At the treasonous risk of pre-empting what Her Majesty might say in The Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day, season’s greetings, and the very best to you awlll at this very special time of year.
Unlike the vast majority of you reading this though, the festive season is a particularly special time of year for me and a few thousand others, as I have the misfortune of my birthday falling on Christmas Day. For those of you like me unlucky enough to be born on or around Christmas, you have my commiserations, and a very Happy Birthday to you.
I mention this because as a kid – and still as an adult for that matter – having my birthday fall on Christmas Day meant that I lost out on presents compared to most of my friends who received gifts twice a year, unlike me. My parents tried to compensate for this by probably spoiling me at this time of year, with a healthy stake of gifts piled up on the large sofa at the end of my parents’ lounge, with Christmas gifts on the left hand side, and birthday presents to the right.
With an almost-unhealthy fascination for cars since birth, a good proportion of my festive gift haul would inevitably involve automobiles in some shape or form. From toy cars littering the floor as a youngster, through to motoring books, driving lessons, and even a real car, my passion for all things automotive tended to dominate the Yuletide Axon household, with my gifts helping to satisfy my huge thirst for motoring knowledge and information.
Through the 1/43rd and 1/75th scale Dinky Toys, Corgis and Matchbox models I received as gifts, for example, I discovered great cars such as the Monteverdi 375 L, De Tomaso Mangusta and OSI City Car, which I had little to no chance of actually seeing in the metal when riding my Chopper Sprint bicycle out on the mean streets of Marlow.
As I got older, the model cars at Christmas gave way to car magazine subscriptions and motoring books, with fascinating encyclopaedias and annuals, such as the indispensable ‘Georgano’ and World Cars guides, which I devoured vigorously, adding to my automotive knowledge with each passing year. It was through these journals that I discovered the delights of the latest cars built in Brazil and Belgium, plus dazzling prototypes and coachbuilt cars such as the cute Rayton Fissore Gold Shadow coupe or American Cassidy conversion of a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow into a pick-up truck!
‘With an almost-unhealthy fascination for cars since birth, a good proportion of my festive gift haul would inevitably involve automobiles in some shape or form.’
As much as I loved receiving the model cars and books though, the motoring present for my 12th birthday was by far the most extraordinary and memorable. As I walked into my parent’s lounge at some un-Godly hour on Christmas Day morning that year, my bottom lip quivered as I noticed that the sofa looked particularly bare, on both the left and right-hand sides! I thought I’d been a good boy all year, so deserved rather more than a pair of socks from granny and a giant Toblerone. However, I did also spot that the lounge curtains were drawn, which was unusual.
Once my parent’s had watched me attempting to put on a brave face as I opened my meagre trawl of gifts, the tension must have become too much for them, as my Mother suddenly opened the curtains, to reveal a tiny Fiat 500 sitting on the patio, wrapped in a giant bow.
The Fiat was my combined birthday and Christmas present, it being a rare 1963 suicide door model. Now I know that it might seem extravagant for a spotty 12-year-old to be given a car, but it was already an old and very well used banger that must have cost my parents all of a fiver at the time. A UK market, RHD ’63 suicide door 500 is now a rare beast indeed, and would be worth a small fortune, so it is all the more unforgivable that I wrote mine off against one of my Mum’s prized apple trees in the back garden when I was hooning around in it aged 14!
Once I was legally old enough to drive, and had bought my own car – a Honda S800 Coupe with money saved from odd jobs as a teenager, as I’ve mentioned before on GRR – my combined festive gift was a series of post-Boxing Day driving lessons in a dual-control Vauxhall Chevette, which was considerably less fun than my high-revving Honda.
Today, I inevitably still receive birthday cards depicting a car (usually a poorly-drawn Blower Bentley, Jaguar D-type or red modern supercar!) with ‘Merry Christmas too’ hastily scribbled in, but the other car-related treats now tend to be funded out of my own bank balance, sadly, as welcome as the Christmas gift bottles of red wine and whiskey are…
Do have a very Merry Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.
Photography courtesy of fineartaAxon’s Automotive Anorak – The Gifts of Christmas Past merica and cars-pics-db.com