view from the passenger seat
85 per cent of mg midget owners are men, said the ad
It finally happened last Sunday.
At first, the feeling was quite odd. It was one of fear and excitement. I was unsure of what was going to happen and how much of my masculinity would be left after the event.
The Boss drove my car.
It’s not entirely fair of me to pretend it was some sort giving-in to months’ worth of pleading on her part - it was quite the other way round (I had added her to my insurance policy when my renewal was sorted back when we had some chance of having a summer in the hope she’d catch the classic car bug).
Nonetheless I was still nervous - more so than when I took ‘Midge’ home after parting with what was left of my savings a couple of years ago at a time when the top of my list of driving achievements was checking tyre pressures on a Vauxhall Corsa.
I had drawn-up a lesson plan in my head. All the unique characteristics of driving a Midget, which would be alien to a person who’d not driven anything pre-2007, would be covered in a completely non-patronising way.
There would be walkthroughs of how to deal with a clunky gearbox that doesn’t always want to go in the gear you’d like, the fact a tiny trickle of throttle is needed before the clutch comes all the way up to avoid strange sounds and the heavy brakes, which must be pressed firmly but not stamped on. “Remember, you’re on skinny tyres so you’ll go into a slide if you slam on…” I was sure I would say.
You know as well as I do that learning mechanical sympathy takes weeks, months… years - and each car from an era when advert slogans like ‘Your mother wouldn’t like it’ were seen as the best way to peddle MGs to hip accountants was as different as the colour of tea we like in our mugs.
So I began the journey to the industrial estate where I taught her the basics of driving a (modern) car a few years ago, before an instructor undid my work and got her through her test. Midge seemed smaller from the passenger seat.
“I like the steering wheel,” was the first comment I registered once I’d finished inspecting a spot of rust I’d not previously seen from my old vantage point on the right hand side of the car.
The engine was warm, no need for choke, and she started him (yes, him - I’m very attached).
A sort of crunchy click signified we were in first - it’s a satisfying noise that comes after some gentle persuasion, and I was kindly allowed to explain that the left and right foot movements should be as delicate as possible. Honest - it reads a lot more patronising than I think I sounded.
And we were off.
The first turn was no problem, the gearbox whine from second was no different. Confidence grew.
In fact, apart from swiping to the left hand side of the steering column for the indicator (everything is on the other side to her car) confidence grew to a point where we went on the road.
We went further, up on country roads that allowed us to get the hammer down a bit. She got a taste for the rattle when you overdo it in third.
All beautifully controlled. We didn’t fall-out. I’d have taken a picture but we had the top down and she wouldn’t have approved of what her hair was doing.
I should have been over the moon.
But if I’m being completely honest I was a tad miffed.
Not only was the person I bleat on about cars to every waking second a natural (she’s a much better driver than I am, but don’t tell her), she also discovered a secret I once kept very closely-guarded.
There isn’t really a great secret to driving classic cars.