Continuing my stagger down the memory (pit) lane...it's an odd experience, this deliberate recall of old cars - inanimate objects as they are without human interference, each of them had a character (some of them more evil than others) and as a result some of them are strangely dear to my memory...I've never had that experience with a toaster!
I almost forgot about this one - a 1989 Austin Rover Montego...but before you laugh (and I'd understand why), I must say that against all the odds this car turned out to be one of the best I ever had. Why? Because it was a turbocharged diesel! I set out to buy the most economical family - sized car I could find, and this car ticked all the boxes (although instead of the pretty red car above, it was a metallic brown, euphemistically referred to as 'bronze'). I was not a fan of the Austin Rover Group but I was a fan of diesels in general (and FYI if you live outside of the UK, these days every other car - quite literally - is diesel-powered) for their drive-ability and their economy. I hit gold with this car - although not very good looking, it felt very torquey, would eventually hit 100 m.p.h. (sorry, officer) and was incredibly frugal to run on a day-to-day basis. We took it on a camping holiday to Scotland and I calculated that we hit an average of 60 - SIXTY Miles per gallon. That was better fuel economy than a 250cc motorcycle that I subsequently owned for a while. It was comfy, relaxing to drive and I would probably have kept it for as long as possible had I not discovered the wonders of motorcycling. Having been taught how to ride a bike properly (despite a distinct lack of natural flair or ability) by the police, I simply HAD to get a bike, and in order to make that possible financially, the car had to go...
I'd always had a soft spot for these old tanks. They were everywhere, and they seemed to be - a rare thing in the UK - classless. They had a reputation for not breaking and for protecting the soft squishy humans inside the cabin if anything collided with them. The main justification for buying a Volvo 240 DL was that we had two dogs and we wanted to not ruin the seats of our car...I loved the fact that everyone - or so it seemed - seemed to like them, either with fierce enthusiasm or in a 'they're harmless' kind of way. I fell somewhere between the camps - a sucker for a big car (and by UK standards they were rather large) and Volvo reliabilty, if somewhat unrealistically disappointed by the total lack of performance. It went fast enough of course, but it had no 'zip'. I suppose I wanted to have a big red cake and to be able to eat it as well. This car was notable for being the one in which my firstborn was brought home for the first time...that alone makes it worthy of mention and memory. My only problem with this car (and it was all my own fault) was several days of fretting and much more money than I could really afford at the time, spent putting a five speed gearbox into it. There's a lesson that was thoroughly learned....
Finally, a car which did everything I needed and for as long as I needed it to. The 1996 Nissan Primera was probably the very best buy I ever made. Purchased as an 'ex-demonstrator' with only a couple of thousand miles on the clock, this 1600cc marvel had no real weaknesses that I could find. It even had a reasonable turn of speed for the small size of the engine - and this time despite driving fast cars at their limit for work, I had no unrealistic expectations. It handled well and was comfortable over long journeys. This thing (despite being pranged twice by my wife of the moment) never missed a beat; never failed to start, never failed to get us to our destination, was economical to run, had a huge boot (trunk for you N.Americans), with just me in it would happily hit an indicated 110mph (cough: only on runways of course) and generally speaking was a joy to own. So good was it, for the first time I ever, I finished paying for it before I sold it - and even then I only did so because I was about to emigrate! Otherwise I'd have kept it another few years. The unmitigated success of this car would strongly influence another purchase some years later.
My apologies for the picture but finding one online isn't as easy as I thought. this one is the same colour and spec. as mine was...what is it? It's a Rover 216 GSi. It sounds unexciting, I know, but this small(ish) car was a wolf in sheep's clothing...I knew from driving one at work for a couple of years that this little sleeper could show a clean pair of heels to many ostensibly more powerful cars of the day, and would reach and sustain over 125mph. Needing a commuter car, I found a very good example almost around the corner from my home, and took a leap of faith (buying used cars always makes me sweat) although I haggled hard. I was lucky - the car, despite not being low mileage, was a little corker. It never smelled quite right inside (and I didn't like to speculate why that might be) but the mechanical side of things was as good as I had hoped. It was a little rocket ship, embarrassed Golf GTis and was all round tremendous fun to drive with enthusiasm. All this was due to the fact that under the rather staid boring Rover skin, most of the engineering had been done by Honda - 'nuff said? I'd have happily kept this car for many years, but the criminal fraternity had different ideas, and it was stolen from a hotel car park while I was in residence attending a training course. Two weeks later it was recovered, having been used in a series of armed robberies ("honest guv, it wasn't me!") in a nearby major city. Needless to say I didn't want it back with that kind of history, but lady luck must have felt it was time for me to have a break, because the 'write off' payment I received for the car was very generous indeed and it turned out that the 'book value' of the car was more than I had negotiated to but it in the first place!
I always wanted a Saab. I aspired to have one, and when I received the insurance pay - out for the Rover, I had the means to get one, but only by once again doing some hard haggling with the previous owner. A 1993 Saab 93 in bright red was my reward. I loved the Saab idiosyncrasies but most of all I loved the fact that I had one of the safest cars on the road. I'd dealt with a number of accidents involving them, and almost universally the occupants escaped unscathed - even after a roll-over in one case. I knew that I had made a good choice. It wasn't flashy, it wasn't especially 'cool', but I really loved my Saab (while my wife drove/crashed the Primera). It was quiet, smooth, and felt like a much bigger car. the dashboard swept around me, full of dials and switches (which I liked) and it had a truly fantastic sound system. It was a motorway mile-muncher above all, but through the 'twisties' it was quite capable too. This car had that hard-to-define quality which made it relaxing and yet fun to drive quickly. I would happily own one (even of this vintage) today. Once again, it had to go due to our family's emigration to Canada, and this was the last car I owned in the United Kingdom, selling it mere days (for the only time, making a profit as I did so)before we waved farewell to England's shores...
Grumpy middle aged git moaning about stuff and occasionally trying to be funny.