Motoring and Property Editor
1:00 AM 23rd December 2023
A Passion Or An Addiction
I am convinced my first word was most likely to have been car, but with my parents now residing in the big multistorey in the sky, I cannot confirm this. I do know that Dinky and Corgi cars made up much of my leisure time as an infant and to this day I still have most of them.
My driving test was passed six weeks after my 17th birthday, and without any formal driving lessons. No jokes please about the standard of my driving – my licence is clean and none of the many journos who have shared a car with me on events have appeared to be too unnerved at my brisk driving style.
I recently joined a local sports car club and many of the members listed all the cars they had owned which got me thinking. Most had fifteen to twenty on their motley lists. With a recent new addition, I think some 48 cars have passed through my hands and I am certainly not done yet.
My first car, purchased from an elderly aunt, was a 1968 Ford Corsair. It was the V4 Deluxe version with a Webasto sunroof. And yes, I can still remember the registration number – TAN 109F in you’re interested. In it, and the Mini Clubman Estate that replaced it, personal freedom was mine and driving was, and still is, one of my main pleasures in life.
I was lucky enough to be able to afford an MGB Roadster in my early 20s and boy, did we have some adventures together. A trip to the South of France stands out, where my red ‘B’ attracted much attention wherever I went. A day in Monaco was a highlight, fabulous yachts, beautiful people and best of all, wonderful cars.
Volkswagens Beetle Convertible
We left the Cote D’Azur one Friday afternoon, destination friends in Hamburg, and with more or less non-stop driving, I was in time for Sunday lunch. The drive was not without drama, not least the MG’s thirst not only for petrol, but also for engine oil. And some 50 miles short of my destination, the old girl conked out on the side of the autobahn.
My O-Level German came to the rescue and with typical Teutonic efficiency, a breakdown truck was with me in double quick time. A loose wire was quickly located, and with no Deutschmarks to hand, the kindly repair man waved me on my way with no charge.
Once married, the MG was used little and when my eldest son was born, it was sold to help fund something more family friendly. I still hanker after another one, but as I get older, I am not fond of tinkering with unreliable cars anymore.
Had I been lucky enough to own a large dry barn, I have a list of cars I would never have sold. With more time on my hands now, I would gradually have pressed them back into service. Here are a few of them:
1. A 1991 Mazda MX-5, but not any old car. This was a factory approved BBR- Turbo variant. It was very fast, completely reliable and was red of course. Still not sure why I sold it.
2. A Daimler Double Six Coupe. Bought on a whim and with no money to run it, it was two tone Russet Brown and rust coloured. The V12 engine was an old smoothie, but 12-15mpg meant I never really drove it.
3. My 1989 Golf GTi was bought new and was a delight. It was white, very cool at the time and I should have paid extra for power steering. Parking in a tight space entailed a full upper body workout. A trip to Germany saw me hit triple figures for the first time, but I was easily outpaced by the 150mph Mercs and BMWs that owned the overtaking lanes. It was replaced by an XR3i Convertible – don’t ask, some kind of mental aberration!
4. A left-hand drive Beetle Convertible left a lasting impression. It looked cool but was really quite awful to drive. Purchased cheaply with work to do and with the hope of eventually selling it on for a profit. I lost £1,000 if I recall.
5. In 2001 I bought a four-year-old Jaguar XJR, one of the first with the 4.0-litre supercharged V8 engine. Sapphire Blue with Ivory leather interior. Possibly my favourite car of all time and it vies for the honours as possibly the most unreliable too. I was soon on first name terms with the Service Manager at the local Jaguar dealership. I owned it for seven years and covered some 30,000 miles in the lap of luxury, but always with my AA membership car close at hand. Eventually, the running costs and rusting chassis saw it sold on for a song. A sad day.
My BMW 330 Ci
My current fleet of ageing cars keeps me out of mischief, the highlight being my 2003 BMW 330 Ci. I have owned it since 2006 and it has only just clicked over 30,000 miles. Every year I resolve to use it more, but never do.
So why have I just bought another car, a question my wife frequently asks. Well, the BMW goes away as soon as there is the first sign of a gritting lorry, and my old £1,000 MX-5 bit the dust last year. Rust got the better of it and it was sold for parts. In its place is a late model Saab 900 Convertible, the heated seats being perfect for roof down winter adventures.
I’ve no doubt that I won’t stop looking on the Autotrader website any time soon. I still don’t have that dry barn, but I do have plenty of space on my driveway yet to fill.