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Little red sports car never a dull drive!

Martin Cooper's red sports car was designed by Alan Jensen to fit on a Standard 9 chassis. Picture supplied by Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper's red sports car was designed by Alan Jensen to fit on a Standard 9 chassis. Picture supplied by Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper’s litte red sports car had some minors scrapes and lucky escapes before the next owner took it apart and it ended up on the scrapheap.

Sixty years ago I had passed my motorcycle test and because of the Suez Crisis, when driving tests were suspended, was allowed to drive a car unaccompanied. A friend noticed this red car for sale and persuaded me to buy it.

It was £20 but the seller gave me ten bob (50p) back to buy petrol.

It was designed by Alan Jensen to fit on a Standard 9 chassis. I think the engine was 1,287cc, the brakes drum operated by external cable, there was no water pump with a thermosiphon hopefully doing the cooling, no petrol pump as gravity fed the fuel from the petrol tank and no hood so you had to carry a mac and a tarpaulin to keep the seats dry when parked.

I, and the friend who persuaded me to spend the £19 10 shillings, had several exciting trips.

We decided to drive to Southend and, on the arterial road, the steering went. In those days, there was little traffic and we pushed the car to the roadside and found the steering drop arm had fallen off. I wired it back on and drove slowly to the next garage, where the mechanic had a bolt that fitted, so it was on to Southend for fish and chips.

On the way back, the North Circular Road around London was packed with rush-hour traffic and the car boiled – everyone was laughing and pointing to the geyser coming from our radiator.

My sister asked to borrow the car to drive to Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Not a good idea, says I, but her confidence won and off she went with her boyfriend. She knew the steering had six inches of play and the brakes needed a firm push. Next morning I was told the story.

On the way down she was cut up at a road junction and, taking evasive action, mounted the kerb and headed for a bus queue. The queue moved very quickly but a small fence didn’t – it was flattened. Her boyfriend paid for this. The return journey was disrupted by electrical problems with the lights flickering but not quite going out. The dynamo was suspect so her boyfriend fiddled with it, limiting the car to 20mph by wrong reassembly.

The police stopped them for driving slowly with flickering lights. Were they drunk? “I’m just tired,” says Sis and they were allowed to proceed. My car was not borrowed again. It took a couple of days to put right.

One evening we were going to the pub and – crash, bang, wallop – the exhaust, a length of scaffold tube, fell off and clanged down the road. I picked up the pieces, went home to repair it with a tin can and two jubilee clips and then went back to the pub – at 17 years old!

My little red sports car had a sad end. Another friend wanted to buy it and we agreed on £25, giving me a welcome profit. Unfortunately this friend took it apart and lost interest. I heard it had gone to a scrap dealer.

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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