Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cars: their personalities, their quirks ... and the memories

It's been a relaxing Father's day, and the new t-shirt is really nice - thanks for asking.

I'm just plumped (plomped? slumped?) on the lounge, listening to Sons of Korah, and doing what I do each night: this.

I don't feel lost for a topic tonight, but I gotta say, I ain't especially motivated. So I'll talk about cars, and the little things you love and hate about them, and how they leave their mark.

Growing up we had a VW Kombi. To any surfer or pothead, this car is a god. Not when you're a fifteen-year-old geek with people to impress. It was a source of constant embarrassment.

Nevertheless, there were some cool things about it.

Vinyl everything. Never a spill you couldn't deal with. Probably the only car you could clean inside and out with a high pressure hose. Downsides: hot sunny days (steaming vinyl is ouchy on bare legs), and handling like a shopping trolley. Another positive: lots of space - oh, and a sliding door. Very cool. Summary: a lot like riding in economy class with additional legroom, and without the oxygen masks. Or the trolleys with hot food.

Eventually, my parents went over to Commodores. I remember our first: a VR. Hello, engine. After blobbing along in that fat tin can with a 1.6lt motor, we gained 2.2 additional litres. So much more comfortable than Kombi, and a real driver's car. Downside: personality, where are you? And carpet.

A few Commodores later, I got married. My wife brought a silver '89 Mitsubishi Lancer, known as Mr Binky, into our marriage. One year later I brought Mr Binky into the back of someone else's Hiace van. Mr Binky was cool: not as gutsy as the Commodores, but he had cow-patterned car-set covers (which Cara had dyed purple), and someone had unsuccessfully tried to incinerate him at one stage (battlescars rock). Downside: tight for space, especially rear legroom. And flaky paint. Only car I've ever driven whose engine could run on the mere smell of burned oil and still not seize.

Following Binky was our faithful white V6 Camry wagon. No personality whatsoever, but plenty of get-up and go, and just bullet-proof. Cheap to service, never misses a beat, handles well, great car. And ugly as all hell. I think we'll have this car for a looooong time. Hope so, anyway.

Present work car: Subie Forester. Not real pretty, and not real spacious either. But goes hard, great economy, and grabs the road with a pincerlike grip. Came with a lot of dog hair (which I've nearly eliminated). Standard features on Subies are great, fit-and-finish are awesome, and stereo system has serious 'doof-doof' factor to it. Could see this car growing some personality once I've spilled a few milkshakes in it.

The stand-out of the pack? Probably a tie between the old German tank of my youth, and our present Camry. My mother cried when we traded in the Kombi for a Commodore. This was the car we had holidayed in, fought in, smashed into a roadside drain, and wiped the leaking oil from for 21 years. And the Camry ... what more can I say? If only every car was this reliable and cheap to service.

What are the memorable cars of your life? What did you love? What drove you mad? And what is the 'X' factor that ingrains a particular car in your brain for life?

1 comment:

Jim said...

We also owned a Kombi and with four kids, towed a camper van all over NSW visiting Councils in the 1980s.

That leaking oil you mention finally caught fire inside the tinwork - no hope of extinguishing it. When the fire brigade finally arrived it took 20 minutes to simmer it down.

The alloy motor was molten and burning. It emitted balls of fire every time they hosed it - nothing left but a shell.

After that experience we were so amazed to notice how many burnt out Kombis there were on roadsides around NSW.

Leaking oil seals hidden under tinwork of its air cooling system was a fundamental design flaw. Eventually the oil met up with the exhaust system and ignited - never to be quenched – a car with a DELAYED PRANK.

Air cooling of VWs reminds me of a beetle I had in the 1960s when my wife and I were married.

The beetle had a heater connected into the tinwork. It was regulated by turning a valve and blew hot air from around the motor to flood the cabin and warm the people.

My little green beetle received a work over by so called friends before we embarked on our honey moon. One of them – I know not which friend - had stuffed confetti down the heater slots each side of the wind screen.

We married in December so never turned on the heater till winter came. Then, for months and months, every time we took of at the lights we copped a warming shower of confetti.

Our BEETLE’S tinwork was party to a delayed prank of a different kind.

In 1960s terms …… “Great Balls of Fire” ……. We had a perpetual reminder of our wedding – a marriage also never to be quenched.

In an automobile sense, where do we go with these stories? German engineering is most renowned for its sturdy and enduring quality.

BUT for us from the hands VW designers it turned out to be ‘TINWORK PRANKS’!