No contest!

Susan James

From this…

Renault Clio
Renault Clio

to this…

Rover 216GTI
Rover 216 GTi

Yes, I have relieved Keith of the burden of his boomerang and, yes, she is as pretty as her picture.

I did ask myself why I would go and buy a car five years older, with twice the mileage and sight unseen, but any fears I had were unfounded. Yes, there is a slight ding in the front wing, a chipped headlight, no radio and the wheels need balancing and tracking, but I think I can forgive that! Good grief, it is 20 years old and in damn fine condition for all that. Thanks to all the guys who put their time, effort and hard earned pennies into her that I might reap the benefit.

It has leather armchairs, not dirty deckchairs, a bit of wood, real plastic, and some electric things. The engine will do rather more (ok, a lot more) than pull the skin off a rice pudding and (this is a big one for me) the 216GTi has power steering! My last two cars were sadly lacking in this department and I have to say that, when wending round the winding roads and devious diversions down here in Devon, this is probably the third biggest advancement in automotive engineering you can experience. (The first two are a fan on the front screen and a heater on the back – ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” – Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi, for those too young to remember and, for those who do, welcome to the ‘Oh my god, where did it go’ club).

Anyway, after a few re-arrangements, (and those who know Keith will understand what I mean), he brought Rover – cars are female, got to think of a better and more appropriate name – round on Saturday at about 7pm after a photography session down the road. He followed his SatNav and I got a not unexpected call advising me he was not sure where he was in relation to where he should be.

Keith had, as it happened, passed the turn to the meeting place I had suggested and was parked almost under my flat window. Which was fine, except I had decided to walk over and meet him. Two minutes later we were united, ten minutes after that I had had my first drive and we were parking in a local hostelry.

A cold Kronenberg 1664 later, and I was much refreshed. There are times when only a cold one will do. Keith looked a little better too. I get a feeling that could be misinterpreted, but never mind, I’ll press on. We chatted for a while, cars, roads, the geography of the UK, set the world to rights a bit – the answer was 42.

Having picked up a menu earlier, we thought this would be a good time to eat. Instructions on menu, decide on food, got to bar, order, giving table number, return and wait. Keith did the honours and disappeared. A few minutes late, my phone dinged announcing the arrival of a text message. Cool, probably a friend wondering where I was. Wrong! It was from much closer, namely the bar…

‘Btw, what table are we on?’ I mildly embarrassed myself by laughing out loud and the answer was half the answer to ‘Life, the Universe, Everything’ which we had already worked out as 42, just my age, 21. (ish!). Turned out the queue was horrendous, thanks for being a gentleman Keith, and he didn’t want to lose ‘our’ place. Anyway, all ended well, we had a delicious meal, I had another half with it, and we headed for my flat.

I now have two cars, Keith has none.

The Clio is well past its sell-by date, with some big alloys (a good deal a couple of years ago when I needed new tyres and the steels were rusty, and the four came to little more than I could have paid for tyres alone) which are now worth more than the car itself. Other faults include a whining wheel bearing, small split in top of header tank, door lock barrels keep falling out, screen is kept cool or cooler depending on ambient temperature outside by virtue of movement alone, wafting up with no mechanical assistance whatsoever.

Okay in summer, not so in winter! Only way to stop it freezing your ears is to turn the fan on, which then only blows on one’s feet, but any temperature you like. Then there are the brakes or rather lack of them. The rears have been threatening to die for ages – definitely sounds of metal on metal – but, as there is no weight on the back, it’s not been an issue as long as you didn’t have to stop in serious hurry. Not likely round here, nothing moves that fast anyway!

I had a feeling that they might just get a red sheet this MoT though! Add that to all the various dents: one was a football against the boot, someone else thought they were a rally driver and handbrake turned into the side of it in an otherwise deserted car park (I didn’t see either incident and, of course, the perpetrators remained unidentified) but I think the sill was mine.

All the aluminium window surrounds are displaying signs of their constituent materials in powder form and, if it rains heavily while the car is left standing, you get a free shower next time you go round a corner. All in all, a bit sad, though the engine is sound.

So what does my knight in shining say? Bearing in mind Keith’s inherent dislike of any transport that isn’t called a car, you will not be surprised that he volunteered to take the Clio home instead of a train. (No, I don’t mean that literally!) and that a set of alloys will soon be for sale. He’s a very nice man indeed! He got back rather sooner than I expected and the Clio had behaved perfectly. Sad to see it go after three years, but it was time to move on.

Anyway, I am now the proud owner of H23GDF (can’t make a name out of the acronym either). If it serves me as well as it has Keith and others, I will be well pleased. I just hope that I can keep as good a record of its history as everyone else has done and will keep it posted here.

Keith Adams

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