Is it just a lump of metal or is it so much more? What does a car mean to you??
I am by no means a petrol head; only in the terms that I used to love to stand by the pumps as a child when my Mum was filling up the car at the garage!! (I also loved to stand and enjoy the exhaust fumes and was quite partial to the smell of marker pens!! I think the scary adverts in the 80’s prevented me becoming a glue sniffer, along with the unappealing fishy smell of Copydex!!)
So, is a car just a car to you? Are you one of those people who sees it as a means of getting from A to B, or do you name your chariot? Are you a total petrol head and appreciate the horse power (theres only one kind of horse power in my vocabulary, and thats the manure producing type which appreciates pony cubes rather than petrol or diesel as its fuel!) or do you feel a panic attack coming on when the light to refill the wash wipers comes on and need a man to assist with refilling wash wipes, tyres, servicing (of the car!) and refuelling?
I sit a bit on the fence here, in so much as I do appreciate a good car, I can change a wheel, can refill the wash wipers and have been known to wash my own car! (I know!! – but why get cold and wet when the awesome Polish guys do a grand job for £8, so for ease and comfort, I outsource my car washing), But I also name my cars and hold much sentimental value with regards to the adventures we have been on and how my children have grown up with said vehicles. I then freak a bit when an unknown light comes on the dash, and generally phone my husband in a panic!!
I have a heavy right foot, am always late so speed is of the essence, and need to have a vehicle which will ride a bumpy lane as we live 2 miles from civilisation. I also drive over things like mini roundabouts and often have to mount the curb to park on the school run! Like me, I need a vehicle that is not delicate!
The reason I thought I would write a blog post is that I have just received my new car (gorgeous as it is and I am extremely grateful), but I am still mourning the loss of my old one!!
Over the past 10 years we have had a variety of vehicles. After razzing around in a Mazda MX5 – perfect for me and my pooch (god rest her soul) as the wind blew my hair and her shiny labrador ears, my first car as a Mum was Ford Mondeo estate. Perfect for the double buggy and all that came with 2 small boys/babies, but an awful gear box to be driving around town, much better on longer journeys.
The snow of early 2010 saw us stranded on our hill for a week (thank god for living on a farm so tractors were utilised to do the supermarket run! We did get a few funny looks rocking up in to Morrisons’ car park in a Case International tractor!!) So, off we went to swap the estate car for a Jeep Commander, fondly named Hank the Tank! It had 7 seats and was just huge in every way (it was Amercian after all!) It was black and looked like it should belong to a drug dealer not just a mum who only dealt out raisins and discipline!
Hank the Tank was a 3 litre V6 (thats the limit of my technical knowledge when it comes to cars!) It went like poo off the proverbial stick and drank fuel faster than my then greedy baby boy could drink his milk! But Hank had cloth seats and we all know cloth seats and kids just don’t go together!! No amount of stain remover would shift some of their dirty work.
So, we thought we would down size on the engine and fuel consumption that comes with a big engine and a heavy right foot, and opted for the Mazda CX5 again in black. Smart looking vehicle with all the tools (how quickly do you get used to parking cameras hey?!) I missed Hank as I had so many memories of road trips with the kids, how he drove over any terrain and for the size of him, could still corner like he was on rails! (yes, I was an avid viewer of Pretty Woman) But the Mazda was OK and was ticking the boxes until…….the engine light came on!!! I got the book out of the glove box and read “DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE”
Along came the garage tow truck (after the bank holiday I hasten to add!! err what vehicle company don’t cover vehicle recovery on a bank holiday??!), and took away my brand new car! Without entering into huge details, Mazda acted appallingly as it came to light that the brand new car needed a new engine!! Something to do with the Diesel particulate filter?? It was dragging through the cack in the bottom and clogging the engine (told you I wasn’t technical!) and upon research it was a common known fault yet they still continued to sell the vehicles. With wrangling and unhappy exchange, we sent the car back and lost a few £££’s in the process but were glad to be rid.
So, it was back to the drawing board for a new vehicle. Hubby rang me and said to be ready in 15 minutes, we were off to Boston! My mind raced as to what to pack, what would the weather be like?…..Then I realised he meant Boston, Lincolnshire, and not Boston Massachusetts!
Upon arrival at the Land Rover garage, I was naturally drawn to the Range Rovers but told to cast my eyes on the Discovery’s. Being a typical female, I was eliminating them by colour and not really much else. I did love the midnight blue one but the cream/beige interior put me off immediately as I could envisage 2 small boys and their dirty feet making short work of trashing it.
I happily settled on the shiny white one. The Polar Bear, fondly known to me as Desmond the Disco Bus. It was love at first drive. I am barely 5ft 4″ and I loved the fact that I COULD SEE!!! I can only describe it as like putting on your favourite pair of slippers every time I got in it. It was like driving a bus in your favourite armchair! Also described as The Pope Mobile!
Everywhere I went, I could see! Big windows all round. I was able to rest my elbow on the centre consul and the window as for once, I was above window level. Non 4×4/SUV’s are so low, I struggle to get in and out of cars as they’re so low down and the windows begin at head height. Not in the Disco Bus, he was so high! In fact too high for the Euro Tunnel and we had to go in with the caravans and vans when we took him to France! (or rather he took us to France! See, I even refer to him as ‘He’; Who knew cars were gender specific??!)
