Brian Bonitto Associate Editor Auto and Entertainment email@example.com
MONTHS before Jamaica became an independent nation, George Chung, then 45, made a decision to buy a motorcar for the convenience of both his wife and himself.
Fifty years on, Chung — now a widower — still drives his white, British-made 1962 Austin Cambridge, albeit short distances, to and from church in Old Harbour, St Catherine, where he resides.
"I bought the car about April or May of '62 from [the dealers] John Crooks on Hanover Street in downtown Kingston. I paid £550 for it," said Chung, who is five years shy of being a centenarian. "That was a lot of money at the time, as a bag of cement was 10 shilling in those days."
The former truck operator said his A60 model Austin Cambridge had a previous owner and, if that were not the case, it could have cost him way over £700.
The father of two daughters and three grand children said he receives a lot of attention because of his well-kept classic car.
"It happens all the time," he said proudly.
"I went down the road to the gas station the other day and this guy came to me and asked: 'You selling it?' The guy continued: 'If I get this car to buy, I'll get all the girls'," Chung chuckled.
Chung — who lost his wife of 62 years in November last year — said over the years, the vehicle took on new responsibilities with an expanding family.
"It was a typical family car. One of my two daughters, even learnt how to drive with it," he said.
The car has undergone a few modifications over the years. The seats have been repaired, seatbelts have been added, the air cleaner system replaced and, the most noticeable change has been the addition of a small fan on the dashboard to cool passengers in the absence of an air-conditioning unit.
"Everything is working [on the car], just as when I bought it," said Chung, as he gently squeezed the door shut to prove the locks were in perfect working condition.
Austin Cambridge motor cars — assembled in Cowley, Oxford, England — were sold by the Austin Motor Company between 1954 and 1969.
Chung's model, the A60, was first introduced to the public in 1961. The vehicle was built with a 1.6-litre version of B-series straight-four engine, which had first been used in the MGA sports car.
The A60 Cambridge sold well, with over 275,000 built when production finally ended in 1969.
The manually operated vehicle had a top speed of 80.4 miles per hour (129.4 km per hour) and could accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour (97 km per hour) in 19.8 seconds. A touring fuel consumption of 25.1 miles per imperial gallon (11.3 L/100 km; 20.9 mpg-US) was recorded.
Chung said his Austin Cambridge is currently insured by General Insurance Brokers Ltd located on Half-Way-Tree Road for around $22,000.
"Someone drives me in the car to the insurance company, as they [the insurers] no longer cover me, although my licence does not expire until 2013," he said.
He recounts that in the 1960s, while Jamaica was a colony, British-made vehicles dominated the island's roadways.
"There were a couple of American cars like Ford, but the more common vehicles on the roadways were the Morris Minor, Riley [which later merged with Leyland], Morris Oxford, Standard and Rover, while the main brand of trucks were Bedford, GMC and Fargo," he said.
Chung, who learnt to drive in late 1940s, said the typical motorist today is different from those of the 1960s.
"Driving on the road was pleasant experience then. When stopping and turning, indicators — and hand signals — were given way in advance. When you saw a person crossing the road, you would signal the person behind you that you were stopping. Driving is no longer a pleasure."
And, as Jamaica prepares to celebrate its 50th Anniversary of Independence, Chung advises road users: "Just be courteous."