Who knew I’d get all weird and sentimental over a car?
Ridiculous, really. After all, a car is just a heap of metal with an engine which costs money to run and takes you from A to B hopefully without you getting too cold or wet.
I haven’t owned many cars. The first was a second-hand blue Datsun Sunny. Bought for £250 – sold three years later for £275. Then a Fiat Panda, which had hammock-like seats and 4WD but the clutch cable was prone to snapping at awkward moments.
I bought a silver Renault 5 from brand new and it came with a bouquet of flowers, which was lovely but not quite lovely enough to compensate for depreciation but let;s not be churlish. It was fun and economic, yet capable of being ramped on those occasions I wanted to feel like it was a 5 GT Turbo-Nutter that used to streak past on French motorways. I swapped it for a 19 when the youngest needed driving around to bike races and he learned to drive in it, then came my second brand new car, a Renault Clio.
As it was a new one, I could choose the colour. Racing Green – a colour with an illustrious British history on a French car. It had va-va-voom and a lovelyrounded rear – plus apparently it cornered brilliantly on the tight turns of picturesque Provencal French villages.
The turning circle in reality, was frankly less than expected but in all other aspects it was excellent.
I put it in part-ex the other day. Left it in the exact same space at the garage where I picked it up. Weird. There were no other spaces available so I had to. So, 12 years and 110,000 miles later, it felt like I was giving it back.
It’ll go for auction. I hope someone else will have fun and look after it because I did and I still kind of miss it. It was my music car (6 CD changer), dog car, bike car. I could drive it boringly and economically so it returned 63mpg or do a long distance motorway trip at 85mph and still return 55mpg. I could park it in two thirds of a space, cheekily part it somewhere vaguely illegal, like the terrace in front of a restaurant one night when we were late.
When I was dog-showing Rolyboy, I drove all over the country in it, including to Crufts for his finest hour. He didn’t win but it’s the “being there.” I’d quick-release the front wheel of my mountainbike and shove it in the back of the Clio to take it down to Wales with me or anywhere, really. It would happily zip along motorways at 80mph for hours at a time in total comfort.
It only began being pernickety after 100,000 miles. It let me down once but within walking distance of home, which was about as convenient as it gets with car breakdowns.
I don’t have a clue who’s got it now but if I could, I’d introduce them to the car and apologise that yeah, there is still a trace of German Shepherd pawprint in pale blue paint on the right edge of the driver’s seat which is faded but I could never get rid of it. Otherwise, though, the inside is pretty immaculate.
Using one of those cassette converters to play your MP3 player… yes it has a cassette player…. is a little problematic too. To get reliable full volume, you have to pull the little cord out horizontally, as you would a weaving yarn. It’s fine if you can steer ok with your right hand only.
Oh and sometimes, if you’re driving the car on a particular kind of gentle slope, all the electric read-outs flash a couple of times and re-set themselves to zero. It looks dramatic but it’s nothing to worry about. It happens pretty regularly.
The heater is really good but the air con is a bit… er… warm. Just open both windows in warm weather and wait for the steering wheel to cool down so it doesn’t take the skin off your hands….
And if you’re taking a passenger in the back seat, the front passenger seat plays up and doesn’t anchor itself properly, so the seat slides back and forth on the rails… which can be disconcerting but also hilariously entertaining for your friends depending on how much they’ve had to drink.
So that’s my little car. My ex-little car. It’s good to know it’s not just me that’s sentimental about cars though. A colleague at work had a sporty little car – a Trumph TR4 which he had from new, then sold to a friend, who sold it to another friend who’s still got it!
The car is still in mint condition, and his pal was driving it up to a Classic Cars show at Malvern recently.
So my colleague was looking forward to seeing and driving again the car he drove as a teenager 35 years ago – until he got a phone call from his pal.
“It’s Mike. We’re broken down on the hard shoulder of the M4 near Cardiff waiting for a tow truck. When the truck comes, I’m heading home.”
Just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to get too misty-eyed about old cars. They’re capable of letting you down badly.
This one, however, didn’t…