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
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.