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…