Letters From England/The Tank


A Wolsey.

This is an English car built in the late ’50s into the early ’60s called a Wolsey. This is not the exact car that my Dad purchased from a former NEC teacher, but the colors are close. This is the car my sister dubbed The Tank. She called it the Tank because it rumbled. We often wondered whether this vehicle was going to get us from point a to point b without breaking down. Sometimes this car wouldn’t start and my Dad had to use this convenient hand crank to start it up. Then he would take it to some garage and have the problem fixed. The interior of this car was not the most comfortable. Sleeping on any sort of long trip would create aches and pains the likes you never felt. I thought I was going to like the little armrest that came down in the middle in the back seat. It seemed the perfect pillow for my head to rest on, but alas, unlike my Grandfather Lowell’s Cadillac, it was not to give me any comfort. There were a few things to like about the Wolsey. Unlike the VW bug we had in the states, the Wolsey was roomy. We could fit a dog and two people in the back. You could fit an aircraft carrier in the trunk. Popcorn often came on our trips and she was happy to sleep in the back. I think she liked the car. I know she always was eager for that morning trip down to the campus. Then again, all you had to say to her was do you wanna go for a ride in the car and she would be wagging that tail at a hundred miles an hour, her eyes would light up and she would pant happily.

This car was amazing. My sister and I may have been embarrassed about being seen in this old jalopy, but it did get us to where we needed to go. We took this car on many trips. One was to Dorset. We saw Corfe Castle. This car made the trip to Wales. It traveled to Warwick in the midlands. My parents took it all the way to the highlands in Scotland. I will admit one thing I did love about this car and I have often wondered whether my Dad did too. I loved the fins. Most of the cars over in England seemed to last forever. I am not sure why, but they did. I suppose one reason is that it rarely snowed in England. There were no rust spots on many of the English cars, so that kept important parts intact. I am not sure how difficult auto parts were to obtain for a lot of the older cars, but if a lot of them were still on the road. Looking at this car, one becomes nostalgic. It reminds me a place like Arnolds’ from Happy Days. You can picture yourself going to a drive-in movie theatre. I always wanted to live in the 1950s. It seemed like such a cool decade.

The next episode deals with this car. I couldn’t resist and I have had this episode in my head from the inception. The day my sister called it the tank. My father was not overly sensitive to that nickname, but he did sort of grouse about it. In later years the driver’s seat was held on by some coat hangers as some metal thing came apart in the back. My poor Dad couldn’t adjust the car the way he would have liked. I think one of the pedals went and he had to find some way of keeping that together so he could drive it. I have no idea how he managed to sell the car when we left for good, but he somehow did. It is interesting to note that my Dad was just looking for a beater, a car to get him from work and back, but this darned tank became so much more to us. It became our identity as a family.

My Dad would often check on the tour, driving out alone with his Wolsey. He became bored and started a travelogue with his tape recorder.(I have a future episode on that.) Dad’s travelogues were narrated by two travelogue reporters that he created. Interestingly enough, these characters also served as in-game status pro Baseball announcers when Dad and I played our tabletop Baseball game. Artie Skirmacorn, Cecil Sidney kept my Dad company. Artie had a high pitched voice while Cecil Sidney had a Texan drawl. We still have these tapes and even though I was not there, I picture my Dad in that Wolsey, driving up some country hill in Dorset, or the highlands of Scotland. I see him with that microphone to his lips and I hear those two lovely characters he created. I also see him on the M1, as he is passed by others. The drivers giving him long strange looks wondering what on earth this mad man is doing. If I were in the car, I would have simply said, he’s just passing the time, while driving to his job, somewhere in Reading, or maybe Stockton Upon Tees, enjoying his Wolsey. It’s a colorful picture. Dad and his sidekicks Artie Skirmacorn and Cecil Sidney painting their own pictures of what they see as they are driving down the road in the Tank. That Wolsey was a great car, I think about it often.

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