Tuesday, 17 January 2012

COLUMN - January 2012

Here is my January column from The Local Herald. Being the first month of the year I decided to write about another first; when people buy their first car. Enjoy!...

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas, and is raring to go in 2012. So for the first month of this New Year, I’ll kick off talking about another first. It’s the teenage dream of most boys… I’m referring to the day they get their first car. What makes this day so special is the freedom, the endless possibilities, the bragging rights and the sense of becoming a man. Having a car is a significant step to independence; not having to rely on parental transport gives good social credibility.

However the reality is far from this. Most young lads will be a long way off being able to afford insurance for anything with an engine and four wheels. I remember looking for insurance and some of the quotes I got back were ridiculous. We’re talking £5-6k in cases, for basic cars. Try it. Go on one of these comparison websites, and fill in all the details as if you are 17 and have just passed your test. Then pop in your registration and be amazed at the difference in premium between what you pay now and what a 17 year old would have to.

I think the most significant downfall of young people looking at cars is the incomparability; having no experience of buying cars means it’s hard to tell the difference between a genuine bargain and a shed. Couple this with the ability to ignore faults and make excuses, and there are some fantastic tales of people’s first cars.

I don’t think this is a bad thing though. Ask people what their first car was and they’ll be able to tell you. They’ll also be able to tell you lots about it, and all the stories surrounding it. First cars are memorable, and I think this is partly down to the little niggles we overlook when buying them. Obviously this isn’t the case when cars are new, but people still remember their first.

Take my first car for example. After passing my test in 2008 aged 17, it took me until 2009 to buy my first car. It was an 8 year-old Citroën Saxo with 66,000 miles. Doesn’t sound bad, especially considering it was the 1.6 VTR; a sporty little car. In gleaming black, I was endlessly proud of this car. An outsider would find it hard to imagine why…

The power steering worked when it wanted to, the suspension clunked and rattled, the handbrake couldn’t have held a pillow on a hill, never mind a car. The engine management light glared at me constantly, and the driver’s window slowed at the top to the point you had to start winding it up 5 minutes before you arrived to prevent being delayed.

However despite all this I loved this car. Maybe it was the sporty looks and big engine compared to all my friends 1.1 and 1.2 cars. But more likely it was the nature of the car; a French hot hatch. They’re marvellous. Basic cars with big engines, it’s a recipe that translates into a fun car to drive. Yes, the pedals are too close together, there’s no ABS, no traction control, one airbag and basic trim. But they handle like big go-karts and are nippy. It made a fantastic first car for me and people who have driven them will agree they’re fun little cars.

I loved that car to the point that when I sold it, I went and bought another one. Ultimately, the faults don’t matter; if anything they’re the reason we love the cars. So can you remember your fist car? And were there niggles you ignored when buying it that turned into loveable features? I’ve a feeling I’m not the only one; first cars are special in their own little way…
Dan

2 comments:

  1. You're right about your first car.
    Mine was a sign-witten Escort van bought for £250. It had done 100k but had a recon engine of unknown age/mileage, sills that resembled lacework and a broken CV joint in the propshaft that meant i had to drive it 8 miles home at no more than about 10 mph!
    Prop-shaft from a scrappies, bit of welding, lots of rubbing down, 2 Toyota Celica high-back reclining seats, sporty steering wheel and it looked great (in my eyes anyway).
    Went all over the country in it, John O'Groats, Cornwall, got nicked, got it back again and then some scroats who had robbed a bank stoved into the side of us near Hyde Park corner in London. Managed to drive it back home to Manchester, patched it up and the sold it for £60! Not a bad return for 3 years use!
    Memories!

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  2. This helps to prove my point about remembrance and stories!
    Sounds to me like you had a good one. It's a shame about the crash and dare I say you would have maybe kept it longer had that not happened!
    I think you picked up on another good point with the comment about it looking good in your eyes. Others never see it in the same light as you do, and you have a sense of pride that others will fail to understand!

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