I get lost easily

7 11 2010

In less than one month’s time I’ll be starting a work experience binge. I’m very excited about the forthcoming binge because I’ll be working alongside some of the best writers – and indeed drivers – that the UK motoring press has to offer. But my parents are a bit concerned.

My destinations are, first, Northamptonshire and then Cambridgeshire. The towns, the magazines, even the counties are irrelevant. What is relevant though is that I’ll be borrowing my mum’s car, which means I’ll be driving myself to the destinations.

I’ve borrowed my mum’s 1.2 Clio plenty of times before. So far, touch wood, I’ve had a good history with it. So the car-borrowing isn’t the issue.

When I asked my dad if I could borrow the car, for a journey that would head further south than Preston, the conversation went like this:

“Dad, please can I borrow the car?”

“Yes, but Pete, you haven’t had much experience with longer distances on your own. You’ve got to read signs quickly and make fast decisions.”

“I’ll be fine!”

“You get lost easily though, Pete.”

“[Pause] Yeah I do.”

This is entirely fair, and based on my past with following directions.

Examples of me getting lost

Example 1

One evening in late August 2008 I went to do an interview for my Sir William Lyons Award entry. I was going to head to a farm in the middle of nowhere to do an interview with my mum’s cousin.

On the day I was due to do the interview, my parents asked if I knew where he lived. I didn’t. So they told me the directions. One element of the directions was crucial: “You know how to get to mum’s school don’t you?” “Er yeah! Of course I do!” (From this reference point, the rest of the journey would be a doddle.) I’ve been to my mum’s school many times. It’s a very simple route, and less than four and a half miles.

That evening, I set off, went down the road I knew would lead me to my mum’s school, and drove quite contentedly until I realised that I was lost. I stopped, phoned home, told them I was at a junction on a corner that I’d never seen before, and was told where to go again.

Example 2

Unfortunately, my second example is more recent. At work in the summer, I had to drive to a place near Blackpool to meet a colleague to sort out some equipment for an event.

The day before, he wrote down detailed directions. I could see the route in my mind (it was a similar route to the one we – my family – used to take when visiting my late grandad), so I wasn’t going to get lost!

I agreed to meet my colleague at 9:30am. I set off in good time, and arrived in Blackpool for 9:15am – I was early! However, I was early somewhere else. I was in the right area, but I didn’t have a clue where I or my colleague was. I tried to ask a pedestrian for directions, but he ignored me, so I sped off and phoned home for directions.

My issue with directions is that I sometimes over-analyse them. If a signpost has a different destination to that mentioned in the directions, I think to myself: “I must be at the wrong roundabout, I’ll keep going.” Rather than: “This is probably the right way to go.” Or I’ll panic, and take a turn early because I worry that THIS could be the one I’m supposed to take.

Example 3

Surprisingly, I do actually have a memory, and, sometimes, even a sense of direction. When my memory and sense of direction are present, my third example demonstrates I should listen to them/myself.

Sadly, my third example was less than two months ago. Again, it was work-related. I had to take some food to a leisure village (I don’t know what else to call it, because that’s what it’s known as) because a journalist was visiting that weekend. I looked at the directions on the place’s website, and it fitted in with what my memory was telling me.

Just to be sure, I checked Google Maps.

Seven miles after leaving the motorway, I learnt that Google was wrong. A quick phone call to my parents got me back on the right route (I’d promised them that morning that I knew where I was going… and I did, but Google tricked me).

As a side note, the road I happened to go the wrong way down was a brilliant road. In fact, I was very happy that I’d gone the wrong way. It was the ideal hilly road, with fast and medium speed corners with enough visibility to keep up a good pace.

Conclusion

If I give you directions, they’ll probably be accurate, so you can trust them (note: this does not apply to walking directions for shops, even in Lancaster, which has been my nearest city since I was born).

If you’re in the car with me, I’ll go the right way. When others are in the car with me, my desire to remain dignified (ie. Not asking for directions) ensures I use common sense and stay calm.

BUT

If you give me directions, I will probably go the wrong way anyway.

If I say: “Yeah I know where that is” I probably do, but I’ll doubt myself when I get to a crucial junction and turn the wrong way. It’s best to tell me how to get to even the most obvious places.

