The man I bought it off said “it’s a good car.” And who was I to argue. It had a new clutch, was cheap and came with the added bonus of being four-wheel drive. The fact that the heater only worked on full and it leaked a small oil refinery’s worth of crude, whenever left for any time longer than it takes to drink a can of dandelion and burdock, were all minor points as far as I was concerned.
And so it came to pass, that on a Friday evening in June, the only thing that stood between our evolution from pedestrian to car owner, was a sweaty handshake and an envelope stuffed full of 20 pound notes.
The boy’s eyes lit up once they saw their new old car in the morning. “Can we take it off road Dad?” asked Dylan with his biggest grin, saved for special occasions, when he wanted to get his way. “Sure, let’s go to Llandudno.” I said hoiking up phlegm from last week’s cold in an ambitious attempt to pronounce the Welsh town properly.
“It’s not Lan-dud-no boys – it’s pronounced kkllllaaan (chew, chew -swallow) didno…”
Eventually, after roaming along Welsh motorways and A roads, fortune finally played her hand by providing the ideal playground for some novice off-road activity. Meandering down a single lane road from the Great Orme, we met another vehicle coming the other way. In an instant, an air of possibility and adventure presented ahead and excitement twitched through my fingers, as an empty kerb lay to our left… with little more than a gentle swing on the wheel, our left front and rear tyres bounced over the pavement. Getting a ‘here we go again’ look from Rachel, I yelled out “we’re fifty percent off-roading guys!”, before pulling back onto the old bitumen for the long drive back.
Whilst only lasting about 3.7 seconds, it set a precedent for things to come. From that point onwards, the Massif Central, Pyrenees and European Alps would be seen as little more than bumps to navigate our way over. I became aware in that one singular moment, that we can go anywhere in this baby. With the crossing to France in less than two weeks, our new catchphrase is ‘to the peak and beyond’. That is of course, assuming the oil leak doesn’t get any worse.