Irish Driving Tales From The Dark Side: A Driving Instructor’s Diary

An alternate title for this article might be “Don’t think buying a new car will solve all your woes because it won’t!”

Flash back to a warm summer day in 1997 and our intrepid Instructor is seen reaching for his chosen car supplier checkbook and off you go. Really exciting time, buying a new car for cash for the first (and probably last) time in his life, I would think. Think again, the storm clouds are brewing (Actually I think they can coagulate)

It’s worth noting at this stage that the car had been ordered some time before and a set of OEM alloy wheels were to be fitted. Enter the showroom with a big smile on your face, to be met with an equally expansive smile from the Service Manager, who was an old friend and adviser to Motoring from many years before. I’m sure the Seller would have preferred to deal with me himself, but in this world it’s who you know, not what you know, if you catch my drift. In those days, before the shiny new stainless steel and glass Emporiums we are used to today when visiting major distributors, it was a bit rough and ready and there was no cappuccino on tap. Still, everything was calm, friendly, and full of expectation. At this stage there are no hints of what was to come.

Your car is ready sir; the usual courtesies of being ushered into the waiting Beast (and it turned out to be just that!) and a silence while we had time to gasp and smile and generally feel good about ourselves. The car looked magnificent with its metallic blue paint, shiny alloy wheels, and power front windows and other niceties.

This was a Wednesday, in the month of August, and the sun was shining, the birds were singing (no rain for a change), and all was well as we completed paperwork and prepared for our new experience. In fact, it was quite a thrill, but it wasn’t going to last! A few hours later, with only 70 miles on the clock, all power went out and my hopes went out the window, to be replaced by a gut feeling that, as it turned out, was entirely justified.

The first car problem would not have been so bad had it not been for the fact that my two daughters and I were booked on the Irish Car ferry to the UK the following Sunday at 8:00am. My heart sank when I realized that there were only two days or less left until the car was ready to go. In the event that the vehicle was not ready on time, a replacement car and the necessary insurance coverage would have to be ready by the close of the game on Friday and it was now 2:00 pm on Wednesday. Not good!

Back in the showroom, wearing long forgotten smiles, the campers were not happy to say the least. I forgot which car we drove home and we were preparing for the worst, which actually happened. The fault could not be diagnosed and we reluctantly agreed to another replacement car, slightly larger, to take us on our adventure. We were all extremely disappointed not to be able to show off our new machine to family and friends, but it turned out that the bigger car was a huge benefit on the return trip with all the extra accruals a 2000 mile drive does to a small family car.

Two weeks later, home safe from a grueling round of overdoses from family, friends, and the highway, we hoped to get our real car back; as I’m sure, he was also looking forward to his new owner (or was he?)

It turned out that two or three automotive electrical engineers had been unable to locate the problem, and with the hours passing quickly until the owner arrived, some emergency action was required if a lynching (or worse) was to be avoided. Said Service Manager took the bull by the horns and proceeded very quickly, but almost by accident, to discover the malfunction. A simple short in the steering column when the steering wheel was in the full lock position.

Problem solved—- Happy Campers again…sadly not for long! Never before had he been in such a debilitating situation (at least in the motoring sense!) With a new car, for the past twenty-seven years, he was sure the worst was over. It was just getting started and it would be much worse in the next twelve months and beyond.

Clearly my plans for the future, which included guaranteed trouble-free racing, had suffered a severe setback or, as Jim Edwards would say, a “Friday night hit”. Jim, as some of you may know, is a master internet marketing guru and author, although he doesn’t like the term. I’ll put his URL in the resource box at the end, for those of you who are interested in a real life success story. I have Jim to thank for helping me get up and running with my word processor and who knows, maybe one day I can afford to walk into a car showroom again and buy the damn place and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some service.

It’s too tiring to relive those heady days, for more than an hour at a time, so the rest of the story, which is long, will follow in the next chapter. In the meantime, please drive safely and remember that learning is a lifetime occupation.

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