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#1 Apr 25, 2021 12:42 pm

New Historian
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The Starting Ritual

Although we lived in the ‘burbs we all went to schools in inner London and we would drive every day from Kenton to Kingsbury, down the Edgeware Road, drop me and Tom at Fitzjohn’s Primary then he and Gerry would drive onto Saint George’s in Maida Vale. By this time we had upgraded the old Ford Popular to a blue Hillman Minx, one of the first cars on our street. English cars of the sixties were famous for, well nothing really, and electronics would top that list of non-attributes. In the depths of winter, after spending the night out in the cold, starting the car could be a nightmare. On particularly cold nights Dad would put a small paraffin heater underneath the engine to stop it from freezing. On a frigid morning we’d all run out of the house, jump into the car, praying hard. Dad would pull the choke, pump the gas and turn the ignition.

Arr-arrrrr-arrwwww…

On a freezing cold morning, the saddest sound in the world is the sound of a car battery, dying. Dad tries again, nothing. Again, and again. Now you know it’s not going to start and all you’re doing is killing the battery. Everyone out! We would then move onto step two in the cold-car starting process: the crank. You young ‘uns won’t know what a crank is – and be thankful. You insert the crank through a hole in the front bumper and it connects directly to the driveshaft. In theory, one good turn of the crank handle would be enough to get the engine started. In theory. In practice you’d yank on that crank in ever-diminishing lunges as the engine just sat there: dead.

After failing with the crank we’d move to step three in the starting ritual: the push. Of course Dad couldn’t push as he was driving the car, so the three of us boys would scrape the ice off the trunk (or boot as the English called it), and bend our shoulders to the wheel, literally. Dad would keep you pushing, and pushing, and pushing, before finally flying the clutch.

Arr-arrrrr-arrwwww…..

We’d push the car all the way up Camplin Road, left onto Lodge Avenue, left again on Farrer Road, trying to start it at regular intervals. If all else failed it was onto the final solution: BBS. Around the corner from our house was a company called British Building Supplies, which had a sloping ramp down into their car park. We’d push and push and push, hitting the top of the ramp at maximum speed when Dad would fly the clutch. Cough-cough ... vroom!

And if the bastard still didn’t start? Catch the bus – and get ready with the late excuse!

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#2 Apr 25, 2021 3:06 pm

houston
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Re: The Starting Ritual

You're really dating yourself NH, I didn't think cranks were used beyond the 1930's.

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#3 Apr 25, 2021 3:24 pm

New Historian
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Re: The Starting Ritual

You're dating yourself, cranks were used up til the mid-60s in English cars.

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