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My First Car: Ford Ford Taunus restored... then wrecked

John Smith's Ford Taunus 12M with its smart new paintjob. Picture: John Smith

John Smith's Ford Taunus 12M with its smart new paintjob. Picture: John Smith

John Smith

Motor trade apprentice John Smith faced a serious challenge to bring his first car, a Ford Taunus 12M, up to his standards. But, unfortunately, his labour of love did not last long.

John Smith's Ford Taunus 12M ready for its respray. Picture: John Smith John Smith's Ford Taunus 12M ready for its respray. Picture: John Smith

My first car was a Ford Taunus 12M acquired at the age of 17 in 1964 after completing my first year as an apprentice in the motor trade – starting a career that has lasted 55 years here and overseas.

Unlike many of my peers, I went straight to cars rather than motorbikes, however my well-known passion for these began in my late 20s with reasonable success in motocross, then known as scrambling.

The car was made in Germany, and left-hand drive, imported from Libya by an ex-Serviceman returning home in 1953 and was something quite different from the norm at the time.

I knew the car well before purchase as it belonged to one of my mentors. Even so, it did need a lot of work to bring it up to the standard that has been a requirement for anything I have owned since. It was quite a challenge as there were no parts for it in the UK, everything had to come from Germany.

After about a year of juggling with time to do repairs to it and college homework in the evenings, it was ready to an MOT test and, with its fresh coats of paint, looked great.

The sense of pride I felt was immense, especially as I had also managed to pay off the loan to buy it. I could not wait to drive it to college, having passed my driving test, particularly as I knew that only one other of my fellow students had a car.

I went on to have many hours of fun and pleasure with the Taunus and, after a while, it seemed to know its own way to Brighton, where I ended up on Friday or Saturday nights back then.

Sadly, and suddenly, this period was cut all too short. Driving home from work one night, an Austin Westminster ploughed straight into me head on, writing off both cars. Luckily, nobody was badly injured.

For some months I felt a deep sense of loss and was unable to afford another car – it was buses and a bikes from then.

It transpired later that the driver of the Westminster, who denied liability, was a well-known company director desperate to keep his whereabouts and the identity of the lady friend passenger secret. This emerged when a witness confirmed my statement to the effect that a young lady was in the front seat of the other car and promptly left the scene.

A settlement was made out of court by the other driver, due to some clever work by my solicitor, and I was completely cleared of any blame. There had been many attempts to suggest I was at fault because I was a new driver with no experience and an unorthodox vehicle.

Despite being able to buy something more upmarket with the money, it did not take away the disappointment I felt – and still do – at the loss of the old car.

I have gone on to own, and race, some wonderful cars but the affection we feel for our first cars will, I’m sure, prevail.

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

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