If you set a rendezvous time, no matter how long in advance I set off, I WILL go the wrong way. Expect me to arrive anywhere up to 45 minutes late, even if the journey was only supposed to take five.





My turbo lag addiction

20 04 2010

I have a confession. I really like turbo lag. It’s universally slated by motoring hacks, but I like it.

For those readers who don’t know what turbo lag is, let me explain. Basically, an engine releases exhaust gases after it has burnt the fuel. A turbo uses the airflow from these exhaust gases to spin a little turbine. This little turbine then spins an air compressor which grabs more air and forces it into the engine to help make the explosion bigger in the engine, giving more power.

However, the time between when you press the accelerator and when the turbo spools up enough to give you more power can vary, and this is known as turbo lag.

So, sometimes there can be a delay between you flooring it, and the car actually making any decent progress. It can be massively inconvenient and sometimes dangerous if you’re expecting more power, but I admit… I’m addicted to it.

Roundabouts

One widely-experienced drawback of turbo lag is when you’re at a roundabout.

You roll up at about 10-15mph in second, you look to your right, there’s a car coming, but you know you can get out in front of them without making them slow down. If you’re a bloke, you definitely think this. So you check left, right, and then you floor it…

And the engine does sod all. Oh. Crap.

It’s too late now though, you’re in that other bloke’s way. Bugger. You’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. The turbo is your paddle, but it’s disappeared right when you bloody well need it.

So you look straight ahead and ignore the ever-nearing car because you might as well – he’s getting nearer, and he’s only going to look peed off with you. Might as well ignore him and tell yourself that not giving way was the right decision.

Then, after the engine has made some deep droning noises, the turbo slowly spools up and then suddenly you have your paddle back and you can frantically get yourself out of the faecal creek.

Turning right

Now, you’re happily driving down a road and you need to turn right. On goes the indicator and you slow down. Coming the other way is a seemingly never-ending line of cars. But, luckily for you, there’s a decent-enough gap in front of them to make your way down the little side road on the right.

Two things can happen here. The engine might not respond as actively as you want, like in the scenario above.

Alternatively, it might respond quicker, but at the wrong time. You think you’ve got the timing and acceleration well-judged, and you’re smoothly turning into the junction.

But then the turbo says: “Wahay! Time to party!” And it spools up, and suddenly you’re driving 5mph faster towards that hedge than you were hoping.

If you’re lucky, there’ll be an old Fiesta crammed with old ladies, who you recognise from your street, on their way to an open garden in aid of the church. They all look very disappointed, and they’ll go away with the impression that you’re a madman. The whole local gardening fraternity now hates you. You are “that” hooligan intent on causing fear and distress to vulnerable motorists around you. You boy racer, what do you think you were doing, tear-arsing around that corner. Tosser.

Why turbo lag is good

Granted, there are many times when turbo lag is annoying, and you’d just rather have smooth, consistent, instant power. But I like the lag. I’m a turbo lag slag.

For about 40 days every year (it’s what the insurance company allows), I’m allowed to be temporarily put on our family’s Laguna insurance.

The Laguna has a 1.9 turbo diesel engine. The turbo makes me excited. It makes me giggle. It’s like a little power surprise every time I put my foot down.

Hill-climbing

One of the first times I discovered the merits of a turbo was when I was on holiday with my parents. I reach a tight left -hand corner in fourth, going about 35mph. I round the corner and there’s something I didn’t expect: a hill. Granted, I could’ve just dropped into third, but nah, I decided to pretend I was in the correct gear, so I pressed the accelerator all the way down.

The diesel engine grumbled. It didn’t appreciate my ignorance, so in retaliation it filled the car’s cabin with an unpleasant booming noise to say to my parents: “Your son’s in the wrong gear, the idiot. So I’ll just annoy you.”

Slowly but surely, the turbo slowly spun up. Between 30 and 35 there was a faint whistle, building up gradually. But then at 40 we had full turbo happiness. The turbo was at full spin, and suddenly the Laguna was my friend again. It propelled me and my parents to the top of the hill. And then Dad told me to slow down.

Pretending you’re in a rocket. 3, 2, 1…WHOOSH!

There’s also the moment from going from a 30-limited road and onto a national speed limit one. On purpose, I shed 10mph off my speed, and then I let third gear whoosh me from 20 to 50mph. Yes, I am that sad.

