7th April 2000 at 01:00
What does your car say about you? Dr Peter Marsh, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford and author of Driving Passions - the psychology of the car, analyses the modes of transport found in school car parks.

"The Hillman Minx has a long history going back to the Second World War. It was always advertised as a middle-class family car, designed to appeal to the professional - not monied - classes. It was seen as reliable, responsible and not too bourgeois. It was very, very staid, except that a lot of them were done in two-tone colours described in the literature as 'gay'. And it's also called a Minx - a hard-nosed, flirtatious woman. So God knows what the marketing department was up to when they thought of that.

"Junior bank managers used to drive them and so did better-off teachers. A chemistry teacher at my school used to have one. It symbolises the post-war economic boom, the nuclear family, brighter times, but also the new sense of a Protestant work ethic. If you wanted something more racy you went for the Singer Gazelle, which had the same body shape but was more sporty. They went on producing the Minx until the mid-Sixties, and they only stopped because more exciting cars like the Mini came along.

"Undoubtedly the person who owns and drives this car today is not the same person who would have owned and driven the thing back in the Sixties. If it is someone who has had it since then, they would be rather elderly by now.

"It could be driven by someone who likes the nostalgia of old cars. t's not quite a classic, but it creeps into that category as a cherished old car.

"I would think it is driven by a man. I'm tempted to say he is a fairly impecunious younger teacher, or the car is a cast-off. In which case his parents could be teachers or academics. Academics drive old bangers principally to announce that they are academics and not interested in worldly displays.

"Apart from the fact that he or she is broke, this car doesn't tell me a lot about the owner. It's a means of transport and very little else - which just goes to show you can't tell everything about a person from their car."

The car belongs to Sue Payne, a peripatetic learning support teacher from Peterborough.

"Mmm, interesting. It isa cast-off - it was my grandad's, and he had it from new. He was in the mounted police in Zimbabwe and he moved over here to live with my parents when my grandmother died in 1982. He handed it over to me when he got a bit too doddery to drive.

"I have been driving it since I passed my test at17. I've enjoyed it enough to keep hold of it, although it has cost me a bit to keep it on the road. I am in the owners' club, but I'm not that much of an enthusiast.

"I drive it because I like it and because my grandad gave it to me - he wouldn't like it given away. Originally I drove it because I couldn't afford anything better, but now I can I don't want to get rid of it. It's grown on me."

Wonder what your means of transport says about you?E-mail your details to: harvey.mcgavin@tes.co.uk

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