A couple of weeks ago, I bought myself a “new” car, a Ford Focus to be exact, through auction. Not eBay (I did that with the last car) but a proper, trade car auction.
It was the most frightening car purchase of my life; but I’ll come back to that later.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of owning (I’ll use that term loosely: some, admittedly, were company cars) some very nice vehicles, including Lexus and BMW, and some utterly nutty machines, like the Subaru WRX.
My favourites, however, have always been the American cars. Huge, four-litre behemoths, like the two Jeep Grand Cherokees that graced my driveway and single-handedly drained most of East Anglia’s petrol reserves, or the bus-like Chrysler Grand Voyager that I still own.
I’ve had some utter abominations of vehicles too, like the Renault Vel Satis. That car fit my automotive personality so well, with its obscure looks, Starship Enterprise level of equipment, and the 3.5 litre V6 engine that my children said made it sound like a Formula One car.
Unfortunately, it suffered from dementia and often woke up thinking it was a donkey. Or a wheelbarrow. It rarely actually thought it was meant to be a car, and therefore it rarely actually worked.
But in these austere times, we had to make the decision to buy something cheaper to drive around in. After all, sticking a hundred quid’s worth of fuel in the Voyager each week just to take Malachy and his mates to karate did seem, well, a little ludicrous.
So I set about looking for something small and cheap to potter about in, while keeping the Grand Voyager – and its Captain’s Chair driving seat, multi-zone climate control, so on and so on – for the longer journeys, when comfort is a little more paramount.
I set my sites on that bastion of the second-car family motorist: the Ford Focus. I wasn’t too bothered about spec, all I wanted to ensure was that it had air conditioning, and either a 1.6 petrol or 1.8 diesel engine. The rest, as long as it looked tidy, was irrelevant.
So I headed off to British Car Auctions with a friend-in-the-know and identified four possible candidates.
The first one going through the auction fit the bill nicely, and was in budget. One owner from new, a proper Ford service history, air conditioning and a small petrol engine.
I indicated to my friend that this could be a winner, told him a price I was prepared to go to, then stood in confusion as a man shouted unintelligibly at us for fifteen seconds then tried to hit us with a hammer. Then the car was driven off and another one drove in.
“Congratulations,” my friend said.
“What just happened?” I asked, a little shocked.
“You got the car,” he beamed.
Stunned, I looked at him and said: “well what the hell did I pay?!”
The whole thing was finished quicker than a teenager in a peepshow and I hadn’t understood a second of it. But I’d got my car, and boy does it save me money!
I filled it up last Thursday in Chippenham, Wiltshire, after attending a funeral, then drove home to the other Chippenham, in Cambridgeshire. Then I pottered around town over the weekend, before heading to Great Yarmouth and back on Tuesday.
I’m beginning to think the low fuel warning light is broken as it still hasn’t come on and I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms for my local Jet fuel station.
I’m fairly sure the Voyager is just sitting in its parking spot, spitefully emptying its tank despite not being used.
I have, however, spotted one flaw with the Focus: I’ve always liked to drive cars that are a little bit different, that aren’t the same as the neighbour’s, but the trouble with driving a Ford Focus is that every other bugger has one. They’re everywhere!
Four of us drove in convoy down the A11 yesterday, while one came in the other direction. The only thing that could tell them apart was the colour.
I’ve discovered I’m doing something I haven’t done since I owned my Vauxhall Cavalier: comparing model types.
The one parked next to mine right now is a Ghia. And apparently that’s better than mine.