It’s not so much the total power that I enjoy, because there isn’t that much, but the sudden surge of power and the accompanying noise. I like sinking my foot to the floor, hearing the turbo spool up, hearing the engine become more energetic and then suddenly having 221 lb/ft of torque available. I know it’s not much, but I’m speaking relatively here. It’s the effortless speed, the effortless power.

I’m Peter Adams, and I’m addicted to turbo lag.

Note: I first published this blog post here, but, I thought I might as well put it up here too (I’ve kept the title the same, for the sake of our friend SEO, ‘search engine optimisation’). What’s more, for being a lovely faithful reader of my blog, you even get three or so extra paragraphs thrown in. I have even got a different picture for you. Yes, you are very lucky.





Aston Martin Cygnet NOT April Fools’ joke

1 04 2010

Aston Martin Cygnet: astonmartin.com

The morning of April 1, 2010 has passed. April Fool jokes are no longer allowed. And there has been NO news anywhere of the Aston Martin Cygnet being an April Fools’ joke, meaning the Cygnet is a real car and will be produced.

So, we’d better start getting really, really…excited.

Speed

The Toyota iQ (on which the Cygnet is based) comes with either a 1 or 1.3 litre engine. Now, it may be the more extravagant option (suitable only for speed demons), but let’s look at the 1.3 option.

The 1.3 Cygnet will be able to rocket you from 0 to 62mph in an incredible 13.4 seconds. And if you keep that pedal mushed into the metal, you may even reach the top speed of 105mph. Although, whether you’d want to go that fast is up to you. It’s not the car that isn’t capable, but you – do you really think you would even stay conscious at 95mph, nevermind 105?! In fact, has anybody ever been above 95?

Leather

When you’re flying around those back country roads, you’ll be glad you opted for the red leather. Under the hot summer sun, you’ll be sweating loads (you won’t want any air con on, because that’ll take power away from that leviathan of an engine), and that leather/sweat combination will mean you’ll be stuck securely to the seat on those high-g corners.

Flagship

The iQ Cygnet echoes the design of its less sporty, less cool, less exciting siblings.

This is the car that the V12 could, should have been.

Financial sense

Yes, it’ll probably cost about double that of an iQ, but you get leather and stuff. And, you can say to your mates that you’ve bought an Aston Martin*

So, it’s not an April Fools’ joke. And who thought it would be?! I didn’t doubt Aston Martin for a second.

*Note: They may call you a twat when they realise it’s a Cygnet.





New car or new phone, new is cool

7 03 2010

In 2006, on my 16th birthday, I received a new phone. It was black and shiny, and it flipped open and flipped shut. As well as being able to send texts and make calls (and also receive both) it could also take pictures. It was amazing.

Almost four years on, I’ve just bought a new phone. It’s black and shiny, and it slides open and slides shut.

Did I need a new phone? Well, not really. But my old phone had its faults: its battery life was sometimes limited to one day (one phone call and a handful of texts would kill it off), the memory was dire (50 texts would cause the memory to be full), I couldn’t upload pictures onto my laptop, it would turn itself off (usually after calls, or playing the excellent ‘Hungry Fish’ game). Oh, and it was starting to look a bit old.

The new phone has all the features I could only once have ever dreamt for. It’s got a camera…which can record both still and moving images. It’s got lots of fun extras (like a stopwatch, a timer, voice recorder – although I have an Olympus voice recorder anyway), a world clock, a convertor, and something about it blue teeth.

But all this out with the old, in with the new business got me thinking. It got me thinking about cars.

Car nostalgia

In March 2007, I was sat in the passenger seat of our family’s N-reg Renault Laguna. Dad was driving. We were returning from visiting my auntie and uncle. We rounded a tight right-hand bend, and in front of us, under a surprisingly warm spring sun, lay a beautiful straight and flat runway of Lancashire County Council’s almost-finest tarmac. No junctions. No bumps. No reason not to give the 2-litre engine a healthy workout.

After the energetic sprint down the road, and after I’d stopped giggling and applauding (yes, I still giggle like a child when I hear high revs as a passenger), we stopped at our local Renault garage, and agreed to trade in the Laguna for a new one.

