Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Inside my life as a petrol-head: From first 'love' aged 17 to super cool family car

Tracey Davies discusses her love affair with cars, from the 1976 VW Beetle to the Mazda Bongo and more

A car near the sea at sunset
Tracey Davies
Freelance Writer
1 March 2024
Share this:

I remember meeting my first love like it was yesterday. I was standing on the forecourt of the garage when a petrol-fuelled Cupid struck. Dazzled by her bright eyes and glossy navy bonnet, I fell hard for the 1976 VW Beetle with a cream leather interior.

I was 17 at the time, about to start driving lessons and keen to buy my first car. I sat in the driver's seat, the heady scent of freshly polished leather made me feel giddy, almost enough to hand over my dad's credit card. While the Beetle and I were not to be, she did ignite a life-long love of cars. After my first love, I fell for a convertible Triumph Herald in petrol blue, then a charming Karmann Ghia that had no wheels and a rusty rear end, but I could see her potential.

Tracey Davies giving a peace sign in an open-top car© Tracey Davies
Tracey Davies' love of cars started age 17

My love of cars comes from my dad. Despite not learning to drive himself until he was in his mid-thirties, he loved old cars and together we would pour over classic car magazines and car auction directories. We were regulars at the Shoreham Car Auction, where I'd relish the car smells and bidding wars. It was where I bought my first car, a bright orange 1974 Austin Mini. 

I named her Flossie and spent hours just sitting in her – I was yet to pass my test – imagining all the adventures we were to have. My dad taught me how to change a tyre and a spark plug, check the oil and tighten the fan belt, and we'd love nothing more than tinkering under her bonnet on a Sunday afternoon.

However, my love of cars and driving did not mean that I was naturally gifted with a sense of direction. After I passed my test, I was driving home to Sussex from my grandparents in Essex and ended up going round the entire M25. Twice.

After that epic journey, Flossie had had enough and went to live in the great scrap dealers in the sky. Now aged 18, I fell for a boy-magnet in the shape of a VW Golf Mk1 in custard yellow. It barely lasted six months, a mere fling, however, it did part exchange for one of the great loves of my life, a cornflower-blue Citroën 2CV called Lily. 

Travey Davies posing in front of a police car in Hollywood© Tracey Davies
Tracey is a self-confessed petrol-head

Lily was the car of my college years, when I would pile in too many friends and we'd whizz about the Sussex country lanes with the roof rolled back and the soundtrack to Grease on the tinny stereo. Even now, when I hear Grease Lightning, I think back to those halcyon days.

Little has changed now I'm an adult. I still choose cars based on their looks and personality. Before I had my first child, I drove an MG Midget, a red convertible called Ted.

When my son was born, I was reluctant to let Ted go and would strap the baby in the front seat, flip the roof back and drive slowly around Richmond Park looking cool.

Tracey admitted her car choices changed after welcoming children© Tracey Davies
Tracey admitted her car choices changed after welcoming children

Adding another couple of kids, I was limited to the cars my petrolhead would accept. I had a beautiful old Volvo 850 estate, sadly driven into the ground with nearly 250,000 miles on the clock, a knackered Mercedes-Benz E class, a seven-seater beast of a car, followed by a scrappy Saab 95 estate, which magically got us to Italy and back despite the orange engine light flashing the whole way.

Two kids posing for a photo in front of a car© Tracey Davies
She described her eight-seater van as a "godsend"

After the Saab, I discovered a new fancy. The Mazda Bongo. Like classic Minis, 2CVs and VW Campers, these Japanese minivans have attracted a cult following in recent years, especially in my hometown of Brighton. Imported second-hand from Japan, I bought her fresh off the boat complete with chopsticks and Japanese coins tucked between the seats.

With three warring teens, my eight-seater van is a godsend. But even better than that, she's a super cool drive with stacks of personality. Even though I'm now a grown-up petrolhead, you'll never find me driving mundane motors.

DISCOVER: Why my little blue Peugeot became my personal sanctuary

More News

See more