A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Learning to drive

There were many lessons changing gears, clutch in, clutch out, now try double the clutch, and, do not, look at the gear shift, keep your eyes on the road. Could I ever get this sequence to flow, to work, well in time I sort of got there?

Morris Major 1500 series I (1958)

When learning to drive my brother Donald would try to instruct me in his Morris Major, four-on-the-floor bucket seats, very nice. However, I was a lot thicker than he thought. There were many lessons changing gears, clutch in, clutch out, now try double the clutch, and, do not, look at the gear shift, keep your eyes
on the road. Could I ever get this sequence to flow, to work, well in time I sort of got there?
After I got my license, Donald would lend me his Major, which I appreciated very much. However, my early driving experiences resulted in my first real prang!!
I drove a couple of mates down to Lockleys’ picture theatre, parallel parking on Henley Beach Road, all was good. When we were leaving, driving off from the parallel park there was this strange noise, we three had no idea what was causing that noise. Then as I cleared the park I realize the noise resulted in a long scrape down the left-hand side from the front door, back door and onto the rear wheel arch of the Major. Poo!
Donald, ok-ish about the damage and I promised to repair it, however, the optimism of my first-year panel beating skill was just that, optimistic. A couple of years later Don and his wife Jacqui traded the Major with the dents partially repaired.

First outings with my license

FB Wagon 1960

Once I had my license, Dad would let me borrow the FB Holden wagon, I could go driving, cruising with friends.  With a driver’s license and a car to drive, I had freedom.  Freedom to explore the world!  In 1963, I would drive the FB wagon to trade school at night.  I would stop at Kevins’ house on the way home.

One of our laughs was to drive around the streets backward.  Backward…? Yes!  Our logic was that the odometer didn’t register the miles when driven in reverse.  We figured that we could mess about for miles, without Dad suspecting a thing.  Kevin would ride up on the roof racks while I drove.  He was into surfing.

Another notable memory was the weekend I asked to borrow the FB to go surfing down at Victor Harbour, again with Kevin. Unsuspecting of anything unusual, mum said “OK”. On returning home after a weekend away surfing, it seemed there was a small miscommunication.  Mum and Dad didn’t realize I had planned a whole weekend away surfing (and sleeping in the car each night).  Mum and Dad had therefore been stuck at home without a car to get around in…! Oopps.

From time to time, I was also allowed to borrow the FB how cool, I recall, when Kevin, Jeff and myself took three girls from Woodville to the dance at Henley Beach Surf Life Saving Club. ‘The Rincon’. Dancing, well the Stomp was all the rage!

The car was full.  I was driving, a girl in the middle between Kevin and me, two other girls with Jeff in the back seat.  Can you imagine, the column shift was a little awkward with three on the front seat, the girl in the front offered to change the gears.  Unfortunately, she hit reverse instead of second, the gearbox erupted with a loud metal grating sound.  Without knowing, I reacted by dropping the F word… did I ..!”  The lass in the front seat was not impressed.  She was actually quite upset,  gave me the silent treatment after that. At The Rincon, us lads shook it off by joking about lack of decorum and the column shift, sadly wasn’t quite a sports car, if you will.

Colum gear shift, 3 on the tree

My first ‘accident’ in the FB wagon.  What can I say, I was reversing into my sister’s (Barbara) driveway, when “clunk,” I had skewed a little offline and bumped into the corner of a brick flower box.  Opps…! But not to bother; there was only a small dent in the rear, right-hand bumper on the corner. And a crease in the rear guard, by the bumper end.  Although I did apologize to my sister, I failed to mention this one to Dad.

My best drive in the FB; would drive in reverse around the streets, at night after Trade School, near Kevin’s house. What a hoot.

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