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Our close shave in Austin A40 Devon and case of winging it!

Graham Maidlow with his 1950 Austin A40 Devon. Picture: Graham Maidlow

Graham Maidlow with his 1950 Austin A40 Devon. Picture: Graham Maidlow

Graham Maidlow

Graham Maidlow had an eventful 18 months with his Austin A40 Devon – wet legs, a seized engine, a close encounter with a pristine lawn and generally winging it.

I was working in a design office from school and riding a Triton motorbike. I passed my driving test in a car in 1966 and had to get a motor.

I was offered a Triumph Mayflower for £45 and a 1950 Austin A40 Devon at £40. So a Devon it was.

My then girlfriend, now my wife of 47 years, Sylvia, and I had so much fun driving this car.

Once, driving along a dual carriageway in fog, cars were passing me at more than 60mph which I thought dangerous. The fog was getting so bad I put my wipers on only to find it was mist building up on the outside of the screen. I felt stupid.

We carried a plastic sheet with us because, when it rained, the passenger got wet legs. I tried sealing the screen many times but going round corners in the rain was time to get the sheet out.

When my dad came for a drive with me he said the car was driving like a narrow boat on rough water. He changed the dampers, king pin bushes and bearings which improved the driving and steering immensely.

On another occasion we were driving round a roundabout and the engine locked solid. Dad came to the rescue to tow us home. I took the engine out and had to rebuild it due to the crankshaft seizing.

We also had a close shave, driving from Windsor to West Wittering in West Sussex when, 10 miles from the coast, the heavens opened. The Devon had very narrow cross-ply tyres, a huge problem, and the rain didn’t help. I took a right-hand bend on a country lane and the back drifted sideways. I corrected it and the back went the other way, like a pendulum, mounting a grass verge on the right-hand side of the road. I got it back on the road and was lucky nothing was coming in the opposite direction.

On our way home we had a look at the bend, only to find the grass where the back wheels went sideways on was a person’s front lawn – it was like a putting green with a 12in wide, 20ft long slot torn right through the middle of it. Half this lawn was in my wheel arch and wheel.

On another occasion, I damaged a front wing. They were bolted on so I removed it and started hunting for a replacement. At the time, cars were often found dumped in side roads, car parks etc and, as luck had it, found a stripped-out, dumped Devon van.

I took my socket set and toolbox and removed the wing, thrilled as it was in great condition. I offered it up to the car only to find the van wing was slightly different by the front grille. The search for a wing continued.

After replacing the wing, I hand painted the car with Brushing Belco which was used on coaches. The result was very pleasing as it left no brush marks.

I owned this car for an eventful 18 months and my wife and I still recall these good old days.

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

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