I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Old Austins (Or Transport Through the Ages III)

Roderick Robinson has recently commented on my previous post that I am "nostalgic about Austin Cambridges". I don't remember ever  having admitted to that particular nostalgia, but he brought back the memory that, in 1967, I was extremely proud to own a rather magnificent  16 year old Austin A70 Hereford. (Built before the British Motor Corporation absorbed Austin  into their deathly company)

It was a lovely, well preserved car with only one vice. At anything over 60 the front wheels would wobble so violently that steering was very much compromised. (I learnt to anticipate it's commencement and back off the speed). With later acquired mechanical "nous" I would have realized that those huge and heavy front wheels simply needed balancing.

This picture was taken during a holiday in Cornwall (Bodmin Moor, Roughtor) with my young family of 3 children - eldest would have been 8. The capacious bench seats front and rear (no seatbelts then) with the steering column gear change ensured ample room for all (wife and dog included).

I would say "happy days", but I also remember during that holiday that it experienced a tyre blowout. A new tyre was needed and these were the days before credit cards. It took a great deal of my carefully saved holiday cash - so much so that we were on short commons for the remainder of the week.

Still the kids still enjoyed the free sand and sea - which was the purpose of the holiday. Tintagel, Cornwall was always a favourite for many years with it's cliff walks and superb scenery.

Thanks for the memories, R.R.!


Roderick Robinson said...

Ah yes - the days of classic discomfort. The fact that within a year of purchase it was "traditional" for the synchromesh ring to become inoperative on first gear on BMC/BL gearboxes of that vintage.

For those with rose-tinted spectacles this was seen as a bonus since it allowed them to boast about their double-declutching skills - oh, how they went on and on, double-declutching being evidence of their techno-manhood, their ability to solve problems.

Blind to the fact that a car like the Cambridge was - in effect - a problem (several of them, in fact) rather than a car. That driving these wretched dinosaurs brought about a whole series of compromises. And what about changing the oil filter on the Cambridge? Quite, quite impossible until you discovered that the hand-brake had to be off. Mind you I can see the reasoning of the BMC/BL marketing department here: Well, they'd say, you wouldn't expect to change the filter when parked on a hill.

And the suspension! Parked in an admittedly muddy but quite flat field near Silverstone I despaired of ever working up sufficient traction to get home.

Golden days? Not for me. The Cambridge was basically a vehicle designed in the thirties which remained undeveloped for decades - that's if you don't count re-arranging the chrome every three or four years. You might think I'd become deranged when I eagerly replaced it with another car designed in the thirties. However that happened to be a VW Beetle.

Anonymous said...

Golden days for we three children!

It was this car (with it's bench seats) that allowed us and our friends and the dog and you and Mum to squeeze in to it wasn't it? I seem to remember counting 12 humans?!

We may have been on 'short commons' that time in Cornwall, but as children we weren't aware of that, so thankyou to you both.

Daughter xx

Avus said...

I wholeheartedly agree about the dreadful dead hand of the British Motor Corporation/British Leyland which assimilated the Austin Motor Company. Fortunately my A70 was made before that takeover - the last flash of the setting sun.

I did all basic maintenance on it and seem to remember that (unlike the dreadful "Cambridge" of later BMC years) oil and filter changes were a doddle.

I remember cramming all those kids into it on a trip to the Loose Valley (some were squatting on the floor between the feet of those on the rear seat). Those were more innocent times, before seat belts and before I became a Road Safety Officer!

Those Cornwall holidays were indeed golden. Your great-nieces are continuing the tradition at this time of writing.
Pa xx

Vita said...

I like the way you worded the "if I'd known then what I know now" thing.

Avus said...


Truly a voice from the past. I think you were the very first to comment on my first post back in 2006. Lovely to hear from you after all this time