This Austin 7 Ruby was bought from new by my Great Uncle Bertie Bullen who drove it until a near miss made him lose confidence in his ability to drive. This was after he had owned it for 20 years in about 1957. It was then bought by my father for my mother (Uncle Bertie’s neice), who drove about in it until she got a new Mini in 1964. It then passed to my cousin Andrew Anderson who drove it to car rallies until recently. He has now passed it on to his son who teaches at UEA, so the East Anglian connection is maintained. Uncle Bertie was known a Wolf to the family, from Wolfgang Mozart; he was a good musician who had been organist of Stradbroke church. He had been a Schools Attendance Officer for Suffolk County Council so the car has a Suffolk registration beginning PV. It was bought new in Lowestoft and was first registered in 1936. We christened it Ladybird. Grey is its original colour though, not red!
It had a number of features that I remember from the 1950s. The windscreen opened up, so you could increase the ventilation in the summer. We did so often and it was pleasant to feel the fresh air on your face as you cruised along at about 30 mph. There was a single windscreen wiper, with a handle you could turn to assist the rather feeble electric motor. There was no heating of any kind, but there was a blind on a string which you could pull down over the back window. This prevented your from being dazzled by lights in you mirror, but it also stopped you from seeing abything behind the car; hardly a safety feature! Cars were only just beginning to have wing mirrors in 1960 and Ladybird never had one. It had a sun roof, only in those days we called it a sunshine roof.
It had been passed on to Andrew before I was old enough to drive. I had few attempts to drive it out of the garage but without any success. The clutch was very sharp and caused the car to stall immediately I let the pedal up.
You can see a few minor modifications in the two views of Ladybird. In the earlier picture the headlamps are the original ones, rather smaller than their replacements seen in the later picture. My father had these brighter lamps fitted in about 1960, but it was an alteration that he later regretted, as it made the car less original. Also you can see the two orange winkers placed either side of the number plate. These must have been fitted on Andrew’s watch, as while it still belonged to my mother it retained the mechanical indicators that flipped out on the rear window pillar. These were operated by a lever on the steering wheel hub. The indicators often got jammed, either refusing to return after you had turned the corner, or simply by staying put in their housing when you turned the lever.
You got a fine view of the engine when you opened the bonnet. This you could do on the left or right sides, but not both at once. This was a regular occurrence as the engine required frequent attention. Now you hardly ever look inside you car’s bonnet, but the oil need weekly topping up as did the water in the radiator. The sparking plugs would be removed for cleaning once or twice a year and the rotor arm of the distributor also needed attention. Note the starting handle; although the car had an electric starter it was useful if the battery was low to get out and wind the car up.