Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wolseley Fourteen

I grew up with a Wolseley 14 like this. It was very smart in grey and blue. Most parents’ cars were black. Ours looked splendid. The little Wolseley badge on the radiator lit up, or at least it did for a time. Dad didn’t replace the festoon bulb when it failed as most of them did. This 14/56 cost £265 when it was new and we kept it throughout the war, so the chrome bumper was painted white to show up in the blackout. I wonder the chrome didn’t show up better, but white paint was the rule. In 1944 or so, when the blackout was relaxed, I scraped the paint off with a penny. It took ages but I was so keen, as a ten year old, for the car to look its best that I scraped till my hands were sore. I still like cars to look their best. The headlamps had wartime black hoods in case German bombers spotted father coming home after dark. Even the yellow Trafficators (the signal arms that popped out and lit up to show he was turning into the front gate) were painted over. You’d have thought Heinkel pilots would have more to do at 10,000 feet than spot Trafficators, but there you are. I stripped the paint off them as well. Father eventually snapped a Trafficator off on the gatepost.

I can still see the Wolseley’s art-deco facia, like a mantelpiece clock, with a speedometer needle that jiggled through 30 degrees whenever the car moved. Father didn’t drive very fast so it didn’t much matter. You got into the boot through the back of the rear seat, which I did sometimes when the car was moving and pretended I was in a boat. Father got a special “supplementary” petrol ration because he used the Wolseley for war work so I got dropped off at school. The Wolseley, VD6829 replaced a Vauxhall Light Six, a Twelve I would guess, HS8635. I thought the Wolseley much smarter although I was badly put out to find Norma Marshall’s father’s Morris, only a 10 as I recall, had much the same Pressed Steel bodywork even down to the curvy lines on the side. A blatant copy, I concluded, of our upper-crust Wolseley. At ten I hadn’t heard of badge engineering. Mr Martin, the plumber next door, always had Rovers with real wood facia and a freewheel which, even then, I could see was more up-market. Not that I was class conscious…

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