Cars 'aint wot they used to be !

After my father died I found a copy of ‘The Uig Echo’ circa 1959 among his belongings. The magazine was a newspaper edited by a chap called Dave Caldwell for the benefit of the ninety or so lost souls stationed at RAF Aird Uig in the Outer Hebrides. This article was within its pages and I reproduce it here just as was – warts and all.

It just shows what heaps of junk we could drive around in those days, pre-MOT, pre-breath test and pre-road rage. It sure was fun though!

Alex Gumbrecht

Any Old Iron

“Twenty pounds and it’s yours,” he said with that magnanimous attitude typical of all car dealers. ”Done!” said I – very true as I found out later – and I was the proud owner of a 1936 Ford 10 Saloon.

I drove to Ramsgate to show my ’bargain’ to my fiancée. After a very unenthusiastic reception amid my hastily constructed explanations about the latest modern bald tyres, doors ventilated with jagged holes for the natural look, with play in the steering for ease of driving, she finally agreed to come for a drive.

We set off oblivious of the incredulous stares of the neighbours, with my future mother -in-law waving a frantic farewell and my future father-in-law looking very dubious and slightly cynical. We clattered along the road, the general effect being somewhat similar to an assorted collection of tin cans being rolled down a metal shute. ”Runs beautifully, doesn’t she ’?” 1 shouted above the din. I received no reply.

We arrived back about half hour later, my fiancee visibly shaken, especially by the braking performance. I had tried to mollify her by stating that the brakes were safer than was normal because they would not permit the car to skid (in fact, they were so good in that respect that they would hardly stop the car at all), but even she was not quite that gullible.

During the next few months much blood and many tears were shed over that car – my blood and my fiancée’s tears. I left a trail of grease and oil everywhere that I had reason to go, which. incidentally was not appreciated my future mother-in-law. Many is the time I heard the statement, ”It’s that car or me!”, and every time I proved my loyalty to the car and my fiancée was forced to relent.

At last the day came when I considered that the car was fit to be taken on a long drive and so one Friday morning saw myself and a friend hurtling (anything above 20 m.p.h. in that car was hurting) along the road to Guildford. Everything was going well until just outside Canterbury when a clanging sound became apparent and I discovered that my brakes were working even less effectively than before. We eventually came to rest at the bottom of a hill, although it was not through lack of effort that we did not manage to stop earlier. I found that two of the brake connecting rods had snapped, leaving virtually no braking power at all, but nevertheless we decided to put our trust in the gods and carry on with our journey.

We reached the outskirts of Guildford after having a few mishaps such as crossing various traffic lights at red, failing to stop at halt signs (again not through lack of effort), and once having to turn into the courtyard of a public house to avoid knocking down a member of our illustrious police force complete with bicycle.

”Well, Roger,” I said triumphantly as we drove through the outskirts the city, ”We’ve made it”, which were the last words I uttered before it happened. Seeing a cat walk out in front of her, the woman driver ahead of us decided to spare its life at my expense, and thus stopped rather suddenly. This simple action left me with a classic “Hobson’s choice”; to crash into the rear of woman’s nice new car, or climbing a sixty degree grass bank. I chose the bank. By the time my companion had realised what was happening the car had already turned over on to its side and I finished up with him sitting on my head.

“Blimey!” exclaimed Roger, manoeuvering himself so that so that I might extricate my head from under him. “B..... it!’ retorted at the same time turning off the ignition. Roger opened the nearside door which was directly overhead due to our rather unorthodox position and climbed out looking something like the modern conception of a submarine commander after a particularly hard battle. I followed suit after managing to convince attentive old lady that 1 was quite all right and did not need a doctor, the fire brigade, the police or numerous other organisations that she knew of. With the aid of six other sympathetic car drivers we managed to turn the car the right way up and I climbed in and pulled the starter. To my absolute amazement it started and I made ready to carry on with my journey. Roger elected to walk the rest of the way into Guildford, saying that he would not ride in my car again, even to get out of the Air Force, which as most other ranks will know, is rather a drastic statement.

I finally arrived, at my destination looking as though I crashed into a steam roller instead of a harmless grass verge. Needless to say I never attempted a long drive in that particular car again.

There was one more mishap before the car finally ended its life, when, in the dark, I mistook a ’T’ road junction for a road fork with rather spectacular results. A few weeks later the transmission bearings seized up bringing the ear to a halt in far less distance than the brakes had ever done. I vowed there and then that I would never again be the owner of a 1936 Ford Ten Saloon and I’ve kept that vow. I now own a 1936 Ford Ten Tourer.

A. Gumbrecht.


  1. Not mentioned in the original article is that on the final brakeless stage of the trip, I got stuck in a traffic jam on the hill leading out of Guildford towards the Hog’s Back. I had to hold the car on the clutch for something like 15 minutes. When I wanted to turn right off the Hogs Back to Aldershot via Tongham I couldn’t slow enough to take the turn. I ended up having to go via Farnham.

  2. The right hand bracket holding the petrol tank to the car had long since rusted away. The tank was held on by a steel hawser lashed from the spare wheel bracket at the back of the car, under the tank, then tied to the first bit of chassis that hadn’t already corroded to dust. This sort of thing was not considered out of the ordinary at the time – not even worth a mention in the article, obviously.

  3. I fitted the engine from the defunct saloon into the Ford 10 Tourer mentioned in the article. Just after I got married I drove the Tourer from Ramsgate to Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland. It was then across to Stornaway on the Loch Seaforth (the name of the ferry boat) and a drive across the Isle of Lewis to Aird Uig. The car served myself and my new wife proud during the time we lived in the village of Aird. I sold it on our departure to another RAF guy and I heard subsequently that the rear axle seized about a week later. I think the purchaser is still trying to find me today!

  4. The Tourer ended its days being manhandled by the combined membership of the corporals club and the sergeants mess to the top of a 600 foot cliff and then shoved over in a sport we used to call ‘bombing the Russian fleet’. This comprised to trying to hit the Russian trawlers with a boulder when they sheltered in the lee of the cliffs. Of course they were not really trawlers but spy ships who used the stormy conditions as an excuse to get in close and monitor the radar. Luckily we never actually hit one and missing was our contribution to avoiding a third world war.

  5. Anyone like to guess how much that Ford 10 Tourer would be worth now? It was a rarity even in 1959. I heard once that there were only a few thousand made and of these only a hundred or so were right hand drive models. I don’t know how true this is but I personally never saw another one.
Ford 10 tourer
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