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Who’s the Oldest Driver Now?

It probably hasn’t caused much of a stir in the motoring world at large, but one of the world’s notable drivers has just died: Ellen Noy.  Ellen Noy wasn’t a racing driver or anything of that sort, but she was the holder of a very significant world record: she was the oldest living driver in the world, still pottering around the place without a blemish on her driving record and still fully licensed at the age of 105.

Ellen Noy was a New Zealander who learnt to drive in the little town of Kaiapoi just out of Christchurch where she was living (and driving) up until her death last week.  She learnt to drive back in the 1950s, taking her husband’s vehicle out at odd moments and in the weekends, although she didn’t get a proper license until 1965.  Obviously, they did things a little differently back then, or else she knew how do dodge the boys in blue (and it was just boys back then, for the most part) when she was learning.  She taught herself to drive, too – she just got in and had a go, rather like Bertha Benz, wife of the automotive pioneer.

Ellen Noy was notable for another reason: her driving record was completely spotless.  In all her years of driving, she never had a speeding ticket and never got done for driving over the limit, and she never had an accident, either.  She’d have seen a few changes over the years regarding regulations and safety – seatbelts weren’t compulsory when she began driving, and things like ABS brakes, crumple zones and ESP weren’t invented.  She was no speedster, but she liked to claim that she didn’t go about at a nervous crawl.  She went as fast as the speed limit let her and she had plenty of confidence when she drove.

It would be nice to say that Ellen was still driving the same car that she learned in back in the 1950s, but this wasn’t the case. Ellen Noy outlasted that car and her wheels of choice were attached to a 1993 model Toyota Starlet – one of the classic hatchbacks preferred by older drivers and single people with an eye to their wallets.  Starlets, like other small hatchbacks, are perfect for the sort of driving that Ellen Noy did: runs to the supermarket, weekly trips to church, social runs to play cards and croquet with friends, so her choice of vehicle isn’t really surprising.  Not that she would have been averse to a new car: when she got the news that she was the world’s oldest living driver, she wondered if she’d be able to get a new set of wheels out of it.

Ellen Noy didn’t hold her title of world’s oldest living driver for long, as she achieved that honour last July when the previous title holder died.  The previous holder was even older: Sheila Thomson of Scotland, who was aged 108.  It’s yet to be revealed who the new holder of the title is and how old they are.

RIP, Ellen Noy: drive on through those pearly gates and enjoy a spin on streets paved with gold.