Today I have been asked to write about my first car by Money Supermarket for a series they are running and in many ways it is just like talking about one of your first relationships. It is a complicated story of surprise, compromise, admiration, pain and sorrow. My first cars story begins in a rather questionable part of town after seeing an equally questionable advert on the internet.
Before I begin let me just say that I am not the Vauxhall Corsa’s biggest fan. In many cases it is a rather bland meaningless expression of utilitarian “getting from A to B.” So why was I on my way to potentially purchase one? The answer is simple when you factor in that I was a teenage boy. IT WAS CHEAP. I first laid eyes on this, what I thought at the time, perfectly ordinary 1999 Vauxhall Corsa B with its only real redeeming feature being that it was an SXI meaning it had sport alloy wheels and a subtle boot spoiler. Though these cars are normally the disastrous victim of “The Fast and The Furious” inspired tat, this example was showroom standard.
It was silver and had been reasonably well looked after with 80,000 miles on the clock. I was rather reluctant to take a test drive because it would likely seal my fate of this car being my first, but being young and eager to buy something that week I decided to give it a go. Starting it up resulted in a slightly gruff ticking over of the engine, but nothing to arouse suspicion at this point. Once clear of the forecourt I did what any teenage boy with his best friend in the passenger seat does on an empty industrial estate. I put my foot down. To my surprise the little hatchback leapt into action even chirping the tyres as I changed gear. Something wasn’t right here, not only did it seem quicker than anticipated but the hard revving engine sounded particularly pleasant. Now don’t go assuming that this was all down to my lack of experience with cars. I have been a petrol head since before I could walk and even professionally started my own motoring journal at 17. Track days were a common occurrence even before I my first car and exotic machinery was often on the menu. So returning to the forecourt I opened the bonnet and quite accidentally cracked a smile. Beneath that thin sheet of metal was indeed a Vauxhall Corsa engine, but this one was from a much newer model making the cars power to weight ratio considerably better than it should be. I phoned my Dad asking his advice to which he offered three words. “Leave it alone.” So naturally I ignored him and put down a deposit.
Over the year and a bit that I owned the Corsa SXI I learned to admire its ability to blend in to any car park but race out of it like a scolded cat. It’s lack of mass and relatively new engine meant that whilst the transmission wined like hell, due to the mismatch of components, it was a riot to drive. Nimble, responsive and practical enough to bundle your mates into. Me and that car road tripped to Wales, drove through tarmac that still hadn’t set, flew through the air after forgetting there was a big dip in the road ahead. It had left a lasting impression. So how did this story of a boy and his misfit car end? Not well…
I was out one day and had decided not to take my car as it was one of those rare sunny occasions in England. What had been a pleasant afternoon in the sun was about to be ruined by a phone call from my mother. When I answered my ringing mobile my Mum had a worried tone to her voice whilst asking me to get home as soon as possible. She wouldn’t tell me why. I rushed home thinking that maybe someone had died or that she needed my help urgently. The sight I saw as I rounded the last corner to get home answered my curiosity. All I could see at first was my car half up on the pavement and I knew, I just knew that wasn’t going to get any better from here on in. As I got closer I noticed the rear wheel that was up and on the pavement had been bent under the chassis with the force of the car being pushed up the curb. I walked around to the drivers side where a dent the depth of a wheelbarrow sat just behind the door accompanied by a trail of red paint on the body and scorched tyre marks on the tarmac. Someone had ploughed into the side of my car and driven off. I felt so angry that I slammed my hand against the carcass of what was my car. But after the rage subsided came the tears and the sorrow. I cried like a child. Though it was just a box of nuts and bolts, it was my box of nuts and bolts and even before an inspector told me that the chassis was twisted, I knew it was beyond repair.
So that was it. The end my very first car story. Your experience with your first car is about so much more than you buying a machine. It is about the times it made you smile, the times it made you cry, those adventures and silly little trips you went on with your mates and the time it made you poor when it went wrong. But most of all it is about being glad you bought it.
Your first car is like your first girlfriend. Many more will follow, but it will always be your first.