It was a clear and crisp October afternoon and my Standard 8 Henry had been with me in Scotland for almost 3 weeks since I’d made his purchase. For the majority of this time, Henry had hidden in our garage opposite our home. Meanwhile, our faithful Fiat Cinquecento - friend of many years - had sat outside in the street car park – temporarily ousted to make room for the Standard 8 which had just been brought home from the southern outskirts of Birmingham.
Many curious relatives had poked their heads around the creaking garage door to see if our tale of a recent 400-mile adventure in a 1957 classic was true and to their delight they found an apple-green vehicle reminiscent of their own young adult lives looking back at them. My parents had visited and had been taken along the back-roads that lead out from Glenrothes towards Fife Airport. Lying on the edge of town, the nearby airport seemed a suitable venue to aim for in a bid to give them an idea of what their daughter had been hoping for when only weeks ago, she’d announced plans to empty out her savings in a bid to make one of several long term dreams come true.
As my dad had climbed out of the backseat, he looked surprisingly proud of my choice in car. Curious, I quizzed him on his thoughts to which he replied:
“I learned to drive in a Vanguard. It belonged to your granddad. Funny you should choose a Standard car too.”
I’d had no idea. A few days after being told this and having managed to secure a garage of my own from the local council, I now stood outside my rental lock-up and looked in at Henry who was parked inside. I thought hard but no memory of my granddad would come. This didn’t come as a surprise for I’d never been able to recall what he looked like or the somewhat gruff nature that my dad remembers. I met and was held by my granddad only once, just a few days after I was born. We lost him to cancer shortly after. It was an intriguing thought to think that so many years later another Standard was in the family and with that I decided Henry had to come out of hiding that day and get out into the fresh air before the winter weather moved in. The crisp nature of the afternoon suggested it wouldn’t be long before the frosts arrived.
In the three weeks Henry had been with me I had found myself having to patiently wait. In addition to the reasonable sum of £1200 with which I’d bought Henry, I had also paid a further £150 for suitable car insurance through the AA. Suitable in that it had served to cover Henry’s journey from Alvechurch (the town in which I’d made my purchase) and my fully licensed partner Chris, but completely unsuitable in that it lacked my own name.
The insurance companies had stipulated a minimum age of 25 years for taking out classic insurance. Being 24 when I had travelled down and bought Henry, I found myself unable to get cover as a driver of the car. To avoid any confusion I should also mention that I was only on a provisional license at the time but this had not appeared to concern the insurers, it was only a matter of being the right age.
Three weeks after Henry’s successful arrival in Scotland, I still found myself unable to be covered by the insurance I’d bought for my own car. Given this, Chris had done our initial test drive when we’d viewed Henry in Alvechurch as well as the many miles back home. It was easy to feel that the momentum and excitement of buying my first car had been forced to an abrupt end having found out that I’d have to wait over a month before being able to drive my Standard for the very first time as a 25 year old.
At the garage door I sighed but realizing it was the end of October that afternoon, I remembered my 25th birthday was just under a fortnight away. Perhaps I could remain optimistic until then. In the meantime, if we were to make the most of the cool October sunshine, I’d have to ask Chris to take Henry & I out.
Chris agreed and suggested a short trip up into North Fife. Having already ventured south the previous week to North Queensferry to get a photograph of Henry for the Standard club (see previous feature – Coolest Car on Campus), heading north seemed like a good idea and so after fixing a picnic and flask, we headed out.
Kilmany is a small fermtoun located alongside the A92, 3 miles north of Cupar. In March 1936, this humble farming community became the birthplace of legendary F1 driver Jim Clark. Formula 1 champion of both 1963 & 1965, Clark is frequently perceived to have delivered some of the smoothest driving seen within his generation of professional racing drivers. Closer to home, Clark won the 1964 British Touring Car Championship in his Lotus Cortina. His winning drive in a ex-Bruce Halford Lister Jaguar on 11th July 1959 at Falkirk’s Bo’ness Hill Climb, located a mere 48 miles south of Kilmany, was believed to be the drive that inspired Colin Chapman to offer Clark his initial Formula 1 contract. Whilst participating in a Formula 2 race meeting, it is suspected that a rear tire deflation caused Clark’s fatal Hockenheim accident on 7th April 1968. Clark continues to be remembered at The Jim Clark Room in the border town of Duns and is honoured within Kilmany by a memorial sculpture.
Having enjoyed a challenge along the twists of an unnamed country road between Foodieash and Kilmany, it was Clark’s memorial sculpture that we found ourselves pulling up alongside with Henry. The leaves lying on the nearby grass appeared burnished in shades of amber and bronze as autumn appeared to surround us as we drank tea from our flask inside our 1957 Standard.
As we had entered Kilmany, we’d driven in under a chunky old railway bridge. Curious to see if the now unused line still remained, we left Henry with Jim and walked back along the road towards the bridge. Cutting through prickly hedges, we found ourselves on a flat grassy walkway, likely the remnants of one of Fife’s many railway lines lost in the sixties. We followed this stretch for a mile or so, catching glimpses here and there of the fields bordering Kilmany. Passing by a broken wooden stile, we came out onto a dead end. The walkway just simply stopped. In front of us, tall grasses stood in shades of chestnut, green and amber as the moon rose amongst hazy pink clouds. It was only about 4 in the afternoon but the sun was slipping from the sky. Soon it would be dark. A blackbird called out as we turned round.
We returned to Henry just as the chill of a winter’s night settled upon the street. Henry lit up the scattering of cottages with his headlights as we slowly made our way along the narrow Kilmany streets. Jim, ever watchful, saw us disappear into the dark and off home.