Wednesday, December 13, 2006


New cars are all good and well. There's something to be said for aircon, no unidentified rattles/squeaks/scraping noises, a smooth quiet ride with the possibility of both music and conversation, shiny paint-job, reliability, and enough debt to buy a small house with.

But I think I like the classics better.

My first car was a 1970s Mini, acquired for a mere R2,000. It was dark blue with a vinyl sunroof that liked to collect rain - and pour it down your neck when you turned left. The spare in the boot was balanced on the only remaining strut that hadn't rusted through. There were holes in the floor under the carpet - driving through a deep puddle in winter would not only cut the electricts, but leave your feet sloshing around, after which the most incredible tiny mushrooms would grow under the seats. Sometimes the bush would fall off the gear lever - preferably in rush-hour traffic, where you'd be stuck in 4th gear and have to rev to immense heights to get going. Sometimes the fuel guage would give in, but for that we kept a length of hosepipe in the car - stick it in the fuel tank, turn it around - if it goes "splosh" you're OK, if it goes "clonk" go fill up. A bit of an adventure to drive, but we went everywhere. We even fitted 8 people, their surfboards and their bodyboards in - and went to the beach. Riding very low... :-) That car took me to Tech every day, to towns near and far, got stuck in sand dunes, got push-started in high heels. Even after we sold it, it brought interesting times. It's plates were found on a stolen VW Bug two years later!

Next car was an 80's Honda Ballade in dark charcoal grey. Again, not without its issues. But it went very well - until I got a neighbour to replace the brakes, after which it basically collapsed bit by bit. My mechanic eventually got so fed up that the last time he towed it he didn't return it. Instead he phoned to say it had been sold and he'd have another car for me within a week.

Enter the golden brown Ford. The Friggin'Ford, as it's affectionatly known. Also an 80's model, a 2 litre Sierra. It's been the one car that hasn't failed us spectacularly. It's tackled corrugated farm roads, mountain passes, town trips - and although we sometimes wonder if it will make it, it's done well. We've sorted out things like brakes that didn't brake, and doors that didn't lock. There are still issues in the thing that holds the hatchback boot up, a bit of a leak in wet weather, and some rust. But it's services with only one thing left to fix at the mechanic's - wear-and-tear backlash on the diffs, to be done in January. Just before my mechanic sells up his business and leaves. Probably time to up my car-fixing ability...!

Which brings us to Olivia. My first Landy - but definitely not the last. I look at the more modern ones and think that they're nice, but my heart is with the Series models. Tough, built to last, proven, simple to work on, with a distinctive style and sound, and oh-so-cool.

Already I'm looking at getting the kid a Series shorty when he's old enough to drive instead of something more modern. Alternatives to that would be the ancient round-shaped VW Kombi or - yes - a Mini. But I think we'll stick with the Landies. They're go-anywhere vehicles, can haul a multitude of friends or the most delicate of girlfriends, take a bit of late-teen driving and still come out OK on the other side.

So here's to the classics. Firmly embedded in this particular family's hearts, oiling up the driveways and providing adrenalin (whether through failed brakes on a mountain, something falling off on a highway, or the mere thrill of driving them) at every turn. Long may they chug on.

No comments: