My experience with cars as a child wasn't the greatest. Money was a huge struggle in my family, and as a result, our cars were hardly ever warranted or registered - certainly never insured. Our 1979 Ford Falcon was on its last legs and my parents tell me as a newborn I would cry inconsolably every time it stopped. Which was a lot.
It went downhill from there with 'The black van' - a 1982 Ford Econovan. Embarrassing enough to be driving around in a VAN when your friends had cars...made worse with the big rust holes in the side. And just to make sure I was recognisable wherever I went, a big gold stripe featured down the side. The designer was without doubt a sick and depraved individual. Or a policeman.
The low point would have to be when the van died and we had to borrow a truck. Initially I wasn't really sure if this was better or worse, but when I found out that giant black spiders (the kind that killed 8 year old girls) lived in the door mirrors, that question was quickly answered. That was a tough ask for a self-conscious child trying to fit in, and I always felt embarrassed turning up to school or a party. Needless to say I've never felt 'neutral' about cars.
This all changed with the silver 1985 Toyota Corona. Not much newer than the black van, but in good condition, and bought from an auction with the speedo having only been wound back by 30 miles. The way I felt changed completely - and so did the way I was treated. That made me realise that no matter how well one might present, if you turn up in a spiderwagon, you might as well go naked.
If you are throwing your hands up in despair at this point, thinking that the only answer to your woes is an Aston Martin, fear not. Here are some simple lighthearted rules to help you out:
1. If it's your first car, anything goes. Literally anything. It's cool by default. Even the Econovan in the hands of a 16 year old boy would be a Taj Mahal.
2. If your car is a heap of rubbish, try to keep it clean and tidy - inside and out, including regular tyre blackening and waxing. Tinted wax, available from any autostore is a godsend for faded paintwork (as I found out years later when my new car changed shades a week after I brought it home). Be happy with your car; confidence is attractive, and no matter how good your haircut is, if you're apologetic about your car, your image will suffer. The French have a word for it - 'j'assume' and it doesn't quite translate into English, but it carries the essence of 'accept it, own it and make it rock'.
Now we get on to the serious stuff:
3. Do not - I repeat DO NOT get caught up in modifying an older car. That was all the rage in the early 2000s, but it is certainly not fashionable now. A quality car, a fine wine, or a piece of art should speak for itself. Taking a boxy 1995 Honda Civic, tinting the windows and lowering it is cheap and tacky - we've moved on. 'bro mods' are a sure way of ruining any pretentions of class. Yes, it is possible to get negative cool points - and you've got none to spare with a Civic. Modifying a car for performance, i.e. better suspension and tyres is always ok.
4. Match your car to your style or your style to your car. Wearing tank tops and short shorts and turning up in a sedan makes it look like you've borrowed Daddy's car. If a super conservative car is what you've got to work with, consider jeans and a glam top - with some tasteful jewellery. This conveys maturity and confidence. Likewise, if your car is super tiny or low cc, people may see you as a pushover, or not to be taken seriously. Counter this with 'cute' by accessorising, such as with these valve caps:
Only joking. Don't buy pink valve caps. Perhaps they'd look nice on your boyfriend's car?
5. Makeup that compliments your car is IN ladies! Matching electric blue nails or lips with a blue car looks fabulous...and even better with a red car. Red, white and blue are surefire winners and patriotic to boot. Browns, golds and glitters suit green cars, while harsh colours such as black, white and red will match more basic car colours. BE WARNED: you should avoid matching too much red with your red car, as this will come across as tacky. Red lipstick with vintage cars channels the past and is 100% sexy.
6. You are what you drive. Are you single, drive only to and from work and want something that simply meets your needs? Well we know that, because you're probably driving a Toyota Vitz, or a Mazda Demio. Are you a well-off stay-at-home Mum with a couple of kids? We can tell. Your 4 wheel drive is taking up three car spaces. And it's clearly never been off-road. Get a car that sends the message you want - I'm not saying take out three mortgages for a LaFerrari, but if you ride a scooter don't be surprised that people forget to invite to invite you to the Christmas Party. Because let's face it....you're not a box of laughs and we can tell.
7. Your look can't be spoilt by someone else's car. You might be a brilliant horsewoman with a brand new Range Rover, with glam nails and Dior perfume, but get dropped off in a 1990 Vauxhall Astra...and that's ok. After all, a car should be your friend, and it's good to have friends from all walks of life.
Just ask the spiders in my door mirror.