Wednesday, September 05, 2007

cars

I have never had a reliable car.

My very first car was an automatic powder blue 1971 Mercedes Benz 230.4. I named her Eudora. I cannot remember where I found the name, methinks it was in a German washing machine advertisement. My father bought her for me for R4,300 not long before killing himself. Of course, such an old car was bound to have a few problems. These ranged from the very expensive, very severe busted cylinder head (which would of course happen in peak hour traffic) to the less severe but equally disabling burst gearbox fluid line all the way in the middle of nowhere on the highway when I was returning from the airport. Then there was also the cracked brake caliper piston (meaning no brakes whatsoever) which I fortunately discovered at home one night when changing the brake pads. The strange flickering lights. The excessive leaking in the rain. The very terrifying stuck accelerator. And the mystery of the disappearing fuel which has never been solved. Still, I miss her most of all my cars. She was powerful and comfortable. And automatic.

After Eudora was sold (to a con-man with a long, sad story for a pittance of R3,000), I went without a car - begging, borrowing and sometimes stealing - for a long time.

Many years later, finally able to more or less afford it, I bought my sister's gold 1981 Golf GS 1500 5-speed (dubbed Dafty for DFT523GP), for R3,000. This was the only car I ever had that didn't leave me in the lurch next to the road. Came close, but didn't. We serviced her when I bought her. She ran fine for a while but then the problems started. Serviced her again. Three weeks later when there was still something wrong (she sounded and felt like a steamship on a choppy sea) to be told by the same mechanic that had been servicing her that the engine was beyond salvation and needed replacing. Exit Dafty. I sold her to a con-man with a long, sad story for R5,500, but when he fetched the registration papers a few days later, he had a sticker in the window advertising her for R9,500.00. And, as far as I know, he sold the car for that much, rust and all.

Then there was (very briefly) The One's yellow 1978 Mini 1275GT, Gadget. Whose gearbox I busted when I drove over a ramp when fetching Dafty the final time from the mechanic. Something stuck on the ramp and was wrenched irreplaceably out of the gearbox. The One had to drive the twenty-odd kilometers home stuck in second gear. The con-man with the long, sad story we sold it to still owes us R500, which he is forever depositing into my bank account.

At the moment we are driving a blue-and-white 1981 Mini Clubman Saloon. We bought him from The One's brother for R10,000 and named him Donald because he looks a bit like Donald Duck, having a white roof and a blue body. Besides, his registration number starts with DCK... duck, see? As for the problems... it is hard to believe that such a small car can have so many of them. One word: clutch, clutch, clutch, CLUTCH. Apparently it's a Mini thing. But, for variation, there is also the insane indicators, sometimes blinking at the speed of light, the mysterious disappearing brakes, the utter refusal to idle. And the overheating, fixed expensively by replacing the entire radiator.

Then there was imbecile who tried to steal Donald and only ended up busting the ignition switch and both door locks. Now we have to hot-wire the car every time we want to drive somewhere because spare parts are nonexistent in South Africa and vulgarly expensive to import. And, above all, the clutch that has left us in the lurch three separate times. Once, we towed the damned car all the way to our mechanic because it simply wouldn't start. I almost popped an artery when the tow rope broke on the way there. I kicked the door with all my might in frustration, leaving a huge dent. How stupid we felt when the mechanic pulled a knob in the dash and started the bally car without hassle, telling us we only need to engage the choke to get it started in cold weather. Did I mention that we have been having problems with the clutch?

Written by I
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