Written by Paul Sweeney
While writing about my Dad recently around the time of Fathers' Day in New Zealand, I touched on the subject of his interest in motoring and how his passion was passed down to my brother and me.
Obviously, when you look at the number of Classic Car Clubs and related events that happen around the world, we are far from alone and it occurred to me that others might enjoy my memories of cars my Dad owned, drove and in some cases suffered with from my earliest recollections to his death a few years ago.
So, this is the first instalment. If there is interest, I will continue with Part 2.
Standard Vanguard Phase 1 (1947-1953)
The Vanguard is the first car I remember Dad owning. I know he had a couple of cars before that, but I have no recollection and an equal amount of information about those, so this is where I will begin.
Having scrimped and saved to buy their first home with three young children to feed and clothe, Mum and Dad had made do without a car for several years when one of Dad's work colleagues - a man by the name of Len Prankerd - offered Dad the chance to buy his Standard Vanguard for £30, which was apparently a bargain price. This would have been around 1965, so I'm guessing the car was something like 18 years old by this time. I know that Dad's Vanguard was a 1940's model, as I clearly recall that it had only 3 forward gears and a steering-column mounted gear stick. The details later in this article tell us that in 1950, Standard introduced a gearbox with overdrive, so it certainly wasn't a 1950s Vanguard.
To this day, in my mind I can hear the odd whining sound the Vanguard made as it lumbered up through the gears; Dad used to say it sounded, 'Like a coal lorry'. Anyway, being a car-crazy 7 year old boy, I was desperate to accompany Dad to collect the car, which was parked in the road outside Len's house when we arrived. Dad went inside to 'do the deal' and I was thrilled to be allowed to sit inside the Vanguard to wait for him.
Imagine my terror as a nervous, shy lad when strong winds suddenly got up out of nowhere and the car began rocking from side to side. Petrified, I was convinced the car was literally about to be blown away and I pictured myself going with it a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I have no idea why I didn't simply get out of the car, but I sat there genuinely frightened until Dad eventually came to my rescue.
So, the Vanguard was the first family car I knew about. It enabled us to have a very low-budget family holiday at Weymouth on England's South Coast. The few memories I have of that are:
Some time later, Mum enrolled at a Teacher Training College and needed to learn to drive. She felt the Vanguard was too big and too heavy for a lady driver (women driving a car was still relatively rare back then) and reluctantly, Dad sold the Vanguard for £20 and bought something altogether different. But car #2 can wait for the next instalment ...
Fast forward to 2012 and I had emigrated from England to the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand. I was out driving one day, going nowhere in particular - exploring, basically - when to my surprise in a very small settlement called Te Awanga, I came across the proudly-named, "British Car Museum". Now, I had for many years hoped to see a Vanguard like Dad's but despite visiting many more illustrious car museums, had never seen one.
So imagine my surprise when there, tucked away in a massive and cluttered shed in a rural backwater of New Zealand, were not one but several Vanguards! And not just any old Vanguards, but the exact same model and grey colour as Dad's. Apparently, most of them were in fact grey, but never mind. There was even one of the original sales brochures and a workshop manual.
Naturally I took photographs and here they are:
Around 14 months later, I had the good fortune to meet the Brock-Jest family who run Hooters Vintage and Classic Vehicle Hire Ltd here in Napier. David Brock-Jest is both a great chap and a genuine petrol head, with a collection of amazing British and American cars dating back to the 1920s.
I am fortunate enough to be allowed to drive many of the splendid cars in David's collection for tourists. But I digress ... the point is that I had never seriously considered owning a classic car. However since becoming involved with David and his daughter Ana at Hooters I must admit the thought occasionally crosses my mind. And of course, should I ever get around to doing something about it, at the very top of my shopping list would be - you guessed it - a Phase 1 Standard Vanguard. In drab grey, naturally. David Brock-Jest would, no doubt, shake his head in disbelief, but that's where my heart lies.