Wistful thinking: Stop and go for a drive

90s cars Citroën

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Not my words, etc, but the words of Ferris Bueller after an unofficial break from school. A day off, if you will.

I’m not entirely sure why the sight of a Citroën AX Forté makes me think of Ferris and his day in Chicago, but it takes me back to my younger years. The days when this 1994 AX was fresh out of the Citroën showroom and the ink was still drying on my precious driving licence.

It’s a cliché, but I spent the majority of my childhood waiting for the day I could get behind the wheel of a car. My earliest memories are of countless hours spent building miniature traffic jams on the landing carpet or creating roads in the flowerbeds. My Kettler Original Kettcar, complete with number plates and tax disc, meant more to me than any of the bicycles I owned.

As I got older, the love of cars spread to video games, with Chase H.Q., Spy Hunter and Turbo Esprit among my favourites. I can’t tell you anything about the plot of the latter; I spent the entire time navigating the city streets, stopping at traffic lights, allowing people to cross the road at pedestrian crossings, and using my indicators at junctions and when changing lanes. Yes, really.

Buying my first car and passing my driving test were significant events. My 1982 Daihatsu Charade cost £30 but it was my ticket to the open road. I remember everything about it, from the single door mirror to the offset grille badge, and the bonnet vents to the ‘5-speed’ badge on the boot. To me, it was the best car in the world.

I felt the same way about my next cars: a 1967 Vauxhall Viva HB, 1984 Ford Capri 1.6 Laser and another Ford Capri 1.6 Laser. Okay, maybe not the Viva, which made me long for the dependability and reliability of the Daihatsu whenever a slight mist drifted over from the Solent; I never did sort the starting problem.

But even after removing my rose-tinted specs, those cars evoke memories of undiluted driving joy. When I would take the coast road to Bournemouth for the hell of it or explore the lanes of the New Forest for no particular reason. Or a quick drive to the seafront before sunset to admire the car I’d spent all day waxin’.

I rarely had a destination; the journey was the only reason to get behind the wheel. I didn’t need a reason or excuse to drive; I just did it.

So it makes me sad that I can’t recall the last time I drove anywhere for the sake of it; every journey has a purpose. It’s not that I’m too busy to go for a seemingly pointless drive (although that is a factor); it just doesn’t register on my to-do list. And that’s a pity.

I need to do something about it, but if you’re a teenager or young driver with an interest in cars, do yourself a favour and find a car you love. It doesn’t have to be new, expensive or quick. Just find something like this AX Forté, stick a cassette or CD player in the dashboard, turn off your mobile phone, and drive. Drive to nowhere in particular: point the car in the general direction of a random place you’ve pinpointed on a map.

Forget about stopping to take a photo to stick on Instagram or make a quick video for TikTok. Leave the phone in the glovebox and drive. Lord knows how long we’ve got left to enjoy our cars, so make the most of it while you can.

For many reasons, growing old sucks, but it has taken this Citroën AX for me to realise that I’ve lost sight of the thing that I spent my entire childhood longing to do: drive a car for the fun of it. I might need to organise a day off.

‘You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.’