Cars in my Life
Family Cars that stimulated my interest
The first car that I remember was a Riley 9. To make it light, it had a fabric body on an ash frame. A design shortcoming was the location of the gasoline tank in the engine compartment. Towards the end of a return journey from Cambridge, a small gasoline leak caused a fire and my father responded quickly, taking the blanket I was using to keep warm and smothering the fire. All but the blanket was saved. The car was surrendered at the start of World War 2.
The Standard 12
After the end of World War 2 car ownership could resume, but cars were difficult to find. We became the proud owners of a 1938 Standard 12 and I was old enough to start worrying about maintenance issues. The car had a cable operated brake system with swing links to balance cable tensions and effect uniform braking. When clean the system worked well but it required constant attention. This car also introduced me to fatigue failure when the drop-arm connecting the steering wheel to the front wheels failed during a low speed parking maneuver, oil on the failure surface indicated that the crack had been growing for a long time!
Ford Consul Mk. 1
The Ford was a post-war design with a MacPherson strut independent front suspension, better brakes and maneuverability than our prewar cars. It seemed always 'to go' without presenting the engineering challenges of these previous cars.
My own cars
My first car, a1958 MG A that was selected instead of a Studebaker!
Then came the XK 150 Jaguar; the fastest truck I ever drove. Finally killed by a deer!
The deer provided the excuse to get an E-Type Jaguar. The car was so new when photographed that it was still wearing dealer plates.
In addition to being the fastest car I have owned, my wife to be, Dominique, helped me remove the engine and gearbox after I got "stuck in reverse" by backing up too rapidly in the E-Quad parking lot! Reverse gear had a plain metal bearing and minimal lubrication. Fretting was a problem.
Probably my biggest mistake was to own two Rover 2000s, the second a TC. The first, shown above, was purchased to carry out the responsibility of being a new father, but it was so bad that I thought it must be a lemon and traded it in on a new British Racing Green version. This was also a disaster! A life with German and Japanese cars was to follow.
A "pre-owned" Audi 100 was a big improvement over the previous Rovers. Front wheel drive was a new experience (apart from Minis in the U.K.) and the performance was adequate for family travel. Absence of AC made summer journeys less than comfortable.
Before venturing on a cross U.S.A. trip an air conditioned Audi 100 was purchased. The new luxury made travel easy, but disconnected one from the real world. It was a surprise to find out how hot Death Valley was, even at 8:00 a.m. after the cool ride to that location.
After returning from a European trip and finding that my youngest son had "pranged" the Audi 100, an interim Honda was purchased. A good road-holding car with a trouble free and sweet engine, but not very comfortable seats after a two hour stint at the wheel.
In a search for more power, performance and comfort, an Audi 90 TC Quattro replaced the Honda. This car had a complex history, being side-swiped by a car ignoring a stop sign, being broken into overnight but refusing to move once the ignition lock was broken, and having a tree fall on it in a storm. It was fun to drive and encouraged me to earn 12 points on my driving license, after which I started to behave more reasonably.
For the last fourteen years my A4 Avant has been providing motion. It has a 2.8 litre V6 (all the other Audis had 5 cylinder engines) and Quattro. The biggest improvement I made was to fit it with Michelin Pilot tires which put to shame those fitted by the manufacturer. Including depreciation, repair and maintenance costs, I estimate it has cost me $0.90 /mile to run.
The photographs of the "family cars" are the correct years but not the actual cars. Of my cars, the first four and the last photograph are of the actual cars I had. The others are of cars of the correct make and year, but not mine.