by Brian Allison
If you are paying attention you'll know that I'd just re-commissioned and re-sprayed my bargain buy Mk 2.
She sat on my newly concreted drive looking pretty as a picture, all gleaming red paintwork and twinkling chrome. The Simca 1000 that Anne was running looked positively tatty compared. Correction - the Simca was positively tatty! Of all the cars I've owned I can't think of one that rusted with quite such enthusiasm.
The newly concreted drive was courtesy of the job. Any readymix company frequently finds itself with surplus concrete to dispose of, mainly due to over estimated orders. In such cases the customer of course still has to pay for the full amount whether they use it or not. As a consequence of this a list was kept of people who would take smaller amounts at short notice and discount prices.
Usually these waste sales were put into a pot and shared among the workers for a bit of a Christmas booze up. When we bought the newly built house (£2,950) the drive was going to be an extra £150, in the event it cost me about £25 plus a pint or three for the mate who helped me lay it. Even allowing for inflation it would be great to have those prices now.
Anyway there I was pleased as punch showing off my gleaming new steed to all and sundry, and basking in the praise for a job well done. The Cortina ran like clockwork for about 2 months or so until......
We were in an amateur dramatic group at the time and rehearsing for the next production two nights a week. The hall were we performed was directly opposite the multi storey car park, so parking was never an issue. This particular night I arranged to meet Anne there after I finished work as the rehearsal was for 7.00 o'clock. I parked as usual in the multi storey, noticed Anne had parked on the road outside the hall,got through the rehearsal and leaving Anne at her car and telling her I'd see her at home went into the car park for the Cortina.
When I'd arrived I'd been running a bit late, so when I saw a space where I thought I'd parked I just put it down to being rushed and thought I must be on the wrong level. Not so! After searching all four levels and the street I had to admit to myself that my , by now beloved, Cortina had been stolen. Fortunately the Police station was only about 5 mins. walk, so off I went.
Arriving at the station I was greeted by that quintessential English sight, a completely deserted front desk, which remained that way until I rang the bell for a second time. This prompted the arrival on the scene of a quintessentially English Desk Sergeant. He proceeded in a leisurely fashion until settling himself behind the counter he eventually asked me if he could help me.
I started to tell him about my stolen car, only to be interrupted while he found the correct form to use. After taking down my own details, name, address etc., we finally got round to details regarding the car. "Make?", "Ford", "Colour", "Red", "Model", "Cortina" , a quiet chuckle, then, "Ah, the favourite". I can't tell you how good it felt to find some-one who found some humour in the situation. Barely able to stop myself joining in his chuckles, or was it barely being able to stop myself trying to strangle him, we eventually got it all down on paper. His parting words as I walked out were, "Don't hold your breath". so I set out to catch a bus home and break the news to Anne that she'd be catching the bus to work for a while. That went down well!
I notified the insurance co. the next morning and was told that if it didn't turn up within three weeks they'd pay me out average market value. Average! After all that time and effort it felt like an insult.
I didn't have the cash to buy another car so had to wait the three weeks until the cheque arrived. I looked for a Cortina in comparable condition but they were all too dear, so off to the auctions I went, and finished up buying a Vauxhall Victor. The Victor looked really good and I was feeling pleased with myself for having bought a bargain. For all of two days.
The Victor obviously had a bit of an artistic streak, because it decorated my nice clean concrete with a beautifully shaped oil stain. This turned out to be from the rocker cover, so I fitted a new gasket. The following day it was leaking again and after close examination I found the rocker cover was warped, so I fitted a new one.
Within two or three days it then decided that three cyls. were quite sufficient and checking the plugs I found one of them resembling a wet afro wig. It ran for a couple of days then fouled up again. By this time I hated the sight of it, sat there seemingly mocking me every time I looked out the window. It had to go! And go it did, straight back into the auction with a new set of plugs I fitted about 200 yds. from the gate. If I felt any guilt at all about selling such a lemon it was tempered by the thought that nobody had felt sorry for me when I bought it.
The whole Victor fiasco left me seriously out of pocket, so when I was told about some-one selling a 2ltr. Triumph Vitesse that I could afford I was round there double quick. No impulse buying this time. I went through the Vitesse with a fine tooth comb. And - found absolutely nothing wrong with it. No oil leaks, no knocks,no rattles , no rot, all instruments and switches working and driving perfectly.
The lad who was selling it was at university which brings me to the one thing I wasn't keen on. The colour scheme. For some reason known only to himself and whoever supplied him with whatever he was on at the time he'd decided to customise the paintwork. Now you're probably thinking it was something outrageous like dayglow orange or some such. Oh no, he'd been much more inventive - it was in camouflage complete with the Allies white star on each door and the bonnet. Different to say the least. I didn't fancy the idea of another paint job, especially with the amount of time it would take to remove the paint now on it, BUT, I told myself, it's in perfect condition apart from that, and the test drive had been great. A really enjoyable car to drive, so I bought a Vitesse masquerading as a world war two staff car.
Next time :- more Cortina capers.
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