Needing a break from the intellectual analysis of world poverty, I thought I would take a look at something simple.
And totally related to world poverty – gas guzzlers. Of which we have a glorious three. I like to be honest with my readers. Some of the time.
The first vehicle I ever had was brand new. It was a Mini-Metro bought in the early 80s. In December because I really didn’t care two hoots that it was more sensible to buy it in January because then it was a different year, I mean like who cares for a month?
Digression: That incidentally, is one of the more stupid things about our society, that we consider a car bought in January 1983 is superior to a car bought in December 1982 because it is a different year. There is not a 12 month difference, there is ONE month only. Or possibly only days.
Back to the car. It was red and it cost me around £3,400. I say it was red because we all know that the only important things about a car as far as women are concerned is the colour. I chose the car (not the colour) because I wanted to support British industry. I didn’t need a big car so I chose a small one. All pretty simple really.
When I went off travelling around the world I advertised it for sale. Someone came to see it, but the sale didn’t go through. I was secretly pleased. I think I was in Italy at the time my parents wrote to tell me that. My father took it out of the garage occasionally and drove it around the yard to keep it ticking over.
I returned from Aus, with my new partner in tow, and we had a car. Brilliant! Fate had looked after me there. It got used and abused for his decorating business until he bought – a Land Rover Series III 109 (1974).
His vehicle history (Partner not the Series) was far more varied than mine. He’d bought fairly cheap runabouts and sold/swapped them whatever. At one point he had a Triumph Dolomite and a friend had a Series II. Each coveted the other’s vehicle, after all you can get an awful lot of decorating gear in a Land Rover. They swapped. Regrettably the Series II got sold to fund Partner’s third trip to Aus (for the same price he paid for the Dolomite originally).
But he was hooked, hence the purchase of the Series III.
We moved to North Yorkshire, a two vehicle family. One day I was in the office and talking about taking the Landy out at the weekend. A bit like taking the dogs out, part of the family.
‘Churning up the environment and burning up fuel,’ said my lefty colleague loftily. This was in say, 1990. Well before the anti 4×4 days. Hmmm. She did have a point. I decided that our use of the Landy should be responsible and not just playing with a toy because we had one.
Being a decorator’s vehicle for 12 months in the south east had taken its toll on the poor old Metro though, and she started to struggle going up steep hills. There are a few of those in North Yorkshire. She had a bit of a wiring problem too. We flogged her for £50.
Had we downsized to one vehicle you ask? No. I got a lease car with my next job. I was ambivalent about this, as I figured I could use public transport, but still, I took it anyway. Vauxhall Astra, before you ask, and probably the only time I have ever bought/chosen anything influenced by advertising. At the time, the Astra adverts included Eric Clapton’s Layla, or to be accurate, Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla.
I did try two other cars, a Renault and a Rover and they were awful. Plus they didn’t have an advert with Eric Clapton music.
I’d only had it a couple of weeks and it got nicked. I looked out of my room in Doctors’ Residences and it wasn’t where I had parked it. I went downstairs to look for it. It wasn’t anywhere.
There was a lot of car theft at the time, some was just TWOC (Taken Without Owner’s Consent) for joy-riding and some was serious to ring and flog on. Mine was the latter. The police eventually found it, nicely looked after in a lock-up, prior to being resprayed, exported, who knows what or where. Had they not found it, I probably wouldn’t have got another lease car, but they did. The tea leaves had also taken my tapes, so I had to buy a new Eric Clapton cassette, couldn’t possibly drive around without Layla blaring out.
When the three years was up, I changed for a Renault 19. Probably my favourite car, 1.8, 16 valve, colour: Verte anglaise (so it said on a sticker) – also known as British Racing Green.
Next after that was a boring old Audi A4. I’d moved up in the promotional stakes at work and one apparently needed a car to match one’s status and I drew the line at a BMW. I thought Audi was slightly less naff. It was OK. It was diesel which meant I was disadvantaged at the traffic light race. I think Partner thought I needed to be more dignified. It was an estate so had lots of space for the dogs though. Something significant went wrong within the first 12 months that was actually quite dangerous. Glad I was only leasing it and hadn’t bought it.
When that three years was up, I gave it back and didn’t get another one. We still had the Series of course. I was travelling less for work and preferred the train for long journeys anyway.
My secretary was appalled. ‘How will you get to work?’
‘Bus,’ (exactly like her).
