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Clyno Published: 26th Aug 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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David Burgess-Wise on the car that kick-started his love on golden oldies

Vintage motoring these days is very different from what it was when I first got behind the wheel of a 1920’s car back in the 1950s. For a start, the roads were much quieter then; I recall driving one weekend in the 1960s from my home in East Sussex to the Hampshire border, a journey of some 50 miles via the A272, and meeting only a handful of cars on the way. But the differences were more fundamental then; for a start, my 1927 Clyno tourer – bought, incidentally, for a trainee journalist’s whole month’s salary of £40! – was my everyday car, covering some 9000 miles a year at the peak.

OK, so it was only in its mid-30s then, but it was still a very second-hand car that in its first ownership in the 1920s had travelled weekly the 250 miles from Blackpool to Covent Garden in London and returned with its tonneau laden with fruit and veg for the shop of its greengrocer owner – no wonder the rear spring mounts were a trifle tired!

I’d bought the car through a small ad in the weekly Exchange & Mart – there were no specialist old car dealers then – from two students in North London and since I hadn’t yet passed my driving test, took a friend who had when I went to collect it. While the car lacked an offside front wing and the hood was falling apart, it did come with a pile of spares in the tonneau almost big enough to build another car.

The journey went well for the first five miles or so, when it began to rain. The wiper blade described two complete circles and dropped off into the road. We pushed the windscreen open and continued. Two miles further, the engine coughed and died. We tried for hours to make it run, then gave up, and left the car on a garage forecourt for the night.

The next day the trouble was diagnosed as water in the petrol. The tank was drained and refilled, and we set off again. Once safely home, I rebuilt the Clyno, initially in the street. A 200-year-old firm of coachbuilders made a new front wing, new seats were made, the body was painted royal blue, and the car was ready for the road.

I learned to drive on that Clyno, and was probably one of the last people to have passed the test in a car with central throttle, right-hand gear and brake levers and a crash gearbox. My first test I muffed, the second was sadly postponed due to a combination of torrential rain, no hood and the magneto falling off… but on the third time I passed.

The Clyno was my only car for eight years and covered over 50,000 miles in my ownership, but only failed to get me home once, when the magneto disintegrated spectacularly. It did cause the odd delay: in 1967, after it put a rod through the side in Southampton, I stripped the engine by the roadside and drove home on three cylinders, while in 1970 I rebuilt the back axle on the side of a country road when the pinion stripped a tooth. (I had a spare under the back seat…). Happy days!

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