Ah, vinyl car seats - the "luxury" of the 70s and 80s. They were the true test of one's mettle on a hot summer's day. Picture this: a quintessentially British family summer trip to the seaside, packed into a beige Morris Marina. The windows rolled down, with the smell of fresh cut grass wafting in, mingling with the unique scent of vinyl.
The vinyl seats were always deceptively inviting. Gleaming, smooth, and somehow perpetually cool, even when you first hopped in (after the car had come out of the garage... back in the days when garages were for cars and not just "stuff storage"). But that was the trap. You see, these were no ordinary seats - they were the chameleons of the car world.
A few minutes into the journey, as the sun beamed through the untinted windows, they would transform. Cool to the touch? Were they heck! More like a freshly cooked English fried brekkie on a Sunday.
Air conditioning? Don't be silly! We had to make do with wind down windows. Unless you were in the back of a mini that is... in which case you only had those funny hinge affairs where the mist the wondow would open was about 3 inches... useless!
And, as I found out later when I owned my first car - a Metro (which had the same hingy affairs at the back) they were rubbish for security.
I'd locked the keys in my car and had to think of a way of extracating them. Plan A was to break a window... not good. And then I got more creative. I managed to price open the closed back window with my fingers (major design oversight by Austin) and then if I shoved my arm in as far as it would go (painful) I could just about reach the "plonker". I know, I know... I was the plonker for leaving my keys in the car in the first place! But when we were little we referred to the knob jobbie that you pushed down to lock the door and up to unlock it (long before central locking and all that malarky) as the "plonker". With one last painful stretch the plonker was up, the door was open... and the plonker could get his keys!
Cue much smugness and relief on my part... and a determination never to leave anything "nickable" in my car... ever.
Anyway... back to the vinyl...
And there we were, my siblings and I, in our shorts and summer dresses, bravely mounting our very own vinyl griddles. We stuck, unstuck, and restuck to them, our legs peeling off the seats with a sound akin to the removal of an overzealous plaster.
Ah, and let's not forget the “branding” those vinyl seats left on you. Crossed your legs and accidentally exposed a bit of thigh? Well, congratulations, you just earned yourself a temporary tattoo that resembled the car manufacturer's logo. A Ford emblem or the Morris Marina's double-M: a badge of honour and testament to our resilience against the mighty vinyl.
But amidst the giggles and groans, there was something wonderfully freeing about those family trips. With a cassette playing in the background (our family favourite was Abba's 'Greatest Hits'), and our squabbles and laughter filling the car, we created memories that still bring a smile to my face.
As kids, we didn't mind the inconvenience of those scorching seats. We loved every bit of it - the heat, the stickiness, even the peculiar 'hot plastic' aroma. It was part and parcel of our summer adventures - the anticipation of arriving at our destination, the picturesque British countryside rolling by, and the joy of simply being together.
So, here's to the vinyl car seats of the '70s and '80s - they may have been a tad uncomfortable, but the memories we made on them? Now, those were the epitome of comfort. And honestly, given the chance, I wouldn't trade those sticky summer journeys for the world's comfiest leather recliner.
Or maybe I'm just deluded!