I have been driving my Mini for about 18 months now and I have come to a few conclusions. The first is that BMW make a very good car and the second is that I don’t want a new one. A bit of a contradiction? Maybe, but my reasons are firmly fixed in my personality, let me explain a bit further.
My house is lived in, I like to lounge on my sofa, if a glass gets knocked over its not the end of the world, the children don’t get gestapo like interrogations should a handprint appear on the wall.
My shoes are lived in, I have a pair of DM’s that I have had for years that are more comfy than your slippers and an old pair of Dunlop tennis shoes that are even comfier than that. When I go to car shows I dont go goo-goo eyed at the perfectly restored exapmles, but head straight for the dented, rusty works in progress. You can say I like my life a bit casual, a bit imperfect, a bit non sterile.
This explains why, when I was in Mega Web in Tokyo I was drooling more over the group B MR2 that was dented, scratched and covered in the oil of its last race rather than the shiny examples that bristled perfection next to it. It also explains why I have discovered that I really don’t like new cars at all. They get delivered in their perfect state, all new and wonderful and from that point it is all downhill from there.
The Natural World
It begins with a fly, splattering its brains all over your perfect, crystal clear screen. The little bastard has presented a dilemma, do you dry wipe and smear his rapidly drying corpse in arc or spray the washers and allow chemically enhanced water to splash all over the deep, dealer shined paintwork which will then dry all streaky? Or do you leave it there, mocking you, its one un smashed wing flapping in the breeze until you can stand it no longer so you pull over and pick it off?
After the 5,000,000th fly has embedded itself evenly over the front of your car, you give in a bit and reassure yourself that fly guts are not hard to get off, and besides, it will give you a little time to spend with your new car as you roll out the buckets, sponges and over priced cleaning products that you just had to buy. Its then, while you are scrubbing each individual corpse from your bumper you notice level 2.
The Stone Chip.
As soon as you spot it, your mind rewinds through every journey, replaying every ‘dink’ and ‘ping’ that could have been the source of this Grand Canyon sized chip in your paint and you realise that you cant pinpoint it, probably because you were too busy struggling with another fly guts dilemma. But this one is not so easy to fix, its there and no amount of scrubbing will wash it away. Its there and its going to rust so bad by next Thursday (in your paranoia soaked brain) the dreaded tinworm will have eaten the entire wing and will have started on the chassis.
The only thing for it is to go to the dealer and get a very overpriced touch up pen and hope to God it doesn’t rain on the way. One touch up later, using colouring in skills you last used in primary school to colour the sun in one corner of a bit of A4 while the sky was a two inch strip at the top, and the grass a two inch strip at the bottom, you realise the car is no longer perfect, it has a flaw and you really cannot colour in very well.
The numbness starts to creep in, especially if the car is on a deal that means you have to give it back at the end of the agreement. ‘They expect the odd ding’ you tell yourself, ‘I cant be expected to avoid stones, everyone has stone chips’ and you begin to feel better and begin to enjoy the car, pushing a bit harder in the curves and really getting to stretch its legs. This goes on for a few months and the money you pay seems to be a great deal, right up to level 3.
The Car Park Incident.
Wandering back to the car, arms full of groceries, you notice something is not quite right. There is a mark across the length of the number plate. Stooping down to get a better look, you see to your horror that some total and utter bastard has swiped some part of their rusty shitbox all across the front of your car Just how the hell they have done it is a mystery, but done it they have and buggered off before you could get there, because they know you would batter them with a tyre iron if they stayed.
The damage is not too bad and you reason that with a buff, it will come out but this is the final straw, your once perfect car, the car that you were so proud of on that first day, feels so diminished by the culmination of these imperfections as you drive it home.
Of course, all of this can be avoided, drive a car that’s already lived in.
I have a very sweet Cinquecento Sporting that I am slowly putting back together. It has a bit of rust, its paint is a bit dull and it has more than its fair share of dents and car park ‘incidents’ but I really don’t care. Driving it is brilliant fun, its not super fast, its not the most agile of cars but it really is a hoot to drive on or off the track and if I do happen to bin it into the gravel at Brands Hatch or some old dear bashes her trolley into it I really don’t mind too much, yeah its an arse and I rather not another dent, but it doesn’t become all encompassing, the perfection becoming most important thing , eclipsing the fun of driving the thing, so the Mini will be returned at the end of this agreement and I am going back to the joy of actually driving a car, rather than worrying about every tiny mark.
Those who straighten pictures, wear shiny shoes and get excited over polish made from insect wing cases, will no doubt be shuddering in their perfectly ironed y-fronts right now as their mirror smooth, recently clay-barred car snuggles deeper into its fur-lined garage, but for me, I prefer my Homer Simpson slippers with one eye missing to the pair of blister inducing brogues that pinch my toes and get scuffed so so easily.