Thursday 6 September 2012

The Great Car Park In The Sky

I bought a car in December 1999. It was a three year old bright shiny blue Ford Escort.

I loved it.

And now, after 13 years, it’s gone to that great car park in the sky.

And I’m sad.

People who know me might think I’m a hypocrite because I have been known to mercilessly mock those boy racers who seem to be in love with their cars. It is almost as if their car has been an extension of their manhood (and I’m not trying to be rude here – well maybe I am; the phrase Big Car; Small Penis leaps to mind).

“Look at me! My car can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 nanoseconds. It roars past every other car on the motorway because, it is a machine for a MAN!”

Or as I like to think “a machine for a MEATHEAD!”

To me a car has always been something to make my life easier. If it gets me from A to B in a reasonable time, that’s good enough for me. It doesn’t have to have a body that gives meatheads orgasms, it does not have to have a gargantuan engine that eats bears for breakfast; it doesn’t have to be faster that the Starship Enterprise racing at Warp 10 to save a planet from the Domesday Machine.

All it needs to do is work. All it needs to do is get me to where I need to go, carrying everything I need when I get there.

My trusty blue Ford Escort did that.

It did that for 13 years.

It wasn’t fast but it had a reasonably sized boot, a modestly sized engine and radio that allowed me to sing along with rock songs at an embarrassingly high volume as I drove.

Only once did it let me down in all that time. I was on the way to Yorkshire and it broke down on the motorway. A hasty call to a breakdown company soon rectified the situation and a quick repair later and it was as good as new.

My trusty old Ford Escort took me, Mrs PM and the two lads to Eurodisney in Paris, all the way from Manchester, via London, Dover and some beautiful villages in northern France, even driving on the wrong side of the road, as these mainland Europeans tend to do.

My faithful car negotiated hellish conditions in the centre of Paris, sparring with French cars driven by angry lunatics whose sole mission was to destroy every other vehicle on the road.

Recently we had two horrific winters with huge quantities of snow and temperatures that plummeted to 10 to 15 degrees below freezing; yet my car started first time every day and somehow got me to work and back despite the conditions causing chaos for other road vehicles.

My car was my ally, my trusty sidekick – my friend.

And then came the day, three years ago when the mechanic uttered a sentence that sent shivers of dread down my spine.

“This car is nearing the end of its life.”

The annual MOT was due and it failed because of deteriorating bodywork. All of the rain and misery of British weather had taken its toll.

Happily, the mechanic told me that he could repair the damage with his faithful welding kit.

“The engine is fine – but I would consider getting rid of it.”

Mrs PM and I talked about the situation and decided to keep the car.

The following year, the problem was the same.

“The engine is fine but it needs more welding – and we’re running out of bits to weld to. It will be fine though. But I seriously recommend you get rid of it.”

I remember staring at it out of the window with its new body repair in place as the rain cascaded down its outer shell. My Escort seemed happy, content to sit in the rain waiting to serve me.

I decided to leave it for another year.

Last year, the mechanic said nothing and against all odds, the car passed its MOT with only a few minor issues due to natural wear and tear. I was delighted.

Last week, however, I was told the bad news.

“I can get it through its MOT but it will cost you a lot of money. The body work on the other side of the car is in a bad way. I just don’t think it’s worth it. The engine is fine though.”

The state of the engine was little consolation. I imagined driving around in a rust bucket with bits of the bodywork dropping off in the wind until I was left sitting there open to all the elements with a fine engine but nothing else.

I had to make a decision. And sadly I made it.

My faithful, dependable and loyal car is no more. I told my work colleagues. Some of them mocked me:

“Finally you’re getting rid of that bloody shed on wheels.”

Others were shocked. One guy said:

“Dave – I almost fell off my chair when I heard about your car.”

One guy was totally sympathetic:

“I know how you feel. It’s really hard getting rid of them.”

The boy racer gene took over in most cases as people urged me to splash out on a monster girl magnet with an engine that could get me to Mars and back.

Last Saturday I bought my new car. I picked it up yesterday. It is a three year old silver Vauxhall Astra.

And it is beautiful.