Brilliant for piling in the kids and with the 2 emergency seats, it was handy when the kids had friends to play after school; Though I was always very outnumbered when I was the driver for 6 boys! It was great to put the back seats down and use it like a van and pop my bike in and go for a cycle with friends – the space was vast. The 2 seats which pulled put up out of the boot were also full sized seats with a proper footwell, unlike Hank The Tank (Jeep Commander) which were only really suitable for children for longer journeys.
It was a love/hate relationship. I loved him, my husband hated him!! My husband is a total petrol head, RainMan-esque in his knowledge of cars and their year and performance ability, a proper driver; He co-drives in a rally car, so appreciates speed but Desmond the Disco just didn’t do it for him. I used to feel almost protective in a motherly way when he described my lovely wheels as ‘it drives like a wounded Rhino’!! That was like a stab to my heart and I just couldn’t accept such a berating towards my beloved automobile.
After 4 years, many miles and lots of gas-guzzling, I was told it was time for Desmond to leave the nest! The sheer thought of not having this white beast in my life anymore filled me with dread. I was so grateful every time I got in to drive and dreaded the day he would finally be gone……
The day came. I went to my lovely Polish friends to have it washed and then spent the next hour or so in the dark, lovingly cleaning (aka mucking out) inside; only to find the guy arrive to say I shouldn’t have bothered as it would go for a full valet!! My husband came out to find me sat in the car in the dark! I was a bit like Mr Benn (I always relate to Mr Benn!) I took one last look…..and then he was gone! It reminded me of the days when I would sell a pony; I would watch them drive off into the distance until they had gone out of view and then I would walk up the path in tears!
I have tried to tell myself “Its only a car”, but I still miss him (it). My new car wasn’t being delivered for a further 2 weeks, so I had several stand-in vehicles in that time! Hubby gave me his Passat for a short while. I giggle as I type as I said “What type of Passat is yours?” he replied with “Volkswagon Passat Alltrack 190BHP with a DSG gearbox and optional 19 inch wheels”! Told you he was a total anorak when it came to cars! To me, it was just a Passat!
On Sunday footy cup match day for the youngest, hubby needed his car to take several boys out for our eldest’s birthday and I was on the footy run in one of the work vans!! Although it was manual (Im a TOTAL Automatic gear box chick), I was quite taken with the Vauxhall Vivaro – Ive realised its a height thing! Being somewhat vertically challenged, I just like to be able to see. And I feel more in control in the ‘sit up and beg’ position as opposed to lots of cars where I feel I’m almost lying down!
Fed up with lending his car out, hubby took me to our local airport (nope, still not a trip to Boston Massachusetts) and a trip to the Avis desk form there on I then spent the week driving a Peugeot 2008. Not a bad driving position, quite spacious and good on long journeys, it was pretty basic, was manual (I’m rubbish, and forget to change gear!) and the boot was horrendous to try and open in wet weather (first world problems I know!!)
Hire car returned and the arrival of Victor the Volvo is here for my next driving chapter. I suppose I am reaching 45 soon, so its time to join the Volvo drivers of the mature world. Another white car for me to add some natural stripes to as I attack the country lanes, Victor is an XC60 so its time again to see if the ‘next size down’ runs more efficiently with the fuel.
I am currently averaging 33 MPG, and I used to get 27MPG from the Discovery (33 to 34 MPG on long journeys). I must admit, I was expecting more than that from the Volvo. Must be that heavy right foot of mine! My husband doesn’t think anyone else goes through fuel, break discs and break pads and tyres like I do! Maybe a ‘drive-like-you-stole-it approach to a Landcover Discovery wasn’t the right one??!
With a huge control panel screen, rather like an iPad, I am already lost when trying to navigate my way around the interior of the XC60. My 11 year old knew instantly that you just need to swipe left and right to get more options. I didn’t. I also didn’t know how to turn down the volume on the radio until one of the school mums pointed it out!!
Volvo are big on safety. So much so, I find myself shouting at the car “I can drive you my bloody self, I don’t need you to steer and break for me”!!! Luckily, I have discovered how to turn off these ‘driver assist’ options! It thinks you’re too close to a car (100 yards away!) Red light flashes, warning sound bleeps and breaks automatically go on!. You exceed the speed limit in the zone you are in (Yes, I know that I shouldn’t), same thing happens. You go anywhere near the white lines and whoosh, back in you go as Mr Invisible has pulled your wheel back in! I WAS NOWHERE NEAR THE BLOODY WHITE LINE!!
Much happier that these things are now switched off, I can actually get to grips with driving the car and see how it handles/performs. I am still trying to find that perfect driving position. Even though I am quite vertically challenged, I do have broad shoulders and a wingspan not dissimilar to an albatross. The seat in my Disco was big and wide and comfy. The Volvo seat has many buttons and levers and dials to alter the driving position but I am still to settle on one and the seat feels narrow across the back. The steering wheel can be adjusted up and down and in or out which is a plus point for one with such a long wingspan.
A week on, and I am getting to grips with Victor. But I still feel like I am cheating on Desmond! I am trying to love Victor as much as I loved Desmond, but I just don’t think the connection is there. I think I just like ’em big!!
Sorry Victor, lovely as you are, to me you are just a lump of metal for now……..