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Pedal power racy first wheels for Peter

Peter Alder, aged about seven, in his Austin Pathfinder pedal car. Picture: supplied

Peter Alder, aged about seven, in his Austin Pathfinder pedal car. Picture: supplied

Peter Alder supplied

Peter Alder’s first set of wheels were pedal power, not horsepower, as a child but set him on his way to nearly two million miles of motoring.

A BMW Isetta similar to Peter Alders first powered car. Picture: supplied A BMW Isetta similar to Peter Alders first powered car. Picture: supplied

I enjoyed reading about Peter Bedingfield’s Austin kit car as his first car. My first car was also an Austin – an Austin Pathfinder pedal racing car when I was about seven years old.

It was not quite as exotic as Peter Bedingfield’s Austin but, nevertheless, quite a hit with my peer group in the street where I lived at that time.

However, at the age of 16, in 1969 I passed my motorbike test and, after a brief spell on two wheels, I graduated to three – which, in those days, was permitted at the age of 16 with a full motorbike licence.

I purchased a red and black 1960 left-hand drive BMW Isetta bubble car for £25. My first third-party insurance for this cost me £12 and petrol was 6s 9d (34p) a gallon. When I sold the car after a few months, I made a profit of £5.

Peter Alder with a Renault 12 � one of 10 Renaults he has owned. Picture: supplied Peter Alder with a Renault 12 � one of 10 Renaults he has owned. Picture: supplied

This fun vehicle was a hit with my friends at school, where each day we assembled a motley collection of three-wheeled oddities – a Heinkel-Trojan bubble car, a Bond Minicar, a Reliant Regal Supervan 3, a Berkeley T60 sports car and another Isetta. Another friend had a 1930s BSA three-wheeler that he completely restored but never brought to school.

The Isetta was an interesting car to drive, sitting on the left of the vehicle having climbed in through the door that formed the entire front of the car.

The gear stick was located to my left, projecting out of the side panel, and twice this came away in my hand as I changed gear. The steering was very light and none more so than when, on occasion, one of the front wheels lifted off the ground as I negotiated a tight left-hand bend! My friend with his Isetta managed to not only lift his car on to two wheels but also to lose control and destroy the well-ordered front garden of a very well-to-do house on the very upmarket residential estate where he lived. He jammed himself inside the car when it came to rest with the front door tight against a concrete bollard.

I ‘progressed’ from the Isetta to a 1958 Reliant Regal III convertible three-wheeler that I bought for £10. This car was an experience beyond belief with wooden floor – with holes in – and a detachable glass-fibre roof that, when detached, caused the body of the car to move apart. I sold it when I reached the age of 17 for £15.

My first four-wheeled car, as I turned 17, was the ubiquitous 1960 Morris Minor 1000 which I bought for £75.

This car came with its own problems and quirks but served me for a year before I embarked upon the purchase of my first Renault – the first of 10 over the years.

Nearly two million miles later, and with a total of 20 different cars in my driving career, I am now the archetypal retired driver of a Volvo.

I have enjoyed reminiscing about those crazy, cheap and relatively carefree days of motoring.

Tell us about your first car? The adventures, scrapes, breakdowns, mishaps and maintenance to keep it on the road. Email your motoring 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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