Today’s SHCOTW carries with it a certain amount of risk. First, though, why I’m doing these words in the first place.
Typically the idea of SHCOTW was to show some alternative answers to the man on a budget question. Basically, the whole exercise is a complete rip-off of Piston Head’s SOTW. Without the small budget cap. And without the getting paid bit. Also, without the readership. And a small nod to the phrase ‘g’is a job’.
I work in a restaurant. It is a nice restaurant where nice people go with nice food and nice décor. It is precisely not the place you’d expect to find an outspoken socialist with a penchant for cars talking AT people while simultaneously trying to serve them food and definitely not ogling their daughters. Nope.
Last night a nice family came in for a nice birthday celebration. I recognised one of the men, as the last time they’d come in I’d talked AT him about cars while he politely told me about his Ford Puma habit. I recognised his sister (this is where it gets risky), as she was an attractive girl with a distinctive look. Coincidently I’d seen her about town a few days after. This had led to an idea that I might chat to her at some point, perhaps in a pub –remainder of sentence seized under the Tim Smith Sometimes Needs A Filter Act-.
I duly let them know that I remembered them and the reaction, was, well, shock. ‘But that was six months ago’ said one. That went well.
Eventually, with their stomachs filled with goodness (saved by the chef, again) the conversation turned light. Turns out our man with the car habit is restoring a Hillman Imp. ‘My goodness’ I said as I went on to embarrass myself further. ‘A rear engined car with a swing axle’. Imps do not have swing axles. Could this get any worse? Probably.
Anyway, back to the program:
Here is an Imp for sale, and do you know what, it’s kinda cool, don’t you think?
Guten Morgen on this day of Fri. This is the premiere edition of the Friday news, and seeing as I’m sat around inhaling coffee I may as well do a bit of the ol’ summing up for you.
Seen the new Corvette Stingray yet? No?
Now you have. Looks rather good, a little fussy in places, but perhaps a couple of paces in the right direction to America getting its car mojo back. For what I’m sure are many, many non-reasons (unqualified ‘opinions’) GM design director Tom Peters has had to get up in front of a camera and justify the look of the Stingray. This video was so boring my local grid decided to cut me off and for fifteen whole and technology free minutes I had to carry on the drudgery of reading another English Novel about someone having another mid-life crisis.
Are these two events related? No. What can be certain is that Callaway (creators of the forgotten ‘Sledgehammer’) are ‘thinking of making a shooting-break version. Looks like all of that ‘thinking has produced a whole car! Does this make them like God? Has this paragraph suddenly become a little blasphemous? Not more on this later.
Earnest Hemingway stands as a monolith and all round foundation to the domination by the American novel in the modern age. A monolith, that to my knowledge, didn’t really (I’m open to correction on this) eulogise the motorcar in any substantial way. No matter, Gran-Torino botherer David ‘Hutch’ Soul has got all up in Cuba’s grill by going right over there to restore one of Hemingway’s cars. There are questions hanging over this:
- Will this be more about ‘Hutch’ than Hemingway?
- Why did Autoblog call Mr Soul a ‘writer’?
- How much will the ‘Hutch’ reference back seat action?
Seriously, though, stuff like this (for example, the thoroughly lovely Petrolicious) always comes back to the owner. The human is the interesting part in this type of car biography. Seeing as there’s no Hemingway to swear and punch at us, what’s left?
I know this happened a couple of weeks ago, but the Kia Provo story picked (made) up by the Daily Mail (in a completely sane and non-knee jerky way, you understand) actually reads like we should all be smelling something small and furry. Yes, they seem annoyed, but there is a wonderful little PR push about the Kia’s drive train seemingly just cut and pasted into the epicentre of the article. Of course, it could be lazy journalism, but who could accuse the nation’s leading factophobes of that?
I think everybody’s seen this:
Clearly, the copper’s in the wrong, but the guy in the ‘truck’ does seem to be a little close. And he’s filming the whole thing using his phone. I would recommend a dash-cam any day of the lunar cycle. There are ways to do this:
Sometimes PR disappears so far up its own digestive tract……. – sorry blacked out there- anyway:
And last of all; MAKE YOUR OWN DEATHRAT! –sorry- RAY! Clearly clemency plays a big part in this ‘experiment’ and range could be an issue, but –sentence removed pending legal advice-.
Now, I had talked about (in this weeks long-termer piece) how the next choice should be something a little more focused. It was and it wasn’t a pun on the fact that:
- I fancied a Ford Focus ST170
- Puns are shit.
- I’m not funny.
- Nobodies reading this, (this is, in fact a ‘joke’ I have stolen from a friend’s politically suspicious, but entirely funny blog) so when a joke falls in a blog and nobody is reading, does it make a sound? (That was a ‘joke’ I made up)
- There seems to be no footnote function on WordPress, hence the awkwardly placed brackets ALL THE TIME.
- This has gone on too long.
