Amongst a huddle of vintage rusted vehicles, in the sleepy village of Alvechurch, Henry & I found one another. I could feel my excitement as I greeted him with a curious gaze. Could he really become my very first car?
Having just arrived from a similarly quiet Markinch, I was aware that the day’s rail trip from Scotland had been a long journey to now find fault in the Standard I’d come to view.
In some ways, my journey into Standard motoring had already been going on for some time - certainly beyond the train hours to Alvechurch. Around two years prior, I had my first encounter with a Standard car upon the forecourt of a car-sales garage in Dunfermline, Fife. My partner Chris & I had been driving past the town’s Pittencrieff Park when I'd spotted an unusual looking car that I’d never seen before. It was an immaculate cream 1950’s classic complete with leather seats, original handbook and what looked like a silver, dashboard-mounted fire extinguisher. I thought it was delightful in every way. After curiously peering through the windows for quite some time, I reluctantly had to leave this pretty little car upon the forecourt, not knowing what kind of car it was but knowing that I liked it very much and that I hoped to find out more.
Now I listened to the intriguing wail given out by our electric Birmingham to Alvechurch train as it pulled out from each new station on route to meet Henry. As I listened, I attempted to absorb some last minute ‘car-buying tips’ from partner Chris. After all, I hadn’t bought or even viewed a car for sale before. However, I was keen to make sure that if I did make what seemed like yet another significant step into my young adulthood, I was at least going to do it partially correct.
Henry is a 1957, apple-green Standard 8 and he was being sold by Wendy, who had driven Henry for some time now but her heart had begun to yearn after an Austin A35 in place of her Standard. Two years after having seen the mystery car in Dunfermline, which had since been identified by a motoring friend as a Standard 10, and me having been intrigued ever since, I arrived at Wendy’s in the hope I could buy my very first car, and a similar Standard at that.
Henry did not disappoint and for this I was most relieved. I didn’t know any other 24 year old and fairly strapped-for-cash student, who had embarked on a 400-mile rail trip to view a car more than twice their age. Come to think about it, when viewing Henry, I didn’t know anyone who owned a classic. In the few weeks before my journey to Alvechurch, I’d got to know a couple of forum members on the Standard Motor Club website - their comments proving both helpful and encouraging - but otherwise I was a beginner in the classic car world.
As we’d made our way to Alvechurch, I couldn’t help but wonder what a potential mess I could be getting myself into if Henry turned out to be a rusted wreck at the other end of the railway line. As the train rattled through the Scottish and then the English countryside, I found myself hoping more and more that all would be well & that Henry was the car I’d been so keenly looking for.
I needn’t have worried. Henry was in wonderful condition. The material that lined the roof had seen better and somewhat brighter days but other than that, stepping inside was just like stepping straight into the 1950’s. On the exterior, Henry had a couple of scrapes to his paintwork but overall he looked good. Upon firing up his 803cc engine, Henry seemed to be mechanically sound and ready to go. With that Chris, Wendy and her partner, and me bundled ourselves into the waiting Standard 8 and off we all went for a test drive.
I didn’t drive Henry that day. Instead, I asked Chris to do all the test-driving. When viewing Henry, not only was I buying what might be considered an unconventional car for someone of my age, I might have been said to be doing things the wrong way round. I had applied for a provisional and I knew that it was on its way to me, but upon viewing Henry, the license had not yet arrived. Keen as I was to try Henry before I splurged my carefully saved cash, I found myself unable to do so. Instead I based my decision upon my impressions from the passenger seat and within minutes, I just knew that I loved Standard motoring!
Our test drive around Alvechurch was only brief so a full review of Henry was not possible at that point. However, I was satisfied that he drove soundly and reliably. Henry's engine had started up well and sounded clear and healthy. Meanwhile, years of watching car buying shows (yet never having the car to buy!) had taught me that when the moment finally came to make my own purchase, I ought to ensure that I press as many buttons as possible and check that all the little things work too. The presenters who had instructed me in car buying for so long would have been proud as the headlights, window wipers, horn and in-car heater were all tried out, one after the other. As with all else, all was well and so came time for a decision.
I looked at Henry and I knew I just had to go with my instinct for when I’ve looked back in retrospect, I’ve often found my best decisions were those taken on gut feeling. Perhaps buying a 1957 car wouldn’t be much of a parent-thrilling decision – parents who would likely hope daughter’s car would have seatbelts & airbags. Perhaps it might be too ridiculous a prospect for the insurance companies to cover me whilst I was simultaneously being a 24 year old student, a learner driver & a classic car owner.
Perhaps ... perhaps it was just right. I realised that Henry had a bit of history behind him and I knew that I wouldn’t be the first to shake hands over his bonnet as I told Wendy I’d be delighted to buy him. With that began a classic’s trip to Scotland. All I could hope for was that I would make a welcome new addition to this 1957 Standard 8’s story.
See this article on the Standard Motor Club's website: