Article: Reminiscing over the raw emotion of my first drive.
Looking back on the thrill of my first ever drive in my crappy Citroen C1, something that I have lost sight of through years of commuting.
I have always lived and breathed cars. Since my first experience of perching on my grandfather’s lap, steering his ride-on lawnmower, I knew I would have a passionate and obsessive relationship with cars. After years of watching various Top Gear episodes and browsing eBay for cheap cars I could purchase with my father’s credit card, my 17th birthday came. I was naturally ruthless in my determination to pass my driving test, so every day my father begrudgingly took me out in our ageing under-powered Citroen C1 to practise my skills. Fortunately for me, he was on a slow recovery from an invasive foot operation and he grew weary of watching countless war documentaries and outdated episodes of Homes Under the Hammer. So he eventually decided his time would be much better spent screaming “BRAKE!” and “Did she get back on her bicycle?” whilst I hurled us around at breakneck speed through the back-roads of Suffolk.
After two intense months, I passed my test and was almost free to explore the open road at my leisure. Other activities, such as eating, drinking and breathing, became irrelevant. In fact, were it not for the fact my 17th birthday was so late in the academic year, I would have probably failed my exams. Thus making me exceptionally qualified in a career that focused on asking “Would you like fries with that?”. Fortunately, I had sweet-talked my parents into transferring the V5 of the old C1 into my name and into forking out a little cash (£1500) to cover the insurance costs. The car was mine.
I cannot deny, the first drive was magical. I could taste the freedom of the open road. The gentle growling of the 1 litre, 3 cylinder engine was a comfort and I felt invincible. After adjusting to the newly-found exhilaration of being in charge of a 1 tonne tin can with an engine, I decided to subject myself to the right of passage that every teenage petrol head must go through, the 0 to 60mph test. I found a straight piece of dual carriageway and lined up hesitantly at the red light, clutch engaged and engine revving. A small bead of sweat formed on my brow as a bus pulled up to my right side, I was ready to leave it for dust. Automatically, a mental countdown begun in my head. Time stood still.
3, 2, 1… GO! With a violent lurch and a squeal of the tyres, I was off with my hands clutched tightly to the wheel, ready to snatch 2nd gear. The scenery started to race pass me as I watched rev needle hurtle towards the red. The roar of the 3 cylinder engine sent a tremor down my spine and I felt unstoppable, I was finally living my dream. But then, I glanced to my left. And, to my surprise, there was a fully loaded double-decker bus with an aged, tired-looking driver preparing to overtake me – completely oblivious to the majesty of my awe-inspiring flying start. How could this be!? Had Suffolk County Council started producing W24, 1000 horsepower buses? I then looked down to my speedometer and the crushing revelation hit like a punch to the groin, I was doing 35mph and unable to tell if the needle was actually moving at all. That was when the reality sunk in. I was not the free, fast and young horseman conquering the track on his stallion. I was a young, spotty, immature teenager driving a slow piece of rubbish that I was more likely to wrap around a tree than ever reach 80mph in. And with that, the exhilaration of my first new car was gone.
I now drive a Vauxhall Tigra and work as an engineer full time. Whilst my car portfolio has seen a very slight improvement (I cannot emphasise the slightness enough), my daily top-down commute pales in comparison to the exhilaration and emotional roller-coaster of my first drive in my first cool crappy car, four years ago.