116 EVERGREEN Autumn The typical package holiday of the 1960s was not for my family. Rather than sitting on a plane to Spain we took the car — and not just to Spain. In 10 years of wonderful holidays we toured much of Europe and I collected experiences to enrich a lifetime. My father and his brother owned a successful car-sales business, my mother was a vastly experienced motorist who had driven my father’s pre-war Lagonda before her marriage, and almost every other type of car after it, and I had learned to drive as a seven-year-old on country roads and disused airfields — so when I was 13 and it was decided I should see the Continent, it seemed perfectly natural that we should take our expertise and love of cars abroad. That summer of 1966 we went to Switzerland, and I never forget the excitement of my first European travel in that holiday car of happy memory: our bright red Hillman Minx, BVU 356C. On our last night in England, taking coffee in the elegant White Cliffs Hotel in Dover, I watched cross- Channel ferries ablaze with lights as they slid The author’s parents with the bright red Hillman Minx, which took them on holiday to Switzerland in 1966.
2017 EVERGREEN 117 Another year, country and car! The author, his mother and their Ford Corsair. in and out of the busy harbour, and knew that the morning would bring me a special rite of passage. “First time over there,” grinned my father in the manner of a Squadron Leader sending a novice pilot on his first sortie. “You’ll love it!” And I did. Everything in France seemed so different, including the motoring: epitomised by the spectacle of a French farmer thrashing his matt-grey Citroën 2CV down a Route Nationale with a large pig on the back seat. We crossed poignant battlefields of the Western Front to spend our first night in the Champagne city of Reims. Later came the Rhinelands and the invigorating Alps. I was thrilled by the lakes and mountains and the bright flags of the cantons colouring the neat Swiss towns. Best of all was a magical vista of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau lit pink and gold in an enchanted sunset beyond the garden of our tiny wooden hotel. In 1967 we drove the length of France again to make a tour of Spain and Portugal: a parching trek through dry hills and desert plains. There were places in central Spain, far from the tourist-traps of the Costas, where a car like our Ford Corsair Automatic had never been seen…and automatic transmission fluid unheard-of. When we ran out of this, a desperately needed top-up was obtained from the hydraulics of a