I pushed my first Austin Seven ‘Ruby’ home, with my mates – only a few roads. My Dad went mental, but allowed me to mess about with it…. I couldn’t drive it, I didn’t even know how to start the engine, but the guy who sold it to me gave me some books along with the buff folding logbook. Thankfully my next door neighbour had an old empty wooden garage and I promised to DO all kinds of jobs running errands for her – if I could park it down the side of her house. It didn’t take long to discover ‘How IT Works” – I even painted it in Dulux brilliant white gloss by hand.
My next was a 1929 box saloon (I knew nothing about their pedigree or their changes over the years) I just knew it was my oldest. Unfortunately I couldn’t move it from its grave in Buxton – but the lady allowed me to strip it for spares and it just fell into a pile of rust. However I did remember the gearbox was 3 speed with a reverse…… I hung it up on a nail [keep that in mind…]
Next came a ‘Nippy’ with a shiny aluminium skin. Again, I couldn’t get it running but four mates and my girl-friend pushed it about 5 miles from Handforth to Fallowfield in Manchester……. Again, my Dad went spare!!!! But I was allowed to keep it behind the back lounge
Me and four of my mates used to mess about near Manchester University’s Halls of Residents in Fallowfield. We had spotted an ‘A7’ languishing in the grounds and when we enquired – nobody seemed to own it, however, we did all chip in and bout it off a willing student for £5 [a lot of money when you’re a teenager and petrol costs 12s/6p a gallon]. None of my mates knew anything about starting cars, batteries, ‘Double de Clutch’ or even petrol [keep that in mind], but for months we drove it around 369B Wilmslow Road in a figure of 8 from garden…….. On one occasion, four us us drove all the way to Alderley Edge, but because I was the ONLY one who could actually drive (at 16), I was the mug to get us moving [4 lads in an old banger….] and because it had no power, I stayed close to a bus leading us to Parrswood….. lol – the guard hung onto the alighting rail and shouted “hey are lot old enough to drive…….” and 13 miles later we started climbing the notorious hill to ‘The Edge’….. and I must say, the speed coming down the hill was absolutely miraculously perilous – with such crap brakes the A7 was fitted with in 1937 Ruby’s. On the way back we ran out of petrol and filled it with Diesel…….We all laugh at such innocent days…
At around 19 yrs old, I spent hours and hours renovating all kinds of Austin Seven’s – found all over the place, tucked away in the back of garages, gardens, fields, and sheds. My very best A7 was painted Brown and Cream with white pin stripes and had white walled tyres. It was supposed to be our Wedding Getaway car for our honeymoon in Chester, but even though it was ‘dressed’ with tin cans and old boots – we actually sneaked away in my Mother-in-Laws Austin 1100.
There was an interjection around this time. Some people may remember ‘The Dell’ in Denton, Manchester….not only did this guy have a Ruston & Hornsby Gas Oil Engine generating his DC power – he was a collector of old cars. I bought a back axle and a front ‘A’ Frame from a wreck – which I transported ON THE VARIOUS BUSES back to Fallowfield – twice!!!…..[could we do this now…..ha ha ha]
1970’s – we moved into a newly built first house in Cheadle, it had an integral garage which actually accommodated TWO A7’s (they are so small). . Barry Hamer (my good friend and neighbour) had bought a very rare weird A7 Convertible which was with me for many years. But in the end our 2nd baby forced its sale around 1980 for £1350…. married life, wife and 2 kids, a self-employed electrician – changed the Austin Seven love story – with one exception – an A7 Van which I had found at the back of ‘Holland’s Pie Factory in Accrington, and thanks to John Pilkigton’s Austin Champ, we towed it all those miles back to Cheadle. The chassis was fabulous…. the ash frame and aluminium panels fell to pieces…….. THAT was THE end of an Austin Seven era.