Tuesday 8 November 2016

We say dust off and nuke the car from orbit

People have coming up to us recently and been asking questions on our apparent lack of driving. The recurrent queries are
  1. Why haven't we seen you parking badly?
  2. Why haven't we seen you driving badly?
  3. Why haven't you driven right behind us in the fast lane of the motorway at 90 mph, flashing your lights at us?
For reasons which may be covered in a future post, the Bristol Traffic Important Car for Important People has now been officially written off; the insurers of the Important Car for Important People providing a rental car until a settlement is reached. The answers to the question are thus:
  1. We have —just in a Vauxhall Corsa 1.4
  2. We have —just in a Vauxhall Corsa 1.4
  3. We can't, it's a Vauxhall Corsa 1.4
Here it is in all its glory, just after stocking up on marmite at Sainsbury's Brislington.

Compared to a team member's MkII Astra 1.4L of many decades ago, the Corsa isn't that bad for luggage room, but manages to be tangibly slower. All the weight of modern safety equipment like airbags and ABS, along with power steering, electric windows and the like have made for a vehicle which struggles to break the 20 mph limit. Our urban speedo watching is now one of looking down at the mph dial as it gets into the late teens, muttering "go on Corsa, you can do it!".

Unfortunately, free vehicle that it is, it comes with a fundamental flaw: a £500 insurance excess and undamaged bodywork. It has both wingmirrors and the alloy wheels lacking those scrapes which mark a car christened for use in urban Bristol.

It's not a matter of whether the car is going to end up with a wingmirror held up with duct tape, wheels documenting the kerb heights parked against, or graceful scrapes aquired on daily use. It's when. It even constrains parking choices: you start worrying in the night about what it will look like in the morning —that maybe you shouldn't have parked sticking out quite so much on that corner.

Accordingly, rather than await the day when the car is returned and a large bill for damage presented, the team decided to return the car early, and borrow a parent's '53 reg Peugot 307 HDi. The parent in question had a little medical incident in August, their car parked up since then. Taking it away from them should help get them used to the post-driving lifestyle, which, in Portsmouth, "city by the sea", means getting used to FirstBus coming by once an hour, except on Sundays, when it drops to "who knows"

Vehicle collected, successfully driven to Bristol. Compared to the Corsa, it's stable, and it's manual transmission and the minimal turbocharger give it a better 0-20 number —still not great for getting on the M32 from the secret Mina Road access point. With the changes there, you can't even be at 15 mph before you approach the merge point.

But it's stable, and pre-commissoned for abuse in an urban environment. All it needs is cleaning up, the parent being one of those who like to hoard things in their vehicle.

All goes well, the interior binned; time to go to the boot. Four cans of WD-40 and three de-icers seem overkill, but as a Glaswegian who used to own a Mini, the owner no doubt had picked up some habits they couldn't get rid of. That's not the issue though, the issue is what turns up once the boot contents are purged, and the layers underneath explored.

What's there? Moss large quantities of it. Enough that you have to look for David Attenborough and his camera crew.

And under the moss? Water. Large quantities of water.

The entire spare wheel compartment has about 2-3 cm of water in it. This is, well, unexpected, and best accompanied with the expression "What the fuck?"

Now, Pompey is a coastal town, and it could be that there have been some high tides flooding the streets —tides covered up by the Portsmouth Tourist Board. This is unlikely, as the loss of the city to climate change is something that UKIP would be highlighting as a positive outcome of climate change.

Discounting that, and deliberate human action, the other key hypothesis has "it's been collecting water from rain". With the car unused for a few weeks (this photo was taken early October), water could easily have seeped in to the stationary car.

Except: it's been a really dry Autumn. Has it really been long enough for the spare wheel bay to fill with water and plants to start growing?

No, this car has been collecting rainwater for some time.

For anyone with ageing parents, there's always the question "when should they stop driving?" You always hope that they stop before they end up in a serious crash, maybe just a small one involving a bollard where the police suggest politely to put away the car keys.

Maybe, just maybe, the fact that you've clearly been driving around not noticing the strange slushing sound coming from the back, or the odd fusty smell. One can but hope. That or bribe the garage doing the MoT to make sure the car fails.

The wealthy in society, the Camerons, the Rees-Moggs, they look forward to inheriting the family estate, what with its greenery and lakes.

Us: we fear the family hatchback.

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