The 1956 Hillman was the first family
car I have memory of BMU 5452 was the registration
number "BMU 5452", "BMU 5452",
it rings in my heart like a chant even today
It is perhaps not easy to imagine the devastating sense
of loss a seven-year-old can feel. My world went to
pieces one afternoon in 1970 I returned from
school to find my beloved Hillman gone. Just like that.
Sold for money. A stranger had driven it away. It would
sleep someplace else now people it didn't know
would touch it, climb into it... but what clutched at
my heart most was the vision of a big, surly man who
now 'owned her'. I knew he didn't love my Hillman. Oh
would he please, please be gentle on the bumps, over
the pot holes... would he care to hose the dirt off
the mudguards, my Hillman liked to feel clean...
I watched my father, the perpetuator of this heinous
act, from my bedroom window as he walked up to the house
from work that day. I wailed all evening, refusing food,
water, comfort. How could these people have given the
That night I slept in my grandmother's bed holding her
tight. I knew she felt my pain, though she didn't say
a word, just rocked me as we lay together.
We lived in Bombay then (a city in India, now renamed
Mumbai). My grandmother wasn't living with us yet. It
was in the same house... in October of 1969, the telephone
startled us late one night. My brothers and I were told
that granddad was very ill and we would be driving out
immediately to Pune, about five hours away.
Granddad had passed away. We drove back a few days later.
My Hillman though her gait was somber
was happy to carry Granny (we called her Biji) back
with us on the return. My Hillman understood what had
She used to be parked under a canopy, on one side of
the kitchen garden. I remember it was a very happy sight
to see the car surrounded by clumps of joyful green
plants, swaying in the breeze, nodding at each other
in a conversation that was only theirs. Maybe the Hillman
told them about her adventures-of-the-day where
she had driven and what she had seen maybe they
all went off on secret drives in the middle of the night.
Who knows. But I think, the lemon tree was my Hillman's
best friend yet. When parked, the lemon tree would nudge
at the driver's door. And with the window rolled down
it could peep right inside; all but nearly take the
Biji and I spent the evenings together.
We were regulars at a close-by childrens' park where
she had made friends with other grannies in the area.
And we always walked back home via the candy store.
The goodies packet remained untouched until we got to
the Hillman... we spent half-an-hour simply sitting
inside it each evening (of course, with me in the driver's
seat), taking in the tangy aroma from the friendly lemon
tree, slowly savoring the goodies, and Biji would embark
upon some fascinating tale or the other from her childhood.
All the scenes from her stories would flash vividly
across the windscreen. I knew the Hillman looked forward
to these story sessions as much as I did, and I made
sure she didn't miss out on any.
It was just before bedtime one evening when Biji asked
if I would like to have a five-minute 'goodnight chat'
with the Hillman. I jumped at the idea. This time Biji
climbed in the back and bade me to sit beside her. She
then bent down a bit and pointed out of the window to
a bright star "That's your papa, you know"
(we used to call my grandfather 'papa'). "He followed
us from Pune, to be with me. Your Hillman was kind to
show him the way..."
So you see, my Hillman was not just 'a car'. She was
special. She understood. She had really shared our lives.
Even as a child I was able to steel myself and block
out all thoughts of my Hillman after she went away.
It was too painful.
And it was much, much later that I allowed myself to
think of her again. I looked in all the family albums
for a glimpse, but amazingly there weren't any photos
not a single one. I wanted very much to share
with my son, now 15, that part of my life.
After a long and arduous search, which culminated at
McLellan's Automotive History, I was able to locate
a likeness of my beloved Hillman that you see on this
page. Being able to find the photograph and put a picture
to my memories is how the literature collecting bug
bit me but I'm a one-car woman, so the 'Hillman'
it will be always, that I will look out for.