass slip and I was then free to take to the open road. This was handy as I had a Morris 1000 parked on my parents drive that I had bought for the grand sum of fifty quid the previous Easter.
Now you didn't get much for fifty quid even in 1976, so I had bought a car with three fibre glass wings. It did come with a fourth which was the only surviving metal one as fitted by the factory. The colour was interesting, it was Safari Yellow. For those of you too young to have first hand experience of this colour, it is difficult for me to explain in printable terms its exact shade. I'm not sure if I could describe it in printable words so we will gloss over that and just add that it was quite a popular colour in the 70's. Mind you, any colour that required the use of dark glasses to look at it in the 70's, even in the dark, was a popular colour. But I digress.
This car had been sat on the drive and not stirred a wheel for near on five months but I had kept the engine running and the battery topped up. I had also been 'smartening up' the paint. Not having the equipment, the space or the skill to spray paint a car was a handicap but thank God for those tins of touch up paint! I must have cleared out the local auto-factor of every tin of Safari Yellow he had and it's only now as I sit writing this that I realised the significance of the shop owner standing at his doorway rubbing his hands together as he saw me coming down the street and the thick layer of dust that seemed to coat every tin I bought. He only lacked a stutter and a 'buy two for three' offer on the stand and he would have given Ronnie Barker a run for his money! In fairness, the result was not too bad considering it was applied with a brush and was quite passable at a distance of ten feet. It looked particularly good under the lights of the local petrol station at night.
Well, test pass in hand, I set about insuring the car and obtaining a Road Fund Licence. In those days the only way of taxing a car for the first time was to send off to the DVLA. I can't remember the full details of my financial status at that time but given the price of the car, I can't imagine I was going to be a millionaire anytime soon but I do recall I paid for the Road Fund Licence with Postal Orders. I then taped the receipt parts to the inside of the passenger side of the front windscreen as proof of 'Tax in Post'.
A few weeks later and still awaiting the arrival of my Tax Disc, I packed the fishing gear in the car and picked up my then girlfriend and headed off for a Sunday afternoon at Little Britain lake near Iver in Buckinghamshire for an afternoons angling. After an hour or so we retreated to the car for a cup of tea from the flask we had taken. As we sat there, a white Police Rover came past us. It stopped and backed up. One of the officers got out of the car and walked up to us. I wound down the riverside window and the following conversation ensued:
Police Office (in official voice): "This your car sir?"
Police Officer (still in official voice): "Had it long sir?"
At this point I got out as the Police Officer started to walk round to the boot.
Me: "I bought it at Easter but just passed my test so only had it on the road a week or so."
Police Officer (still in official voice): "Original colour?"
Me: "I should hardly think so but this is the colour it was when I bought it."
Police Officer (still in official voice): "Original number plate?"
We (getting worried now): "Yes, as far as I know! Why? It's not stolen is it?"
Police Officer (now very excited): "No! Mate of mine owned this car a few years ago, one of the last cars to come out of Anglesea with an Anglesea plate on it! Worth a fortune if you can sell it for the plate!"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! He totally ignored the almost quarter of the front window screen obscured with Postal Order receipts and was just ecstatic that he had seen his mates old car! Suddenly I heard the radio crackle into life in the Police car and his colleague stuck his head out of the driver-side window and shouted that they had to go. The Officer I had been talking to apologised and said he would have to go and ran back to his car and the two of them drove off.
Sadly, the car was eventually scrapped as by the time I got to it's first MOT under my ownership, the drivers seat had all but collapsed and was falling through the rotten floor. There were a number of other expensive problems too and being perpetually skint, the car was deemed uneconomical to repair.
Oh, the number plate of the car? LEY 148
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