I suspect we all got a bit misty-eyed watching Top Gear’s‘Dad’s Cars’ feature. And with good reason, for if anything is going to get us feeling nostalgic it’s the thought of childhood, family and the cars we grew up with.
When you think about it, the formation of a car enthusiast is a prime example of nature and nurture. In my case genetics inherited from a car-mad father (and a very car-tolerant mother) meant I was always destined to love four wheels.
I’m not sure whether his trips to the newsagent on Waterloo Station to buy early copies of CAR magazine in the early 1960s could have possibly informed the future career of his son (born early the following decade), but it couldn’t have done any harm. Likewise the Health & Safety brigade would surely have frowned upon a 6-month old baby being squeezed into confines of a Triumph GT6, yet I have no doubt being lovingly clipped into the four-point harness of my Britax baby seat must have left a deep imprint on my mind.
Toy cars also played their part. I can still remember spending hours creating lines of Corgi, Dinky and Matchbox cars on the landing at the top of the stairs. How mum or dad never plunged headlong down into the hall after treading on a Lamborghini Marzal I have no idea. Clearly if I was happy so were they.
Our small nuclear family (no siblings for me) never had loads of money, but we always seemed to have interesting cars. A Triumph TR6 bought at the start of the scorching summer of ’76 remains a fond memory, even though I was required to fold my 5-year old frame onto the vestigial rear bench behind the seats. I can still hear its straight-six howling and smell the sweet tang of 5-star leaded petrol fumes as we zoomed through that endless summer.
Well, I say endless, but the weekend after my dad swapped the TR for a very pretty Fiat 124 Sport Coupe (four headlight version) the summer broke, literally as we drove to Scotland from Surrey for a holiday. The little Fiat leaked like a sieve and its Russian steel never quite recovered from the soaking, but my dad still talks about its zippy little 1.6 Twin Cam engine now. I’d love to drive one.