Not that I know anything about cars you understand, but I do like them as both aesthetic objects and modes of transport and I always have. My Mum doesn’t drive; my Dad, being a complete loser, always had clunkers, so I’ve been familiar with the hill start since before I was old enough to get out and push. I prefer old cars: give me chrome bumpers and spoke wheels, limited suspension, rain creeping in through the windows, a broken fan belt that, in a pinch, can be replaced with a pair of tights.
Of course, the concept of the car is inherently romantic to me. At least in my head, it’s all about movement and, ultimately, freedom, all of which is incredibly seductive. It’s been a transitional time recently, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever settle in one place for long, and beyond that, if I should even worry about my tendency to wander? So, when I think about how I’ll use a car, I think about flinging a bag into the boot and driving away.
I’ll drive for the sake of it, slightly too fast along twisty-turny roads, or quietly cruising with the windows down and the stereo playing. If I’m going somewhere specific, I take the long route, disliking traffic and because I’d rather enjoy the journey. At night I prefer to be driven, though, because my eyes deal poorly with headlights in the dark and then I’m free to admire the night sky. I suppose it’s because it seems to be exactly how my family spent every single Bank Holiday when I was a kid, but I even like sitting in a car at the seaside in the rain, while the windows slowly mist up. Over the years, I have eaten, drunk, slept, cried, sung, laughed, had intimate conversations, changed clothes, fallen out, made up and made out in cars. That’s a lot of living going on.
At the moment I’m trying to decide which car to buy, and I’m having a lot of fun on websites like pistonheads.co.uk, getting sidetracked into wondering how I can afford a Bugatti Veyron (answer: it would be massively aspirational ever to hope even to so much as get a whiff of its exhaust fumes). After all those years driving an automatic in the US, I’m determinedly moving back to manual. Driving an automatic is easier, but it’s a lazy and disengaged way to drive and I worry that it makes it seem that you don’t need to concentrate as much. I’m afraid practicality is not high on my list, so I’m looking at two seats and probably, comparatively low mpg for 2-litre, 4-6 cylinder engines doing 0-60 anywhere between 8.9 and 11 seconds. Despite my classic car dreams, the reality is that I don’t have a garage and I can’t give a classic the tlc it deserves. That seems enough of a compromise for me not to be making many others. Currently under consideration? BMW Z3 (there is a gorgeous custom one in dark purple with cream nappa upholstery – I’ve been told they’re not a driver’s car, but I’m not a driver’s driver); Smart Roadster (which would actually be a borderline sensible choice, and I do like their styling, but not sure about the untried paddle-shift gears); maybe an MGF? I think what’s going to happen is I’ll get the cash in my hand and see what takes my fancy on the day (and what my personal car advisory service approves). And then I’ll drive away.