How many of us remember our first girlfriend or boyfriend? It could be that nice fella at the end of your street or you could have been living next door to Alice. We all remember that first crush, don’t we? If you’re reading this next to your current significant other, perhaps it’s not the best time to reminisce aloud.
On the other hand, how many of us remember our first real love? No, not Sally O’Brien “and the way she might look at you” but the first car that was really yours – no asking Mum for the keys, no seeking permission for a spin.
Some of us might be old enough to recall steam-powered cars but if I say Ford Anglia it might ring bells from the 1960s. Think of Harry Potter, only mine never actually flew – 60 M.P.H. on a good day with a strong wind behind it and a long downhill descent. Speed cameras didn’t worry us one bit back then!
It cost me the grand sum of £95. Yes pounds, not euros. The owner wouldn’t drop the price below £100 but then the fan belt snapped as we were haggling and voila -bargaining leverage. We put an old nylon stocking on it in place of the broken belt and got it home. It served loyally for the next three years and only stopped when my then girlfriend broke the rubber band which served as a return spring on the carburettor – did I mention that it was cheap to run?
There was no NCT back then – sure what car didn’t have a hole or two in the floor near the gearbox? No safety belts, no dipping rear view mirrors, no hazard lights, no insurance disc, no fog lights, no side mirrors, no electric windows. The reversing camera never worked either. Probably because we didn’t have one.
We did have our own version of air conditioning, however; we would roll down the windows, maintain an even speed of 30 M.P.H. and it worked fine.
The wipers had one speed: dead slow. In the summer, I always travelled with a plastic bottle of water so I could jump out in traffic, throw some on the windscreen and hop back in before the car ahead moved off. I’d turn on the wipers then and hope for the best. How the heck did we ever manage without all the gizmos that proliferate on our cars these days?
My older brother laughed at the ‘old banger’ and refused to be seen in it.
But then, same brother had a mechanical breakdown in his (very posh) two-litre Rover P6 and the sixteen-year-old one-litre Ford had to tow his pride and joy home – I pulled his car slowly up through our village, waving at everybody we knew. Payback doesn’t come better than that.
I’m not the only one with humble motoring roots: Jeremy Clarkson famously drove a Ford Cortina 1600E in his youth, Wayne Rooney’s first car was a Ford Ka and even Prince William had to start off with a VW Golf GTI.
There are very few of us who start out with Range Rovers and Lamborghinis, and even if we did, where is the fun in that? A first car should be a simple, sturdy affair, so that the driver can learn the basics without the cushion of reversing cameras, sensors or even self-parking technology. It should probably be a little battered already, so he or she doesn’t have to panic every time they get a little too close to the driveway wall. And it certainly shouldn’t have too much power, while they learn to safely negotiate Irish roads.
That said, with tighter insurance rules and stringent NCTs, the era of the banger may now be coming to a close.
What was your first car? Did you enjoy cruising around in your first set of wheels or did you park it away from your mate’s place when you went to visit? Would you admit to owning it now? Tell us about it, dodgy fan belts and all.
Have your say! Editor@limerick.life