Grand Plans


In a poem (penned allegedly still plough-side, and following his accidental decimation of a mouse’s field winter home), Robert Burns professed that the best laid plans of mice and men go often askew.

As far as grand plans go, I didn’t intend to develop a strong emotional connection with petrol-powered vehicles, or in a roundabout way, to become a petrolette. In fact, I can't say that I had much of a say in the matter at all. It was more a tale of romance and hearts-a-flutter: after one lap around the block in my first car I fell as hard for it as a teenager in love, despite the age difference. A newer car certainly seemed a more sensible option at the time, and I'd been offered my mum’s old-reliable for a similar price, but would have cared about it 100% less than the dinky Notchback a previous owner had (hopefully ironically) named after a decorated German army general.

And so a bundle of cash was nervously handed over in exchange for a very worn key, a signed notice of disposal, and a scrawled receipt for a VW, and the drive home was one of the most delicately performed operations of my life to date. Within a week he'd been renamed but I couldn't get him to start again, and quickly learned that forty year old cars definitely have all the personality I intend to have at that age, and that fuel gauges aren't always accurate. Eleven years and multiple trips, friend's weddings, and major engine and body restos later, I find myself relating to Jay Leno of all people. In the 2009 Eric Bana directed documentary Love the Beast, Leno declared he has a relationship with all his vehicles and has never sold any of them, restoring each of them as he could afford it, and just building more storage space as required. His garage is more impressive than I have ever found his act.

Reliable vehicles are never considered 'mine', they're merely additional transport options. All decisions made subsequent to each of my major vehicle purchases have been to get or keep the damn things running and registered (in order to enjoy their use and justify their ownership to people who don’t feel the same way about them); cost be damned. Time spent using them or working on them makes them more my own; every stripped screw, every scratch and stone chip, every freeway burnt valve or fan-belt explosion, every midnight roadside tyre change. Vehicles you have a relationship with are worth more to you than the market (unless, of course, you own collectible Porsches, or your surname is McQueen - his always seem to sell for the GDP of a small nation).

While I've been regaled with all manner of colourful accounts pertaining to sneaky stowaways in battery boxes or under seats, thankfully I haven’t personally needed to dismantle any guerrilla homes in my car or bike (or set up house in them myself), but I have a feeling they'll always feel like home to me, wherever I am.

Jo is a buxom redhead looking for adventure. She loves her motor children equally, and if you ask really nicely, she might let you take them for a spin. Easily distractible, but also easily obsessed, she is our Editor-in-Chief, resident proof-reader, and zany ideas lady. Caffeine is her fuel of choice.