On the Open Road
FLIGHT CADETS' CARS
Car One: There were a range of cars driven by Cadets at Cranwell. In the days before the MOT, it was perfectly legal to drive vehicles that today would have raised eyebrows from scrapyard dealers. The diversity of 'limmos', as they were called, was astonishing. Saudi owned Ferraris and Lamborghinis were parked alongside battered old Fords and Morris Minors, vans with the previous owners' trades clearly visible through the repainting scheme, and pools of oil and hydraulic fluid contaminating every other parking slot.
My first limmo was a beautiful old Ford Anglia, the 'sit up and beg' variety, in black. I bought it from the father of Dick Shuster (89 Entry), at Skegness, following some friendly haggling, and eventually handing over six fairly dodgy post-dated cheques for the total grand sum of £30. Les Quigley (also of 89 Entry and probably taking a cut), had his driving licence, unlike me who, despite having earned a private pilot licence some two years before, had not got round to acquiring one for land vehicles. Clearly feeling the need to justify his commission, Les with all the objectivity of a second-hand car salesman, continued to sing the car's praises, as we struggled up the occasional 1:200 incline for which Lincolnshire is famous. 'Going like a Dingbat', Les retorted. I've never been quite sure what a Dingbat is or was, but the comment was clearly intended to reflect a performance which was not readily apparent.
As we were accelerating through Leadenham, trying desperately to achieve the target speed limit of 30 mph, there was a sudden lurch of the vehicle to the right, followed by a marked deceleration from 25 mph to about 10 mph, accompanied by a distinct graunching sound. Any thoughts that this might be only a temporary setback were dashed when from alongside, we were overtaken by a wheel attached to half a half shaft. The wheel, together with its fractured companion, headed off down the High St before executing a sharp left turn and descending into a dyke with a large splash, followed by an angry scramble of several terrified ducks.
My adventure with cars had begun!
Car Two: It didn't take long for the poor old Anglia to expire, as a combination of old age and inattention to even the basic servicing requirements tested it beyond its design limits. After flogging it to an unsuspecting Rock Ape, who clearly saw its long term investment potential, I acquired a Ford Consul Mk 1 from Paul Kelly, who was sadly later to die in a Buccaneer. Again, £30 was the agreed amount, which seemed a good deal for a car with an excellent engine, if lacking the bodywork to match. Indeed, the Consul had suffered so many scrapes, dents and outright collisions that the first time I parked in a layby to check my route, an anxious-looking fellow motorist stopped to enquire whether I needed him to call an ambulance. One feature of the car was the tendency of the front left door to swing open on right hand bends, which combined with a slippy plastic bench seat and no seat belts, led to some interesting departures for front seat passengers. Indeed, my father, whilst being driven by my elder brother to an event at the College, was within seconds of oblivion on a sharp right-hander, and was only saved by the quick reactions of my Sister-in-Law who, despite having mixed feelings towards Dad, managed to haul him back in on a busy roundabout in Manchester. Another issue, which would surely have resulted today in a legal claim against the vendor, was the dire state of the tyres, all of which were totally bald (slicks they call them today), to the extent that the red inner tube could be clearly seen in several particularly worn areas. The natural consequence was a propensity for tyre bursts, most which seemed to happen at the least convenient time. On one occasion, Mike Smith and I were crossing the Peak District when, at the summit of the Snake Pass, the rear right tyre gave up the ghost. A brief examination suggested that a quick repair, followed by a recut, would be pointless, so we concluded that we had better find the spare. Sadly, I had failed to keep anything like working pressure in the spare, but we reasoned that it was more likely to get us to Glossop safely than pushing our luck on the rim of the flat one. After some coaxing, the jack started to turn under the car, but there was no discernible upward movement of the vehicle. The reason for this odd behaviour soon became apparent, as the jack burst through the rust of the sill. Clearly, the initiative which we had demonstrated in the selection for Cranwell would be needed, and within minutes Mike had found a pine pole and a large rock, which we deployed as a lever and fulcrum, lifting the back of the car and enabling a successful wheel change. The sight of Mike squirming up the pole, like a Polynesian boy in search of coconuts, was for some reason a source of uncontrolled mirth to passing motorists.
Probably we acquired our first mechanised transport during our time at the College.
Chris Coville 91C
I recall the attempt to 'pimp' the Mk 1 Consul prior to the plan to sell on to an unsuspecting member of the junior entry. This involved a visit to one of the first drive-in car washes as hand valeting would have risked the possibility of deep lacerations from the edge of the rusting holes in the bodywork. After shelling out 2/6d the vehicle emerged from a discrete parking slot behind the garage and was lined up at the entrance to the wash ready for the glamour treatment. At this point the an unnecessarily hysterical garage owner rushed out to spreadeagle himself in front of the car claiming that Chris's fine vehicle would shred and destroy his revolving brush.
Despite such an insensitive and unreasonable attitude we adopted an air of aloof superiority and made dignified departure in a fog of Castrol fumes.
"On one occasion, SFC Chris Coville, who lived near Liverpool, informed Graham Ivell and Adrian Jones that they were going on leave the next weekend because Chris had to get home, but he couldn't afford the petrol. They couldn't argue, so paid up, and once in the car, called into Byards Leap for fuel. Unfortunately Chris Coville's car had been in a fire the week before and was badly scorched all down the near side. Because of this, Chris insisted they get in and out from the offside only. As the petrol was going in, a brand new Ford Anglia Panda Patrol car came into the garage and the "copper" made a bee-line for them. He asked where they were going, and Chris did a marvellous job keeping him on the 'good' side of the car. But he was suspicious, and asked Graham to get out to have a 'chat'. Without thinking, Graham opened the wrong door and it fell off! With the "copper" now totally absorbed with the appearance of the nearside of the car, he tried to open the front door, which fell off too. Graham and Adrian were now very glum. All of their money had just been put into the petrol tank...they were going nowhere...and could be facing prosecution. Chris argued persuasively to be allowed to take the car back to college to get it fixed, and they all solemnly promised not to go anywhere except to the college, which they did - with brand new Panda car following......... As soon as it got dark they drove off on leave.”
Peter Martin-Smith 92A