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By June 15, 2014 Read More →

My Classic Cars: Lindsay’s life on wheels (part 3)

The Laffords with their 8-cylinder Pontiac |Lafford family archives

The Laffords with their 8-cylinder Pontiac |Lafford family archives

Editor’s note: This is the final part of  a series of stories about vehicles owned and ridden or driven by the late Lindsay Lafford, Lord of Ridley who passed away in April 2014 at the age of 101½, after a brief illness. One of Lindsay’s sons, Peter, is completing the task of preparing these stories as a Father’s Day memorial. More about Lindsay Lafford is available at http://Lord-of-Ridley.com. (Here are the links to the first and second parts of the series.)

On returning to England in the spring of 1939 I found that my father had somewhat wrecked the Riley San Remo I had left in 1935 (he was a great cyclist who never quite mastered the automobile) and now had an Austin 7. I quickly set about flogging this for an extensively used Riley Alpine 6.

This is the car Annie and I drove with my father to the dock in Southampton in September 1939. My wife and I boarded the Cunard Aquitania to the U.S., though our sailing was delayed while they mounted guns on the foredeck. I would not see my father again for 15 years.

Soon after arriving in Haverford, Pa., we bought a 1936 Pontiac Business Coupe, a two-seater. When we decided to take Uncle Hugh and Auntie Fof on a drive to Williamsburg, Annie volunteered to ride in the trunk, there being room in the front seat for no more than three people, and tight at that.

We removed the trunk lid and put in a mattress and a tarp, and she nobly rode all the way there and back — at great risk, we now know, of getting gassed. She endured the discomfort, the noise, the dust, and the occasional rain with no complaint. At one toll bridge she even evaded paying toll; the toll taker never thought to look for an extra body in the luggage trunk.

In 1939 we bought a Pontiac 8-cylinder sedan, a demonstrator loaded with such goodies as a Kleenex container and an umbrella container (with umbrella). It also had a mechanically operated antenna.

In contrast to our previous Pontiac, where one accessed the engine through folding sides of the hood, one now had a hood that opened at the front, reminiscent of the gaping upper jaw of an alligator. To open it one gave the Indian hood ornament, which was translucent and illuminated, an uppercut under the jaw.

We acquired this car just after Pearl Harbor, before a rationing system had been set up. We needed four new tires, but they were not to be had, so we traded the Pontiac 8 back to Ardmore Motors, at a great loss because of the tires, and were miffed to see our car in their display window the next day with a complete set of new tires. To replace this car we had two vehicles: A Model A Ford bought from a student of mine for $25 and an Indiana V-twin motorcycle.

The VW Vanagon

The VW Vanagon

About a year later, I learned of a car being sold by the wife of someone who had been drafted and needed money, so we sold the Ford and the motorcycle and bought a 1934 Chevrolet sedan, which carried us through the war years.

After the war, we lived in the U.S. but often with summer-long assignments in Europe. Noteworthy among them:

  • a 1951 Studebaker V8 (driven in Europe, where people thought we were driving an airplane that had lost its wings),
  • A number of cars picked up in Europe, and brought back to the U.S.:
  • a 1961 Panhard PL-17 two-cylinder, (picked up in France)
  • a 1968 Fiat 850 Coupé, (picked up in Italy)
  • a 1972 Opel 1900 (Ascona) station wagon (picked up in Germany), and
  • a 1985 VW Vanagon (also picked up in Germany.)
  • Then began a long string of eight Honda products over 21 years. Special among those were:
  • my third and last yellow car — a 1989 Honda CRX Si five-speed that rode like a stone boat. (Editor’s Note, when asked for clarification of the term “stone boat,” he explained it as having a stiff suspension.)
  • a 2000 Honda Insight Hybrid I enjoyed very much
  • a 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
  • and my last car, a 2010 Honda Accord V6 Coupe.

    Lindsay and his Honda Insight

    Lindsay and his Honda Insight

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