It’s a pity the primary meaning of the word “caravan” has changed. In the old days, it denoted a group of people, especially traders or pilgrims, travelling together across a desert in Asia or North Africa. But it has subsequently lost its romance. If it’s mentioned now, we tend to think of a shiny and luxurious home on wheels that is towed to a camping ground for the summer holidays.
I had hoped to use “caravan” as a collective noun for cars. But this is clearly not on, given the camping connotations. So, what do you call a group of cars? Using “herd of cows” as a paragon, I thought of “a yard of cars.” But visions of eager car salesmen ruled it out.
I considered “motorcade,” but was put off by images of bullet-proof vehicles surrounded by motorbikes with screaming sirens. Pity, as it would have opened the way for a “lemonade” sub-section to accommodate troublesome cars. I briefly considered “caraoke,” but decided it was too frivolous.
In the end, I settled on “a cavalcade of cars.” www.etymonline.com defines “cavalcade” as “a procession, a train of persons on horseback or in carriages.” It’s got colour and a sense of history.
My cavalcade started in 1969 in South Africa. I spent four months in that country, working as a bank clerk. During that time, I bought a 1954 Austin A40 Somerset. Its main purpose was to provide transport for the trip from the block in Hillbrow where I had a room, to downtown Johannesburg for evening classes, and to do some sightseeing. In the event, I undertook a few exploratory trips, the longest of which brought me to the Vortrekker Monument in Pretoria - and back. However, three weeks after I had bought the car, it broke down and had to be towed in. Fortunately, it happened not far from home. A further three weeks later, I sold the Austin for R25, having bought it for R80.
As an aside, I liked those gentle geographical names some car makers bestowed on their vehicles back then: Austin Somerset, Ford Anglia, Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford etc. A far cry from today’s Ford Raptor and Lamborghini Diablo, they were names Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army and Downton Abbey’s butler Mr Carson would have approved of.
I fell for the Gallic charms of the Citroën 2CV. By the summer of 1971, I had managed to scrape together enough pounds and pennies to buy one. My happy association with this 425cc wonder lasted until 1977, when I had to sell it in order to migrate to New Zealand. I have written a separate story about the 2CV. It appeared in a recent issue of NZ Classic Driver (September/October 2022).
For most of the time I had the 2CV, we also had a stronger, more sensible car to accommodate our growing family. For a while, we had a 1966 Hillman Super Minx Sedan. But when I became aware that Citroën made cars one step up from the 2CV, we traded in the Hillman and bought a red Citroën Ami 8 Sedan. In turn, it was traded-in a few years later for a grey Ami 8 Estate. The Amis had comparatively massive 602 cc engines, which powered us effortlessly round the Continent and Scandinavia during summer and winter holidays.
Before arriving in New Zealand, I had made some enquiries and found that, although Citroen was well represented by the majestic and avant-garde ID and DS models, as well as the Traction Avant model favoured by Inspector Maigret, there was no tradition here of the little cars we had grown fond of. So, we went back to the safe, British motoring stable and bought a 1966 Hillman Super Minx Estate. It had plenty of room for the whole family, which soon included two children.
Nearly three years later, the Hillman was due for replacement. By now, after initial scepticism, we had got used to the idea that Japanese cars were reliable, and that spare parts for them were readily available at reasonable prices. So, we traded the Minx in for a 1972 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon. This was the first of what was to become a string of eleven Corollas. In regard to number seven, I have to admit to guessing it was a Corolla: my records contain no details of the car, which 1 2 3 4 1. With friends on holiday in 1979 Toyota Corolla estate; 2. Kjell’s family – and dog – with their 1972 Citroen Ami 8 estate; 3. 1977 Mini 1000; 4. A trusty station wagon – 1982 Toyota Corolla; 5. 1991 Toyota Corolla Hatch RK693 on tour; 6. The Corolla chalks up 500,000km; 7. A brace of Toyota RAV4s – a ‘shortie’ and a four-door; 8. Modern days – 2006 Toyota Corolla. NZ CLASSIC DRIVER | MAY-JUNE 2023 69 was known only as The Orange Roughie.
We went through periods of having two cars. So, for short spells, our driveway was home to, in addition to a Corolla, variously a Vauxhall Viva, a Mini, and a Holden Barina. And when the children were old enough, they acquired their own cars. There were times when our drive resembled a Southern Motorway traffic jam.
In 1994, we went upmarket and bought a red Toyota RAV4 as our main car. In due course, this was replaced by a blue RAV4. The two RAVs ruled the roost until 2013, when another low-milage second-hand Corolla, our penultimate one for now, took up residence as the main car in our carport.
Continue reading in our May/June 2023 issue of Classic Driver Magazine - Out Now!