Little Susie so Popular

Janet Sochon with the Ford Popular she named Susie.

Rising bus fares and much draughty waiting for buses convinced me that I should buy my first car. It was an upright Ford Popular, circa 1948 – I think. It had a reconditioned engine and cost me the princely sum of £90 in the early 1960s.

I learned to drive in this car – my driving instructor declaring that two hours in it was worse than being on a horse!

I christened the car Susie and well remember her character and traits. It was recommended that I ran the engine in 30mph for the first 1,000 miles. It proved to be good, but very tedious, advice for the engine ran like a sewing machine. It had three gears and a very long gear stick and I had to learn to ‘double de-clutch’, absolutely essential when changing gear.

Almost non-existent suspension allowed Susie to cruise smoothly at 45-50mph, only throwing passengers around if the dizzy heights of 50mph were reached.

Susie was provided with a starting handle, but I was determined only to use this in a dire emergency. I prevented Susie from becoming cold by tucking her up with an old blanket at night when it was chilly. If frost was forecast then the addition of a small paraffin lamp hung inside the engine kept her warm. This procedure was followed on arrival at work too!

There was no heater in Susie and on the 15-mile journey to work I used to drive with a hot water bottle on my lap. The windscreen wipers worked off the engine and when going uphill they frequently groaned to a halt. This did not seem to be too disastrous unless it happened when you were following a sugar beet lorry on a muddy road.

The previous owner must have loved the car too as a primitive washer had been fixed. Somewhere along the bonnet line a plastic tube had been inserted which led to a plastic bottle holding about half a pint of water inside the car. When necessary the bottle, positioned somewhere in the region of my knees, was squeezed by hand and, hey presto, the wipers washed the windscreen clean, unless of course you were travelling uphill! Overfilling the bottle resulted in cold dribbles running down my legs. Once, when the frost was very severe, the water bottle froze.

I could see the ground under the car when I pressed the accelerator or applied the brakes, so Susie was never driven through deep water. The semaphore indicators were operated by a simple switch on the dashboard and they mostly worked when required, but occasionally a thump was needed from inside the car to make them fully operational.

The lights worked off a six-volt battery and were not good. A dipping switch was floor-mounted but I hardly noticed the difference. A fog light had been thoughtfully fitted but it was useless.

The seats were bucket-like and covered in vinyl – very uncomfortable on hot days but the huge wind-down windows soon cooled everywhere down.

Susie travelled to many places and once went to North Wales. There were three large adults and myself in the car and she chugged up and down the hills with remarkable ease and no one had to get out at the bottom and climb to the top on foot.

Susie and I had over two years of memorable motoring and I loved her to bits. No other car has had the same affection bestowed upon it. I still have the little lamp though and when I catch sight of it hanging in the garage it always makes me smile.

Janet Sochon, Wolferd Green, Shotesham.

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