Sunday, March 22, 2009

Car the first: the little white dream machine

My first car was a white G-reg Ford Fiesta Popular. I found it in an advert in Auto Trader, and one Saturday afternoon Sparky Pa and I headed over to take a look at it. The guy selling it said it was a great little runner, and the only reason he was getting rid of it was because his wife needed a bigger car to drive their kid, and all the accessories that come with a newborn kid, around in; Sparky Pa was nevertheless convinced that he was a dealer.

Either way, we took it out for a test drive, the seller sitting in the passenger seat while Sparky Pa drove and I sat in the back thinking good thoughts. Half an hour later as we headed home, Sparky Pa told me he thought it was an "OK little car," which in his book equates to cartwheels, fanfares, and a marching band. I decided to buy it.

The day I collected it is etched in my mind rather vividly. I took the day off work, and at about 10 o'clock in the morning Sparky Ma and Pa accompanied me to the bank where I drew out about 1900 quid in cash; I was vibrating with trepidation/excitement as we walked out of the bank and back to Sparky Pa's car, not only because of the realisation of how much money I was about to spend, but also because I was certain someone was somehow going to be able to sense how much money I had on me and try to mug me. Fortunately, we made it back to the car safely.

Because I'd not had much any driving experience since passing my test a few years earlier, we'd decided that Sparky Ma was going to drive my new car home. I was a little bit peeved at this, but knew that it made sense. Anyway, after arriving at the seller's house I dropped the cash-bomb, and the car was mine.

Things didn't exactly go according to plan after that, however. After getting comfortable and starting the car up, Sparky Ma noticed that it had virtually no petrol in it, so we decided to head home via the closest petrol station. Unfortunately, en route the car kept stalling, and I started getting the sneaking suspicion that I'd bought a dog. We eventually filled up, and Sparky Ma subsequently managed to drive my car home with the minimal amount of bunny-hopping.

It was only when we arrived home that we realised the Fiesta's gears were much closer than those of the gearbox in Sparky Ma's Nissan Micra, and she'd actually been pulling away in third gear, rather than first, the entire journey. Her momentary embarrassment was swiftly swept aside by the realisation that she'd actually displayed phenomenal clutch control.

Anyway, after about half an hour of just staring out the living room window at my new car parked outside, I decided that I actually should try driving the thing, so I hesitantly picked up the keys, got in, and headed off on a few laps of the surrounding roads. Despite the two year gap between passing my test and actually buying a car I soon found - much to my relief - that driving a car is a bit like riding a bike and it soon comes back to you. Good times ahoy.

I could not have asked for a better first car. The Fiesta had a wheezy one litre engine and a four-speed gearbox that was agricultural enough that you could actually pull away in any gear and it wouldn't grumble too much. It didn't have a parcel shelf when I bought it, meaning that anyone could peer in the back window and see what you had in the boot; I rectified that by ordering one from a Ford garage and installing it myself (ably assisted by Sparky Pa, who no doubt thought that one afternoon spent installing a parcel shelf was infinitely preferable to a lifetime spent repairing that decrepit Mini I'd previously looked at). The last three letters of the number plate were 'VTW' which, with no hint of irony, I decided meant 'Very Tasty Wheels.'

The Fiesta generally behaved itself; OK, the radio did chew up Big Bro's Nirvana Unplugged cassette, but he had just bought a CD version so wasn't too worried. There was also a hole by the aerial, and I quickly discovered that when it rained water would leak in and dribble down the rearview mirror. I sorted that by bunging it up with some blu-tac which damn near fossilised over time. Part of the driver's side window winder handle snapped off too, but I fixed that with sellotape and super glue.

In fact the only time the Fiesta did let me down was when a coolant cable wore out and emptied antifreeze all over the front garden. Completely unaware, I still drove it to work without any problem, and it was only a phone call from Sparky Ma that alerted me to the problem. I headed out of the office to investigate, and as it was dark by this time Grum offered to position his motorbike so that the headlight shone on my car. We tried pouring some water into the engine, and the fact that it poured straight out the other side onto the ground alerted us to the fact that something was ever so slightly amiss. I eventually got the train home that day, and took my car into a local garage the next day where it was fixed in a couple of hours. I'm still pretty certain I could've driven it home without any problem, though.

Around 1999, I found out that BMW were going to be bringing out a new Mini in 2001, and however much I loved my Fiesta, I really, *really* wanted a Mini. I began saving in earnest, knowing that I was going to buy one as soon as they hit the market. I was sad to see the Fiesta go because it had been such a perfect first car - but I was more excited at the prospect of beginning my Mini adventure.


Tara said...

The 99 Ford Escort I have now chewed up my Alanis Morisette' "Jagged Little Pill" cassette (it looked like a jagged little cassette after that), but like your friend I had the CD version at home.

PS: Happy William Shatner's Birthday! I....almost...forgot about

T-Bird said...

Didn't Ali G have one of those cars? Did you and Dangerous Dave drive really slowly past coppers and give them the finger under the window? God, I hope so...

Tim said...

Tara - It must be a Ford thing. Maybe they're programmed to destroy almost obsolete formats? Quick - everyone move to mp3s before they start eating CDs!

And Happy William Shatner's Birthday to you too!! I'm heading over to yours to check it out in a jiff!

T-Bird - I'm not sure, but a quick Google search seems to suggest he had a Renault 5 … Never used to give the coppers the finger - would just drive by and wave excitedly. That confused them no end!

The Tall Red Head said...

Where is this leading???


The suspense is killing me.

I need a lie down from all this stress...

Ponita in Real Life said...

My first car was a honkin' huge Mercury Marquis! Could fit a family of four in the trunk (that's 'boot', to you Brits). Was a pig but gas was cheap then (we are talking late '70s) and was very comfy for the 1300 km drive from where I lived to home, which I made every couple of months to visit family.

So... did you find yourself a new Mini? Huh? Huh? Didya?

Tim said...

The Tall Red Head - You'll just have to wait and see!

Ponita - Awesome! I was reading about the Mercury Maquis just the other day!

In fact… Even if you're not interested in cars this is a VERY funny read:

Ponita in Real Life said...

My Mercury was a 1972... but it still floated like that. Not the top of the line, so vinyl and cloth seats. It was great for highway travel though. Tons of rooms and lots of power.

Bought it for $800 and sold it a year later for $750.... so a year's use for $50... couldn't go wrong with that!

Tim said...

That does sound awesome. I have a bit of a soft spot for big floaty American cars. It would be absolutely useless on small British roads, but I love the description in that article of the Grand Marquis being "an antechamber before your arrival at your destination."

It gives a wonderful impression of just swallowing up vast chunks of land with ease - a bit like your drives home!

BEAST said...

My first car wsa a diesel fiesta . It was awesome on the motorway but drove like a milk float in town . Unbelievably it was always getting stolen , I knew all the officers in Sheperds Bush station by name , as I tottered in once again to report the damn thing missing in action . It always came back tho , quite often with the boot packed full of stolen goods . I miss that car :-(
I bet you did get another car!

Tim said...

Beast, we seem to have similar taste in cars; Fiestas first, then Minis (even if you were put off by the dealer and didn't buy one).

A diesel Fiesta is a bit of an odd car to be the focus of continued thefts, but all that illegal booty sounds like a bit of a bonus. Did you eBay it all?