Well, I just entered the Top Gear “My First Car” competition, hoping to win a trip to the show for hunter and I. I’ve watched so much Top Gear in the last few weeks, I’m starting to sound like jeremy Clarkson. Anyway, I originally misread the rules and wrote a 1000 word story, then discovered it was a 1000 character limit … sigh, here’s the story i wrote, just for posterity:
I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a nerd. From the very early days, learning to program in BASIC in the back of my dad’s photo studio, to placing 5th in the 1993 world final computer programming competition. When I was 16, my dad set out, after much badgering, to teach me to drive. Forty five minutes later, he stormed inside, deeming me unteachable, leaving my mum and granddad to teach me to drive. But what my dad did manage to do, was buy me my first car: a 1969 Vauxhall Victor. A whole year older than I was. I was the first of my friends to have a car, and what a car it was. Originally silver, but by the time I inherited it in 1986, a matt/shiny patina-ed grey was it’s general tone. My best friend Steve, christened it the “Silver Sausage” due to the colour and general body shape. The Victor couldn’t decided if it was a muscle car, a boring family sedan, or a shag mobile. It had the haunches and legs of a true muscle car, a 2.5L v4 muscle car. The soft ride and amenities of a family sedan. Finally, it had the red vinyl upholstery of a true shag mobile.
One of my most interesting moments in the Silver Sausage was the horn incident. Between my high school and home was a small junkyard. Late one summer, I was walking home and came across an old truck horn, lying in the gutter outside the junkyard. It was huge, two horns, coupled together with a grimy piece of wire. I hollered “Oi, can I have this?” to the junkyard workers, which was met with a noncommittal “yeah whatever”. I grabbed it and ran home. This was my first “mod” to my car. I managed to extricate the original horn, jerry rig a mounting bracket, and wire it up. HOOOOOOOONK. Holy crap, what a horn. The silver sausage sounded like a frigging Kenworth! Of course, not everything went according to plan. A week later, around 2am on a Sunday morning, I was dropping off a mate at his flat, just off Buchanan Street. My hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand boasts the steepest street in the world: Baldwin Street. Buchanan is right at the top. It was a quiet, dark, still night in Dunedin in the sleepy north east valley. As I turned onto Buchanan, the horn stuck on. No manner of hitting the steering wheel, horn, or dashboard would stop it. There I was with my new truck horn blaring through the quiet Dunedin night. I managed to drive quickly to the Botanical Gardens, away from most of the homes in the area, where I stopped the car. Turned off the engine, the horn still blaring I opened the bonnet trying to work out why. I had managed to short the wire against the chassis. I finally ripped the wires out of their connections, stopping the awful noise, and silencing the North East Valley once and for all.
I got rid of my first car after what henceforth shall be known as the steering wheel incident. I was driving to see a friend in Mosgiel, a small town just outside Dunedin. I was slightly dressed up, meeting a friend, who was a girl, for lunch. For me and my social life, it was a pretty big day. Of course, I was running late. I rushed along the motorway, at the limit you could do, avoiding obvious speed traps a few miles per hour above the limit all the way. There was something off about the Silver Sausage, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Had one of my wheels lost a counterweight and gone out of balance? What was that slight wobble? No time to worry about it now as I drove, calmly into Mosgiel. Mosgiel is a small town of about 15,000 jovial kiwis with small shops, familiar second hand car yards, the odd supermarket and people strolling through the peaceful afternoon. Mosgiel, having been built much later than Dunedin, and with more land and forethought had much wider, more reasonable streets than most of my hometown.
Barely 3 minutes late, I turned left onto my friends street, my heart rate finally dropping back into the normal range, I was on time! Or close to it. As I drove along the wide Mosgiel street, I picked a spot to execute a smooth u-turn and pull up, dramatically, right in front of my friends house. As I entered the turn, I had a premonition, something was gonna happen. A few seconds later, perpendicular to the road, BANG, whizzzzzzz something deep inside the steering on the silver sausage broke, the steering wheel spun in my hand. PANIC, wait, DON’T PANIC. I slammed the brake, stopped mid street, akimbo to traffic. Oh my. What had happened. I tested the wheel, sure enough it turned, but was totally disconnected from the steering. I was stuck, in the middle of the road, unable to turn. I rallied quickly, pushing my car gently towards the curb. Of course, to actually turn the wheels, I had to get out, kick the tires, to make them stay turned. After 15 minutes of pushing, kicking, grunting, and inventing swear words, I finally got the car pulled up to the curb. Now I was late, sweaty, grimy, and without a mode of transportation. What a fabulous lunch date, this was turning out to be.
I loved my car. It was huge. So totally not me, and yet, it defined my high school and early university years. I was the guy with the car, the guy with the silver sausage, the guy with the red vinyl interior. When I look back, I’d really not do it any other way. Now I just with I could buy a Vauxhall for my kids, but living in the US, I don’t think that’ll be on the cards.