Wednesday, 9 November 2011

My First Car..."Hildegarde".
The £30 was thrust into the hands of the lady Secretary at the bank where I worked and the splendid 1936 Morris 10/4 Series 2 fixed head coupe, standing in the parking space outside the bank, was mine.
The Morris in original livery.
In 1963 when I bought it, the car was already 27 years old and had less than 30,000 miles on the clock. It was battleship grey with a tan vinyl covered roof and I named it ‘Hildegarde’ (battle maiden in German) or Hilda for short!

Owned by a former manager at the bank from new, it had been stolen from his home and used as the getaway car for a robbery that took place at the local Knott End-on-Sea Golf Club! The thieves had made an ‘L’ shaped cut in the middle of the sunroof so that they could open it and climb in. At some point he sold it to his Secretary, who did minimal mileage in it, finally selling it to me.
During the next couple of years or so, the car was re-wired, had a new vinyl roof and new headlining. I used it as daily transport, entered the car in a vintage/post vintage rally and during this period I also made an overnight journey to Norfolk that included a very ‘hairy’ drive, in the early hours, over the demanding ‘Cat and Fiddle’road from Macclesfield to Buxton in heavy mist.
In new blue livery at Loch Creran (I think!)
Some time later it was hand painted by me in a pale blue ‘brushing cellulose’ and it was in that livery that my wife and I, recently married, decided to drive it to Scotland for a camping holiday. All went well until we reached Balloch on the southern shore of Loch Lomond when I noticed that the dynamo wasn’t charging and realised that new brushes were required. Fortunately there was a garage nearby and after the proprietor was asked if he could help, he disappeared into the dark recesses of the place for a few minutes and re-appeared clutching a brand new set of the Lucas brushes we required. These were fitted by me at the roadside and we continued with renewed confidence to our next overnight stop. We had a splendid time camping, in mixed weather, and ultimately reached Mallaig at the furthermost point.

Looking over the white sands of Morar

FV 7377 gave sterling service but eventually ended up on oil drums at the rear of our garage when we decided that a newer everyday family vehicle was required. So there it stayed, being turned over from time to time with the starting handle, until a new job opportunity resulted in the prospect of a move to Staffordshire, a move that fortuitously coincided with the launch of the new Morris Marina convertible!  This not overwhelmingly popular event gave me an idea!  Dear ‘Hilda’ had to go, but why not try to get the garage that had originally sold her in April 1936 to buy the car and use it as a publicity vehicle parked next to the new Marina in the showroom?
The Managing Director responded readily to my suggestion and a sum of £250 was agreed. The car was driven away and we bought a new three piece suite for our new house in Stone!
While in Staffordshire, we learned that the car had been returned to its original grey colour and received press cuttings from our families whenever it took part in a promotional event, finally hearing that it had been acquired by the Holker Hall Motor Museum as an exhibit. We subsequently visited the Museum on two occasions, finding the car in a very sorry state on our last visit some two years ago, parked under an outside shelter, open to the elements, having been ousted from display by a more ‘attractive’ vehicle. We feared the worst!

Lakeland Motor Museum (windscreen seal to be completed!)
However, some months later, matters changed dramatically when we learned from a friend who had visited the newly sited and completely new Lakeland Motor Museum at Backbarrow near Newby Bridge in Cumbria, that ‘our car’ was on display and looking resplendent in blue livery, with a new hood and restored chrome.
Within days of this news I contacted the Museum, informed them of our interest and received complimentary tickets for a visit. As a donation, I gathered together any relevant invoices, press cuttings and photographs that I thought would add provenance to the car and arrived at this wonderful Lakeland attraction.
What a thrill it was to see the car on display, so many memories of happy motoring days when the roads were less congested than they are today and satisfied in the knowledge that the car is in a good home with many more years of life to look forward to.
The museum must be on the list of ‘must sees’ for any visitor to the Lakes, even those with only a marginal interest in cars and transport. It is in an idyllic setting and there is a first class ultra modern, sensibly priced, cafe/restaurant overlooking the River Leven, with outside seating . On the same site is ‘The Campbell Exhibition’ also very worthy of a visit.

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