You’ve heard it before – never buy a builder’s house or mechanics car. It makes sense because who in their right mind wants to spend hour upon hour on their own property or car for free… in their spare time. Often as not, a house or a motor owned by said tradesmen tends to resemble something from Chernobyl or a death trap best fit for a banger circuit. In the past, my own bangers have tended to be tidy machines but I have driven and owned my fair share of dirty, rotten and rattling heaps in the days when an old car could be purchased for as little as twenty fags. You think I’m kidding eh? Well let me warn you dear reader – I’m not!
Over the years and more so when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I’ve witnessed a Chrysler Horizon be swapped for a 5yr old Jack Russell bitch, a rotten but legal Renault 14 exchanged for a pair of “Wharfedale Delta 3” speakers and an unloved ex Gas Board Marina van with no engine change hands for 20 Embassy and a case of Belgian lager. Cars were much cheaper back then and much to my late father’s disdain, I used to change my cars like the weather, subsequent hammering and grinding would take place on the drive or in the garage during long Summer evenings until one of my parents would threaten me with physical violence if I didn’t stop.
There was a small “click” of us who all passed their driving tests around the same time (I was first to do so) and then the 12 speed Raleigh’s would rust away in the garden shed as we threw ourselves around the County in our first cars. Very quickly, we would gain adept skills in fitting car stereo equipment, CB radios… or in my case, front driving lamps – and lots of them. You never forget the smell of hot melting plastic coming from the steering column thanks to a billion watts of halogen power simply scotch-locked to the full beam terminal of the headlamp on tired old car – relays??? No idea what you’re talking about mate!
But soon you learn the hard way, in my case when I connected the radio cassette player to the back of the fag lighter in my mates Marina 1.8 Super. It all went rather well as we drove around the town listening to Guns n Roses on his Sparkomatic tape deck which was all fine and dandy until some-one pushed the lighter in. All of a sudden our friend Axl turned into Jim Reeves as the tape slowed down to a grinding halt followed by a puff of grey smoke and a worrying smell of hot solder. Screeching to a stop, all the wires were quickly plucked from the back of the centre console and the rest of the evening’s entertainment came in the form of silence.
I confess to have no time for electricity, I understand the physics of it and am more than capable of swapping batteries / alternators and so on – but that’s it really. A former senior work colleague described a short circuit or a burning component as “letting the Genie out of the bottle” or in other words – the magic has gone. But the award to the electrical dunderhead of all time has to go to a fellow trainee mechanic I worked with called Simon. I sold him my 1.6 Ghia Cortina of V plate vintage on the understanding that it needed a new wiper motor fitting as the blades longer self parked and the wipe speeds were much slower than they should have been – in other words the motor was dying.
It became a bit of a standing joke with Simon because if we hadn’t seen each other for a while, I would greet him with “changed that wiper motor yet Simon?” Which of course… he never did. After a few months the weather turned as the leaves dropped off the trees and one wet Monday morning he was over 3 hours late for work. The usual greeting was given to him whereby he just walked passed me muttering expletives under his breath to the tune of suggesting I should go forth and multiply. It was only in the canteen did I probe further to find out the reason of his unusual moody attitude – “it’s that bloody car you sold me” he said.
Well, it turned out that the car had started blowing the wiper fuse regularly to which his repair was to use a fuse of higher capacity. When the higher rating fuses started to blow, the next rating would be inserted – not ideal really. His reason for being late revolved around the fact his car had gone up in flames in busy traffic thanks to his latest fuse blowing technique of wrapping the ceramic fuse with the base of the beef and onion pie he had eaten just that Saturday. An eagle-eyed senior fire fighter had spotted this and mentioned it to a traffic bobby who had also been called out to the debacle and Simon was told in no uncertain terms that he might be facing legal action.
Simon and I recently recalled the aforementioned tale of doom on the phone after being out of touch for many years and it’s nice to be back in touch.
Let’s raise a glass to Simon Needham – AROnline’s latest fan!