What was wrong with our burgundy red N-reg Renault Laguna estate? Well, not that much considering it was 10 years old and had travelled over 126,000 miles.

The problems were: a high-pressure hose for the power steering once sprung a leak (quite a costly repair), the central locking in the boot didn’t work (the clichéd French electr

ical gremlins at work), the left hand-side had a mildly corrugated look thanks to children who were over-eager in opening doors, the heater took a good 15 minutes to start ushering out not-outside-temperature air, and the driver’s side rear door made a noise when it was opened. Other than that, it was a lovely car and its problems were, ultimately, minor and very rare considering age and mileage.

On the journey home from the garage, my dad and I sat in the old Laguna wondering: “Why get a new car?” We were happy with the one we had. It had a decent engine, it had a massive boot, it was seriously comfy on long journeys (buttock-ache took many hours to set in), and we’d had it for over a decade – it was like another sibling to me.

On 2 April, we arrived at the Renault garage in the old Laguna. A feeling of excitement and guilt engulfed me and my parents. We met our salesman, he handed us two key cards, and we sat in our new car for the first time…

Then suddenly we realised it was the right decision.

Sod the nostalgia. New car all the way

Granted, the ‘new’ car wasn’t exactly new. It was an ex-showroom car, and the model was only a year or two away from being replaced by the MkIII Laguna, but is still looked good. It was black, it had 17-inch, 15-spoke alloy wheels (which are a pain in the backside to clean), it had a raked rear end, and I reckoned it looked generally quite cool. Plus, it looked better than the surrounding neighbours’ cars (very important).

Over the old car, the new car had: air con, a working heater system, nice alloy wheels, bette

r sound insulation, better handling, a six-speed gearbox, a CD player, lots of airbags, rear head restraints, a rear armrest, a front central armrest, and…SPORTS SEATS!

Yes, it had a 1.9 diesel engine, not a 2-litre petrol unit, but the relative torque made up for the lack of aural pleasure.

Put the past behind you

When we own something for a long time, we become attached to it, we sentimentalise it. I must admit, I sort of miss the simplicity of our old Laguna, I miss the thousands of miles I spent sandwiched between brother and sister as we were taken to pretty places in Europe.

At a basic level, buying something new, be it a new phone or a new car, gets rid of the issues encountered with owning something old. Don’t get me wrong, owning and nurturing an old car is something I’d quite like to do one day (I shan’t yet say what car that is), but buying something new always conjures up a wave of immature excitement and hyperactivity.

So go on, do it – buy something new and shiny. It’s a lovely feeling.





Two years of driving

28 02 2010

Who couldn't enjoy a road like this?

On 22 February 2008, I was sat in the driver’s seat of my driving instructor’s olive green Seat Ibiza. As I sat looking out of the windscreen at the delightful rainy, windy, grey and cold Heysham weather, an Irish bloke in a big yellow florescent jacket was running a pen up and done a sheet on a clipboard, writing a number here, adding a comment there. Then he said (with a Northern Irish accent): “Payder, oim playsed to tell yoy yoy’ve paaased.”

That remark came at the end of my driving test (first attempt). Unlike many people, I actually quite enjoyed my driving test. Unfortunately I got four minors too many (ie four minors in total), but hey ho, at least I passed. Two were for undue hesitation, one was for observation during a ‘turn in the road’ (a three-point turn to post people), and the other I can’t remember.

Mr Irish Bloke told me that the next two years were important. If I got six points on my licence, then my six-point-weighted licence would fall out of my wallet, and into the hands of the magistrates court, and I’d have to one day retake my test.

Two years later, I have no points (touch wood) – I’ve made it! I have my licence for the foreseeable future. Unless I get 12 points, in which case I’ve done something wrong, and the magistrates will happily store my licence in a drawer somewhere (probably in their study at home).

Did you crash?

No. In my first two years I didn’t crash, or have a ‘near-miss’ (long may it hopefully continue). According to statistics, all young drivers, in particular young males, are supposed to crash. Much like many young drivers, two years into my driving life I haven’t crashed and I haven’t got any points.

I have had a bit more extra driving education since Mr Irish Bloke told me: “yoy’ve paaased”. I did Pass Plus, which involved two three-hour lessons – a journey to the Lake District and a journey to the Trafford Centre. It was good fun (although my buttocks were seriously numb, and I also learnt about ‘ball-ache’), but I didn’t learn much.