And it drives like a dream. Like the Ford Escort, it is reliable, trustworthy and so far has managed to get me where I want to go, with all of the things I need when I get there.

As I drove back from work this afternoon, I took an alternative route via the motorway and allowed the boy racer gene to kick in for a brief moment. I put my foot down and my new car responded, accelerating in time to a progressive rock track on my flashy new radio. I looked in the mirror and saw a man, smiling as he sang along to a song about a car; Red Barchetta by my favourite band Rush:

Wind in my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

That man was me.

And I realised that I had found a new friend.

And in honour of my Ford Escort, here is Red Barchetta. OK - I know the car wasn't red and it wasn't a Barchetta and I didn't race it along the highways of Canada.

Nevertheless I shall always remember my trusted companion of 13 years when I hear this song.

I will miss you.


Elephant's Child said...

Oh yes. Our car had reached voting age when we bit the bullet and traded it in. The new car is infinitely more reliable (the speedo can be counted on working for example), consumes much less fuel. And has less charm.

River said...

You know that now I will have to google images of Ford Escorts and Vauxhall Astras to see what they look like....
I'm glad your new car is a friend already. I've had my bicycle for almost a year and that thing is no friend of mine! I think I need a smaller one.

Anji said...

I understand how you feel.

We had our Renault 5 for 19 years. it took 5 of us to the UK and back for several years until there we flights from our local airport. (and drove on the wrong side of the road as the Brits do)

For its last year of life it was used by our 21 year old. In June we followed him on its last journey to the tip at 30 KPH as it was overheating badly. It just made it.

I let the men go inside to do the paperwork and shed a little tear in private. I really don't like to think of our little car all squashed up into scrap metal.

We now have a Renault and we love it. We'll never forget out little 5.

drb said...

Hi Mr PM,
May your old car rest in peace.
I know how you feel.
We have a white Ford Laser, it is 21 yo, since 2000. We are proud to drive it on the high way and it is usually the oldest car. Bought it from my friends who were leaving for Canada for $5K. It is reliable and as it has been kept in a garage, it was in good nick until a few months ago. It was sandwiched at 5am in the morning by a blooming chinese student behind the wheel of a merc on his way home from the casino. The mechanic said it would cost $2k to repair and we knew it is worth less than $1k, so sadly the car insurance would scrap it and pay us $1k. Luckily, the rich chinese student did not have insurance and he paid us cash! Rob did the repair himself. The only sad thing was the Ford logo on the bonnet was missing in the crash and that gave me nightmares: Our poor Ford Laser was crying because he was disfigured with his nose (Ford logo) missing. Second stroke of luck - my good friend's fiance works in Ford factory, so he managed to replace the logo and our little Ford Laser looks a good as new again!!

MedicatedMoo said...

*sniffle* - your car was the same age (1996) and bought in the same year (1999) as our car, Maggie the Mitsubishi.

So many memories cars have. It's sad to farewell them, but when the newer one arrives you realise just how far technology has come!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

My new car is wonderful and it makes me feel slightly guilty that I like it.

But it really IS nice all the same.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I have a bike too but sadly it's gathering dust. I really should do something about that.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Anji,

The thought of the old Escort being transformed into a cube does make me feel sad.

I will just remember it as it was when I first bought it.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

21 years old eh? That's good going.

I think my Escort might have survived had the weather in the UK not been so wet over the years.

I've heard good things about Vauxhall Astras bodywork so I hope that the British weather will have no long term effects.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Do you know, I never named the Escort. Maybe I should have.

The new Astra is far more technically advanced than the Escort was - I'm still getting to grips with it.




DelGal said...

Dearest PM -

Aww, poor little Escort. I do hope you took some pictures of it before you parked it in the great car park in the sky. :)
My '99 Ford Taurus is running fine now after many close calls, but I'm afraid one of these days it'll be joining all the trusty-yet-not-flashy cars in the great car park too, and I'll be forced to find another car that I won't mind getting tons of dog hair all in it too.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Lynette,

I have some photos somewhere - I think.

I reckon you'll get a few more years out of your Taurus - as long as you keep Mark away from it :-)