‘We’ll see what you think to that in winter,’ she countered.
I bought a big long coat and a pair of boots and a weekly bus pass. Half the time I often got a lift from neighbours in the street, or other neighbours in the area if they saw me at the bus stop. Sometimes I got a lift home too. I timed my working day around the buses. I planned meetings around buses and trains. I tell you, it is not the done thing to be an Assistant Director and travel to meetings on tacky old buses with all the detritus of life. Why not you may ask? Well, it is just not right is it? You should be in your own personal mobile tin box, displaying your status. Even a tiny new box is better than no box. Not surprisingly my popularity waned.
But seriously, although I am writing this slightly flippantly, I was working in the health service. At the time, we were trying to work more closely with local councils and look at things in a more holistic way. Why were we not encouraging people to use public transport? We had showers for people who cycled, but that was really for the lower orders. A colleague on the same level as me would walk/bus/cycle/drive occasionally, and was regarded as being rather strange by some. No doubt I was too.
It made far more sense to use public transport, it was vastly cheaper, and I could have even done some work instead of gazing out of the window. Why pay people to drive??
We brought the Series III with us to Spain and let her have a rest when the MOT and road tax ran out. So for a few years we managed without a vehicle. We used the local bus service or we walked.
Then the days of the bike mechanic started. I have honestly lost track of how many bikes were rescued from the skips near us. And one in Gib too. Amazingly we actually bought two as well. It must have been when the various parts of bikes had been changed so much that we were down to not many bikes. Or maybe I thought for once in his life he deserved a new bike. For his 50th birthday.
We did buy another vehicle. Yes. That was an easy guess wasn’t it? A Land Rover, Santana, 3.5 6 cyl diesel, station wagon. Very nice. Strong as an ox or stronger and incredibly fuel efficient. Love it, plenty about that on my Landy blog.
But when it was vandalised, we needed to get another vehicle so that we could go to the scrapyards to find the parts to repair the Santana. So ……. yes, Landy Number Three, a Defender TD5.
So, in summary, in nearly 27 years of married life we have bought three vehicles, all of which we still have, none of which were new. We have bought two new bikes, three actually because I forgot the tandem. We still have all of those too plus the rescued ones.
Now, some cloudy controversy. As ever. I totally do not buy into the myth that by consigning old vehicles to the scrap yard and buying a new one fresh off the production plant that I am contributing to anything more than car manufacturers’ profits.
Keeping a Series III Land Rover on the road (1974) or a Series IV Santana (1988 I think) by using scrap parts, and maintaining ourselves, courtesy of those wonderful Land Rover workshop manuals, is to me, a good thing.
It is totally farcical to say that I am damaging the environment by using vehicles that are 24 and 38 years old. The truth is, if life was simpler and bureaucracy didn’t exist, we would happily be using the Series III. But there is the small matter of needing to import and put on a vehicle register, and comply with a load of shite rules, so really it is easier to buy one for the local region.
Telling people to buy new cars is like telling them to buy new fridges or new tumble dryers or whatever. All that is doing is encouraging yet more wasteful expensive consumerism. Buy new, it’s better for the environment to get rid of your old tat, buy something else that has consumed a load of energy and parts to produce and we will all be better off. And it will fall apart in a couple of years time, or at best need an expensive fix.
Seriously, anyone who falls for that needs to ? go back to school? No, just start thinking.
The issue isn’t whether or not the vehicle is incredibly fuel efficient. It is about not using a vehicle when you don’t need to.
Walk to the shops. Or cycle. Or use the bus.
That day out? take the bus or train.
The school run? This one does get up my nose. There are no more or no less bad people in the world than there were in previous years. There is more publicity about it. That is all. So let your fat little kids walk to school with some friends, or get the bus. They do not need to be driven five yards around the corner in your SUV.
Walk to work (or bus or cycle). In one place we worked, one decorator took his goods and tools to work on a wooden cart. We use a sack barrow. Sure you look stupid. You don’t get a parking ticket, you don’t spend on fuel, and your customers don’t get jealous when they see you have a TD5 Defender. And you are noticed, which may well be free advertising.
Consider learning bicycle/vehicle maintenance.
Record (in 26 years):
Land Rover Series III
Land Rover Santana
Land Rover TD5
Dawes touring tandem
KTM mountain bike
AGC mountain bike
some skip bikes
All still with us, and all maintained by us.