My First Car: Iain’s Triumph 1300 with leather seats, a wooden dash and grandpa’s underpants

The white triumph 1300. Picture: JOHN BURKE

The white triumph 1300. Picture: JOHN BURKE - Credit: JOHN BURKE

40 years ago the white Triumph 1300 may not have had the ‘street cred’ that Iain Maitland had wanted, but in this week’s My First Car series, the Felixstowe writer reveals how he ‘foolishly’ sold it for scrap value.

My first car, given to me by my grandpa in the summer of 1980, was a white Triumph 1300, VMH 5G.

Back in the 60s and 70s, my mum would buy a second-hand car and pass it onto my grandpa two or three years later when she fancied a change.

So just after I passed my driving test, the 12-year-old Triumph came to me.

Grandpa had said I could have the car if – not when - I passed my test. Having failed once, when I reversed up onto the pavement and again, when I started the test by signalling left and turning right, I don’t think he expected to have to keep his promise.

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I remember the day he drove the car to my mum’s flat for the handover. My girlfriend Tracey and I went out to buy fish and chips for our lunch.

When we got back, grandpa, who saw himself as a handyman, had carved off a large part of the kitchen doorframe with his penknife. He’d opened the fridge door and thought it was a tight fit. Mum wasn’t happy.

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It was a reliable car with red leather seats and a veneered wood dashboard. Cleaned and polished up, it was like driving in a bygone age. A classic car by today’s standards.

Of course, being 19, I didn’t see it that way then – to me it was an old, fuddy-duddy car. I drove it like a teenager, windows down, arm on the ledge, and added stickers and stripes to make it look as cool as I could. I think I probably failed.

Like most cars in those days, rust was an issue. With the car a faded white and rust appearing all the time, it was a constant battle to maintain its appearance. Around the arches and along the sills, there was more rust than white paint.

My grandpa had scraped out, filled in and repainted all the wheel arches – but the rust still came back. I remember having a go at fixing it properly once and for all - and pulling out chicken wire, a vest and, eventually, grandpa’s old underpants. I never fixed it properly and possibly made it much worse.

A year later, having failed its MOT and wanting a car that had more ‘street cred’, I foolishly sold it for scrap value – madness – and spent £400 on a white Ford Escort.

Tracey and I then went on holiday to Devon in that and discovered it drove well going down a hill to a picturesque harbour but wouldn’t come back up. But that’s a story for another time...

Iain Maitland is a Felixstowe author. His next book, Mr Todd’s Reckoning from Contraband, is out on Thursday, April 25.

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