My First Car

My life with cars started, as many do, at the age of 18, when I took my first driving lesson. It has almost ended several times, with a few events that could easily have taken me on “the big, one-way trip”.

1952 vanguardMy first car, bought in 1961, was a dark green 1952 Standard Vanguard. It was by far the classiest car in all of Australia (in my opinion anyway). The motor was, I was told, the same motor as used in the Ferguson tractor, with four big “pots” that gave it plenty of power. It needed this, as it weighed in at well over a ton.

I remember the feeling as I backed it out of the garage the first few times… the sides of the garage seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the car, and whichever way I steered, I ended up touching or nearly touching the door post.

Like all young car-owners, I loved to drive, and many Saturdays were spent driving from Geelong, to Ballarat, to Melbourne and back, about 320Km (200M) round trip, just for the thrill of it. Most of this was at or over the speed limit, although I never got caught by the Police during this time.

One night, I was driving alone down a hilly country road outside Geelong when I ran out of petrol. I stopped at the bottom of a hill, wondering what to do… I was loth to leave my beloved car in the dark where it may be stripped or damaged by vandals.

At the top of the hill I could see the lights of a house, so I decided to try and push the car there for security. With one arm through the window to steer, I started to push. It was a very hard task, but I finally got it to the top.

There was a clear sandy area just over the brow of the hill and it looked like a good place to leave it, so I gave it one last push to take it over the top.

As it went over the top, it started to roll down the hill. I was still outside the car with my arm through the window, and I tried to pull back to stop the car.

It was too heavy, and the hill too steep, and it started to pick up speed. Running along next to it, I couldn’t even have let go if I had wanted to, and I was eventually skipping along beside the car, desperately trying to stay on my feet.

Part way down the hill a car passed me going up the hill. I can still imagine the driver’s face as he passed this car going down the hill with a young bloke dancing along and steering it through the window!

Finally it rolled to a stop at the bottom, and I left it there overnight.

One day, while driving around Geelong (at normal speed), there was a loud “bang” followed by a worrying “knock-knock-knock” from the motor. I stopped, and smoke and steam poured out from under the bonnet. I had no mechanical knowledge, so I limped home with it, and was told that one of the con-rods (which hold the pistons) had dropped its big-end bearing (the one that goes around the crankshaft) and pushed it through the side of the motor block. There was a hole as big as my hand in the side of the block!

Now read about the repair saga 

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2 thoughts on “My First Car

  1. I know that car well, I once had to work on one that had thrown the third cylinder big end through the side of the engine block, quite a few did. The biggest pain was prior to and including to mid 1949 it was fitted with short doors, sills, chrome bonnet mascot with Griffin mascot and column change on the ‘right hand’ of the steering wheel so that in those day when indicating you had to wind the drivers window down, stick out your arm in the rain to signal, change down a cog with the same arm and then resume signalling!! I can see why they got rid of that! They had the famous ‘Wet Sleeve’ motor that negated the need to re -bore the cylindors when worn, simply whip the sleeves out and relace them.

    • Ah yes, I’d forgotten about the wet sleeves (both types – the shirt-sleeve when signalling, and the cylinder ones) and remember now that we did replace one of these during one of our repair jobs.

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