Chevrolet Bel Air, Kano, Nigeria

Our Chevrolet Bel Air at Kano (Nigeria, Africa)

This photograph was taken outside the author's bungalow on the Government Residential Area (GRA) at Kano. He thought he was James Dean... But the Chevrolet was a superb car for the area of Nigeria around Kano which had numerous unmetalled laterite roads.

I can't say this was the best car I ever had from a technical viewpoint - at the time I coveted the new Citroen DS with its advanced pneumatic suspension, its magnificent roadholding, and its ability to hurry.

That was something the Chevvy could never do. It was built like a tank and needed a big V8 to get it moving, and my Chevrolet Bel Air only had a straight six and a three-speed column-change gearbox. And of course at that time American cars never did go very fast. They had no need to as the speed limit in the US was a meagre 50 miles per hour.

Most British ex-pats poodled around the Nigerian roads in old Morris Oxfords or the like, financial prudence triumphing over adventure, and the sight of a Brit cruising Kano in a flash Yank Chevrolet never did go down too well.

But when I first saw that metallic-gold Chevrolet Bel Air in UTC Motors, there was no way I could have settled for the stuff that the British companies were still churning out. Not even a Mini - a total disaster outside a city, and no match for the similarly-priced Renault Dauphine which I still owned back in the UK.