Extra-curricular activities

As a present for when I reached the 18, I went to Croft (albeit a couple of months after my birthday). Yes, because I was 18, and had a licence, I was able to drive a Porsche Cayman round a track with an instructor by my side. I then went out on my own in a Formula Renault. With hindsight, I was incredibly slow, but bloody hell it was fun.

Fast forward to June 2009 and (with thanks to CAR Magazine [who gave me incredibly beneficial work experience] and Honda [my first journalistic treat]) I’m spinning round and round in a Honda Insight and a Honda Jazz on a skid pan. Half an hour later, I’m sat in a Honda Legend with my eyes closed and hands off the wheel waiting to hear a beep that was signalling that I am about to hit something metallic.

But then came the really fun bit – a few laps round Rockingham in a Honda Civic Type-R and a Honda S2000. I’d read plenty about the sounds of the high-revving 2-litre VTEC unit, but goodness gracious me, accelerating out of ‘Tarzan’ in the S2000 in second gear, seeing the red line light up, and hearing a 9000rpm howl made my day. I also dabbled with heel-and-toe, with mixed success. Sometimes it worked, other times…well, smoothness was the aim, but it wasn’t exactly achieved. Oh, and I was really slow in the S2000 (first time on my own in a rear wheel drive car, and on work experience…I wasn’t willing to get near any limits).

From hooning to honing

Three weeks later, hurtling along at 100mph before plunging on the brake down to 30mph was a distant dream. I was back on the public highway, this time under the critical gaze of one of my local IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) group’s observers. My first ‘observed drive’ was terrible. I hated it. My driving was criticised – nobody likes being criticised. But after I’d learnt to accept and use that criticism, it became a lot more fun. Then in September 2009 I passed my test.

While the IAM test isn’t guaranteed to equip drivers with God-like driving abilities, if everyone took the advanced driving test the standard of driving on Britain’s roads would be far higher, and people would be a lot safer.

Discount please

So, after two years of exploring a few thousand miles of the UK’s highways, experiencing 11 cars and taking an advanced driving test, I can assure you that many young drivers are not boy (or girl) racers who are intent on creating holes in hedgerows while listening to apocalyptic /techno/grime/club music. Some of us actually enjoy driving. So bearing that in mind, will you thieving insurance companies please give me a discount?

Note to reader: Peter is now probably sat in a Renault Clio, taking a nap on the driver’s airbag after discovering the brutality of Lancashire’s hedges.





Advanced driving: what it’s all about

10 10 2009

Good news: I’ve passed my advanced driving test with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Granted, it’s been about three weeks since I passed, but yesterday my membership card arrived, so all is well.

At first I couldn’t stand the course, but now I’d recommend it. The course was called ‘Skill for Life’ – the idea being that the course will give you improved driving skill. For life.

How does it all work?

You pay your fee to the IAM, either to head office or via your local group (see here). You wait a while for the administrative folk to type up your details, and then you’ll be contacted by your nearest IAM group. You’ll then go to a meeting, where you’ll be briefed on the IAM’s way of doing things and what’s going to happen.

At said meeting you’ll be paired up with an observer. You’ll arrange a regular time and place to meet, make sure everything’s sorted with paperwork, and you’ll go home to tell your family about the meeting.

About a week later you’ll have your first observed drive. You’ll meet your observer, essentially a stranger, in a quiet car park, probably in a place you don’t go to very often, and you’ll sit in a car with them for about one and a half hours driving on unfamiliar roads. You’ll then think to yourself: “The IAM’s way of how to drive is rubbish. The IAM is rubbish. They’ve anaethetised my enjoyment of driving. I hate this course.”

Why will I hate it at the beginning?

