I grew up in a family where cars were never more than tools. And in the case of my dad’s Morris Ital, rust prone and unreliable tools. I thought the Ital was embarrassing until it got replaced with a Nissan Prairie, a boxy proto-MPV that was about as unsexy as late-80s transportation got, and which I tried to make sure none of my friends ever saw me ride in.

While I was watching Formula 1 avidly throughout the Prost-Senna-Mansell period I had next to no interest in road cars, there were never any Ferrari or Lamborghini posters on my bedroom wall. 

But then my grandmother changed the course of my life. She lived in a small cottage in the Scottish borders with a long, crooked driveway that ran past it to a narrow pre-fabricated concrete garage. Her 1.1-litre Ford Fiesta lived in this garage and, like most of her generation, granny believed in the importance of ‘putting cars away’ in case they started to rust or got stolen. But as her eyesight and depth perception began to fade, so the Fiesta picked up increasingly obvious evidence of the difficulty she found in accurately getting it into and out of its tight-fitting home.

Once I reached the age of 13 granny reckoned that I was old enough to do the job. She gave me a very rapid lesson in the basics of vehicle operation and then left me to get on with it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t add a little more to the patina of the Fiesta’s rear end as I learned – fortunately the driveway had a fairly forgiving hedge on one side. But within a few days I was driving the little Ford in and out with millimeters to spare and the easy expertise of youth, even making use of what had been a previously unused turnaround spot to change direction. 

And I got it: I could see the point. Cars weren’t just A-to-B, they were things you could take pleasure from driving accurately, even at no more than 10mph in and out of a garage.

The prospect of operating one on a real road by myself was almost indescribably thrilling. From that point onwards, life became a countdown to my 17th birthday, and what quickly became an obsessive interest in cars grew up alongside it (helped in large part by a subscription to Autocar.) The Fiesta survived long enough to give some further lessons in elementary car control – and frequently my lack of it – once I finally passed my test.


How I fell in love with cars: Andrew Frankel 

How I fell in love with cars: Colin Goodwin 

How I fell in love with cars: Matt Saunders