Saturday, 27 March 2010

Silver Linings

Driving up to Kendal earlier this week and my brakes failed. Completely. Fortunately it was a relatively gradual process that began with a slightly soft pedal and intermittent warning light and ended with no pedal and no brakes fortunately less that half a mile from where I was headed for a work meeting. At very low speed. And with nothing to hit. Acceleration sense comes in handy sometimes.

The nice man in the garage in Kendal described the Corrado as 'a death trap', but what he actually meant - technically - were that the solid brake lines were badly corroded and one of them had failed allowing brake fluid free to take a guide tour of the outside world instead of doing its job and transmitting hydraulic motion to caliper pistons - bad, slack fluid. So, yes, a death trap. And I can't believe it wasn't spotted six months ago when the car was MOTd.

And yep, feeling lucky that nothing dreadful happened to me or anyone else. And beyond that, I'm not going to dwell on it.

That's old cars for you. They've been around a while, things do get tired and rust and break, a bit like old mountain bikers. The original solid lines are made from steel apparently, which given the propensity of steel to rust seems like a pretty bad idea. The replacements are a copper/nickel alloy with brass fittings, so shouldn't rust. It'll be nice to be able to stop again...

But something good did come out of it. Clive, the work friend I was meeting, offered me a lift to Oxenholme, popped home to get his car, and returned driving a bright red Triumph TR4, a proper old car with walnut dash and funny seatbelts with no inertia reel gizmos and and an engine that has all the refinement of home-brewed wine.

It's low, even after the Corrado, you sort of fall into it then sit around six inches off the ground as other traffic towers over you, I bet Noddy used to feel a bit like this... It's just got a lovely, warm, organic feel to it. But what really makes it special, is that it's the very same car that Clive's dad used to drive when he was little boy. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting in the little red Triumph.

And that, in turn, brought back fond memories of the tiny white Renault Dauphine that my parents owned when I was small and we were still a family. Small enough to stand up in the back - no seat belts back then - and bringing back distant memories of the Hendon Way lined with blossoming trees and slow, bouncy trips out into the countryside to visit our cousins Ben and Rosie, who lived in a magical world -  thatched cottage, a gigantic Great Dane called Bruno and their own orchard complete with a rusty old car as a playroom.

It doesn't really seem to matter than the Dauphine apparently has a 0-60mph figure of 32 seconds. Just thinking about it feels warm and comfortable and simple. Which I suppose is what early childhood is all about. Or maybe just memories of it. And blimey, there's one on Car and Classic right now, peeking out between Renault 5 Turbos - yes, apparently some still exist - and good grief, a Fuego... For some reason that escapes me now, I used to think the Fuego looked great, hmmm...

You have to be a lunatic to buy a French car. And curiously my family had a string of Renaults, a pair of 16s, some 18s and some godawful thing that I can't remember what it was. And my dad, characteristically, when he did eventually do the sensible thing and buy a Volvo, plumped for the sublimely dreadful, mutton dressed as angular lamb, 480ES, the weird coupe thing. A brick? Yes, why not. An Amazon, definitely. But a 480ES, no thanks.

So I guess if Clive and I swapped lives slightly, I'd be restoring a Renault Dauphine. Or maybe a Renault 16, one of the first hatchbacks ever.  Maybe not then. I think I'll stick with the Mk2 GTi thanks.

But it was a lovely, smiley ride to the station. And then there's silver lining number two, one fixed and healthy Corrado VR6 Storm is now sitting in the Kendal Home For Retired Corrados, waiting to be collected and brought home and providing an ideal excuse for a road ride from Peak to Lakes. It'd be rude not to. Hmmm...

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