Because the IAM loves to be methodical and systematic. Here are a few things that I had to change to be welcomed into the advanced driving family:

  • When you reach some traffic lights (on red), you come to a stop, put the handbrake on, take the car out of gear, return both hands to steering wheel, release the clutch, slowly take your foot off the footbrake, and wait patiently for amber to appear (and then quickly put it back in gear etc).
  • When setting off from traffic lights you must remember not to change gear across the junction. Why? Because a junction is a hazard and you must have both hands on the steering wheel when negotiating a hazard. So you have two options: change into second early, or suffer the sound of your engine screaming up to near the redline until you are past the hazard at which point you can change into second. Frankly, I’d rather just use common sense: set off, look all around, make sure I’m safe, change gear. That way, everyone’s happy and I don’t look like I’m deaf because I won’t be screaming along in first, when second represents a more pleasant experience.
  • When taking a corner, position the car for maximum visibility. So, on a 40mph left-hand bend (say, with hedges lining the road), take the car out to the centre line and follow the corner round near to that line (for a right-hand corner, stay out to the left). Do this without cutting in. Before the course, I’d position in the best place for optimum visibility, but would then straighten the corner out, making the drive smoother. I admit, I’ll probably return to these ways, but only where I can see the apex and beyond.
  • Look all around and into the distance. Take in everything you see. One piece of advice I heard is that your eyes should be effectively on ‘full-beam’ not ‘dipped’. I was taught to look around where necessary, look far ahead, then the middle distance, then near distance, and just keep being observant. If you look far into the distance your eyes will take care of what’s nearer anyway, so it’s worth looking well ahead. This, I believe is the most valuable lesson you learn with advanced driving.
  • Don’t change gear on corners. This is understandable, but I think it’s a little bit anal. Yes, when you change gear on a corner you’re changing the balance of the car, so there’s potential for the car to become unsettled. However, on long corners I really don’t see much of a problem. Say you’ve just left a roundabout in second gear, and the speed limit is 50, and you start accelerating round this long corner, and then…bugger, you’ve accelerated to 50mph, your ears are hurting from all the noise made my driving along in second at 50, but you can’t change gear because you’re on a corner. You’re nowhere near the limit of grip for the car or the road. In fact, you’re nowhere near any limits apart from the speed limit, and you can’t change gear because you’re negotiating what is deemed a hazard.
  • Don’t brake and change gear at the same time. Why? First of all it’s meant to make the drive smoother. Secondly, it reduces wear on the clutch. Finally, it goes against the IAM’s beloved ‘system’.

What’s ‘the system’?

‘The system’ is the IAM’s approach to driving. It equips the driver with a foolproof system to use all the time when driving.

  • The system is:
  • Information
  • Position
  • Speed
  • Gear
  • Acceleration

So, you look for information, you use it and, if necessary, give information, then you position your car, adjust the speed so it’s appropriate for the situation, change gear (including matching engine speed to road speed), and accelerate away on your pleasant journey.

I found that I used to follow the system, albeit subconsciously, anyway. What I had to get used to was separating gear changing and braking. I was used to separating gear-changing and braking for long, fast corners, but for pulling into junctions it took some getting used to.

I’m young, will the older advanced drivers look at me with scorn and consider me a ruthless, demonic and tyrannous driver?

The odd one might, but my experience was that the group was very welcoming. There’s only one way to give a good impression of you and your driving, and that’s to do the course, drive well, reach test standard, and show you are a capable and safe driver who knows when speed is appropriate. In a YouTube video a police driver named Chris Gilbert says: “Everyone can drive fast, it’s knowing where to go slow that counts.”

I’m old, will the advanced drivers welcome me too?

Yes. They will. Like I said above, they’re a welcoming bunch of folk. Provided your eyesight and reaction times are up to scratch, you’ll be fine.

You haven’t convinced me, not at all actually, but I might do it anyway, should I?

Yes. There’s no harm in doing it. If you don’t like their ways of doing things, just pass the test and adapt your driving style after that.

I may have hated the first lesson, but it’s probably the most valuable thing I’ve ever done.





Sir William Lyons Award 2008, Article 2: People only buy cars with their heads not their hearts

20 08 2009
Fiat Supermirafiori advert

Fiat Supermirafiori advert

Below is my second article for the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Sir William Lyons Award 2008. This article required me to pick one of four subjects and write 1000 words on it. This was about the fifth or sixth idea I had, and the introduction was written the day before I sent it (I paid £4.20 for next day delivery – that’s how committed I was). It’s unchanged from what I wrote in August/September 2008, so I’ve left in a typo.


