Pensioner's car which survived Nazi bombing raid passes its first MOT 71 years on without a single failure
By Tom Gardner
PUBLISHED: 12:53 GMT, 15 March 2012 | UPDATED: 15:25 GMT, 15 March 2012
A pensioner’s car which survived a Nazi bombing raid during World War Two is back on the road 71 years later - after passing its first ever MOT without a single failure.
Alice Day, 97, was surprised when her prized Austin Seven Ruby flew through the test despite not being driven for over half a century.
The car, which clocked up 73,000 miles, came just inches away from being crushed by falling masonry after a Luftwaffe bomber carpet bombed the street where it was parked in February 1941.
Good condition: Alice Day, 97, stands next to her vintage Austin Seven Ruby, bought for £145 from her father in 1938, which passed its first MOT - despite surviving a Nazi bombing raid during World War Two
Alice parked the car outside the hairdressers minutes before the entire street was destroyed.
The day-time raid killed six people in the High Street of Newmarket, Suffolk.
AUSTIN 7: THE MODEL T OF THE BRITISH CAR WORLD
Engine: L-Head in-line 4
Power: 10 bhp
Transmission: 3/4 speed man
Top Speed: 48 mph
Number Built: More than 290,000 worldwide
Fuel consumption: 40 to 50 mpg
The Austin Seven is credited with being the first mass-market car to be fitted with a 'conventional' control layout - i.e. with the brake pedal in the middle, accelerator on the right, and clutch on the left.
The Austin 7 had a similar impact on the British car market as that of the Model T Ford in the USA. It was manufactured and sold in huge numbers.
It was licensed and copied by car companies around the world.
Incredibly, Alice escaped unharmed and her car also survived despite being badly damaged from shrapnel and falling rubble.
Alice continued driving the car until 1958 when she put it into storage for almost half a century.
But Alice and husband Fred, 98, decided to get the car roadworthy after giving it to their daughter Jennie, last year.
Now almost exactly 71 years to the day since the deadly bombing raid her car is back on the road after it passed its first ever MOT.
Alice said: ‘I can remember it as if it were yesterday.
‘As the sirens went we started to go downstairs but I went back to get my handbag because my engagement ring was in it.
‘As I put the ring on my finger I remember the yellow walls of the salon seemed to bend in two and without any bang whatsoever this tremendous force hit me in the back and blew me the length of the salon through the open doors.
‘I finished up on a narrow ledge a large beam over the top of me holding up what was left of the building.
‘I lay under the beam until I heard Mr Jellis the hairdressing trainer yelling at me "Stay where you are someone will come and get you".'
Alice survived the blast along with her sister, Majorie, and was taken to Newmarket’s White Lodge Hospital - but six others, including a three-month-old boy, tragically died.
Alice bought the Austin Seven Ruby with a £145 loan from her father in 1938.
The married couple drove the car for the next 20 years until they put it into a shed for storage in 1958 - two years before the MOT exams were introduced.
When it was given to Jennie, she contacted the Austin Seven Club for help in restoring the car.
Gerald Walker, from the club, said: ‘Thankfully it was a very dry shed so there was no rust on the car.
‘We started the restoration work in August last year and apart from the tyres nothing else much had to be replaced.
‘We restored the original leather seats and the blind on the back window and I did have to re-make the roof lining because there was quite a lot of damage.
‘The car had stood the test of time extremely well but still bears the scars of the bombing raid.’
The Austin is now proudly driven by Jennie, from London, who was a child when she last rode in it in the 1950s.
Jennie, a mother-of-two lives with her husband Christopher, 67, in Dulwich, south London, said: ‘I have been driving my mum's old Austin every weekend since we got it back.
‘It goes along well, you can get 40 out of it. The brakes are nothing like the brakes on normal cars and the gear stick is a bit tricky but it's great to drive.
‘We went to school in it, my mother drove it every morning and we sat in the bucket seats.
‘I used to hang over the front seat and sometimes the roof leaked and you would have to put up an umbrella.
‘It's been a great car and it's absolutely brilliant to get it back. It's a lovely little car, it's so tiny as well. It was so cosy.’
Jennie added: ‘She (Alice) thinks it's marvellous. She taught herself to drive in it when she was 18 and she taught my father how to drive it.
‘She has been in it a few times as I have driven it around on the weekends. She loves it. I keep it at my mother's house and when I go up there on weekends I take it out.’
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