Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 7 October 2010

This one didn't work well

After taking advantage of a legal loophole in the British motorcycle licence (with a three-wheel Bond minicar – an aluminium shoe-box with a 200 cc engine - followed by a Heinkel bubblecar, also a three-wheeler) it was time for a proper car with four wheels. The Austin Cambridge I bought in 1962 was not proper in any sense and that wretched vehicle enrages me every time I recall it.

Today’s drivers are happily unaware of their synchromesh gearboxes which ensure noiseless gear changes. Technically the Cambridge had synchromesh but it was accepted that this simply disappeared from first gear within a year: “They all do that,” was the supine excuse. To avoid crunching the cogs one learnt a macho procedure called double-declutching afterwards boasting about it in pubs.

But that wasn’t the only fault. The car was four or five years old which meant its crude pushrod engine was probably a prewar design. Certainly the lubrication system was close to total loss. Something weird happened to the cream paint-job which turned a dull matt, traced with ineradicable crazing. The squab broke away from the driver’s seat and the strut linking the top of a rear shock-absorber detached itself on a holiday in Scotland.

In an era of rotten UK cars this was as bad as any, typical of the hopelessness of British Motor Corporation which became British Leyland which became Rover which disappeared like first-gear synchromesh. Only the Mini, now made by BMW, survives. I am not a nationalist nor, lord love us, a patriot but I am susceptible to the country’s failings. The Austin Cambridge depressed me then as it depresses me now. In the above picture someone is happily driving a restored Cambridge. I hope he doesn’t see it as a “classic”.