Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Escort

By Rob Harvey
By Rob Harvey

Marketing Manager - Bridge Classic Cars

Here is another incredible story from Keith Belcher about his first company car:

“Fifty-odd years ago, or so, Wednesday 18th December 1968, to be exact, an event occurred which changed my life forever, I had a car accident. Whilst my injuries were not actually life-threatening, at the time it was very painful, but let me explain.

The previous summer I was 18 years old, I was enjoying my job in plant hire and was doing quite well at it. I have always been quite good at systems and implementing them. I was working at the Shirley depot and the company had just taken over another firm in Lichfield. I suppose I was the obvious choice to move to the company and convert them to our well-proven systems. So, to my delight, I was told I was going to be issued a company car.

The Company mainly used Vauxhalls at that time so I pored over the new Viva HB brochure. I loved the coke bottle shape of it and the stubby gear change was great. Although I lusted over the more powerful SL90 I knew I would get just a base 1200 model. I started at Lichfield and a couple of weeks later I was asked to report to head office to pick up my new car.

So the next morning I got a lift to the head office and reported to the transport managers’ office. The first thing he said was “What colour do you want Keith?” I replied, “I would prefer blue.” To which he said with a wry smile “You can have green, green or green?” So green it was going to be then. I signed the paperwork and followed him to the garage.

Going in I could only see 3 new green Ford Escorts. I complained, “I was told I was getting a Viva!” He replied, “We have signed a new deal with Bristol Street Motors and we are going to have Fords from now on.” The shape was somewhat boring compared with a racy Viva and besides Fords had a reputation for not starting in the winter. But hey I was told never to look a gift horse in the mouth and went on my way to Lichfield.

I soon fitted a Radiomobile radio, bullet wing mirrors, and spotlights, all funded by the sale of my old Viva HA. A regular visitor to Hednesford Hills Raceway for stock car racing, a sticker was affixed to the rear window. At weekends I would remove the hubcaps and the air cleaner [to get that loud sucking sound], I had my new rally car. You can guess I was the envy of my mates, only 18 with a new car!

That Wednesday evening we had been rehearsing our band at the Chesterfield Club in Castle Bromwich so I was quite warm after drumming for a couple of hours. When we finished, Cathy Phillips, the club owner’s daughter and our band secretary said that one of the bar staff had not turned in and it was getting busy. She had contacted a replacement who couldn’t get to the club so I volunteered to go and collect her and we could get some fish and chips on the way back. The air was not cold [at least to me] when we went outside to my car. Cathy and my friend Bernard decided to come with me. The journey of around 6 miles or so didn’t take long but I hadn’t noticed that the air temperature was dropping very fast. The road was damp but it was not raining.

When you are young you don’t see danger; you think you are going to live forever. I was, I thought, a good driver and not the slowest around, I already had 2 speeding tickets; I went round a small island on the Warwick road, a quick left and right…….Then my car was floating totally out of control on a sheet of black ice. We hit a car travelling towards us head-on with a combined speed of around 50 – 60 mph. With no seat belts, my head struck the steering wheel and I passed out for a minute or so. Cathy, who sat next to me got a cut on her leg needing stitches, but Bernard, who had been sitting in the back leaning forward chatting to us, was nowhere to be seen.

Cathy, to this day, swears she got out of the car and saw Bernard sitting cross-legged dazed in the road 10 yards away. She hadn’t let him out of the two-door car [Bernard never remembered what happened]. The windscreen had shattered so we can only assume that he had been catapulted through it. Gladly he was totally uninjured. The other driver and passenger were slightly injured.

The impact had knocked out or broken 6 of my bottom front teeth and the roots were protruding through my chin. I was pouring blood and it took 20 minutes for the fire brigade to extract me from the car. The pain when they cut through my gums to remove the teeth I will remember forever. I have worn a bottom denture since.

The Police prosecuted me for undue care and attention. In law, there is no such thing as an accident. It is always someone’s fault. I got another endorsement but after pleading they let me keep my licence. No replacement car for me then. The oldest worn-out thing they could find. Ah well c’est la vie. But it led me on the path to my first MGB.

There is an old wife’s tale about your whole life flashing past your eyes in slow motion with traumas like this. I can tell you it is absolutely true. But I think that event saved my life. I made some decisions that night. To be a better driver I went on two driving courses. Never leave an argument unfinished. When you love someone, tell them, don’t hold back. And probably the best one is one of my father’s mottos; don’t go through life wishing you had done something, do it and worry about it afterwards.

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5 responses to “Nostalgia – 1960s Ford Escort”

  1. Adam Weston avatar
    Adam Weston

    I had an avo MK1 escort Mexico in Daytona yellow and it was such a beautiful car that I treasured until it was stolen in 1990 and never found and I cried for two days, superb cars!

  2. Michael Carr avatar
    Michael Carr

    Very good story. Good ad for seat belts! Shows u how easy it is to be on top of the world and how quickly it can change. I had similar accident at that age with 1st car. Didn’t slow me down but made me realise I still had a lot to learn

  3. Timothy Riordan avatar
    Timothy Riordan

    Great story , I have one much the same involving my 1959 A-H “frog-eye” Sprite, broke my arm! Those quarter-ecliptics and Kelly Springfield M 1’s would let go with little warning!
    Tim Riordan

  4. Eugene sweeney avatar
    Eugene sweeney

    Very honest story

  5. J heminsley avatar
    J heminsley

    What about the Cortina 1600e ?
    Whoa..many a good flight in ours. Front seat and back seat.

    These cars had personality for want of a better word.
    They possessed you ?

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