Driving Back Through Time

I swear I am not a car person and yet, the sight of a line of vintage automobiles  was enough to set my heart racing. I simply had to find out where they were coming from.

And that’s how I ended up at the North East Vintage Car show in Mosney, Co. Meath on Sunday.

Despite the eye-catching exodus, there were still plenty of old cars on view.  And I basked in the wave of nostalagia that swiftly overwhelmed me as I wandered among the Morris Minors, Vauxwagens and Anglias.

Overhead the tannoy was belting out “She loves you, ya, ya, ya” as the crowds milled around in little clutches, chatting with other car enthusiasts or picnicking on rugs beside their vintage pride and joy.

Morris Minor

Morris Minor

I love the wooden trim on these old Morris Minors. Probably late 1960s. And definitely chic. Gotta love those wing mirrors. Makes me feel right back there at seven years of age sitting high up in the driver’s seat, little fists around the steering wheel, pretending to drive.

Anglia

Anglia

Mind you, when I was peering into this old Anglia, I wondered how on earth our family of eight squished into such a little space for our regular Sunday outings.

Rear View Anglia

Rear View Anglia

Of course, I would have known by then that there was a hierachy in car seating arrangements, just as there was in everything else.

Dad drove. Dads invariably drove back then, the better to leave the mother free to hold the baby in the front seat.

The second youngest in the family got to ride up front with baby, Mother and Dad. So he must have sat on the handbrake somehow. But I also have a clear memory of him also occupying the shelf underneath the rear window of either our Volkswagen or Morris Minor and amusing himself by running his finger along the condensation on the window.

And, with eight passengers in the car, there was always a lot of condensation.

The older two siblings had the best position in the passenger seat, beside the rear doors. And so, my sister and I were squished in the middle.

Of course, such overcrowding invariably led to rows.

It didn’t help that one brother couldn’t resist singing at the least provocation. Much to the chagrin of our older, more reserved brother.

Some things haven’t changed. One still sings, the other is more dutiful.

Likewise, I am sure the fact of my being squished in the middle of the Anglia trained me for life in being a pacifist. I neither sang nor complained but learned instead how to sleep in the most uncomfortable of positions. A skill and a cop-out which serves me well to this day.

This skill also proved especially useful when our mother, overwhelmed by yet another drive by the bishops of the day, took it upon herself to induct us all again in the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The predictable rise and fall of the Hail Marys and Our Fathers had a somnonbulent effect at the best of times. There was no reason to stay awake.

Perhaps the prayers were intended though, for a safe journey or even a very pleasant picnic.In which case, it was very understandable that Mother took to prayer because both events were, in themselves minor miracles.

In the 1960s Ireland had more road deaths per capita than ever before or since. Much though I love the look of the stand alone headlights, or simple indicators, they were inadequate on bad country roads which were already dealing with a steady increase in traffic.

Jaguar

Jaguar

And yet, the cars of the past, with all that polished chrome and sleek radiator grilles, seem far more attractive to my eye than those of today.

Paintings for the vintage car enthusiast

Paintings for the vintage car enthusiast

It’s no wonder that some talented folk are simply itching to paint them.

Cars and picnics went hand in hand, of course, particularly in summer. We were invariably heading for the beach then, in any case. After almost two hours in the car, and a quick baptism in the foaming Atlantic, we were ready for the picnic which Mother miraculously conjured up, along with the picnic rug, cups, cutlery and other picnic paraphenalia.

Rear View Anglia

Rear View Anglia

Red lemonade and ham sandwiches were the staples of this feast, but, in addition there was tea or cocoa from thermos flasks and slabs of porter cake to quench whatever appetites we had left.  The sea air made everything seem all the more exotic and delicious.

We travelled all over in those cars, winding our way along the wild west coast of Clare and further along the Kerry peninsulas and at her first glimpse of sea Mother would invariably start singing

“The sea oh the sea, grá gheal mo chroí, long may it lie between England and me. `Tis a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free. Thank God we’re surrounded by water”

I hasten to add that Mother was not an ardent nationalist. Just a landlubber who was thrilled at the sight of the wild Atlantic, much as I am today.

Herald

Herald

Evocative as they are of all those childhood pleasures, it’s little wonder that the 1960s cars are my favourite.

Morris Minor

Morris Minor

…with the Morris Minors taking second place to the Anglia in my hit list of preferences.

Ford Model t 1917

Ford Model t 1917

But, although a little before my time, I loved this Ford Model T too. Oh, I can just see it ferrying some of my heroines up to Downton Abbey.

1917 Ford The Doctor`s Coupe

1917 Ford The Doctor`s Coupe

Or whisking the local physician to his housebound patients.

