After four years in self-imposed, home-improvement-driven, wife-pleasing exile I am once more back in the land of ‘interesting’ car ownership with all its concomitant recklessness, irrationality, financial irresponsibility and potential for divorce. My Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 Di-D is gone. It was cheap to buy, cheap to run and utterly reliable. Perfect, in other words, for minimising the financial pain of commuting 300+ miles a week.
In its place? A questionably-styled, leaky, rattling collection of poorly-constructed plastic pieces stuck together with a bit of cloth for a roof, no luggage space and what appears to be a turbocharged lawnmower engine at the wrong end of the car. A diminutive roller-skate intended to evoke the halcyon days of Midgets and Frogeye Sprites, mainly through repeated electrical failure in homage to the legendary Lucas: Prince of Darkness. A vehicle with an image that could optimistically be considered a trifle camp and which, in all honesty, is going to broadcast unequivocally the suggestion that my hobbies may include the trimming of hair or the biting of pillows. Yes, I have bought a Smart Roadster.
Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t. Only a couple of weeks ago I was test driving a lovely, reliable, sensible little Yaris. But now after just one fateful accident when messing about with the search filters on Auto Trader, I have taken the plunge on what could turn out to be the least sensible purchase I will ever have made. Well, possibly excepting that time when I went out to purchase a practical, economical estate car and came home with a Mitsubishi Evo 7. But still, rational it ain’t. Unless you happen to be asking the question, “Where can I find a rear-engined, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car with no clutch pedal that does 55+mpg, costs peanuts to tax and insure and can be bought for a few grand?” Exactly. I mean, who’s going to be asking something like that?
It’s not even as if I’ve changed jobs and no longer have to commute. No, this infernal contraption will not be a mere weekend toy, but a means of conveyance to and from my place of work. Every day. Rain and shine. Summer and winter. I mean, for the love of god, I’ve ignored every obvious, screaming warning sign of future misery and discontent. Like looking down at the door frame sticker and seeing the three words which strike mortal fear into the hearts of anyone with more than a slight passing interest in quality and longevity: Made in France. Or reading the tales of woe on the owners’ forum about iffy immobilisers, non-stopping wipers and fritzing SAM units. Or discovering that production was discontinued in 2005 because the huge number of warranty claims made it financially unviable to continue. What, do I think that my 30-mile, winding, lightly-trafficked A and B road route to work is going to be so much more enjoyable in a Roadster that I can put up with all the foibles? What madness would that be?
Yet somehow I’ve still gone ahead. I guess being a kidult means I retain the impetuousness of youth so of course, I ended up buying an example that was by anyone’s rational standards hugely overpriced and, naturally, was well in excess of my intended budget. But I’ve got a black one! All black, Tridion safety-cell and all! It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. So instead of looking like a Nike trainer, it looks like Darth Vader’s codpiece. It’s got an orange interior like 1970s tartrazine Fanta! And flappy paddles! And extra gauges! And front fogs! And electric mirrors! w000t! Why the hell am I excited by all that tat? I have absolutely no idea. I had one mid-life crisis 5 years ago, surely I’m not due another one yet. I mean, who’d get any pleasure from owning a car that just looks ‘right’ when you open the garage door? A car that makes you do the old over-the-shoulder car-park glance? What sort of fool cares about nonsense like that?
So I still can’t quite believe it. If, a month ago, you’d have told me that I’d soon be the owner of a soft-roofed motor vehicle, I’d have laughed. Just not ‘me’ at all; all that wind-in-your-toupée nonsense. If you’d also said it would be made in France, I’d have laughed again, but also insulted your parentage. And, to top it all, if you’d also told me that this cloth-topped, cheesemonger-built monstrosity would have comedy-three-spoke alloys reminiscent of those usually found on the sort of dubious early-90s Jap-import Skylines hawked by those legendary purveyors of bad taste the Keighley Trade Centre, I’d have called the local care-in-the-community hotline to report your escape. And yet… here I am, in possession of a Spikeline-shod roadster actually thinking it looks good! Really, I do. Am I just horribly confused? Hormonally imbalanced? Quite probably. Because, for the first time in a long, long time, I’m actually feeling some emotion about a car purchase. I guess I’d forgotten how good that feels…