The sky is blue, the sun casting its golden light across the expanse of countryside. The road ahead is straight. It’s flat. No junctions. Good visibility. I’m sat in the passenger seat. My dad is on my right. He’s the one driving. It’s Spring 2007 and we’re in our N-reg Renault Laguna. Dad sinks his foot to the floor. The 2 litre engine melodiously reaches up through the revs in third, pause, into fourth, the revs climb again. The countryside is flying by. With a corner fast approaching, Dad eases off, the revs subside, and we continue the journey at a more economical rate.

That was on the day we sold the Laguna. It was one of my favourite memories in a car. Memories of cars are strange. They transform our view of a car. The car rarely matters. It doesn’t have to be a Ferrari, a Porsche or a Caterham. If that car gives us memories, then that’s how we feel about that car.

In his younger days, my dad bought cars relatively regularly. He had a phase of buying Fiat 126s, the successor to the 500, but less of an icon. Why keep buying them? Because of the memories. Because of the adventures.

Even now, over 30 years later, he fondly looks back on he and my mum toured Italy. The car can be more asthmatic and powerless, more akin to the funfair than the open road, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is what we do, where we go, what we share with that car. My dad ventured across the Continent in a car possibly less powerful than a lawnmower, he had to put up with an engine which had the aural presence and magnificence of a generator, he scaled mountain roads slower than it takes a stalagmite to form in a mountain cave.

My dad tells tales of filling up the boot (underneath the bonnet), and how he crammed luggage behind the front seats to block out the sound of the straining engine which sat behind them. Apparently, sound-proofing wasn’t what it is today, and driving up Italian mountain roads in a little car, full to the rafters with luggage, was potentially quite a noisy experience. Plus, the low speed, absence of air-con and soaring temperatures effectively turned the 126 into a sauna on trolley wheels.

It sounds like an unbearable experience. Yet, when it comes up in conversation, my mum and dad laugh about it, fondly looking back at the holiday and the car. Because they had to pile in the luggage to lessen the engine noise, because it was so small and cramped, because they had no luxuries whatsoever, that is why they recall it with such happiness and nostalgia.

If we have an adventure in a car, drive on a brilliant road, see majestic scenery from the driver’s seat, then that is enough for us to look back with a smile at that lump of metal known as a car.

But what if we don’t have an adventure in our car? What happens then? Do we just look back at it coldly and merely see it as a mode of transport? Not necessarily. The simple enjoyment of driving a car is sometimes enough.

After the series of 126s, my dad bought another Fiat. He has that staring-into-the-distance look whenever he talks about his second-hand Fiat 131 – Supermirafiori. He exhibits a fond smile when he discusses the 126, but when he talks about the Supermirafiori he has a grin. Not an ordinary grin, but a grin which is always followed by, “was quite fast, had cruise control, low-profile tyres, vinyl roof”, which is then followed by an instinctive nodding of the head. This was Dad’s fun car. The look in his eyes, the rising of the corners of the mouth, they indicate that he enjoyed driving that car, and when he tells me, “It was quite fast”, I get the impression he’s withholding some driving moments which got the adrenaline flowing. If I try to find out about these memorable motoring moments? “No, Pete, the roads were quieter when I was young.”

The way we look back at cars is defined by our experiences in those cars. Dad discovered the Continent in the 126 and he had fun in the Supermirafiori. But, what if a car fulfills nothing like that? Simply, ‘a box on wheels’.

In the early 1990s my dad had a car that was a box on wheels. It was only a mode of transport, nothing more. If one knows the name, one will understand immediately. Think rust, think bland, think Montego. Yes, the low-point in my dad’s car history was a Montego. Some cars are forgivable for their problems. Many people see some things as ‘quirks’. The Montego had its problems with nothing even close to being considered a quirk; it existed without excitement, without fun. Just a bad car.

If my dad looks back at the 126s with a loving smile, the Montego provokes the facial expression of having eaten a tablespoon of Marmite. Loved or loathed, both cars are very much etched into his emotions.

The cars we own have an impact on how we live and how we look back at life. When we buy a car we make a logical and rational choice – our priorities are getting as much money knocked off it as we can, getting as many extras thrown in as possible, and hoping for years of trouble-free motoring. However, once that car is ours with our name adorning the paperwork, once we actually drive it and it’s part of our life, once man and machine start to share roads and adventures, that’s when the transition between head and heart occurs. We buy with our head; we own with our heart.