Our relationships with cars...

The Ex's you miss... And the Ex's you regret...

Now I don't know if it's universal, or just a UK thing, or just a petrolhead thing. But I feel like we, meaning people who care about cars, have relationships with them. (Not like that! You don't want to burn your todger on the exhaust!) What I mean, is we begin to think of them as something more than possessions. When I look back at my car history, it's a little like looking back at my girlfriend history. There are cars I miss dearly and probably some I regret dating/owning. Cars have personalities and they shape our personality. Most people will drive differently in a Landrover Defender 130 6x6 than a Ford Focus RS... To be fair, if they didn't they'd probably end up pulling a Richard Hammond and binning it, ending up, upside-down in a ditch. But you get my point. I can almost visualize the girls who the many cars I've owned had would represent.

My first car was a Seat Marbella. If she was a girlfriend, well, she wouldn't have been a looker. She'd have been a bit slow and prone to health problems. However she didn't have expensive tastes. She was a fairly simple girl, probably a smoker and she probably made too many visits to the tattoo parlour for most people's taste, but she was good natured and she was someone to go out with until you got a better offer. You didn't feel bad about breaking up with her though. I don't miss my Seat Marbella.

A Seat Marbella, motorised, passenger-carrying, biscuit tin - very similar to mine.

A Seat Marbella, motorised, passenger-carrying, biscuit tin - very similar to mine.

Next up came a Ford Fiesta 1.0 Florida. It was a prettier car for sure, and it was broadly speaking in better health. I'd say on balance I DID like this girl, and still have fond memories of her, even though I dated much better cars in the years that followed.

Mine wasn't an XR2i - it was a 1.0 dressed up to look like an XR2i

Mine wasn't an XR2i - it was a 1.0 dressed up to look like an XR2i

When I moved to Fiat Punto 55s on an N plate, I felt like I was getting an upgrade. She was a high-maintenance girl and never in as good health as the Fiesta, but she was more fun. She was cheeky and had a sense of humor. Yes, there were fag burns in the upholstery and you only had to breathe on the bodywork to dent it, but these flaws added character.

At this point I ended up in a company car, a rather loathsome Vauxhall Astra 1.7D Estate. Now she was really like the girl you went with because you were playing the fall guy. You know the sort? Take one for the team so your mate can chat up the fit one? Well this car was that girl. Workman like, no-nonsense. Not exciting, but useful. If she'd been a girl, this car would have been the captain of the local women's rugby team and probably a forklift truck driver by profession. She was probably the kind of girl's whose most impressive feat was being able to drink a yard of ale and beat you at darts. Nothing wrong with all this, she was a nice girl, it was fun while it lasted. But ultimately not a car I look back and yearn for a 'hire-car fling' with.

I'm not going to go through all my cars anthropomorphising them and describing their datability points. All in all, much like girlfriends they form a part of the rich tapestry of my life and they all had their good times and their bad times. A few stood out, the MX5 was a sad one, I really traded it in as part of a deal to get a company vehicle, mainly because I couldn't really afford to fix it. I loved that car though and still do. It was fun, it made me smile every time I drove it. In a way which though my recent Jaguar X-Type didn't, my Ford Focus ST3 DOES! At least for now.

Of course the beauty of cars is, irrespective of how we feel about them, they are just things. They are simply huge piles of metal, plastic and glass, put together to make a vehicle - something you travel around in. You don't need to consider your car's feelings when you're about to break up with it. You don't need to feel guilty, when you go abroad and have a 'hire-car fling' with a local. (I recently did this whilst in Mallorca at the same time as Jeremy Clarkson. I had a BMW 218d Active Tourer and though it didn't set the pulse racing, I enjoyed the change of scenery. [If not the manic traffic negotiation to get through Palma!])

I also think some cars feel like they have a defined and distinct gender. I really loved my X-Type, but it doesn't feel like an ex girlfriend. It feels more like that mate you use to play squash with and go for a pint and a bit of banter with afterwards. The one who you thought you'd know forever but he emigrated or joined the army. It seemed like a very male car and as such my fond memories of it are more akin to a bromance than anything.

Of course, for some people, instead of the pain of continually breaking up and dating new cars, they don't have to. The idea of being filthy rich and being able to simply roll your old cars into a giant barn when you're done with them, and ending up with a living, breathing automotive autobiography is very appealing.

I wish I'd still got my MX5, and my X-Type. I could probably afford to buy them both back except the MX5 has probably been scrapped now. The problem is where to store them? I know a guy who collects vintage motorcycles and they are just SO easy to store! He has a Velocette Venom in his hall, a Harley Davidson in his kitchen and a really nice Moto Guzzi in his living room. As well as a retro Yamaha and a recent R1 in his garage. He's single by the way.

But cars are not easy to store. If I ever DO see my way to moving house, I'll really have to look for one with a decent quad or quint garage so I can start collecting. Beginning with finding and buying back my old X-Type 3.0!

The cars we've owned form a framework to the memory of our lives. The good times, the bad times. We can remember what we were doing in our lives when we owned that car, we can remember who we WERE when we were driving that car. To people who care about cars, their cars form an extension of their identity, their personality. This makes cars special. I don't think this can be said of any other material possessions.

So! Tell me in the comments, in terms of cars, which is the Ex you miss the most and which is the Ex you regret the most, and why?

Martyn Stanley

[ICT] Irreverent Car Talk


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Comments (2)

  • Great article, and quite amusing! ("He has a Velocette Venom in his hall, a Harley Davidson in his kitchen and a really nice Moto Guzzi in his living room. As well as a retro Yamaha and a recent R1 in his garage. He's single by the way.")

    I'm still "going steady" with my first one - a 1999 Mitsubishi Verada. Not the best, but it does the job, rather comfortably too. We'll see how long it lasts.

      3 years ago