The reality of my Bond ownership was that I actually had another Bond before I bought the MkG. and I now have to admit I skipped over that bit in my previous post..
Even by late 1966 my interest in motorbikes was increasingly at odds with a new and more pressing desire and this one was not being driven by petrol. Testosterone was my new fuel and we lads all know where that leads us.
The 3 or 4 rocker cafes in Brighton were, to put it mildly, a bit grim and certainly not the sort of place girls were attracted to. In the unlikely event any unattached young ladies did have the courage to enter one of these establishments, competition for courtship could be savage, and made the annual Red Deer rut on Rum look like an afternoon tea dance. Key to success with any romance was a bike and my once trusty Triumph Speed Twin was sadly no longer trusty at all – a rocker waiting at a bus stop somehow doesn’t have quite the same cachet, so finding a girl, even on a good day, was on the slim side of remote.
Drastic action was required and I recognised my rocker days were coming to a close, so it was farewell to the Hi Lo at Fiveways and goodbye to the Day Go on the London Road.
A mate of mine had always rather fancied my bike and as it turned out he’d also got a Bond mini car he wanted to get rid of. A deal was struck and we agreed a straight swap, the next day I was the proud, well proudish owner of green Mk C, two seater, circa unknown – my very first car. Powered by a Villiers 197 cc single cylinder 2 stroke engine, a road rocket it was not, but it did mean I was mobile again and better still dry, well mostly, anyway.
These early bonds were pretty primitive machines. My model, for example came with only one door and that was on the passenger side. To get behind the wheel, the driver had to enter through this and then slide across, thoughtfully the Bond people provided a bench front seat, so whilst awkward, a quick bum shuffle and you were in position. If alone however you then had to lean back over to reach the door and pull it shut, so best to always take a passenger, if only to save dislocatinge one’s elbo stretching.
Bonds of this era also didn’t have a reverse mechanism, I understand this was something to do with legislation at the time, but I’ve no idea why. So, going backwards, to get out of a space or reverse parking meant getting out and pushing the thing, tricky at the best of times, and in front of any onlookers, almost guaranteed of vocal derision.
The final and most idiosyncratic thing about the machine was how it had to be started. No fancy electric starter or if there was one on my car, it didn’t work and not even a crank handle like an Austin 7 or a Morris Minor. No, the Bond had a kick start, just like the motorbike the tiny engine originated from. The procedure was thus- bum shuffle into the car and turn on the ignition. Bum shuffle back out and go the front of the car. Lift up the bonnet and find the kick start. Lift your leg over the front grill and into the engine compartment. Place your foot on the kick start and lash away, Basil Faulty like, until the engine spluttered into life. Lift your leg out of the engine compartment. Find the Elastoplast – put plasters where necessary on the various cuts and bruises caused by bashing your shin whilst kicking the starter. Bum shuffle back in and drive off. No wonder most people parked their cars on hills and bump started them. I imagine they sold rather poorly in the Fens.
However, the little machine did have character and one or two tricks that most other cars around couldn’t compete with. The steering was quite amazing. If you turned the wheel on to full lock, it would put the single front wheel at 90 degrees. Like this, the car could turn on its own axis and if desired would whirl round and round like a little, blue smoke emitting, carousel. Great for the Withdean Sportsman car park at closing time before roaring, well putt, putting off into the night. My favourite trick, though was even better.
Young and foolish, I discovered (by accident initially, whilst negotiating the bends outside the shops in Mackie Avenue) that if I approached a sharp corner at say 25 mph or so and turned in quickly the inside wheel would come off the ground in an instant. Disconcerting at first, I then practiced my technique and found I could keep the car like that, stunt driver style, for about 20 or 30 metres before the wheel would drop down again. The great thing was that the car wouldn’t turn right over, as when it reached 40 degrees off horizontal, the opposite front corner of the body would dig into the road and acting as a skid, prevent it going over any further. This was my party piece and I particularly enjoyed terrifying unsuspecting passengers who’d never been in the car with me before. The faint but ever present odour of vomit within the cabin, I always felt, was a price worth paying.
Too temperamental for long journeys like going to Newhaven or even Portslade, I recall returning for a spin up to the Dyke one Sunday morning with my good mate Keith Rummery. Coming down Mill Road towards the A23, as usual there was a line of cars waiting to get through the narrow railway arch at the bottom.
Approaching the queue, I began braking well in advance and whilst the car slowed slightly it still had rather more forward momentum than I’d hoped for. I applied more pressure to the brakes, but still no discernible reduction in my speed. With that growing sense of ‘this is going to hurt in the morning’, I applied even greater force and by this stage had my back braced against the seat and was using every ounce of strength in my body to press on the pedal. I’d also gone down through all the gears but the rear of that stationary Ford Anglia was getting ever closer.
With a less than 20 feet until impact, I was still covering tarmac at about 5 mph so in a last desperate attempts to avoid disaster, I wrenched the wheel sideways. Lurching left, the little car bounced up the kerb and careered towards the adjacent grass bank, coming to a somewhat undignified halt, half way up, nose pointing skyward, with the front wheel slowly spinning in the air.
Not long after this incident I was travelling north up the London road, past the Robin Hood Garage. Designed to carry two people, there were four of us on board, three along the bench seat and one in the space behind for carrying luggage/shopping or in my case towels to mop up the water that, by this stage of ownership, ponded it the foot wells every time it rained.
Opposite Braypool Park, the bonnet catch, never a particularly robust piece of engineering, without, warning decided to give way and like a Sergeant major’s salute, the bonnet snapped from the horizontal to vertical. Deprived of vision by the unexpected chunk of aluminium now quivering erect in front of my windscreen, I thought it prudent to bring the car to a halt.
At this moment, fate chose to play a hand, and the piano hinge like arrangement securing the bonnet gave up the ghost. With one of those screechy groans, like the Titanic sinking, the thing twisted its self free and flying over the top of the car and across the road, lodged itself under the front of a Morris 1000 travelling in the opposite direction.
By this time I’d already been braking for some 200 meters but with 4 on board we’d barely slowed at all. It seemed like we traveled past the Pylons before the car finally stopped but I’m probably exaggerating a bit. I think Bob Carey, ran back and retrieved the bonnet.
Not surprisingly, a few days later I decided to pass the machine on – poor unsuspecting individual.
And finally,despite its frailties the Bond did serve its purpose and my ‘girlfriend’ and I breathed a joint sigh of relief at its departure.
Nb Bob Pickett mentioned bonds being less than reliable – as you can see, mine was absolutely fine………