I CAME rather late to driving and did not pass my test until the ripe old age of 29. Buying the same model of car that I learnt to drive in seemed a sensible thing to do. Unfortunately it turned out to be a Hillman Minx.

It was tinny and cramped and had a nasty column gear change. I am sure that the wheels were not properly balanced, which explains why the tyres went bald every few months. The Minx was also very light and felt unstable. To top it all, it had a hideous two-tone colour scheme. Officially it was "antelope and cream", which sounded to me like an exotic dessert.

Worst of all, though, that Minx was accident prone - and I swear it had nothing to do with my driving. One night, after finishing recording a TV programme called Late Night Extra, I stopped at traffic lights in Russell Square and saw that a car travelling from the opposite direction was heading straight at me.

I didn't have time to get out of the way and it just smashed into the front of the Minx. A chap got out, obviously drunk, and said: "Sorry, but I wash talkshing to a sailor and he'll tell you it was all a terrible mishtake." Well, I could see this blue uniform making its escape into the night. I decided to do the same; the car just managed to limp home.

The next major incident happened in freezing weather. There was a huge pile-up of cars blocking the road. I had a choice: either carry straight on through a group of people trying to sort out the mess, or aim at a tree. I opted to stuff it into a tree. Unfortunately, the insurance company insisted that the car be bolted back together again.

The sequel to all this came in 1984, on a lecture tour of Australia. At a college in Melbourne the professor came to collect me from my hotel in exactly the same exotic dessert-coloured Hillman Minx. I was petrified that it would crash. Luckily it didn't.

As for my original Minx, I think it probably crashed on its way to the scrap yard.

Barry Took is chairman of `Guess What?' on Radio 4 on Wednesdays at 1.30pm. `Round the Horne: The Complete and Utter History', of which he is co-author, is available on BBC audiotape at pounds 8.99. He was talking to James Ruppert.

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