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Saturday, September 1, 2018

My Cars, The Long Hot Summer

My Cars

I had a great upgrade this summer on my holiday rental car, making the first truly enjoyable rental car experience in more than 30 years. But more about that later. The experience prompted me to reminisce on all the good and not so good cars I have been lucky enough to have. 

Here is a list of the cars that I have owned or leased since 1980. 

Wolseley Hornet - I regret not keeping my first car. It was a convertible that I bought for £400 and there are less than a dozen of them left today.

It was tremendous fun but pretty unreliable. I remember I frequently had to mess around with the battery connections to get it to start and the horn used to go off randomly. You can read more in my blog of a year ago (1st September 2017).

It was similar to this one but in a pale grey-blue colour

Morris Marina - My first crash was in this one. Write Off.

Not the most beautiful car ever - but that's not why I crashed

VW Polo - Drove down to South of France and Spain and back. Near Barcelona, she was broken into overnight and my cassettes were stolen. We decided to cut short the trip as a result and drove back to France to get the smashed side quarter light window replaced.

She looked just like this one and performed pretty well

Ford Sierra Cosworth - kept breaking down. Most embarrassing was in the middle of Barnet High St in the rush hour blocking off all traffic in one direction. I put my hazards on and tried to call the breakdown service when a police officer asked me what the hell I was doing parked in the middle of the road, He made no attempt to assist me after I explained. Very ugly boy racer car but it should have been a lot of fun. Bad memories of this one. Fins are fine on fish not on cars.

Fins R Us

Fiat 132 - Big green metallic beast inherited from my grandparents. Good for getting child seats and push-chairs in and out easily. Bad for pretty much everything else. Boot used to fill with water when it rained - which is most of the time. Didn't win any beauty contests either as far as I know.

The only good thing about it was it was cheap

Mazda 626 - I had two of these very reliable cars whilst Mazda was a client of mine and one of them was admired on more than one occasion by strangers. I had my second (and last) crash in my first 626. I was driving to work and the construction workers who were building a bypass from the M25 to Tring (A41) were pumping excess water onto the road I was driving on. What they had not considered was that since the temperature that sunny winter morning was below zero, the water was freezing on impact with my road. So as I approached this part of the road totally unaware, I lost control of my car which skidded into the on-coming traffic. There was lots of bruising, one lady in hospital but no serious damage to people. A police officer arrived and tried to arrest me but I told him to piss off (I was in some pain and very angry) and go after the construction site officer which he duly did. I arrived late for work where my client from Mazda was waiting to have a meeting with me. As I walked in all he said was 'I hope you crashed into another Mazda'. He was hoping my misadventure would have been good for business.

The first one looked like this

The second one like this although mine was a gold colour

Audi 80 - My first premium brand from new. The registration plate was L3 GRG. I remember when we were on holiday in a remote French village, my two year old son saw an Audi parked in the street, recognised the logo on it and said 'Daddy's car' which amused us at the time. The power of marketing!

My silver Audi looked just like this

Volvo S40 - This was a pretty boring family car. Looking back I really have no idea why I chose to have one of these. But it served me well with no problems as far as I recall.

Mine looked like this although I'm not sure I ever took it to the seaside

Rover 45 - I am really not sure why I chose this one either but the quality was terrible. Every time I went a bit fast around a corner, it made a crashing sound like the whole vehicle was collapsing. Quite scary. The dealer even drove home with me to try to identify the problem but couldn't. I ended up writing to the leasing company that owned it saying that the car was not fit for purpose and if they didn't end the contract immediately, I would drive it to their Head Office and park it across their front door. They terminated my contract with no penalty and to reward the dealer for his efforts, I chose my next car from him.

Rover 45 - perhaps mine was just a Friday afternoon job

Rover 75 - Built in Oxford, quite classy back then, very distinctive even now. No problems with this one; the build quality was far better than the 45. It felt like real luxury in comparison.