Anyway, those fine young ramblers over at PistonHeads sunk that idea by doing a SOTW piece that made me think again. Also my dad’s Focus has just eaten its own heart, legs and some other anatomical analogy for a clutch. Basically, in his own words, ‘it’s fucked’. So I started looking at other hot hatches. You know the score, GTI-6’s, MkII Golf’s, 106’s, etc, etc… blah, blah, blah, and blah…
Sorry, was boring myself a little there. The end result is this. Don’t ask. Just bask in its hairy chested, fat headed, medallion glowyness. Also, the po-po used them for a time. Does that make them cool? Maybe.
P.S. Because of the lack of pictures in this posting, here is a picture I took of a radio-controlled millenium Falcon:
I believe that’s all of today’s awesome taken care of.
This would be the bit of the essay where we would see moving footage of the machine, perhaps where a challenger would be named, a question would be asked and an ultimatum thrown onto the flagstones. This is the beginning, and yet, this is the end…
I bought Chassis No. WAUZZZ8CZRA204719, or the GSV PanzerWagon, as it came to be known on a whim with some money I didn’t own for a trip that I hadn’t paid for. I don’t like the idea of travelling by plane; it is rather crude, and, as you can now catch a train direct to the other side of the worlds busiest shipping lane I thought on a small adventure.
It took the probably dishonest salesman several minutes to start her, and the green growth along her seals took several washes to remove. She felt nose heavy and gutless, but rain or shine I had pushed myself into this silly little angle which meant I had to buy her, that I had to drive her to Portsmouth to pick up a camera, stay the night in a student house, and then myself and someone I’d just met would have to get up a few hours later and drive onto the Channal Tunnel and then on to the dark concrete, expensive pints and bright motor show lights of Geneva.
We were searched when we arrived at check-point Chunnal. I don’t blame them. Two young men in an aging estate car with squinty tired eyes is not the best look. As we arrived in France I drove the wrong way around the first roundabout I came to and then we annoyed the locals by filming in a motorway service station. The French, we came to understand, do not like their faces to be known by a stranger.
On the way into Paris I was flashed by a speed camera and on the way out a second joined the tally. But then something happened.
Some of the gauges that had not worked when I first drove the car started to move, the lazy V6 felt happy being pressed on, and although the ride is typical of any Audi I’ve ever driven, the seats were all day comfortable.
Although I had initially thought that I would only keep the car for six months, a crises of consumer conscience led me to keep it going for as long as possible. I grew to love my machine, and it became a part of my identity.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of the things I like about it:
The Engine: The single cream 2.6 V6 is gutless by today’s TDI standards and working it hard just doesn’t fit with the rest of the cars character, but it is flexible and low speed fuelling is better than any performance Diesel I can say I’ve driven. By way of example you can drive it around town in 5th at less than twenty miles per hour by just dusting the throttle; there will be no shudder and no hesitation. Also, it makes a good yowl when pressed.
The Gauges: they tell me things I don’t really need to know, but tapping them makes me feel like a pilot or a captain.
The Quality: Even though this is an old car you can see the genesis of where Audi is today, that is to say, the producer of very high quality cabins that take charge of ever so slightly dull machines.
The Rear stance: All Audi’s look better in Avant form. It’s a law of product design. Also: those exhaust tips. When I was a fearful boy with a cheeky mouth and running legs, seeing a car with two weapons grade pipes poking out of any bumper gave a good clue as to the nature of that machines business. A business, of course, that’s moved on. Once upon a time, though, this car, in a certain boys mind at least, was running with the big boys.
The things I don’t like? Here is a list in order of size of proposition:
The heater, even after a service, has always been crap.
The steering, although retaining the patter of a hydraulic assembly contains very little life.
The ride quality is crashy over any bad surface and yet seesawes under hard acceleration and or braking.
It handles badly: The front tyres are bullied by all six of those cylinders sitting forward of the front axle. The nose wollows and bobs like a 911 on a night out in Thompson’s Las Vegas and the back is light enough that it did once let go without warning down a curved motorway slip road. Neither of us was harmed, but it always made me wary after that.
So why are we shooting a static object and not a living inspiring machine? Well, after four years both working and studenting, and after four years of living within the confines of my very own war economy she will have to go. The last failed MOT carried with it a 500 sterling’s price tag. Then, on the way back, tired from the last few weeks of deadlines and serving the management classes into the late hours I smashed an indicator, then clipped a tyre on a kerb. My £500 bill had suddenly become a £650 bill. I would grind my teeth and lose sleep wondering where I would find the money, and then it occurred to me. This, was of course, the end.
Ultimately, owning an old Audi while living on a very small amount of money was folly. But this was my first car, and your first experience of anything is always the most stark.
I’ve thought for a bit on what should come next. I don’t want to make the same expensive mistake of owning something, I essentially cannot afford to run, but it needs to be fun. Also, it needs to retain a rarity and some kind of glimmer of identity.
What comes next will be something a little more focused…
John Ray was an English naturalist. He was the first person to define what we mean by ‘species’. He was also a collector of English sayings and was the first to catalogue the term ‘Muck and money go together’. If you’re from Yorkshire you’d probably say ‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’.
Ten years ago, when you wanted to scrap your car, there would be paper work, strife and you’d have to pay them to take it away from your very own home (House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us…).
