I wouldn’t be who I am now without that Vauxhall Chevette.
In December 1975 my life changed completely.
A brand-new Vauxhall Chevette.
You see, my mum who was born with achondroplasia, once upon a time more commonly known as dwarfism, was a lucky sort. She would regularly pick winners in horse races, despite awful odds, just because she liked their names. Her luck with the football pools wasn’t so great and I spent my childhood in the hope that she would win with her regular numbers, 2,3,4,8,12,14,18,21,22,23,25,31. She never did.
My mum also occasionally enjoyed entering competitions and it was with one of these that she hit the big time.
In late 1975, the Daily Mail newspaper was running a competition to win one of a number of different cars. My mother entered and, lo and behold, won one of them. It was a Vauxhall Chevette 1300.
As I mentioned before, she had achondroplasia and this, combined with being a hard-up single parent, meant that she had never been able to afford to own a car, what with the cost of purchase, let alone conversion to allow her to drive the thing. No, Midland Red’s buses got her where she needed to go and winning a car wasn’t about to change that either, so she opted for the cash alternative; a heady £1,300.00.
This money allowed her to purchase a fridge, our first, and some fitted carpet for the living room, another first. The black and white TV remained for another 15 years until Granada rentals gave up on its last monochrome set.
Rather generously, she decided that I could have a treat. A big treat. She said that I could have the electric guitar and combined amplifier and speaker I had longed for since I was a small boy infatuated with Jimi Hendrix. I’d had a child’s ‘tin’ guitar for a number of years and was a truly terrible player, but I thought that upsizing and raising the volume might shake things up a bit.
And so, it was that my little mum, my pal Peter Holmes and I caught the bus from Sutton Coldfield into Birmingham, with our sights set upon the large branch of F.W. Woolworth in the Bull Ring area, a branch large enough to sell musical instruments, this department being situated on its first floor.
We entered, ascended and came face to face with one of Woolworth’s own-brand (Audition) electric guitars. My heart raced at the sight of the exotic instrument but then, in a complete volte-face, one look at the red, sparkling drum kit sitting next to it changed my mind, my world and my life. I’d owned a single clay bongo drum for a couple of years and was rhythmically consistent on it when playing along to records. Seeing the drums in front of me made me realise that here was my true instrument. My destiny made manifest.
Forty-five quid later saw the three of us struggling with the enormous box towards the black cab rank. First the box of drums was squeezed into the Austin FX4 and then us and so ensued my first ever ride in a taxi.
Once home, my mum confessed to knowing a jazz drummer, by the name of Alan Reed. In fact, he lived on the same side of our street and I found out later that he had taught a number of rather fine drummers. He offered to give me lessons, for which I will be ever grateful, and the rest is history.
Without drums I would not have become a professional musician and without that career, I would not have had my route into motoring journalism and television presenting.
Funny, I don’t think that I have ever set foot inside a Vauxhall Chevette.
- Fuzz t