Nostalgic Drivel

I thought I would write something about bushfires today, as we find ourselves on the cusp of a wet, La Nina summer. Given our previous experiences however, I felt like I should probably do a good job of it. So, I’ll write about the Mark One Escort instead.

My first car was a Mark 1 Escort. It was old when I bought it, and, I remember, cost $600, which was an outrageous sum of money. I think I was about 16 when I bought it. I’d been driving for a couple of years, but couldn’t get a driver’s licence. The rules changed in the early 90s. For some inexplicable reason, the New Zealand government had decided that 15 year olds weaving through cattle and deer on slick tyres in torrential rain, while repositioning the straw on a carton of ZAP with surgical precision required a touch more expertise than ticking 50% of questions on a multi-guess test.

This squeamishness led to an outrageous attack on personal sovereignty – the three stage driver’s licence. I can’t remember the details, but the first step was answering a 20 question ‘scratchie’ test at the local police station.

I had been driving for a couple of years by the time I sat the test, (as had most of my mates). The new licence restrictions might well have been appended with, ‘……in and around town’.

But, I studied up and made the appointment, nervously sitting in a small office at the local police station. The test was simple and I answered each question correctly. I passed the test to the police officer sitting opposite me. He didn’t look at it, rather, he took a long drag on his ciggie and blew the smoke in my face,

“Fail”.

I was stunned. Maybe he’d been watching me do the test and thought I’d failed? I paid the $20 and made another appointment in a week.

The following week I trundled into the police station, again. And again, the same officer sat in the room with me, blowing B&H Gold into my face,

“Fail”.

After the third attempt I realised I was never going to get a learner licence, so I just gave up and drove without one, albeit after an initial period of riding my motorbike to work, because no-one really needed licence for a motorbike.

It was a few years later that I discovered that the cop, like most people in our small town, hated my Dad, to the extent that he’d flown low over his house in a chopper and blasted the washing on the line with a .308.

And with that, I realise I’ve said nothing about the car, and a lot about corrupt West Coast police.

I had big plans for the Escort. It was a beguiling creature, with its thin, black steering wheel, and overpowering smell of warm oil, seeped into the rough stubble of carpet. Mine was white, with patches of pink bog. I planned to modify the transmission tunnel and drop a 2 litre into it, with a machined cam, such was the modest fabulism of the 90s petrol head. What I ended up doing was building a simple transistor assisted ignition kit so the bloody thing would start in the morning and replaced the wiper blades. I don’t even remember what happened to the Escort, which is odd, because I remember all the cars I’ve owned since (quite an impressive procession of shit-boxes over the years), but the details of the Escort escape me. I thought I’d perhaps given it to a friend, but then I realised that I had another car following the Escort, (which I won’t even discuss because it was so outrageously shit, I’m still angry about it) and I can’t remember what happened to that thing either. It had hydro-elastic suspension. I’m still scarred.

And with that, I leave today’s entry.

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