Chris van Schaick: When it comes to cars, I’m in it for the long haul
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If you’re thinking of flogging Chris a new car, don’t waste your time.
It was a summer day the best part of twelve years ago and I was in a car showroom in Chandler’s Ford, about to do a deal. The salesman must have been thinking ahead and working out how soon he’d be able to sell me another car.
“How long are you thinking of keeping the new vehicle, sir?” he asked.
“Oh, about ten years.” I replied, airily.
He looked absolutely sick. I realised that the last thing on his mind was anything that would keep me out of the showroom for more than a decade. Well sorry, old chap. Eleven-and-a-half years later the car I bought that day is getting close to 200,000 miles and – touch wood – still going strong. It’s an Audi A3, by the way. But other stylish and durable cars are available.
It’s a turn of events that would have flabbergasted my Dad. He patched up a series of old bangers – some of them with running boards and a distinctly Pathe News look about them. In Dad’s 1960s and 70s driving heyday, an engine might conceivably make it to within sight of 100,000 miles. But by then, the body and chassis were likely to be rusting badly and the scrapheap would not be far away. It was a more innocent motoring era. I remember the huge excitement when he got the elderly Morris 8 which was our family car up to 50 mph on a straight stretch.
I had another age of on-road innocence in the late 80s. Mrs. v.S. and I walked to work and were able to have as our car an old half-timbered Morris Traveller. The distinctive tenor fart it emitted going into third gear will stay with me always.
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Not long after that, I entered an era of boring reliability and drove company Peugeots for fourteen years. Not one of them ever broke down. Again, my old Dad would have been amazed. Again, other reliable cars are available.
My first company car had been very different. I once worked as a cub reporter for the legendary Hampshire weekly newspaper the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times. The editor was the wonderful Charles Curry – a man for whom the word resourceful was invented. He fixed me up with an old Mini van into which he’d transplanted a top of the range engine. To adapt a well-known phrase, it went like horse manure off a hand tool. At first, the horn didn’t work. Undeterred, Charles nipped across Old Milton Road to the junk shop opposite the A&T, found a car horn among the motor spares and fitted it himself. Talk about a hands-on editor.
But I’ll finish where I started – with a salesman. In my early 20s, a mate of mine was looking for his first car. He ended up on a forecourt considering a bright red monstrosity covered in stripes, fins and chrome.
“Are you single sir? asked the saleman. “Because if you buy this you won’t be for long.”
In car sales, they don’t make cheese like that anymore.
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