COAL #3: The Cars Of My Father

Or rather, cars of my parents. But since my mother took no interest in cars at all the title reflects what it was.

Born in the mid sixties, I have been intrigued by (mainly old) cars all my life. There is no clue as to why this is. I did not grow up in a car or mechanically minded family.

My mother was a teacher but had to stop when she married in 1960. This was normal practice back then. However it was possible to do temporary teaching which she often did, I have memories of my mother teaching our class for days when our teacher was ill. She was never a car person, did not much like driving, only when it was really necessary.

Fathers are often a role model for car enthusiasts. My father was not: two left hands, no interest at all for anything mechanical, cars were just cars and not worthy of special attention. Our family car was just that, transport for the family. It was not needed as transport to work.

My father was an office worker all his life and walked or cycled to the office. As such he never really needed a car. Life was different then. A milk cart would pass our house once or twice per week, as did the green grocerer. The baker and butcher were nearby at walking or bicycle distance. So he only started his car life when he was approaching 40. He did like driving though, even for short distances he would take the car. We had Sunday drives, hour trips just to see the landscape and country. Having lived all his life in the same town, he knew most farmers and new building activities in the area and had stories to tell. I loved those trips, anything better than being stuck home on a boring Sunday with nothing to do. There was no tv and no internet. Sometimes my parents listened to opera records, we would escape and play with other children in the neighborhood. As for the family cars, in hindsight some were quite interesting.

Cars were never bought new. My father knew the owner of a garage nearby who always would have a car for sale and happy to trade in the old car.

The first one, his first car in the mid to late sixties, was a grey Citroen Ami 6. The “berline” (sedan) version, with the reverse-sloping window. This had the famous 2CV mechanics and very soft suspension. Of course at that time being a Citroen, it also had wacky styling!


    Not our car. I love that shape

That’s our family, me being the little one, in front of our house.
“Please all stand by the car, yes this will be a nice picture”


I do remember sitting on the back seat with my brother and baby sister, going all the way on a holiday to the beach. This was probably a 3 hours drive which, for someone living in the Netherlands where the borders are at most 4 hours away, was a huge undertaking.

The Ami is one car I would love to try now. They are from a period when it was possible to market a car which was very different in many ways. It seems that art has been lost now, modern cars are so much like each other… Surviving Amis are quite rare, not strange knowing these did rust away after only a few years. In the Netherlands there is a following for these (as are for most older Citroens), most cars now have been imported from rust free warm southern Europe countries. Prices are high, too high for me just to have a try. One day though…

The follow-up for the Ami in our family was a rather obscure, even then, white Glas 1204.

Does not look bad at all! But that is from a brochure, the reality was a bit less harmonic


Weird proportions, too much overhang front and rear, wheels too small


Smaller than the Ami, two doors, with a growing family? I can only think the local garage offered a good deal on the Ami, and glad getting rid of the strange Glas. The Glas was seen by my father as a fast car (!), but then any car compared to the slow Ami would be. The one recollection I have of the Glas is that on a summer day when we were on our way home, the horn got stuck. My father stopped the car, did not know what to do with a full family in the car and knowing it was just a short trip to home, just started again. We drove for a couple of minutes with a loud screaming horn. It must have been quite horrible and a bit of humiliation to drive in a car like that. I am sure my father was not impressed. We only had this car for a short period. Regrettably there are no pictures of the Glas in our posession.

I never saw the same model Glas again until at an indoor classic car show a few years ago. I recognized it immediately for certain details. I cannot say it impressed me enough for wanting to try one now. This is a closed book.

Third car was better family suited, a light blue “big” wagon – two door Opel B Rekord.


Does not look very happy. Not our car but very similar, same color. Our car did not have a two tone roof.


From this car I have more memories. It could be started without the key by turning the key slot and the speedo was a horizontal yellow arrow which turned to red at the formidable speed of 100 km/u (60 mph, we yelled when this happened). Saturdays were spend washing the car, a task my brother and I would gladly do because when done, and the car still wet, my father took us for a fast drive “to dry the car”. Another sign my father loved to drive.


Our car with my mother, just arrived at the holiday home

The Opel was written off while we were on holiday. On holiday meaning the whole family was packed inside the car (three children on the back seat, the baby twins along with luggage in the luggage space behind the rear seat). No belts for anyone of course. Suitcases were mounted to the roof on a roof rack. On a day out, a gold colored Opel B Kadett drove into its passenger side. There was a large dent, the rear fender touched the wheel. Amazingly though, with us all unbelted, none were hurt. A local garage bashed out the wheel arch and said it was safe to drive so we continued our holiday for a couple of days driving around with that big dent. It must have looked pretty awful. I cannot imagine something like this nowadays, you would hire another car but those were the days, early seventies in the Netherlands.

These Opels were sold very well in the Netherlands (most were 2 door sedans) but are rare now. I do not see the attraction other than being a rare car.

Next car was a great Peugeot 404 wagon.

