In 1956 I bought my first car, a shiny black 1936 Austin Seven Ruby. I had no driving licence but because of some unknown logic, the government, embroiled in the Suez fiasco, allowed learner drivers to practice without an accompanied fully qualified driver. My fully taxed pride and joy cost five pounds, it cost me another two pounds for insurance and I could immediately begin driving.
The car came with a comprehensive list of handy tips compiled by the vendor, information that was not included in the car’s handbook. These gems of wisdom included information on braking. ‘To stop the car quickly use the hand brake, because of its length it is more effective than the foot brake’.
Other useful tips given:- ‘The screwdriver slot in the wheel studs stops them rotating when using a spanner to remove the wheel nuts; the studs had a habit of breaking loose’. ‘If using free engine oil drained from cars in breakers yards keep an eagle eye on the oil pressure, if it drops suddenly clear the return oil ways using a needle’. ‘Don’t bother to lock the car, just immobilise it by removing the rotor arm, for double security disconnect the small wire to the distributor and hide it, ‘The windscreen wipers work better manually’. ‘To stop the starting handle rattling secure it with an old bicycle inner tube to the bumper bar’.
In the tool kit was a four inches long piece of broom handle, this was to be used if a half shaft broke. I never did understand how to use this, I never broke a half shaft. My Ruby gave reliable service for several years. It served as a band wagon for a quartet, three seats were removed, all the instruments travelled in the car with the driver, the rest of the musicians went by bus.
I rebuilt the engine bottom end with the help of Roscoe Howard and Tickle, well known crankshaft grinders and white metal casters in Manchester. The engine then had a beautiful tone, just like a corporation Leyland bus.
When the car was replaced with a Wolsey 16 costing £15, the Ruby suffered a blow to its pride, I saw it sometime later, it had been re-painted canary yellow.