Dad’s Car

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Slater Family – Dad’s Car

In May of 1949, dad had the first of two serious accidents, the prognosis was that he would be off work for six to nine months and would need extra rehabilitation if he hoped to return to the same job.

When the cast was removed and the leg x-rayed, the doctors found that the one of the bones below the knee was not knitting properly, the leg had to be broken, and a new cast put on from the knee down. By summer, dad was climbing the walls with nothing to do. One Friday morning, Dad on his crutches, took off, telling Mum that he was going for a walk, he did not return until supper time. Immediately after supper, dad sent Duncan to Uncle Frank’s house to see if he would take Dad to an auction the next day, he had seen a car and was going to bid on it. Next morning with Uncle Frank’s help, dad got into the truck cab. Off we went, Uncle Frank and dad inside, Duncan and friend Jim on the back.

Slater's CarThe auction was an estate sale of an old doctor, the car had not been used in years and was in a barn up on blocks, the tires were flat, and the outside was covered with dust and bird droppings, with the inside also thick with dust. Dad bid and got the car for twenty pounds (about four week’s wages). As the car was sold first, it gave us the rest of the day to get it home; first the wheels were removed and taken to a garage to have the tires inflated; next, under Dad’s and Uncle Frank’s supervision, Duncan and Jim installed all the wheels; the blocks were removed and Uncle Frank put a chain from the truck to the car bumper; we were ready to head home. Dad got into the car to steer, Duncan and Jim on the back of the truck so that they could inform Uncle Frank of any problems.

The venture went well until Dad applied the brakes, and blue smoke came from all the wheels; after a lot of waving by Dad, banging on the truck roof by Duncan and Jim, we stopped. Duncan crawled under the car, and told dad that oil was leaking from the wheel hubs; Dad was delighted with the news, while we had very little brakes, the car, Dad said, had been stored by a professional, with all moving parts packed in grease, it would be a simple job of cleaning them, and not, as Dad had expected, replace them, but we still had to get home.

We took all the back roads then, when we came to a stop, Duncan and Jim would jump off the lorry and while dad pressed as hard as possible on the brake peddle; to help stop the car.

A journey that would normally take thirty minutes, took us about four hours. On arriving at #1, we all expected a warm welcome, but mum soon deflated our balloon; what was Dad going to do with this piece of junk, all she could see, was a very dirty old car both inside and out; she also pointed out, Dad had no strength in his left leg, so we had no one to drive the car. Dad as usual, got around Mum by promising, if after a week, she was still unhappy with the car, he would sell it.

Very next day, Duncan, who was on holiday from school, washed the car to make it more presentable, as it was parked in the street, then the battery was removed and put on to charge. While dad supervised all the action, Duncan jacked up the car and removed a wheel; a chair was brought out for dad to sit on. Dad removed the hub cover and washed all the grease from the brakes, inspected, and then reset them, the other three wheels quickly followed, while Dad worked on the wheels, Duncan and Sadie cleaned the inside.

Again under the watchful eye of Dad, Duncan removed the following parts of the car; spark plugs, carburetor, and distributor, all were taken into the house. On returning from work, Mum must have thought that she was back in Merry’s row, when Dad would bring his motor bike into the house, the kitchen table was covered with newspapers and all the car parts lay upon it. It took dad two or three days to clean, replace, and reassemble the parts on the car, as he could only stand for a limited time.

After the engine was washed, petrol purchased, the big moment of truth came; with dad leaning against the car fender for support and ready to adjust the carburetor or timing, Duncan was told to make sure that the car was in neutral, pull out the choke and press the starter; the lever was in neutral, so Duncan pulled out the choke and pressed the starter, the car jumped forward and nearly knocked Dad down; Dad was not too happy at the thought of being run over by his own car. On checking inside, for the problem, he remembered that the clutch had to be pushed in, after moving the lever (in all other cars you just moved the lever to engage a gear); the clutch was pushed in, and when the starter was pushed for the second time, the engine burst into life and purred like a cat.

Now we had the car going, the next step was to convince Mum that we should keep the car; with this in mind, the car was polished inside and out, and only then did Dad invite Mum to inspect it.

What we did not know was that this model was built to compete in the Rolls-Royce, and Bentley luxury range of cars, the trim on the doors was genuine walnut wood, the door panels and the rest of trim soft red leather, the seats were soft beige leather. It had a full seat at the back with an arm rest that could be closed to allow for three people, once the people were seated in the back, you could fold up two seats, this allowed a total of five seats in the back, and with two in front, the car could hold seven people. It also had more luxury equipment, built into the back of the front seat was a cabinet with a glass door, when you opened the door, inside was a decanter and four wine glasses, also in the seat was an item that we never had in a car before, a radio. When you opened the door a light came on at your feet and a silk tassel dropped down for you to hold on to. It also had drapes on the side windows that you could pull closed for privacy. Outside was blue in colour, before this, the only colour you could purchase on a car, was black.

The car passed the inspection with flying colours, Mum did say that the side drapes had to come off and the red floor carpet had to be cleaned. Now, Mum wanted a demonstration on Dad’s ability to drive the car. Dad invited Mum, Sadie, and Duncan, to a quick spin around the block, carefully as it was not insured and did not have any road tax sticker on it, so we could not go too far. Now Dad showed the versatility of the car, it had preselector gearbox; it need to be noted here that all other cars had a dry clutch, to change from one gear to another you had to push the clutch in, move the gear stick into the gear, and then slowly let the clutch out. Dad could not slowly lift his left leg to use a normal clutch. At this period of time the preselector was a revolutionary concept, you moved the gear lever into position, then pressed the clutch in and out, a valve which was automatic, opened, and oil push the pressure plate at the correct speed. In the test drive, Dad, with crutches, got in the front with Duncan, Mum, and Sadie in the back; now Dad showed how ingenious he was; placing the gear lever in first gear, he calmly pushed the clutch pedal down with a crutch and off we went.

Slater's Car

How could Mum argue that Dad could not have his car?

Dad’s car became well know in the village, and one of the local garages borrowed it on numerous occasions to use at weddings. Once Dad’s leg was strong enough to drive a normal car, he sold the car to Cummingham’s garage for a very nice profit.

Sent in by Duncan Slater


If you have any Photos… Send them to Bill

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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