Friend of show, honorary president and Club PetrolBlog member Kenny Smith has rolled into town with his choice of CarTunes. As you’d expect for a man famous for his Top of the Pops observational skills, his taste in music is great and eclectic. He also has a love of cars beginning with the letter ‘V’.
Over to you, Kenny Smith.
“You should feel right at home here with an interest in #Totp and all that,” he said. Er, no.
As you will see from my selection of CarTunes, my musical taste is all over the place. The phrase ‘one man’s trash, another one’s class’, springs to mind.
I would have loved to have been in a position to tell you stories like the ones in Phil Llewellyn’s The road to Muckle Flugga or be like Mel Nichols bombing across Australia in a Falcon GTHO, but it really doesn’t work like that. I imagine the scenery and engine noise in those moments would have drowned out any musical soundtrack.
My first car was a 1981 Vauxhall Astra 1200 hatchback in yellow – it was all I could afford as an apprentice car mechanic on the YTS. Thanks to the determination of Merseyside’s car criminals to top the crime statistics chart, my first insurance premium was more than the £725 I paid for it in 1992.
It had a Phillips AN391 push button radio* as standard. As well as being able to pick up national Radio One and local Radio City stations on Medium Wave (MW), it could also receive the Irish independent station Atlantic 252 on the Long Wave (LW) frequency.
Atlantic 252 was something of a novelty at the time. It featured DJs who used ‘exotic’ pseudonym’s such as ‘Dusty Rhodes’, ‘Robin Banks’ and ‘Rick O’Shea’ playing all the recent chart hits. Repeatedly.
Talking of repeatedly, this song was one I certainly would have heard driving around for the sake of it. Or I would have heard it going to and from college – day release for Riversdale Technical College was on a Thursday. I loved Thursdays – this song was all I heard for about two years.
After a couple of years of constantly hearing that, I decided it was time the radio system needed a mid-life facelift, and I obtained a fancy Ford ERST32PS digital display radio that previously lived in a Ford Capri 2.8. This had an FM tuner and, more importantly, a tape deck.
I also got some big Blaupunkt speakers that fitted ‘perfectly’ on the rear parcel shelf and, when wired in sequence with the original rear speakers, it now had quadraphonic stereo sound in the back. The cassette player was a big thing for me, I could now raid my extensive tape collection to showcase my great taste in driving music.
Picture the scene, ladies. It’s 1995, you and your friends are outside a nice pub on a warm summer night and suddenly this shiny yellow Vauxhall Astra appears from nowhere. Above the powerful roar of the 1,198cc engine is this classic. The mysterious driver looks incredibly cool in his Foster Grant sunglasses from Halfords. You hide your obvious sexual attraction by laughing. I think.
I kept the Astra for another few years, but it became a weld-fest every MOT time. One such MOT was carried out by an old friend who now features on Cop Car Workshop – how about that for a claim to fame? I later did a two-year welding course at night college, and promptly did what anyone sensible would have done – I bought a Volvo.
But it was no ordinary Volvo.
My 480ES leaked like a sieve. The old joke about ES being short for ‘En Suite’ was painfully true. The heater/de-mister packed up, which was helpful in the winter. And I still wonder how the heck I was never caught when I caused a massive oil slick on the way home from work when it decided to attempt two gears at once and promptly blew a hole in the gearbox casing.
I only heard the whine of the then dry differential on the way back the next morning when I thought the radio was losing reception. It was fitted with a standard Phillips 802 radio/cassette which was one of the few things that remained faultless. I played this live album on the tape player constantly. All the tracks are fantastic, but this one seems appropriate.
After five years of a 480, I wanted a ‘real’ Volvo and not a ‘Renault’ one. So, in a moment of madness, I got a loan and bought one. A 1999 C70 Coupe with a combined stereo radio, tape player and a three-disc CD player in the SC-901 head unit, which I later added to an Alpine six-CD multichanger which was better than the factory one. Welcome to the (nine!) compact disc digital surround sound of the 1990s, baby.
It’s claimed that the C70 was designed around the sound system. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s an impressive line to impress people when demonstrating your new motor, especially when playing this classic. ‘Crank it up’ ever so slightly just before the 2 min 18 sec mark…)
So here we are in 2020, and after 16 years I still own the same Volvo. It is as if I have found a good one, and I’m somehow reluctant to get rid of it in case I end up with a bad one (again). We have grown old together, and other cars have come and gone. Only one of us has ended up as ‘Banger’ fodder, only to begin the long slow climb to ‘classic’ status.
Spoiler alert: it isn’t me.
The C70 has become my default vehicle for visiting classic and vintage shows. Weather and virus permitting, but remember there is always another show in the future.
This seems appropriate in these uncertain times. It’s a song I first heard on ‘Gambo’s’ Radio 2 Pick of the Pops show when driving back from such a show. That is often a great place to be. Beat that Mel & Phil.
*I still have the long wave Phillips radio that I took out the Astra in around 1994. It lives the attic. I clearly have no use for it, so I was thinking of getting @ClubEnthusiasts (Bedford Enthusiasts Club on Twitter) to get it donated to a Bedford TM restoration or something. Probably wouldn’t work because it would use a 24-volt electrical system – but it would look good.
Remember, the CarTunes playlist is up and running on Spotify. As mixtapes go, it’s rather special. If you’ve been inspired by the choice of Kenny Smith, get in touch to add some CarTunes of your own. Next up, the choice of Peter Counsell (again).