by Paul Sweeney
I was thinking about the cars I owned back in the 1980s and how I came to have them. I will start in 1982 ... I had moved with my (now ex) wife and young family from Bristol to Birmingham. "Be brave to get on in life" thought I. Yeah, right.
Anyway I had a pale blue M reg Renault 12TL at the time. Not a great choice as it turned out, since it rusted as badly if not worse than British cars of the time, and was also utterly hopeless at going around bends. Lovely in a straight line, but bends? Forget it!
I regularly drove slowly along, trying desperately to avoid a degree of body roll reminiscent of the Titanic's fatal voyage - all the while feeling hugely embarrassed as a long line of traffic built up behind me.
I'm guessing there arent many R12s left, as I had quite a bit of trouble finding a photo of one in the same pale blue as mine; as you can see the car pictured is LHD and has weird wheels, but you get the idea.
One experience with the Renault is indelibly burned in my memory - driving home through central Birmingham on a 6-lane highway near an infamously busy junction called Five Ways, the gear lever suddenly stopped doing anything; I was in 3rd gear and no amount of knob wiggling was going to change it.
I happened to be in an underpass when this happened. The traffic was nose-to-tail, stop/start with no footpaths or hard shoulder and so I had to coax the weedy Renault into moving forward from a standstill in 3rd gear on an uphill incline - several times. The engine roared impotently and smoke billowed from the clutch, but eventually I made it with much cursing and sweating.
Eventually I managed to pull off the road and looked underneath the car. Even to my relatively untrained eye, the cause was obvious; there was a linkage hanging loose directly under the gear lever.
Luckily the plates holding the thing had holes for the nuts & bolts which had previously been holding this crude contraption together, so I simply measured the holes and bought new ones of a similar size. Lying on the ground, I bolted the linkage back together and - success! My car was good as new .. or good enough, anyway.
Not long afterwards, I decided my experiment with having a French car was a definite failure. I resolved to buy something more sensible, so I set off to the car dealers in the fair city of Birmingham, determined to change it for something dull, British and thoroughly normal - so that would be a Cortina, obviously!
More of that next time.
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