LETTER: I found an old Ely Standard article about my first car and I started reminiscing

PUBLISHED: 16:53 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:57 15 May 2020

John Cook’s first car featured in the Ely Standard newspaper. Picture: Archive/Supplied

John Cook’s first car featured in the Ely Standard newspaper. Picture: Archive/Supplied

It was the early 60s and I had just moved to Cambridge from Littleport, I thought of myself as a rocker then, but once in the city I aspired to become a Mod and changed my Frances Barnet motorbike for a Lambretta scooter.

John Cook’s first car featured in the Ely Standard newspaper. Picture: Archive/SuppliedJohn Cook’s first car featured in the Ely Standard newspaper. Picture: Archive/Supplied

I got a job at Marshalls, building bodywork on to commercial and military vehicles, I came to know some lads from Impington and went with them to their village social club, in a wooden hut in the grounds of Impington college, which I think still exists.

It was there that I met this girl; she came from the next village, Waterbeach. It did not sound too far, so at the end of the evening I plucked up courage and ask if I could take her home. She said yes!

Her home turned out to be miles out of the village down a single-track road to nowhere, I was raised in the fens but I now considered myself a city boy and even on a summers evening this location felt a bit bleak.

When the winter came it certainly was bleak and the lonely rides back to Cambridge on the scooter were very cold, something had to change, the Lambretta or the girl.

The girl won, of cause she did, there was never really any doubt.

I bought a blue three-wheel Isetta bubble car; it had a two-stroke motorbike engine and could be driven on a motorbike licence.

The door was at the front, the steering wheel was fixed to it, so when you opened the door, it hinged out away from the seat to allow you better access.

If left parked in the street and you came back to find that someone had parked up too close to the front, then you had to get hold of the front bars and bump the car out of the space. Luckily it was not that heavy.

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It was like riding along on a small settee. Having just the one wheel at the back it had the tendency to swerve from side to side on the small fen roads that were humped in the middle, especially when icy.

However, as the engine was right behind the seat it was nice and warm, and in the summer you could open up the sunroof, yes a sunroof.

One night on the way back as I changed down at a junction in Fen Ditton, the gear stick came loose in my hand. It was late and not much traffic about, so luckily I was able to manage the last mile and a bit home in first gear.

On inspection next morning I found that a section of the aluminium casing on the gearbox had snapped clean off.

I took out the whole engine, lifted it into a wheelbarrow and wheeled it though the streets of Cambridge to a workshop on Newmarket road that specialised in welding alloy to get it mended.

I then wheeled it all the way back; no one appeared to take any notice of me.

Not even when I trundled over zebra crossings.

I have often wished that I had kept that Isetta, but no, once I had passed the full driving test, I changed it for an old black upright Morris 8, which in turn I changed for a black Rover 60 P3 series. With real leather seats it felt, and was, real luxury.

It was in the Rover that the girl was driven to Waterbeach church for our wedding day over 51 years ago now.

Over all those years there have been many, many other cars of different colours and makes, but that little blue Isetta bubble car will always be our favourite.


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