A Week in the Life of My New Ride: Introducing Monica Mazda
Ok. I’ve gone and done it. I’ve succumbed to my inner child and bought a Mazda MX-5. And not just any common-or-garden MX-5, but instead one which is almost impossible to drive in any direction other than a straight line. Hence why from now on I’ll be spotted driving only on Roman roads. And avoiding roundabout-obsessed towns like Milton Keynes and/or Harlow like the plague (or Salisbury). The simple reason why Monica can’t negotiate anything even flirting with becoming a slight deviation in a road’s otherwise ruler-straight line is because I have inadvertently bought a drift car. A road legal one, that is, yet nevertheless a car which (like Americans) can’t cope/engage with corners.
Until very recently I’m that guy who readily believed that Welded Slip Diff was a 4-piece indie ensemble who hailed from Swansea and once recorded an evening sessions slot for Zane Lowe on Radio 1; and cite Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen amongst their influences. When Radio 1 was still relevant and cool. So imagine my shock and horror when I quickly discovered that it wasn’t. Far from it in fact, as it materialises that a welded slip diff was/is something that renders your car unable to digress from a dart-straight Roman road without seriously hampering your ability to drive. And to summon the wrath of pedestrians in close vicinity who either wrongly assume that A) you have just stolen the tyre-squealing Mazda roadster or B) have forgotten to reattach the wheels properly after a recent tyre change.
Basically I don’t get a choice. Whichever direction I point Monica Mazda in, it drifts there. In the words of another indie rock band, Blur; there’s no other way. I simply drift to the shops, cinema, GP surgery, mate’s house, launderette, INSERT YOUR OWN DESTINATION HERE. What’s more, trying to attempt reversing up the drive at night is nigh on impossible on account of the acute angles I have always had to negotiate irrespective of vehicle ownership. Only not one of my previous vehicles has ever wrestled so heroically to change the direction/angle of attack I’ve chosen due to the nature/geography of the driveway curvature. With hindsight it’s fair to say I might have researched the cons and cons of purchasing a glorified drift car as a daily runner, before exchanging cash for Monica, as now I have to calculate routes based on corner counts. Moreover, I have no choice other than to rule out certain new careers (and potential employers) with immediate effect if they’re not geographically situated due north, south or east of my current location. West would take me into the Irish Sea, just for the record.
Essentially I've worked out I can henceforth be employed in either North Wales or a random hamlet situated roughly 4 miles north of here. Both of which as the crow flies are effectively straight forward to get to. Literally, straight and forward. That said – and to get to both - my direct route would involve negotiating a few fields, the marshes, a former railway line converted into a public footpath and the River Dee itself. Ideally it would be best all round if I remote worked. And opted to walk or cycle to the shops. Unless it’s raining or extremely cold; then I guess I can risk it.
Still, she’s now all mine and I have to live with the consequences of my uneducated actions and/or rectify them. Which to the best of my knowledge requires spending a small fortune on alleviating the overriding battle I constantly engage in with Monica if I want to move so much as slightly right or slightly left. Investing in a non-welded slip diff for example, and possibly a new driveshaft, according to my man in the know. An experienced mechanic who shook his head and tutted when I explained what I’d gone and done. Oh, and let’s not forget, countless sets of tyres.
Moving onto the positives, on the flip side of the coin I can safely report that since I’ve owned Monica Mazda I’ve noticed a few changes in my current health status. These include new and interesting physical complaints such as back spasms, sciatica, numb accelerator leg, tinnitus (fostered by the custom centre-exiting exhaust), lumbago, dysentery and insufferance of all other road users. Also, entering and exiting Monica has brought with it unseen physical challenges; the sort which take a degree of forward-planning and rolling.
And then there are the other little observations I’ve duly noted in the immediate wake of living with an MX-5 for a week now. For instance, it doesn’t matter how many punk/skateboard stickers you apply to the dashboard, your birth certificate still doesn’t suggest that you’re 20something. Or born on the West Coast of the USA, for that matter. Also Monica smell of petrol fumes. Which before I go any further is a vast improvement over the colloquial new car smell which motoring journalists autofellate over in pretty much every article. Instead I have acquired a curious blend of the above-mentioned (and vague) petrol fumes, greased nipples, long-expired Magic Trees, drifted tyres, WD40, earnest manual labour and something discarded and festering; yet still not located. And did I mention how removing the roof dislocates my wrists? As does manually winding down the manually wind-down windows.
The fun doesn’t necessarily end there though, as I’ve also discovered the unadulterated joys of drift charms. At the grand old age of 40something. Yes. To determine the degree/trajectory of drift I’m (not) executing at any one time, the Japanese drifting fraternity would attach stuffed toys to the tow hook on the underside of their rear bumpers. And not one to be left out, I decided this was a place I also wished to visit; arguing that it was to appease my curious 8-year old nephew, and not his irresponsible (but undeniably edgy) uncle. Which explains why you see a small Mickey Mouse dangling from the undercarriage of Monica. Which itself is juxtaposed with various monochrome exterior stickers which pay homage to my love of The Goonies and aliens and flying saucers. And that’s just the outside.
The maturity bar is raised still further once you climb inside of Monica Mazda, and witness an array of what can only be, loosely, described as tat. The sort of tat which even your most worthy and social-conscientious charity emporium wouldn’t place in their bargain bins. Oversized fluffy dice, a one-armed and one-eared Gromit, a sort of bat thing and an in-car air freshener; all of which weight down the rear view mirror, without so much as a thought for taste or decency. Add to that a transfer of Jack Skellington on the dashboard, a random sticker of David Beckham’s head in profile and some sort of Breaking Bad/skull adhesive, and you kinda get the perceived drift, er, drift.
So there you have it. A week living with Monica Mazda and the jury’s still out. It seems, in hindsight that I was trying to prove something to myself. Prove that it was/is possible to use what amounts to a drift car as a daily runner. And if you ignore the looks of the disapproving pedestrians and fellow motorists and instead focus on the massive smile which is perma-etched across the face of my 8-year old nephew, then I’m confident that you’ll conclude that I’ve won. I think. Yet, realistically, my future tyre bill (and pre-MOT check on the driveshaft) will tell the full story a few weeks’ down the road…..