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Dedicated to the preservation of Standard Cars 1903-1963

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When Gillian met Henry................

Gillian and Henry

Part 1:

Amongst a huddle of vintage rusted vehicles, in the sleepy village of Alvechurch, Henry & I found one another. I could feel my excitement as I greeted him with a curious gaze. Could he really become my very first car?

Having just arrived from a similarly sleepy Markinch, I was aware that the day’s rail trip from Scotland had been a long journey to now find fault in the Standard I’d come to view.

In some ways, my journey into Standard motoring had already been going on for some time - certainly beyond the train hours to Alvechurch. Around two years ago, I had my first encounter with a Standard car upon the forecourt of a car-sales garage in Dunfermline, Fife. My partner Chris & I had been driving past the town’s Pittencrieff Park when I spotted an unusual looking car that I’d never seen before. It was an immaculate cream 1950’s Standard 10 complete with leather seats, the original handbook and what looked like a silver, dashboard-mounted fire extinguisher. I thought it was delightful in every way. After curiously peering through the Standard’s windows for quite some time, I reluctantly had to leave this pretty little car upon that forecourt, not knowing what kind of car it was but knowing that I liked it very much and that I hoped to find out more.

I’d listened to the intriguing wail given out by our electric Birmingham to Alvechurch train as it had pulled out from each new station on route to meet Henry. As I had listened, I’d attempted to absorb some last minute ‘car-buying tips’ from my partner Chris. After all, I hadn’t bought or even viewed a car for sale before. However, I was at least keen to make sure that if I did, what seemed like yet another significant step into my young adulthood, I was at least going to do it partially correct.

Henry is a 1957, apple-green Standard 8 and he was being sold by Wendy. Wendy had driven Henry for some time now but her heart had begun to yearn after an Austin A35 in place of her Standard. Two years after having seen the mystery Dunfermline Standard 10 and having been intrigued by it ever since, I arrived at Wendy’s in the hope that I could buy my very first car and a gorgeous classic at the same time.

Henry did not disappoint and for this I was most relieved. I don’t know any other 24 year old and fairly strapped for cash students, who have dragged their partner on a 400-mile rail trip to view a car more than twice their age. Come to think about it, when viewing Henry, I didn’t know anyone properly who happened to own a classic. In the few weeks before my journey to Alvechurch, I’d just begun to get to know a couple of the forum members on the Standard web-site. Their comments were extremely helpful and encouraging. However, as we’d made our way to Alvechurch, I couldn’t help but wonder what a potential mess we could be getting ourselves into if Henry turned out to be a rusted wreck at the other end of the railway line. As the train had rattled through the Scottish and then the English countryside, I found myself hoping more and more that all would be well & that Henry might be the car I’d been so keenly looking for.

I needn’t have worried. Henry was in wonderful condition. The material which lined the roof had seen better and somewhat brighter, whiter days but other than that, stepping inside was just like stepping straight into the 1950’s. On the outside, Henry had a couple of scrapes to his paintwork but overall he looked good. Upon firing up his 800cc engine, Henry seemed to be mechanically sound and ready to go. With that Chris, Wendy, Wendy’s partner & I all bundled ourselves into the waiting Standard 8 and off we went for a test drive. I didn’t drive Henry myself. Instead, I asked Chris to do all the test-driving that day. When viewing Henry, not only was I buying what might be considered an unconventional car for someone of my age, I might have been said to be doing things the wrong way round. I knew that my provisional license had been approved and that it was on its way to me, but upon viewing Henry, my provisional had not yet arrived. Keen as I was to try him out before I splurged my carefully saved cash, I was unable to allow myself to drive him before being legally allowed to do so. Instead I decided to base my decision upon my impressions from the passenger seat and within minutes, I just knew that I loved Henry and Standard motoring! Our test drive lasted only a few minutes so a full review of Henry was impossible at that point. However, I was satisfied that he drove soundly and reliably. Henry had started up well and his engine had sounded clear and healthy. Years of watching car buying shows (yet never having the car to buy!) had taught me that when that moment finally came, I ought to ensure that I press as many buttons as possible and check that all the little things work too. The presenters who had instructed me in car buying academia for so long would have been proud as the headlights, window wipers, horn and in-car heater were all tried out in succession one after the other. As with all else, all was well and so came time for a decision.

I looked at Henry and I knew I just had to go with my instinct. When I’ve looked back in retrospect, I’ve so often found that my best decisions were those taken on gut feeling. Perhaps buying a 1957 car wouldn’t be much of a parent-thrilling decision – parents who were likely to hope that their daughter’s car would have seat belts & airbags. Perhaps it might turn out to be too ridiculous a prospect for the insurance companies to cover me whilst being a 24 year old student, a learner driver & classic car owner. Perhaps it .. perhaps it was just right. I realised that Henry had a bit of history behind him and I knew that I wouldn’t be the first to shake hands over his bonnet as I told Wendy I’d be delighted to buy him. With that began a Standard’s trip to Scotland. All I could hope for was that I would make a welcome new addition to this little 1957 Standard’s story.

Gillian Carmoodie

You can read Part 2 of this story, the journey home, here

That's a great  story Gillian, and it's my pleasure to publish it. You already know that you have a much more interesting and likeable car than any common A35. Perhaps surprisingly, I immediately spotted another Standard, a grey Ensign behind your head in the photograph.

Phil Homer

(February 2007)