Growing up, I always dreamed of owning a sports car. How we change over the years; high performance to me today means four wheels that keep turning and don’t cost me any repair bills.
That said, I did almost own a sports car once. Maybe describing my Morris Marina Coupe as sporty may be a bit of a stretch but it was my very first car, and I kept it meticulously clean for at least two weeks after I purchased it.
Then the shine started to wear off – literally and figuratively – when I discovered my second-hand chariot had a few flaws.
The clutch was what my brother called ‘fierce’ and if you let it out too fast you could end up orbiting Mars. It seated four as long as the two in the back were short or didn’t mind hunching forward for the trip. There were a few disconcerting rattles and squeaks, but nothing increasing the radio volume couldn’t fix. And she did occasionally fart black smoke on startup, but, hey, everyone toots now and then.
On the positive side, the power steering mechanism (my arms and shoulders) got a great workout navigating twisty, winding roads (basically all roads in Britain).
In fact, looking back on those days I realize how deprived the drivers of today are – there is a whole generation that has never known the thrill of winding down a window with a handle, and will never experience a crick in their neck from looking backwards, arm over the passenger seat, to parallel park in a tiny space.
Backup cameras, heated seats, air conditioning, power steering, satellite navigation: all great technologies that we likely would find it hard to do without in our vehicles today.
That said, I sometimes miss the simplicity of driving a car without a deranged computer, that obviously doesn’t leave the database very often, telling me I have missed a turn, or having to put an actual key in the ignition to start the car. And what can compare with an array of knobs, switches and buttons on the dash that you could twist and push and slide (and that occasionally came off in your hand). And does anyone remember the novelty steering wheel covers you could get that looked like furry monsters? Or if you were really lucky you had one crocheted by your granny.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we will soon have cars that drive themselves, but let’s hope they will never do away with the quintessential element of car travel:
Morris Marina image: John Shepherd from Tooting, London, Great Britain, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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