Ken Cooke

It was inevitable that Ken Cooke would become an Austin 7 enthusiast. One of his earliest memories is waking up on the back seat of his dad’s Seven as late at night they arrived at the family home in Welling, Kent. That was in the mid-1930s. By 1952 Ken was in the R.A.F. and in need of a car – and a driving licence. He spotted an ad for a 1927 Chummy and borrowed £29.19s.6d from a pal in order to buy it.

The car was in poor shape but Ken’s dad showed him how to get it going and the young Cooke was on the road to a lifelong love affair with the Seven. Soon tiring of the car’s rather tatty body Ken ditched it and created a two-seater Special that he and a pal took on a test run to the Isle of Sheppey. It was there they came across a young lady struggling to get her bicycle over a style. The gallant lads stopped to help, Ken’s pal got her address – which Ken asked for when they got home – and the rest, as they say, is history. Because Ken wrote to that young lady and within a year Eileen became his wife. She embraced Sevening and before long the Cooke family, with two young babies, was touring all over the UK in the Special – one baby on mum’s lap, the other in a box in the space behind the seats.

At the end of 1953 Ken joined the 750 Motor Club and the family moved to Stevenage in 1958 where he became involved with the North Herts Centre and the organising of the National Rally at Beaulieu – which he and Eileen have attended every single year since it began in 1963. They also got involved with competing, using their home-built trials car, Klipspringer – named by Eileen after a type of African antelope that can climb very steep hills and, aptly for a 7-engined trials car, go a long way without water!

As their children grew in size and number a larger car was needed and a Ruby tourer took the place of the Special, to be followed in 1965 by the arrival of a Chummy that became the subject of a 10 year restoration. ‘Dingo’ as it is known came back on the road in 1976 and off they went to San Marino, their first trip on foreign soil. Decades of extensive touring in Europe followed and then, in 2006, they made the trip that Ken says is the most memorable of the many Austin 7 experiences that has seen them cover well over 150,000 miles. They shipped Dingo to America, joined a five-car tour organised by Diana Garside and Vince Leek, and drove the entire length of Route 66.



Route 66:


Early Long Distance Runs: