Friday, March 20, 2009

Wheels

All boys love cars: FACT. I think if you don't you get sent to a training camp where Jackie Stewart is the drill instructor and he makes you take engines apart until your knuckles are bleeding and you've got Castrol GTX all over your face.

All boys love cars.

When I was a kid I was just like every other little boy in the fact that my favourite car was a Ferrari. I didn't particularly care which one, it just had to be a Ferrari. Preferably in red, but I wasn't fussy. Actually that's a lie; yes, it had to be in red. And it had to be an F40. A red F40 - perfect. In hindsight, though, I think I liked Ferraris because back in the 80s they were easy to draw; there were no swooshing curves, just long straight lines. You only needed a pencil and a ruler and you were half way there.

As time went by, though, I started to pay more attention to other cars within the automotive world. I started to think that Porsches were cooler than Ferraris. They were swooshier, and I thought the round headlights made them look more characterful. OK, young me would probably have said "like a cartoon character" rather than "characterful," but you get the gist.

By the end of the 80s, however, I'd started to think about what I'd like for my first car; I was, after all, only about seven years away from being able to get my license. I was realistic enough not to think I'd be driving a Porsche 911 off the forecourt the day after passing my test, though, and so I set my sights a little lower down the automotive ladder and settled on a Ford Fiesta.

Yes you read that correctly: I wanted a Ford Fiesta.

Now, having read that you might think that rather than setting my sights a little lower down the automotive ladder I actually missed the bottom rung altogether and face-planted on the pavement, but in reality I think I hit the nail right on the head. Fiestas were *everywhere,* spare parts were cheap, and they were reliable; by all accounts they would be the only thing besides cockroaches to survive thermonuclear armageddon.

And besides, there was a historical precedent.

This is the younger and considerably chunkier me checking out a Fiesta at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1989 (or thereabouts).

So in - I think - 1998, after saving long and hard, I began the search for my first car.

In addition to the, some would say, unnatural lust for all things Fiesta, I was already at this time showing something of an obsession with Minis (the original ones, I hasten to add; this is a little before the new one's time). That being the case, my car shopping list was split between Fiestas and Minis. Both had plus and minus points, with the Mini's plus points being that it was, well, a Mini, and the minus points being that they appeared to hold their value a little too well, meaning that all the decent ones were a little out of my price range. I shall gloss over the fact that they were also generally made of string and glue and if I'd gotten into an accident in one chances are I wouldn't be writing this now, and would instead be burning in the fiery depths of hell reclined on a cloud while gently strumming a harp.

Any-hoo, after several weekends spent scouring used car lots and Auto Trader, I ended up seeing just two cars. The first one I found was in a small advert in the back of a local newspaper. It was for a Mini Sky, which was a "good runner," needed "no work," and best of all was only "950 quid." I'm pretty sure it was a Mini Sky; it certainly wasn't a Mini Rose, which was identical to the Sky apart from the fact that it had a pink roof rather than a blue one. I'm pretty certain I would've balked at the notion of driving a car with a pink roof and flowery decals on the side.

Here you can see the Mini Sky on the left (blue roof), and the Mini Rose to the right of the red one.

So, one warm summer evening Sparky Pa and I jumped in his car and headed off to take a look at this Mini. Warning bells rang immediately when we arrived at the address it was being sold from.

It was a farm.

Despite this we decided that we'd come this far and we might as well take a look. Our initial attempt at getting out of Sparky Pa's car was thwarted, however, by a very loud and excitable farmyard dog, and so we resorted to alerting the farmer to our presence by beeping the horn until he came out of his house. After he secured his mentalist dog behind a gate we got out and went over to check out the Mini. On first glance it looked to be OK; admittedly there was a bit of rust here and there, but I figured pretty much any car I bought was going to have some rust somewhere.

I forced Sparky Pa We decided to take it out for a test drive.

Because I hadn't driven since passing my test, and because he knew what to look for in a first car, Sparky Pa drove. I will never forget the sight of him hunched over the steering wheel of this tiny tiny car as we buzzed down a dual carriageway at what felt like warp speed but what was, in reality, something closer to 27 miles per hour; his foot was flat on the accelerator and still we weren't picking up speed. We drove for about 10 minutes, an unending stream of muttered grumblings coming from the driver's seat about what a hideous little car it was, before pulling over so that Sparky Pa could peer under the bonnet and assess the mechanical situation.

To be honest, I don't think anything could annihilate the A-Series engines that powered original Minis, so in that sense it was pretty reasonable, but it swiftly became evident that all was not well with, well, pretty much every other part of the car; when Sparky Pa closed the bonnet you could hear bits of filler falling off before seeing it bounce off the tyres and on to the road.

"It's you money," said Sparky Pa, probably thinking of all the lost weekends he'd undoubtedly have to spend stretched out beneath the Mini fixing things. "But I REALLY wouldn't buy this car."

Sadly, I was forced to agree with him. We took the Mini back to the farm, where the farmer made a last ditch effort to get me to buy it by offering to knock 100 quid off the price. His case wasn't helped by his admission that the car needed "a little work," which completely contradicted what the advert had said. I sometimes wonder what happened to that little car. I suspect he turned it into a novelty chicken coup or something.

Disheartened, I began my search for the perfect first car once again. And that's when I hit gold … well, not literally gold – y'know what I mean.

7 comments:

Tara said...

Aw, you're so cute in that photo! Looks like, if keys had been in the ignition, you could've driven right outta that place and into the city.

T-Bird said...

Was the perfect car a Fiesta? It was, wasn't it?

By the way, my new car is a Mazda 2. About the only thing I can tell you about the engine is that it is apparantly something called fuel injected. It smells very nice and I even polished it yesterday. It's the base model, but drives even better than my honda did... is that enough info?

Dinah said...

Wee Tim is adorable!

Dinah said...

Also, I just saw Watchmen and really liked it. But I only really looked at Dr. Manhattan's wang when I thought of you...looking at it. I really liked the movie. Also, there was a trailer for the Star Trek movie...it looks HOT.

Tim said...

Tara - If I'd had the keys in the ignition AND my feet could reach the pedals I probably would've given it a try!

T-Bird - Patience, young padowan! And a Mazda 2? Good choice!! They're all Zoom Zoom Zoom! Don't ya just love new car smell? They should bottle it…

Congrats, and enjoy your new motor!!

Dinah - Bless you!

Watchmen is great, isn't it? And that's an interesting bit of association you've got going on there … um, thanks! I think…

I have watched the Star Trek trailer so much over the last couple of weeks, but only saw it on the big screen on Wednesday when I went to see Gran Torino. IT. LOOKS. AMAZING! I can't wait!!

missyandchrissy said...

cute pic! looks like little Tim was ready to get into some mischief in that Fiesta!

Tim said...

Little Tim was *always* ready for mischief!