My car has been hauled off to some unknown destination. I said a proper goodbye with some sadness… just in case she doesn’t make it home again. Judging by the puddle beneath the radiator, it wouldn’t surprise me if the goodbye was final… or perhaps she was weeping too. Possibly in green-eyed frustration at the great, shiny beast that was sitting in her accustomed place before the lorry even took her away.
Both recovery vehicle and loan car came at the same time, so the changeover was smooth and gave me little time for reflection. I was too busy thinking where I could find a booster cushion so I could reach the pedals… After having adjusted the seat in every way I could think of, I am still an inch or two short of comfort. I can see me padding it with pillows so I can sit on the edge of the seat. It won’t be the first time.
I’d even had to have a false floor built in my first Mini. Not only are the legs short, but the feet are small too, so even if I can reach the pedals, I place the heel on the floor and there is wiggle room between toe and pedal. The only car I have ever been able to say really fit my challenged verticality was the MR2. This one might as well be built for giants. And it feels like I’m driving a tank.
“They’re built for humans…” I was informed. From a safe distance. Like… a couple of hundred miles…
I wouldn’t mind, I used to drive one of these things for work… thousands of relatively comfortable miles… but the older model was smaller, with pedals more accessible to little short legs. And it didn’t try and do anything without me.
This one does. It has a mind of its own… a computer. Since when has the internal combustion engine needed a computer? “Suck, squeeze, bang, blow”… it shouldn’t need to be more complicated than that. Nor should you have to wait for a car to reboot before you can turn on the ignition. Even then, it won’t start unless you have pressed everything you are supposed to press, fastened everything and basically done as the car tells you. Which somehow seems wrong… I thought it was supposed to be the other way round.
Opening the bonnet feels like delving into completely unknown territory…I wouldn’t know where to start with maintenance on this thing… I can’t even identify half the bits. So much for learning my way around.
And the clutch bites like a rabid dog, whereas mine is worn silky smooth. Okay, it needs replacing… but honestly, this thing is vicious!
With the Mini, I had dutifully stripped the elderly engine down to learn about how it worked before putting it back together again. I had replaced the valves… grinding them, to my mentor’s horror, on the end of an electric drill instead of gently and by hand. Oven cleaner and Brillo pads had seemed a reasonable solution to years of oil leaks and carbon and my mentor nearly had a heart attack when he found me boiling the brakes in detergent to remove spilled oil… but it worked.
“You know how to put it in gear, don’t you?” The nice gentleman who delivered it was trying to be helpful… I’ve driven most things from sports cars to vans and lorries. Yes, I could probably manage to put it in gear… unless I had to put in a carefully worded request in triplicate these days rather than shift the stick.
I know that the older engines are not fuel efficient. I know they needed to be upgraded, updated and preferably replaced with something less damaging to the environment. I have to wonder if that would not have been a better direction for the designers to take, though, than seeing how much they could out-do each other in sticking extra knobs, lights and curlicues on the dashboard. I have to wonder sometimes at our desire for more all the time… and our need to display it, duly encouraged by the commercial magicians that make us believe we really need it. We just can’t leave things alone. It always has to be bigger, better, shinier, faster…
I’ rather find a balance between simplicity and progress…somewhere between keeping it so simple there is little to go wrong and what there is, is easily fixed… and enough progress to actually make things really better, not just looking good.
Maybe I’m just a reactionary…or getting old… or just like classic cars…
Or maybe I should stop procrastinating, be grateful I have wheels at my disposal…and take the tank out for a proper drive…