Things have changed, though. The world at large is busy building and where there’s my 140,000 mile, broken and SORNed Audi 80, there’s steel. Two small problems:
First: I’ve lost the key. The replacement I bought from Audi (matched to the chassis number) didn’t fit. Draw your own conclusions, but it’s a pain, either way.
Second: I’d had to break into the poor thing to draw my things (lighter, sunny’s, map’s, colouring book – for the kid, you understand) from its interior.
It was a dreary day when I asked the great Google to find me someone who scrapped cars in Cheltenham. The first two sponsored results were chosen and in that smooth smart phone way I went straight from their website to speaking to them, only it wasn’t as smooth as you’d hope. I’m terrible with names. Even company names trip me, but in this age of shopping you expect someone to answer with a pre-prepared line introducing themselves and the company. Erm, not always:
Unknown Man: ‘Hullo’
Me: ‘Erm, hullo?’
Me: ‘Is that the scrap yard place?’ (This is awkward, can’t fall back on looking at the screen/page while on the phone…)
Me: ‘Is this the place that scraps cars in Cheltenham?’
UM: ‘What you got?’ (Straight to the point, but what the Simon Cowell, there isn’t enough of that. Take this article, for example)
Me: ‘It’s an Audi 80 Avant.’
UM: ‘What year?’
Me: ‘‘94, I believe. I’d have to check, but I’m pretty sure it’s a ’94.’
UM: (Seems to be talking to someone else, maybe arguing. Bit of shouting in the background) ‘That’s one-eighty.’
Me: ‘Okay, sounds good.’
UM: ‘You ‘appy with that?’
Me: ‘I’m happy. There are a couple of problems, though. I’ve lost the key and one of the windows is broken where I’ve had to break in.’
UM: (More shouting at someone, that someone shouts back, then things go quiet. The other person says something, then there is a rustling, probably as the phone is passed over)
Me: (Pulls face)
Different UM: ‘Don’t want it, mate.’
Line goes dead.
Me: Hullo, hullo?
Success! I’ve got no money and no car and the first person I speak to gives me the ol’ eff off.
Back to Google, try the first unsponsored result, removemycar.co.uk.
I’m put on hold. I start to feel a little nervous (what if can’t get rid of the poor thing and the Cheltonian society of Upper-class Nazi Tweed wearerS –TM- mounts a campaign against me for lowering the value of their precious property?).
Man answers: ‘Hullo, Remove My Car, how can I help?’
Okay, now we’re talking. I explain the make and model, explain the problems, we agree a price. Nice guy as well, tells me all about the ‘sponsored results’. If you’re working for Watchdog or Rogue Traders, I’d suggest you go hunting these little buggers. You’d probably get enough to string a couple of episodes together.
Anyways, a couple of hours go by and I receive a phone call. It’s Remove My Car’s man with a tow-van. We arrange a time for him to pick it up. He turns up. He breaks the steering lock, steers it into place and loads my sad looking tyred armchair onto his Iveco. We talk cars for a little bit and I like him. He gives me the money and we shake. Top banana. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
So that’s all the paper work sorted, some of the Queens own papers in my hand and still time to enjoy a cup of coffee before work.
‘I dunno, local bloody council is always digging up the road for something. No wonder the economy is suffering so much, nobody can get anywhere’…(Chortles to himself then thrusts his hands into his pockets and begins jangling some loose change around)
(The wives’ sing-song chatter fades as they walk inside)
‘Did you need to stop?’
‘Oh yes. We stopped at Shaftscombe services. Bloody expensive place. Captive audience. No choice. All there was, was over-priced sandwiches, a bloody Costa coffee and a McDonalds, ‘course, when I got to the front of the queue I couldn’t understand a word the girl was sayin’. Even saw some woman on a prayer mat or whatever the bloody things are. I’m not racist, but well, you know the rest. Can’t say anything these days, bloody thought police.’
(Grumbles agreement, thrusts hands into pockets and starts jangling loose change around)
‘I dunno, I suppose at least they’re working, but you come over here and you respect the local culture. We respect their laws when we go over there. I’d see the whole map painted pink again if I could.’
‘Do you know, I was just yesterday saying the same thing to Ian at the Golf club. You know, when Margaret and myself go to France, we take a phrase book with us.’
‘Heh, course when me and Susan went to Abu-Dhabi, they all spoke English anyway.’ (Laughs)
(Laughs)… ‘So how’s the new car?’
‘Yeah, yeah, well it’s all you need, isn’t it. Got air-con and sat-nav, it’s comfortable and quicker than you’ll ever need. Do you know the readout told me I was getting forty-eight miles-per-gallon on the way here?’
‘Wow, that’s quite impressive, especially with today’s fuel prices.’
‘Look’s like it might rain again. Shall we go inside?’
‘Good idea. I hope someone’s put the kettle on.’ (Winks)
‘No doubt Margaret has taken care, oh, I almost forgot. I bought a new washing machine the other day. Come in and have a look. It has a digital read-out that shows you how much power it’s saving.’