Well hello you.…*purrs*
There are some of my friends who find my love of classic cars a little odd. To which I say, pointing at photos like the one above, even if you have no desire to drive them, how could you not look at that beautiful piece of design and not grin like a fool?
Of course looking and driving are two quite different things.
As you will know from last week’s post, VintageSeekers.com discovered that I loved cars and threw out a suggestion: would I like to borrow a 1965 Austin Healey for the weekend, to highlight their new classic car brokerage service and care hire service?
As I sat behind the wheel in the short stay car park in the South Terminal I had a moment of oh Christ what I have agreed to?
Driving classic sports cars is a world away from today’s nippy, lightweight convertibles. There’s no power steering, the disc brakes are slower, the gears need more love, and the lights & wipers are usually dash flip levers, as opposed to stalks. (The indicators in this case are that cream switch on the middle of the steering wheel.)
And if you need to turn the car from stationary you practically have to wrench the wheel around. Oh and the pedals tend to be positioned quite differently from modern cars. Essentially, you need to drive with a lot of care and thought. It’s as much an intellectual exercise as a physical one. (And it really is a physical one with no power steering.)
Here I am in the pits at Silverstone in my father’s XK120. After a day of track driving in this, I can barely move my arms:
What you need is a big old injection of chutzpah: Driving is a matter of self-belief as much as it is competence. Sitting in the Healey, I gave myself a good old talking to, reminding myself that I have driven the 1952, 1.5 ton 120 around Goodwood at 100mph and that the Healey could only be a pussycat in comparison. So after a very deep breath, I turned the key in the dashboard, opened up the gas, and eased out the car park.
And of course, it was an utter delight to drive. The gas pedal was responsive, the gearbox smooth as silk. The main thing to get used to is that a pale blue 1965 convertible with its roof down is going to attract a LOT of attention.
Factor in a female driver in a Grace Kelly headscarf & Ray-Bans, a female co-pilot, and an upright sausage dog with its ears flattened in the wind, and you might as well have a klaxon screaming ‘Oy you: look over here’ mounted on the bonnet.
As we drove out of Gatwick, there was a guy hopping about on the kerb with a cameraphone as we went past, and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the weekend. We had children waving at us, tourists pointing, and grown men gawping.
Our favorites were the delightful German family by Arundel Castle, who stared and stared, until I invited them over to look at the dash and interior (I know from hanging out with my dad what the etiquette is around car lovers). When they discovered we had a Dackel in the passenger seat, I thought they were going to explode with joy. An Austin Healey AND a dachshund in one neat package? Ver gut!
In a way, although the driving really was absolute heaven, it was the meeting of other car lovers and chatting that really made the weekend for us. Motoring is one of those passions that completely breaks down barriers, and we talked to some great people over the weekend.
(And if you are feeling inspired by my weekend of classic car love, you too can hire this car for a day or weekend via VintageSeekers.com)