Earlier Austin

 

And this Austin certainly has a lot of class about it too.AustinNow, in case you’re wondering, I did not use my vintage car perambulations as an excuse to slack off from my Juneathon duties. A six mile run earlier in the day, kept my Juneathon schedule up to date on the jogging front. And yesterday, I fulfilled my cross training duty with a little light yoga.

Admittedly, missing yesterday’s post deadline though, makes me a slacker on the blog post front.

I can only hope that this drive back through time will buy me a little forgiveness.

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Driving Back Through Time

  1. Delightful post, bringing back lovely memories of our Morris Minor ZP 1289 and Ford Prefect ZL108 that also housed 6 smallies + 2 adults. I can recall that my father would switch off the engine and freewheel down the many hills in Donegal to save petrol and invariably my mother would be telling him ‘You are going too fast!’

  2. Great nostalgia RH. Back to the days when motoring in Ireland was still an adventure. I used to have an old uncle in Dunmanway with an old car. I used to go for spins in it, sitting in the back. He would spend at least half the time turning around and chatting to me in the back, the car drifting way over to the other side of the road. His wife in the passenger seat said never a word but said the Rosary until we arrived safe home again.

    • Haha! Oh, you really should blog that one Roy. I have an image of your poor aunt in a sweat as your uncle takes over the road.And you, with the backseat all to yourself! Luxury!

  3. The days before health and safety, now we would never dream of travelling in such away and would frown on those that do, it sounds like tremendous fun.

    • I remember Dad having a very hard time adapting to the compulsory seat belt wearing rule in the mid seventies. And that didn’t apply at all to back seat passengers for oh, maybe another ten years.

  4. I love the shape and design of the Anglia. Our family car was a Chevy caprice classic station wagon, complete with wood paneling. There was a hide-away, rear-facing 3rd seat, so on long car trips (Maine to Michigan), the 3rd row would accommodate 2 children. We would have to rotate seats because the rear-facing seats, coupled with the inhaling of exhaust (no A/C of course so the rear window would be down), caused tons of car sickness. My mother also anticipated the “mom, she’s touching me!” battle cries by taping a line of “do not cross” duct tape down the center of the car from the front dash to the rear window. We never learned the consequences of crossing that line–far too scary a thought.

    • Oh, I am laughing out loud at your Mom. Great thinking! Backseats can be such a battle ground for siblings. And my, you all sure know about long car trips there in the US. A long trip for us is about 100 miles. I am quite sure that’s regarded as a short trot for you.

      • I love driving, when it’s for a trip (not a commute). I’ve been known to drive 8 hours for a concert. The Mister still can’t wrap his head around this. In Japan, long car trips don’t exist. His first summer here, we drove from NYC to Chicago (14 hours). I think he thought he’d never see the end of Pennsylvania.

  5. If these cars could talk, oh what stories we would learn!

    Your post is amazing. I’m almost 62, and to this very day, the sight ( and sound) of the vintage cars bring a smile to my face. I wish I had the money to purchase one that languishes in the elements, have it refurbished, inside and out. My greatest joy would be to share it with others.

    • Glad you loved the post. I think appreciating vintage cars is one of the great pleasures of getting older and wiser. I’m not sure I’d have all that energy for refurbishment though(assuming I’d both the money and the skill). I am sure the cleaning alone would take a great deal of time. But, oh, I would enjoy the fruits of such labours and happily sit in the back seat again, the better to figure how on earth we managed to put in those miles, all those years ago.

      • You write so beautifully.

        I agree, I’d have to have more money than sense to own one of these beauties and then I would need to be the passenger. My friend owns her father’s 1948 Chevy. I’m often invited along when she pulls it out to rev the engine and take it for a drive. Folks wave and we wave back…oh, and she keeps a large hatbox in the trunk with hats her mother and grandmother wore back ‘in-the-day.’ We wear them and ‘pretend’ we are out for a frolic as if the car were new and we were, too!

  6. A truly lovely post. I enjoyed your description of a portion of childhood so familiar to so many of us – the family car ride. I did not post about it, as I did not get any good photos this year, but last weekend, Bugman and I encountered the annual Sugar Valley Rally. The Rally brings vintage vehicles from all over the place for a “timed driving challenge.” It’s not a race – drivers must follow directions and carefully keep the proper speed. The car that completes the course closest to the “perfect” time wins. Here was a post from last year when we encountered the Rally: http://wyobraskatandem.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/ride-to-the-wildcats-with-wind-2/

  7. I think this post more than makes up for a bit of slacking – for me it was like a drive through the memory lane of my childhood. Ooh, I’m getting quite nostalgic for that Morris Traveller – so many holidays taken in one of those!

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