Competition - What's your greatest motoring regret?
That one time that's left you going "I wish..."
What is your greatest automotive regret? A car you passed up on buying? A car you sold? A ride you turned down? A meet you didn't go to? What stories that could have been do you have? Let me know in the comments by end of play, Monday next week, 19th, and the best story will earn itself 250 Tribecoins to play with!
To give you some idea, he's my greatest motoring regret.
Non, Je ne regrette rien. Sadly this doesn't apply to me. I regret a lot of things. Tanking A-Level maths, I sort of regret that, but had I understood what differentiation is, I probably wouldn't be here. Who knows, I could have a proper job as a locum veterinarian. I also regret being hit in the face with a polo mallet, now when it's cold my jaw clicks something rotten. I also regret a few fancy dress decisions, but that's best left unmentioned, though at the time it was funny, in hindsight it has turned out to be cripplingly embarrassing. But two of my biggest regrets are not my inability to pay attention to C4 mathematics on a Monday morning, they are to do with cars. What a surprise.
Probably one of the reasons I failed maths in sixth-form was that I would spend my time daydreaming of Minis. One of the secretaries at school had a 1998 Tahiti Blue Rover Mini Cooper with a white roof, and white bonnet stripes. I feel in love with that car for some reason. Despite being at the time a spotty, gangly 6-foot mess with shocking hair cut, I thought that a classic Mini would make me quite cool, lord knows a washing machine white Nissan Pixo with black bumpers wasn't doing the trick. I'd spend my lunch breaks perusing the web looking at cheap minis, pondering about how I could get one. And then I found one. It wasn't too far from school and was quite a reasonable price. I had to go. I skipped lunch one day, knowing that it'd buy me an extra twenty minutes, and ran from class to my car (hidden around the back of the music school, no one ever checked there) and roared off to go and meet the lover I'd fantasised about.
And there, sure enough, in the back yard of this dealership, under a tarp sat a Tahiti Blue Rover Mini Cooper. W284PCL is the reg. It had the white roof, but no stripes down the bonnet, that was fine, I could add those myself. It did have some shocking wheel arch extensions and a stainless exhaust system that made it sound quite throaty. The salesman tossed me the keys, and it fired right up, settling to a cold burble, the thin veil of exhaust fumes trickling from the throbbing exhaust tip as it warmed up. The interior was spotless and still featured the original radio. I ratcheted the seat as far back as it'd go and inserted myself behind the wheel, knees bent up to the low, almost flat wheel adopting a driving style not too dissimilar to Waluigi. My bumfluff moustache no doubts not helping that impression.
The salesman jumped in beside me and we set off, rumbling through the village, the short suspension bouncing over each lump, pothole and drain cover on the road, bucking the wheel in my hands as it did so. Power steering? Oh, you mean arms! Thankfully as a teenage boy, this was a realm I was well versed in. We pulled out onto the A6, a right at the roundabout to take us north towards Bedford, the cold, greasy winter road rushing beneath the tiny 12-inch wheels, as I indicated left to pull off the roundabout I clogged it. The fuel-injected 1.3 perked up, gave an almighty growl, and the inside wheel began to scrabble, spinning up as the RPMs rose. The front end began to wash wide, so I opened the wheel, and as the angle reduced, the grip returned the spinning wheel bit and we shot off down the road. A snickety snick shift or two up the 'box and we were on the tail of an unsuspecting 330i (Silver, 58 plate but that's not important) unhappy with my petulance he dropped a gear and motored on around the roundabout in the outside lane, while I adopted the inside lane, don't worry both go straight ahead, and clung on, relying on the five-decade-old design to do what it does best, slingshot out of corners. Waiting, waiting, then there's the gap, he hasn't changed steering yet, I'm small so can nip through before he does, I boot it once again, sending my size 11 school shoe into the floorboards, the tiny car squatting once more as the front end reared up and the exhaust blare returned, he hadn't expected it, and neither had the salesman who by now was clinging on thinking I just wanted to see Jesus. We shot past the 3-Series like a 5/6ths sized rocket sledge on rails. I cracked a Cheshire cat grin across my face as the BMW gave up its chase. We looped around a final roundabout to turn for home, I relaxed back into the small chair, toying at the wheel, feeling the weight move across the car, dragging the brakes to feel for grinding in the pedal. Nothing. The temperature gauge, despite my best efforts, sat resolutely at a comfortable spot. The lights worked, the horn worked, it rode about as well as you expect from those tiny space-hopper cars. It took me all of half an hour to fall in love. We pulled back into the dealership, I hopped out and gave the car a poke around underneath, there was a little bit of bodywork rust, but nothing that would be tricky to cut and patch. A few stripes, some decent tyres and a new set of brake pads would see me right.
I sat down in the office and talked money. I was looking to trade my Nissan Pixo, sub 10K miles, a perfect starter car, nay, a finisher car (Always Sunny? No?), good tyres, FSH, MOT, tax, which at the time was still transferrable. Somehow I convinced the man that my Nissan was worth the Mini plus £1200. I should have shaken his hand there and then. The Nissan was in reality worth the Mini, less £2000. I was on for a steal. It would have been the crime of the century. But I said I'd phone him back having spoken to my Dad. Dad said no. I was distraught.
I had to pass up on the opportunity to obtain one of my dream cars and effectively a year's insurance for it in exchange for the automotive equivalent of a dishwasher. A vacuous mass of white metal and grey plastic in exchange for a 1997 Rover Mini Cooper (Not a sport 500, but it'll do) and £1200. And I had to say no. To this day I still type that registration number W284PCL into an MOT checker. Since I passed up on it, someone bought it, and it's racked up some miles, not a huge amount making me think it's become a summer toy. It's had a bit of work done to it, and someone loves it still. Which is the important thing here, I type, blinking back tears. Since then prices of classic Minis have climbed quite steadily. A tidy investment, like buying a Caravaggio at a car boot for loose change. That is my car regret. That or not buying a 1976 Lancia Fulvia Series III when I had the chance, but that's a story for another time.
This very Lancia could and should have been mine. But alas...