Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The trouble with cars

It is a sad day today.

My car has been given a terminal diagnosis. "No-one else in my family seems to have this problem", I thought earlier today when I was feeling sorry for myself. But I have remembered a few incidents now, which must have bought despair to their owners at the time.

Both my grandparents owned Morris Minors or Morris 1000s when I was little and many fun outings took place in them. One Nana was a more nervous driver than the other. Although I don't remember it, I apparently once told her what I thought of her bunny-hopping across an intersection. Another time she mixed the pedals or the gears up and went the wrong way out of the garage.

My other Nana loved her car and the independence it gave her. She drove to Auckland frequently, and even to Wellington once. Her much loved Morrie, now named Elsie in her honour has been passed about the family since her death 23 years ago. First to my cousin, then an aunt, then my Dad and now my brother. No heating, and originally no seat belts or radio, pull out buttons for the choke and ignition. Life was so simple. Nana changed gears like she was driving a truck and wore out several clutches over the 20 years she owned her car.

Once in the school holidays, she took my brother and me to the pool at Cambridge and on the way back steam started pouring out from the bonnet. No cellphones then, my brother walked for a few miles to a garage to get water. I cant remember if he walked back, or if someone gave him a ride. Not many 11 or 12 year olds would do that nowadays. I think he must have got a ride, because somehow we ended up being towed somewhere to get a hose replaced before we could make our way home.

A couple of cars my parents owned were troublesome too. We thought it was comical when we were little, but then we didn't understand the "what ifs" or have to pay the bill.

The first car I remember was a Ford Prefect complete with running boards. It didn't like going up the Kaimai hills on our way to the Mount and would overheat frequently. Friends of my parents also had a Prefect and we used to leapfrog our way over the hill. Them passing us on one bend as we waited for the car to cool down some, then us passing them a few bends later while they did the same.

Once during the summer holidays we were driving from Milford Sound to Dunedin over unsealed roads when the car (Hillman Super Minx) began to make a strange noise. I think we had to be towed to some little town which had a garage and lots of dust and not much else. It was something with the wheel or the axle, I cant remember now if the wheel had actually sheared off or whether it fell off when the mechanic inspected it. The part had to come from Dunedin, so a very long hot boring afternoon was spent waiting in that town.

Another time, with maybe the same car. We drove to town on Friday night to go to the Library. As we turned left in to the street where the Library was there was an almighty thud, screech and sparks...and then the back wheel rolled on past the car along the street as we wondered what had happened. I think we went home in a tow truck that night.

There was the car my friend and I bought off another friend for $50 because he couldnt afford to get it fixed. It had a noisy muffler, so being resourceful girls we superglued a 10 cent piece of the hole and Bingo ! no noise. We made a fair profit on that one.

The next car debacle I remember was one we bought cheap at the auctions. $180 I think. It had been pink stickered, but we got it going and registered pretty cheaply. Then we set off to drive to northern New South Wales for Christmas and it kept overheating. We spent an interminable amount of time at a garage near Newcastle with a 6 month old baby. At least there was grass, and coffee and no dust. They couldn't work out the problem so we carried on with the journey albeit much slower than we had planned, using lots of coolant. On our way home it was no better and we called in at the same garage thinking it had to be a gasket....only to find it was that the head was not bolted down tight and was letting the water out ! How did they miss that ?

Then there is this car, which has just been a bucket to throw money at for the past few years. Every time I think I will sell it, some thing major happens. But I am not prepared to put another reconditioned motor in it. I am annoyed as it has new tyres, battery and registration though, so I don't want to just give it away.

You would think that having a great grandfather who was one of the earliest taxi drivers at the turn of the last century that I should have a bit of luck with automobiles.

Can I live without a car though ?