My father was a tinkerer when it came to cars. He’d spend hours under a bonnet, often with me at his elbow at his beck and call to pass him what he required as he adjusted and fine tuned various components that made a car get from A to B. But none of that has rubbed off – these days I’d now struggle to accurately identify those parts that once fascinated my Dad. Nor have I ever possessed the remote inclination to make those numerous automobiles I have possessed over the decades to go more efficiently or, heaven forbid, faster.
My dear old father was also a serious exchanger of cars. It seemed that, as soon as he had tinkered one to peak condition; to getting a motor purring to perfection, he’d be looking around for the next challenge. Each generation of vehicles, as they added on greater complexity of innovation, would provide more opportunity for an even higher level of tinkering.
I had no idea where those genes of his had disappeared to in the family until, only recently, it was revealed to me that my youngest brother is a member of the fair dinkum ‘Top Gear’ club. I am glad they went somewhere. They certainly didn’t come in this direction. My latest car is a Protege; that I do know. But when asked I struggle to recall whether it is a Mitsubishi, Mazda or Ford. At least I know it isn’t a Holden. I barely noticed that, over the years, every time I’ve caught up with brother Dean, he is behind the wheel of a different, perhaps even flashier, make or model – just like Dad.
But I must admit, as with Jan Etherington, initially owning an automobile meant freedom. Typical of my father, before I even gained my licence, he had already purchased a succession of cars for me ready for the big day. What I actually ended up with, going for that rite of passage, was a blue, or was it grey, Fiat – a model that had suicide doors at the front. After some time researching in the ether, I think it may have been a 110/103 model. With a pleasant copper by my side I proceeded to drive said car around the block, nearly knocking some poor sod on his push bike into a ditch. The guy in blue pronounced that, apart from giving him a scare, I had done exceedingly well and eventually a little book arrived in the mail allowing me to take to the byways of Tassie. They were different days. A mate of mine simply received his because an officer of the constabulary had seen him driving around in his dad’s paddock.
Yep, the Fiat, with the suicide doors, was my ticket to cart around my less fortunate mates, pick up (admittedly very few) girls and it got me to and from uni. But I soon found that being in control of an auto wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for, you see, I kept running into things or, inexplicably, driving off the road. Over the years I’ve connected with letter boxes, flying ducks and a pole in Burnie K-Mart – twice. I once, with a very loud noise, collected the impressive car of Tasmania’s chief magistrate. He was none too pleased and later sued me. The highlight of all my mis-endeavours, the one that still has all those who know me shaking their heads in disbelief, occurred one dark and stormy night. I cannot reverse in a straight line to save myself and the manoeuvre I was attempting was simply to back down a driveway – one that was just a tad on the steep side. With the weather and incline limiting my vision, I managed to park my jalopy on a low wall between my partner’s property and the one next door. My car – it was orange, don’t ask the make – was stuck fast, immovable, resulting in a call to the RACT. The guy who turned up initially was gobsmacked, but in the end he had the solution. This was a combination of a complicated pulley system and tree that eventually worked, to the applause of a small crowd who had gathered to watch proceedings. I have it on good authority that I was referred to as a dip-stick by my saviour who related the tale to all and sundry.
The thought of attempting a reverse park gives me the heebie jeebies and city driving the palpitations. I hate the boredom of the Midlands Highway as my mind wanders all over the place to various reveries, especially if I’m doing it alone without my lovely lady to keep me focused. Nah, for this fellow the driving experience quickly palled.
The figures Jan E based her column on are obviously ones for the UK where choices for public transport and small distances abound. Here in Oz it is the opposite. I often dream what a joy it would be to live in a place, say Melbourne, where a reasonably functional transport system would mean far less reliance on private means of getting around – not that I’d ever swap Hobs in reality. I’m eternally thankful that Leigh is a great driver and confident/competent enough to give me stress free transport on many occasions, She also has a son who knows one or two things about what goes on in the mystery to me that is a car’s engine – for, you see, driving has completely lost its romance for me.
Jan Etherington’s column = http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/no-wonder-teens-have-given-driving-lost-romance/