Hell on the Highway

Dad's new car was a Triumph Herald. Actually, it wasn't really new and was not much of a triumph, nor something to shout about either. He was proud as punch though, bringing our first family car home the evening before our annual week's summer holiday.


Holidays were a trying time back in those days, the early 1960s. For the short six weeks of the school holidays, the weekends became like the migration of lemmings. The English road system was pretty much as had existed since the 1930s, when there were probably more horse-drawn vehicles rutting the newly-metalled surfaces than those of the petrol driven variety.


Dad had always had a motorcycle and, as the eldest and only boy, I would cling like a limpet onto Dad's back wherever we roamed. Meanwhile, Mum and my two young sisters, plus most of the luggage (other than what could be stuffed into two bike panniers) went by bus, underground, coach, train or whatever combination was available, to seaside resorts like Clacton, Southend, Margate or Hastings. The acquisition of the motor car meant we could all travel together and venture further afield, even unto the holy grail of the West Country. Yes, Paignton, in the county of Devon, became our destination of choice for the family's first venture on its own four wheels.


I can't recall the actual year, but was 1962 or 1963, not far short of sixty years ago, when I was twelve or thirteen. The car was a two-door Triumph Herald, painted in fashionable two-tone sky blue and white. It wasn't brand spanking new, but looked it, the model only launched a year or two earlier. My Uncle Pete was a used car dealer, based in Central London, and he secured the car for us, assuring my Dad that he'd bought one genuinely pukka motor. I wasn’t party to the price Dad paid, but recall that Uncle Pete assured Dad that he’d “knocked off a few Sovs for family’s sake”.


It certainly gleamed with its freshly buffed wax coat, sitting in the street outside our two-up-two-down terraced house in Wimbledon. At one time, I remember, there was only one car in our street, of about sixty terraced houses, some three doors up from us, away from Merton High Street; but we were late entrants in the mobilisation game and by the Swinging Sixties the street had started to fill up with vehicles of various vintages. We fe...

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Tony Spencer
May 28 2020

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This really brought back memories of our own journeys to the West Country when we were young. Great fun!

Rod Webb
Jun 6 2020

I really enjoyed this - such a great trip down memory lane - and it made me chuckle out loud more than once.

Rod Webb
May 30 2020