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My First Car: Sunday afternoon trips out in 1958 Vauxhall Victor

Ron French with his first car which was a 1958 Vauxhall Victor. Picture: Ron French

Ron French with his first car which was a 1958 Vauxhall Victor. Picture: Ron French

Ron French

Ron French passed his driving test first time after just 10 lessons and says it might have helped that, being a keen cyclist, he had good road sense.

I started to learn to drive in July 1959, booking 10 lessons with a driving school was based in Woolwich.

The car that I learned in was a Standard Pennant, a rather flashy-looking little car.

In those days, when driving, you had to use hand signals. Each lesson I had lasted for one hour. As time went on, and it came to the point that I was getting near to the end of my lessons, my driving instructor was suggesting that I could benefit from having two additional lessons but, as I did not want to spend any more money on lessons, I said that I was quite happy to stick with the 10 lessons and take the test.

So the driving test was arranged on a September weekday morning. At the end of the test, the examiner said that I had passed. When I went back to work at Elliot Automation, as it was then, in Lewisham, my work colleagues were surprised that I had passed first time.

It may have helped having been a keen cyclist, cycling to and from home to Lewisham in all weathers. Also, I had done a lot of cycling as a member of the Thames Road Cycling Club in Welling so had good road sense.

I did not buy my first car, a Vauxhall Victor, until April 1960. It was the 1958 model with column gear change and front bench seat and cost £760. The car had to be serviced every 1,000 miles. Petrol in those days was four shillings and sixpence (about 22p).

Soon after I had bought the car, I used to take my mother and father for a ride on a Sunday afternoon for about a couple of hours, going to Wortham, Farnigham, Eynsford and sometimes places like Tonbridge.

My father was 62 years old and my mother 59. My father was a casualty in the First World War and lost his leg when he was 19. He had an artificial leg so both my parents used to enjoy the Sunday afternoon trips out in the car and, through being in the cycling club, I knew all the country lanes.

I am unsure whether or not my car had a heater because my mother, sitting in the back, used to take a hot water bottle with her when the weather was cold.

Early in 1964, I met my future wife so then the Sunday afternoon car trips were not so frequent.

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE

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