Long but perfectly styled
Our Peugeot 404 Familiale on the drive


A big wagon, four doors, three seating rows, four speed on the column. When it was bought (5 years old) it just had received new front wings and sills because the originals were rusted through. We all loved the car, very comfortable, ample space for us all. A few weeks before I was 18, my father would take me out for driving lessons on Sundays; I learned to drive in this car. I remember being so concentrated on getting the gear shift right, I forgot to look where we drove and we nearly steered into a ditch.

My father claimed the Peugeot had the best brakes ever. Later I found out he probably thought so because they were power (servo) assisted and he just never had the experience before. The Familiale served us well being practical and reliable. But the rust! It got to the car again after a couple of years, the front wings and now the hinges for the tailgate had rusted into the roof so much it could not be used anymore. That meant the car had to go.

Like Citroens, Peugeot has quite a following here in the Netherlands with most surviving examples imported from warm countries.

When we had the Peugeot I was used to reading Britsh classic car magazines. So, when my father needed a replacement for the rusty Peugeot, I suggested a Jaguar Mk2. Why not? These were cheap, I only read good stories about them and of course, they were very stylish, fast and luxurious. All things we never had in a car before. What was not to like? Of course my father was not buying into that. He feared expensive maintenance costs, not unlikely if you have to depend on a garage for everything. However my brother and I managed to persuade him into buying a 4 year old Triumph 2500 TC. More on how that happened in a later COAL.


Our Triumph 2500TC on the drive


The Triumph, while much liked by my father, brother and me, did last for four years. From then on only more common, run-of-the-mill cars (Japanese mainly) would be bought. That did not matter to me much because by then I had left home and was much into my own cars.

Replacement for the Triumph was a Mitsubishi Galant 1600.


The only picture I have of our Mitsubishi Galant

A very different car to the Triumph. This Mitsubishi felt much lighter, tinnier. It was not a bad car but could rust just as fast as the Triumph or the Peugeot. It had a towing bracket which was great because I could use it towing a trailer full of canoes for a long weekend with friends. I also used this car with a trailer to pick up my Triumph Herald I bought in Belgium (more on that in a later COAL).

A Toyota Carina was the successor I think.


A similar Toyota Carina. Not my parents’ car

It was memorable to me because it had electric windows! A luxury no car of my parents ever had before. This car also did rust quickly so was traded in for a 2 door Toyota Corolla.


Toyota Corolla 2 door. Not my parents’ car


Toyota Corolla 4 door. Not my parents’ car

Months later they realized this was not very practical to them, and traded it in for a similar car but with four doors. This one was kept for a longer period.

A Honda Concerto followed as the next car.


Honda Concerto. Not my parents’ car

The Honda Concerto they had was not very remarkable, I do not recollect driving it much. I am sure it was a good car, but unremarkable. My father wanted it gone when the drivers door window fell down the door a second time after the garage had repaired it.

My brother said my father also owned a dark blue Mazda 626 for a while. I cannot remember that car at all.

Another, maybe more, Corollas were bought and traded in.

A light blue Mitsubishi Space Star was the second to last car.

The actual Mitsubishi Space Star of my parents
This car had an automatic transmission, a first for my father. He also took the curious decision to have the seats recovered in leather.


Never an option, this must be the only Space Star with leather


There was nothing wrong with the cloth seats, not torn or dirty, but they liked to have the dog on the rear seat and leather was easier to clean! Typical of my father was that he felt it was not necessary to have the head rests also covered in leather.

Not typical of my father was his last car. Now in his mid eighties, he decided he wanted a large luxury car. He even knew what he wanted (very uncommon for him). Knowing he would not find one at his usual garage he asked me to help: selling the Mitsubishi and finding the new car. It proved somewhat difficult to sell the Mitsubishi. This was a good car, had no mechanical faults and the paint was flawless. My father always had small dents and scratches repaired immediately, at his advanced age he liked his cars in good condition.

His last wish for a car was very different: a Renault Vel Satis.



A rare car now but even then it was not a common sight. He liked the shape and presence on the road. It was higher than other cars which helped getting in and out.

After a frantic search (not many were on the market) I found him a nice dark blue Vel Satis turbo with automatic. Luxuries all around (cruise control, navigation, heated seats, tire pressure display) but strange for a large car, without park distance control.


I added an aftermarket rear PDC to the car which was not as easy to do as I thought it would be. The Renault had the modern CAN BUS electric wiring system which meant I could not use just any wire for a 12V split takeoff. I had to feed a wire from the battery in the engine room, through the bulkhead to the dashboard and to the rear of the car.




My father loved that car and was proud he was driving such a dignified car. One of the Renault’s idiosyncrasies was that once the car was rolling, you could not set the navigation system. Instead of seeing this as a nuisance, my father thought it was another proof that the car was a very safe car.

It took me a long time selling the car after his death, a big old car (for Dutch standards) is not much wanted here.


My father and his last car at my home