Petrol head with a difference

2013-06-12 00:00

I KNOW there is a lot of excitement about the Top Gear show that is happening in Durban this weekend and far be it from me to rain on its parade. This is obscene motoring exhibitionism, with the leather seats, mag wheels, computerised dash boards; in fact, I am sure we are minutes away from having autopilot.

But I have to admit that far from admiring the latest in motoring technology, I am one of those rare petrol heads who disguises herself in an old car — out of necessity really.

In my dreams, I am really a female version of The Stig. My uncle once took me on a trip to watch his prized Cadillac lap the track at a stock-car gig and since then I have been hooked. It is not the fancy schmancy cars that swish past me on the highway that get my attention, but rather the old tjorries that look like they are on their last wheels that I secretly admire.

I love to watch the expression on the face of a driver, ensconced in his luxury vehicle, roaring up the N3, when he notices someone flashing him with his or her lights. Well, of course this is a little rude, but his surprise turns to sheer astonishment when it’s a 1976 old Escort painted some hideous green colour.

These dinosaur relics may have been souped up or given a magical kiss of life, but I love it when they manage to leave the new-age mechanical Casanovas in the dust.

I am blessed to have a mechanic who understands my car and I suspect he knows my secret. But he is the master of tact and diplomacy.

His workshop is so clean, I could eat off the floor — that’s why I like him. Most workshops are grubby, filthy hovels and their owners are a bit like Hobbits living in a cave of mechanical debris. My mechanic is like a surgeon — quiet and precise. To his credit, he has never yet laughed at the noises I have made to describe my car’s ailments.

The scrapes under my car are from leaping over speed bumps, and the worn bearings are from screeching around corners too fast. An orange traffic light is a challenge to someone like me who puts foot on the pedal.

If I had a new car, I would simply have to give up my secret life as a dare devil and drive sedately from A to B. My car doubles up as a suitcase — my daughter uses the back seat as a changing room and restaurant, and I am sure if we ever managed to prise the carpets out, we would find bubble-gum residue that is centuries old. It would be a challenge for the scientific labs of the CSI to identify DNA from it.

If any steamy sex scenes happened in the back seat of my car, I wouldn’t know about it. My car was bought from an old man who lived in Middelburg. Somehow, I don’t think Middelburg is the hotbed of kinky sex.

I once had a set of matching hubcaps. But I think I am now down to two. The others have been lost, thanks to potholes and dirt roads.

My car radio does not work and when I lived in Johannesburg this was a plus, but nowadays my children object to my singing. They plug in their cellphones at the opening bars to my version of Country Roads. They call me Lady Gaghaha when I try to act hip. I shall have to invest in a radio one of these days.

My air conditioner gave up the ghost a few years ago and now we use the windows. It’s a bit tricky in the mist, but I have honed these life-and-death situations with my Stig-like driving skills. I could teach The Stig a thing or two about free-wheeling down Townhill to save petrol.

I have tried to imagine what I would look like behind the wheel of a Ferrari or a Porsche, and I just don’t think it would match my carefully cultivated image of no-name-brand hippie child.

I could see myself behind the wheel of a nifty little 4x4, but they are so ungreen. I mean what about the planet? Nah, I will just stick to my recycled car and hope that it survives long enough to be handed down to the next generation.

But if James May, self-deprecating hottie of the series, personally invites me to go and see the new models on display, I would have to go … my mother told me never to be rude.


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