Regrets – we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Actually that’s not strictly true – it seems we all look back on our catalogue of car purchases with some degree of regret. There are cars we regret selling. Cars we regret not buying. And cars we regret buying. PetrolBlog’s latest feature has certainly struck a chord with many of you, leading to an outpouring of tales of regret.
A while ago I was chatting to Peter Counsell on Twitter. It turned out that we were both had a history involving the Ford Capri Laser. Not only that, the history involved our fathers and a tale of regret. So we agreed that a joint Regrets feature would work rather well. But having read Peter’s account, I couldn’t possibly muddy the water with my own waffle. So here is the latest Regrets piece on PetrolBlog. Over to you, Peter.
My father was an architect. Therefore we had Fords.
In isolation those two sentences are unlikely bedfellows. Stereotypically architects drive old Audis, Citroëns or more recently Saabs, as brands and vehicles that appealed to their individuality and creative instincts. With the development of Audi more into the mainstream, the absence of mass sales of big Citroëns and the demise of Saab, who knows what they drive now?
But if one of your clients was the local Ford main dealer, then it made excellent sense to drive a Ford. Not because of any favours or discounts but just a question of brand loyalty. If one were to arrive on site in a foreign vehicle, well that would be just plain inappropriate. So, Ford it was.
Not that it was a bad thing. We had a very pleasing run of vehicles that went Hillman Minx Estate (the dealer was previously Rootes Group, of course), Cortina GXL, Granada GXL, Granada Ghia and then a flurry of Capris.
Jump back thirty plus years. Due to an unfortunate matter of timing – an Alfa GTV stopped at traffic lights and so did we, just a little later than ideal – the Granada Ghia is in the garage and would be for a while yet whilst the front is rebuilt. The garage loaned my father a Capri, a Mk2 1600 GL in metallic gold. In image terms, even in those days, it is way off the expected mark, but actually we all thought it was rather good.
Back then, those in the building and surveying world like my dad would carry ranging rods and so on in the car. They were about six feet tall and did not collapse. Dropping one rear seat on the Capri was ideal for this. I imagine that the whole surveying thing is doable on a smartphone app nowadays.
I don’t think we ever took the Granada back. Some form of part exchange was effected, that led to the gold GL, (successively) two Mk3 GLs and, eventually, an automatic 2.0 Laser in sparkling white.
The Laser holds a special part in my life as its life in the family bookends two life-changing events for me.
To start with and the first life-changing event, it was the family car at the time I started to drive. I was enormously lucky to be able to learn in both an old Mini and the Capri. Insurance premiums were wildly different back then and my parents’ generosity in making either car available for use is not to be forgotten. The combination of tiny front-wheel drive car and bigger lairy rear-wheel drive car helped, I think, in giving experience of different layouts and different ways in which vehicles react. That is something I wish to pass on to the next Counsell generation when they start driving (this October, be afraid).
Against convention, I loved the automatic. My dad had a gammy left leg, so automatics were the prescription. I understand that it is not the purest form of transport and, for the better driver, manual is the preferred route, but it just knitted together well with the rest of the car and enabled one to drive it with a bit of flow. In any case, the car covered a lot of miles and it spent plenty of time in traffic.
Embarrassingly, I did used to muck about in it. Old Capri, rear-wheel-drive and ice is an intoxicating combination. Myself and two friends also found out why there was only Bodie and Doyle – because by the time the third Professional had got out of the back, the terrorist had already been shot, the women bedded and the pay-off line delivered to camera.
All of which sounds lovely and absolutely it was. So what, then, of the second life-changing event?
Through the early 90s my Dad suffered from failing health and died in 1995. He left a huge gap, not least for my mother, who I don’t think ever recovered from his departure. The Laser was the last car he ever owned. It is hard to know how to deal with these things until they happen. My brother, my sister and I did all the things that have to be done and quite a few that don’t. But I didn’t deal with the car for over a year.
Perhaps I was reluctant to do so, because it was just a bit too hard. Perhaps I had a twinkle of an idea that I might get it back on the road again myself. Perhaps I was just lazy.
Inevitably, the car deteriorated and was untaxed and unroadworthy. Eventually I called someone up to come and take it as scrap. I think I may even have paid them to take it away. Eighteen years on, they are much sought after.
But I had left it too long.
My mother said to me that she used to look out at the Capri and expect my father to get out of the car and come into the house, as if time had just rolled back. Perhaps that gave her some comfort. More likely it just made her sadder. Either way, it is something that I truly regret.
Follow Peter on Twitter @CounsellPeter.