- A Seat Marbella very similar to mine.

My First car - What was Yours?

My first car was sort of a 750cc Fiat Panda, but it was technically my sisters at the time I wrote it off. Writing it off kind of made it my car. My actual first car was probably also my worst car. It was a H reg Seat Marbella 850cc. (Not the one shown, but more or less identical to it.) Bought at auction, sold as seen for about £1000 in 1995. Before I could begin driving it I had to more or less rewire the car, because every electrical control did the wrong thing. You put the indicator on - the hazards start flashing, turn the lights on - the windscreen wiper starts, press the horn - the windscreen washers activate... That was a pain to sort out!

My Seat Marbella was made of the same metal that biscuit tins are made of and had less horsepower than my dad's lawnmower. It handled like a shopping trolley with one wheel missing and had less creature comforts than a solitary confinement cell in a Siberian Gulag.

The Ashtray was an optional extra. A space to put a radio wasn't even standard, let alone an actual radio!

For weeks I was driving around in it with no passenger seat - only the driver's seat and the rear bench. The reason for this was when I bought it the passenger seat was broken. It looked like a previous owner had been shagging too violently on the seat - Kudos to whoever managed to 'pull' with that car! The amusing net effect of this was if I went anywhere with my mate he'd have to sit in the back, making the car look like the cheapest, worst chauffeur driven limousine ever!

The lack of a passenger seat DID make entry to the rear cabin easier!

The gears were uniquely horrible. Every gear required a different 'special move' much like the classic arcade game 'Street Fighter 2', 2nd for example was something like a 'Hadoken', and 3rd required a motion similar to a 'Dragon Punch (Shoryuken)'. Top gear - 4th needed a double 'hyper combo' input!

Useful tips for changing gear in a Marbella. Some gears required two motions in quick succession.

Going back to the interior, let me tell you about the rear bench. It was basically a kind of roll-out hammock, which meant heavy passengers would essentially be resting their buttocks on the hard, metal chassis of the car. It offered about as much support as Jeremy Corbyn's MPs and it was about as comfortable as a Spanish Inquisition Torture Chair.

The luxurious rear carriage of my limousine...

To be fair, it did have more than enough boot space for a 5 litre petrol can. Which was useful because the fuel gauge stopped working, leaving me trying to estimate how much fuel I'd used and occasionally conking out and having to fill up at the side of the road using my 'reserve tank' out of the boot. Gauging fuel was made slightly trickier by the fact that this thing hardly used any petrol. Credit where credit was due, this rolling biscuit tin, death trap, with a lawnmower engine WAS economical!

My reserve fuel tank.

It also had some unique security features. Like the 5p boot opener. Because none of the locks matched, I had to modify the boot lock to make the key fit. Unfortunately in order to do this I ended up modifying it so much that a 5p piece would open the boot. The advantage of this was when I was at college, my mate could wait for me to finish lectures in the car - as long as he had 5p or something of a similar shape on him. He'd just open the boot, lean in and pull the door catches up.

The second unique security features was the immobilizer. Now the Marbella had a bank of switches and blanking plates next to the heater controls. (In my example they were mainly blanking plates.) I wired an immobilizer to a rear windscreen wiper switch bought from a scrapyard into this panel. (Mine didn't have a rear windscreen wiper.) The only downside of this was my piss-taking mate would occasionally flick the immobilizer switch while chuntering about putting the rear wiper on, causing the engine to die, then go BANG! When I flicked it back on.

This image must be from a GLX or something, mine had 4 blanking plates I think...

Why did I have it? It was cheap, and it was slow enough that a slightly mad 17 year old version of me was unlikely to kill himself in it - even if it was about as structurally sound as a Styrofoam cup! Plus, it was warmer and faster than my even crapper 50cc Yamaha DT50 motorcycle which I had when I was 16. To be fair the only thing going for THAT was that it didn't require peddling. (Though it often needed a lot of 'bump-starting') Thankfully things improved with each ensuing vehicle, though never by much!

What was your first car? Anyone have one worse than mine?

Martyn Stanley

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