I always thought my dark blue Oxford built Rover was rather classy

Peugeot 607 - First of a number of Peugeots provided by my client. This one broke down as I was driving at 70mph on the A34. All of the electrics failed without warning, including the power steering. Fortunately I managed to glide it into a lay-by which was just miraculously in the right place. Very very frightening. And then it happened on a second occasion and I had it towed away. No idea what went wrong but even more worrying, neither did the Dealer! I got the impression that they just pressed the reset button.

My favourite feature was the button to shut the boot

Peugeot 307CC - This one was the most fun; a convertible and I was reluctant to hand it back. The boys loved it!

My silver CC - brilliant fun!

Peugeot 406 CoupĂ© - This one was the best looking, designed by Pininfarina, much prettier than the regular 406s that I also drove (and have not listed here). I had to hand back each car after about 6 months or 6,000 miles. As a result and to the dismay of thieves, I never leave anything in my cars as it takes too long to switch it all.

Design classic?

BMW 520d x 2 - The first was so superbly engineered that I couldn't believe the second one was so much better! One of my colleagues at work used to ask if I enjoyed driving around in my living room. The only negative thing with these two superbly engineered cars is that they don't go in the snow. Even a thin layer of snow and I can't get it out of my street. So I bought a set of winter tyres for the second one. Miraculous! For the three years following my acquisition of the tyres I was never prevented from driving wherever I needed to go. This is because it didn't snow again during that period. 

My first BMW in the snow

No2 - Superbly comfortable and brilliantly engineered cruising car

BMW 330e - Very much enjoying the electric and petrol engines with the combined 250bhp. My first hybrid car. I took advantage of the government subsidy on the car (£2,500) and on the charging pod installed on my garage wall. The immediate combined power surge from zero mph is quite amazing. But I think my favourite feature is using the battery to de-ice and warm up my car in the winter. I can either programme it to heat up for a specific time or activate it form my phone. One of this fine car's great features that I discovered by accident some time after I acquired it. Always reminds me of this brilliant Statoil ad.

My favourite car in a beautiful tanzanite blue

The Rental Car - Mercedes C220d Cabriolet

I booked a Citroen C3 from Avis Budget for my holiday rental and wasn't particularly excited about the prospect of driving it. When I arrived at the desk to complete the formalities and pick it up, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to a Mercedes Cabriolet for a few extra Euros per day. I asked why they were making such a generous offer and was told that nobody wanted them! Looking at the queue of families behind me with their luggage going off on their summer hols I guess it sort of made sense as this car has just enough boot space for two small rucksacks and a handbag.

So for the two of us it was ideal - the rear seats can hold two suitcases if required. And we had so much fun! This car is made for cruising. Extremely comfortable, great road holding, fast enough (although not very fast), and rather good looking. The warm sunny weather we had was a real treat. I couldn't wait for my next drive!

Roof off

Roof on

The Freezing Winter, The Long Hot Summer

It quite extraordinary when you consider the extent to which something as banal as the weather seems to rule or take over our lives at times. On average the weather is much the same as the last few years, perhaps getting a touch warmer. That's not too exciting. But behind the boring average we can see a peak in extremes. Last winter is the only time in the last 30 years that I remember it snowing properly three times at home. And the winter went on and on until the end of April when it stopped abruptly, bypassing Spring and launching into Summer.

It's hard work digging a path for the cars

And Summer 2018 will go down on the list of the hottest ones ever. The lawn was already scorched and brown by mid-July. Given the extreme nature and the consequences (try riding a tube train with temperatures in excess of 35C) it is pretty much the number one topic of conversation. It's hard for the elderly, the commuter, the plants and the water companies! And I do feel bad for those people required to work outside. But there's not a great deal we can do about it and installing air-conditioning just aggravates the problem globally and is hardly a worthwhile investment for a couple of dozen days out of 365.

My lawn is not green

Quote of the Month

"If you want to be rich you had better get the money before the scruples set in." Fishism, Ally Mcbeal.

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