My first car, the orange VW Beetle, was rusty, dangerous, but mostly reliable. I mean, it would start in the morning. It would start after several months of non-use. But it could’t pass an MoT test to save its life.
Oh, the heartache.
The beginning of the end of my youthful fitness and skinny form was when I started to use it on the very odd occasion to get to work. I was living in Dumpstable and working in Luton, which was a 6-mile cycle ride. In the middle of winter, though, when it was too cold or wet to contemplate cycling in, I’d swallow the cost of the car park and drive it.
There was one very cold morning when the throttle stuck in the wide open position. You could put your foot on the brake, but the engine just kept on revving and revving. The only way to actually bring it to a proper halt was to switch the engine off. I discovered this trick at the first junction. In addition, the (flat) windscreen was covered in ice on both the inside and the outside. I’d cleared it, but it immediately iced up again, so I had to keep rubbing a circle of visibility with my gloved hand.
I think the scariest moment came when approaching the M1 junction (11) on the A505 dual carriageway. It was very busy, there was a lot lot traffic about, and I tried to time my approach to the roundabout in a screaming third gear in a car that would not stop. I switched off the engine, and applied the brake (okay, because those weren’t servo brakes, and that wasn’t power steering), and tried to rub a clear spot on the windscreen, at the same time.
Realising there was a gap for me to go into, I then restarted the engine as I entered the roundabout, chunked it down a gear, and accelerated away. I believe that before the next roundabout the throttle had unstuck itself, but that was probably the stupidest thing I ever did as a young driver.
Who says men can’t multitask?