- The interior of the Renault Clio

First Cars are Fondly Remembered Shitwagons

The bizzare reasoning behind our most terrible cars being our most memorable

Fond memories of our first cars are commonplace among motorists keen and unengaged. My dad dropped off my first car at a house-share in Windsor. We had taken a trip to the Top Gear test track to hammer more exotic cars in celebration of my new driving qualification and on our trans-Surrey-and-Berkshire voyage I learned that this Renault Clio would be my first. It was a coming of age journey akin to the folklore of American teenagers being taken over the border to unleash and understand their new found masculinity.

I was not enamoured by the glamorous looks or the ‘56 plate, not thrilled by the 1.6 diesel nor the gear shift that stood like a cricket stump encroaching on my field of vision. Neither should I be. First cars won’t be exciting or desirable.

There are two things that a first car represents. Firstly you have the object: mechanisms that take you to the speed limit and back again are complicated, expensive and bulky. Secondly you have the consequence: freedom and responsibility bestowed upon a young adult.

The second is why my Clio is so special to me. Unhindered by my parents’ schedules I am hopping from mancave to mancave, diving into a woman’s house for a kip, leaping up and down the motorway, operating airport collection runs for unapproved guests.

Following a series of short scampers to the office car park and back it soon became the weekend and I was determined to escape. After learning why we avoid the M25 on a Friday after work I embarked on a route I would drive so much that I can now steer it decapitated.

Over the Thames, past Eton and brushing around Slough. The M4 squishing onto the M25, and 10 minutes later I select 3rd gear for the first time as the traffic thins. Naively I am smashing the brakes on gantry approach, dropping a cog and oozing back to an acceptable speed. Within half an hour my quivering clockwise trip had met its next turn: the mighty A10.

Cause for Caution on my maiden voyage. Credit: Alamy

Cause for Caution on my maiden voyage. Credit: Alamy

Little did I know how wise this choice was. Anyone who has used the M11 and series of hospital corridors between Ely and the Norfolk Coast will agree that it is completely befuddling. Yes, the A10 is the road for me.

A left turn puts Dalson then Shoreditch in my mirrors and I am pointing this inadequate french duckling up a well worn path. It’s plain sailing to Hertford, and the patter of roundabouts and long curvy roads keeps me alert. Mild panic South of Cambridge as I merge in and out of all of the northbound traffic.

Arrival is met by Malbec and oven-warmed leftovers. The new day brings hairy cornering and perilous grinding overtakes on narrow bumpy-blind straights. Whilst being far too close to a bus I found the Renault was more tail happy than I had anticipated, but fun nonetheless.

She was a bit of a dog. Her dip-stick was as certain as a Columbus-esque star-led navigator, she put her arse out at any roundabout you dared approach briskly and her marque reminded many passengers of a forbidden silken purse. But she served me well. I frequented friendships that had previously gone stale, learnt about the origins of the places I stopped at and ran errands for friends. I have a lot of fond memories.

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