There are many things you can blame your parents for.
Unmanageable hair, being forced to wear unfashionable tank tops, annoying little sisters. I have to blame my parents for my disinterest in new cars. My dad used to be a biker, and had many of the British greats. Vincent, BSA, Ariel and so on and I can remember him lovingly fiddling and caressing these things as if they were alive. Then we had cars, a green Mini that made a lot of noise, an old blue Vauxhall who’s suspension collapsed and door handle fell off on a trip to the Isle of Sheppey (its not a romantic, golden sandy paradise, its a windswept desolate place with a prison in the middle) and more, but none of that mattered because he bought these cars himself and all the care and maintenance to make them last another week was up to him.
Then dear old dad did something monumentally stupid.
He got a good job, that paid well and supplied him with a company car.
Looking back, this was a mistake, it took away the importance of the car, not only for him but for his very impressionable young son. Gone were the Saturday morning oil changes, gone were the addition of gauges and tinsel from the local motorfactors (a place that smelled so good, a mixture of oily wood and paraffin) If the car blew up or something fell off he got another one, or it was driven to a garage and fixed, to hell with the cost, the company was paying. If the tyres wore out then Kwik-Fit’s finest could change them and not a penny of his money or hour of his labour was spent. This turned the car from something interesting and something worthwhile knowing about, into the automotive equivalent of a toaster.
Dad had a number of company cars, all of them dull, most of them Vauxhalls. A few stood out, the huge Cortina estate that we slept in all the way down the M4 to out Devonshire holidays, the red Mk1 Astra with alloy wheels was nice but sadly it was a mish-mash of Cavaliers and the odd Rover 214.
What this did to me was make me loose sight that new cars could be exciting and interesting, hot Golfs and Peugeot’s passed me by, Honda’s type R was just a civic with big wheels, and as to even thinking about tuning the engine, uprating the suspension or even bothering with better tyres was lost on me, I mean, would you try and improve the toaster? make the washing machine wash faster by changing its bushes to polycarbonate? Lower the fridge so it chilled lettuces better? No of course not and I saw new cars in the same light.
When it was my turn to buy a car I looked backwards, partly because a £40 Escort Mk1 was all I could afford, but partly because I had no idea that anything modern could be remotely interesting. This view can be laid firmly again at Pop’s feet as he then, just as I bought my first VW Beetle (sourced by him, rusty as hell and totally knackered BUT I had the time of my life fixing it, and received a HUGE feeling of satisfaction when it passed its MOT) Daddy went out and bought a 1974 VW Camper, orange and white.This re ignighted his passion for tinkering and could be found most weekends either under it trying to fix it, trying to make it start or adding some ingenious ‘thing’ to it that made it more funky, so of course I was inspired to get the beetle done, but it drove home the message that old cars=worth playing with new cars=frankly, no.
Its funny how things change in your life, it was not until I met the good friend I keep mentioning, who showed me how with a few bolt ons, a tweek here and there a new Civic can be improved on and even more so can be safe, more fun and indeed faster than the old rattleboxes that I nostalgically pine for and imagined to be better because they were not the ‘throwaway appliance’ that I had been taught . Old cars are wonderful, Dad taught me a lot about the importance of maintaining and caring for what you have when its your money.
The company, forcing beige repmobiles onto its workforce has a lot to answer for, but thankfully at last I realise, all cars are just brilliant.