Monday, October 21, 2013


How can you not be impressed by this raw, naked power?
So sang 1980s superstar Gary Numan. He wouldn't have sung that if he had the cars I've driven. I've had an Austin Allegro AND a Fiat Strada, for God's sake, which would have prompted Numan to have written a song called "Bollocks, I'll take the bus".

If I ever become world famous for writing this bollocks and end up in the interviewee's seat on Top Gear's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, my own car history of Renault 4  - Allegro - Strada - Peugeot 205 - Renault 21 - Ford Escort - Renault Scenic - Nissan Micra would probably win me some sort of prize, or have me beaten up in the car park. If it comes to violence, I'm sure I can take Hammond and Clarkson, but May would be the one who fights dirty and it would end badly. You'll note three Renaults in that list, for which I blame the parents, and is all the evidence sociologists will ever need that nurture is more powerful than nature.

While Gary Numan has famously fallen out of the sky while flying around in planes, I bet he's never watched with amazement as he is overtaken by one of his own wheels while driving down the M4, and incident which was interesting to say the least.

That was before I developed the skills to service my own car. These alleged "skills" included the cannibalism of a lawn mower for vital parts that kept the Allegro on the road, and an emergency repair on the M6 near Birmingham that involved a lump of chewing gum. An emergency repair that was still holding good several years later when the car headed to the scrap heap.

The problem with modern cars is that they're deliberately engineered to prevent the curious from trying to fix them yourself. I drove a Renault for a few years, and once you open the bonnet there's a huge metal plate covering the entire engine with holes for water, oil and brake fluid, the message being "Get your filthy hands out of here, you English dog, this is a job for highly qualified, highly paid French engineers". One minor repair cost me over £150 pounds, nine-tenths of the labour being getting the metal plate off and back on again.

A little bit of bedtime reading. I know what you're thinking.I have a cold.
That's why I'm pleased to take a step back and drive an older car with none of that computerised engine management guff that tells you to go for a service every ten minutes, driving you direct to the nearest main dealer and sucking your bank account dry before you even get there. The Micra is from another age, of oil down the front of your second-best jeans and "You're not touching anything in this house until you wash your hands". In a house full of book, the only one that counts is Haynes Manual No.3254 - Nissan Micra K11 Series (1993-1999). It was green to start with, now it is mostly grey.

In fact - and take note JK Rowling - such is the power of the Haynes Manual ALL books should end with the words "Refitting is the reverse of the removal procedure", because that's the kind of happy ending where everything is how it was on page one, only with a handful of nuts and washers left over and a grubby hand-print on the sofa.

Like all good fiction involving a boy wizard, there are lessons to be learned from servicing your own car., and I am happy to leave you with three of the most important.

Lesson one is simple, and it's this: "The high tension cables leading to the spark plugs are live and filled with millions of electricity. Don't try to grab them while the engine is running."

A lesson well learned, which was also the day I discovered that the easiest way to do a Donald Duck impression is to run several thousand volts through your body by grabbing high tension cables. It's an impression that is unlikely to get you a job at Disney World because the only words that comes out are "F-ING HELL! F-ING HELL THAT HURTS!", which Donald never says, even when stoved in the face with an anvil by Huey, Dewey or Lewie, the ASBO triplets.

Lesson two: No matter how long you spend servicing your car, and how much money you've saved, it's still an Austin Allegro, and you've lost at life.

Lesson three: Refitting is the reverse of the removal procedure. And they all lived happily ever after, until a wheel fell off on the M4.


Dr Si said...

My Dad was forced to have no less than three Fiat Stradas (diarrhoea colour paint as in photo) as his company car before the company realised the error of their ways.

The replacement was a white Austin Montego, which meant getting anywhere in a hurry was hard since (a) It was a Montego (b) the car in front always thought we were the cops.

Happy days.

ninthcouncil said...

I know our fathers laboured under the burden of having to buy cars in the 70s, but ... mine had three Morris Marinas in a row, which suggested he actually liked them. The first was such a lurid shade of yellow I think it permamnently damaged my colour vision - I can't even remember what colour the others were, except they were "notyellow".

Gonzoland said...

Fiat Strada
Designed by computers
Hand built by robots
(Driven by idiots)
Hand Built By Robots Commercial:
Not The Nine O'Clock News spoof:

TRT said...

Did you want that car so much you were thinking of rape?

Alistair Coleman said...

Gonzo: They must have been horribly shit computers to come up with that pile of bolts

Chris said...

My motors over 16 yrs:
Vauxhall Nova (with boot)
VW Golf mk2
Vauxhall Nova (without boot)
VW Polo
Fiat Cinquicento
Ford Fiesta mk4
Skoda Felicia
Nissan Micra mk2
Fiat Seicento
Citroen C3
Fiat Seicento (Michael Schumacher Edition)
Peugeot 206
VW Golf mk4

Reliability? No. Class? No. Character? Absolutely.

TRT said...

You know, there's a cross-over strand here you could exploit here. Erotic reading material to share for him & her. Mills & Haynes. 50 Shades of Grey, 10 Metallics and 4 Pearlescents.

Uselessly, she clattered about at the side of the passenger seat.
"I can't seem to find the..."
"Here," he said, gallantly. "Let me."
He took the chrome plated seatbelt buckle from her delicate fingers and leaned over. The awkward confines of the Austin Allegro S2 1750 Equipe forced his manly chest against hers. Through the thin fabric of her Laura Ashley dress, he felt her nipples suddenly harden like a pair of 3/4" BSW nuts.


She lay back, panting, exhausted, their sweat mingled and running down the red vinyl seating in tiny rivers of lust, best removed with a Halford's interior cleaning wipe before they stained.
"My God, " she panted. "I've never... oh, look at the time!"
She started and fumbled around the cabin of the car until her hands closed over his underwear, draped over the quartic steering wheel.
"Better get you dressed quick; you're late and your wife is never going to understand..."
"Don't panic, love." His soothing voice calming and self-assured. "You managed to get them off easily enough and refitting is the reverse of the removal procedure."

Lance E R, Montecarlo said...

TRT: Very good. Female is ok as middle class 'ars-bucket' type but the male should be more 'yur in my car' gruff voiced.

TRT said...

I say that, of course. In accordance with Rule 34 but not on the internet, check the writing of Devon Scott. Dreadful. Truly dreadful.