In late October I got a new second-hand car, my first 'new' car in 16 years. She's small, economical and exciting, and you'll meet her soon. But first, a travel through time and bad 80s hair.
This is Herbie, my first car. My Mum received him as a Christmas present in 1963, when he was brand new. I took him over on his 21st birthday in 1984. I learned to drive on Herbie, as well as on a 6 cylinder automatic Ford Falcon - two more different cars you couldn't imagine. Herbie is still going strong. I sold him to a mate ten years ago as he had a lot of rust and I couldn't afford to get it fixed. My plumber friend, a whiz with oxy-acetelene, virtually rebuilt the little chap and he looks lovely these days. As nice as new.
The Ford years. 1980 to 1989. The Ford on the left is the one I learned on. At that stage I had a horse and trailer, and needed a big car to pull the trailer. I could go into a long story here about divorced parents and a guilty Dad sending a cheque for birthdays and Christmas. The short story is that I saved up those cheques to buy the car and trailer when I was old enough to have a licence. So that's the white Ford. In 1982 I got a job at a Ford dealership and when the pretty silver one on the right was traded in, I nabbed it. It was swish: a Fairmont Ghia with all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a 1984 car. I sold the white Ford to my uncle, who had it for years then sold it to his stepson. I think it's long gone to the car graveyard now.
This is my fave pic of the Fairmont, taken at Palm Beach. By then I was dating a rev head, a Ford fanatic who had convinced me to lower the car and fit extractors. It went very well after that, shall we say.
Once I'd stopped taking my horses to shows - I had two horses over the years, and sold my ex-racehorse on to someone who could handle him better than I, but that's another blog post - I had no need of a thirsty big car or the trailer. I sold the trailer and traded the car on a second-hand yuppie delight, a car described by Wheels magazine as 'the executive rocket': a 1983 BMW 323i coupe. With, as you can see, sunroof. I was also tired of automatic transmission cars as I much prefer manual, and the Bimmer was a 5 speed as all my cars have been from then on. At this point in time - late 1989 - I was still dating the rev head and also doing OK in the corporate world. I convinced myself I could afford the car. Buying it wasn't too much of a problem, but it had some mechanical issues as time went on. For example, the driver's seat. The previous owner must have been a biiiiiig man - the driver's seat was buggered from, presumably, a fat arse plonking itself heavily onto it for the first six years of its life before I bought it. Within a year I had to drive with two bricks under it to hold it up and finally relented and bought a new one. Not cheap. I had the Bimmer for eight gloriously fun years until the engine blew up.
I have fun memories of fast country drives and my friend Phil standing up in the passenger seat one Chinese New Year, sticking up through the sunroof and shouting Gung Hei Fat Choy at startled motorists and passers-by on Burns Bay Road. Happy days!
Looking down the barrel of maintaining an ageing Bimmer and its increasingly expensive parts made me think it was time to buy something new from the showroom floor which would give me several years of relatively cheap trouble-free motoring. Bimmer never went terribly well after the necessary engine rebuild, so while I was still in corporate land and earning okay money I bought Gisela the Golf in 1996. She was the 'poverty pack', the base model and all I could realistically afford as I didn't want to go through finance (I got a bank loan for some, and borrowed from the Ford-owning uncle for some more). I DID miss the sunroof! I was going to put one in Gisela but, trying to save to buy a house, never got around to it.
Gisela wasn't as fast as the Bimmer, she didn't handle as well and even though she was more economical the particular type of fuel injection she was fitted with was prone to throwing out stinky unburnt fuel. My first love was a VW though and I'd hankered on and off for a Golf since they came to Australia in 1976. So 1996 to 2011 were the Golf years. I did many country trips in her: monthly trips to Canberra for work for four years, up to Mudgee at least half a dozen times and down the south coast of NSW an equal number or more. Gissy's air-conditioning broke five years ago - the compressor failed - and now I was earning much less than the corporate days, I couldn't afford to fix it. I boiled in summer, especially in peak hour driving when I couldn't go fast enough to get a decent breeze through the windows. Other pricey parts of her anatomy were starting to show their age, too.
Enter the Mid Life Crisis car. Meet Minerva. My husband has recently landed a fulltime job with decent money (glad one of us is earning a proper salary!) and insisted that I replace Gisela with something newer and more reliable. I tossed up between another Golf (cheapish to maintain) or a new MINI (not so cheap to maintain as they are built by BMW but hell, they are just gorgeous!). I test drove this five year old MINI and within five minutes it felt like I was driving my old Bimmer again, with so much nippiness under my foot and handling that was dead flat around tight bends. Not to mention the huge sunroof. I was in love. We did the sums and I have bought Minerva in my business name on hire purchase with affordable monthly payments. The tax breaks are superb. She is also very economical and much kinder on the environment than Gisela.
Amusingly, all my transport now is British-made: the Pashley, the Raleigh and now the MINI. All beautifully designed, too, and each fulfils its need for a mix of transport and pleasure.