Cars I have driven #5 – 1932/34/35 Austin Sevens

19 Jul

At school we had a motor club run by the biology and metalwork teachers. The club had, when I joined, four Austin Sevens, all saloon bodied and in black, of which three were runners; examples from 1932, 1934 and a 1935 Ruby, but I don’t recall what vintage the non-runner was. The winter months were spent fettling these for the summer driving season on the playing fields, and we broke the dark evenings up watching rented films from the likes of the Castrol and Shell libraries.

Driving the cars was on a graded basis. You started off with one of the teachers and they would pass you as a pupil. Once through that hurdle you could drive with an instructor pupil until passed for solo driving. After a period of safe solo work, and depending on age (4th year & above I think) you could be considered for instructor rating.

We had a display team made up from the instructor ranks and would put on a formation display of parking, weaving through oil drums and the like that we would put on for open and parent’s days.

Later we acquired a couple of E93 sit up and beg Ford Populars and added those to the general running and display driving, and we also got a go-kart, but that, on slick tires on grass that was often wet, was a challenge and a half and was never driven in public.

It was all good fun and taught us a lot. On the driving side much emphasis was on smoothness and car control. One practice routine was to park the car with it front wheels on the slope up to the high jump pit. A matchbox would then be placed a foot above and below the wheel and you were expected to move the car up and down without crushing the matchboxes (which you couldn’t see from the driving seat). It taught you a lot about pedal control and feel to do that for 5 minutes without stalling or flattening the boxes. Parking, both parallel and a 90 degree reverse in to a space between oil drums was started with a decent sized gap that would get smaller and smaller each lesson until you could do it with an inch or so to spare. The same applied to weaving
in and out of the line of oil drums.

The two teachers took great pleasure in pushing us towards higher and higher standards, both in driving and in maintenance. Bearing in mind that one was the metalwork master we had access to the school workshops and materials and would fabricate many new parts and repair others, in some cases carrying this over into our formal lessons where the techniques were part
of the syllabus.

The Austin Sevens were a touch on the fragile side, but our loving care in the workshop and careful, smooth, driving on the playing fields kept them going. The three years that I spent with club taught me a huge amount (and was supported by my farm and estate driving back at home) much of which has stayed with me over the 40+ years since and I remember them with great
affection.

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