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This is a question Little Moments of Joy

Freddie Woo says: What has made you smile and made your day better recently? We need cheering up.

(, Thu 23 Jan 2014, 14:02)
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L'esprit de dix ans
When I was ten the Lotus Elan was brand new. "It's front wheel drive," the car bores of the day said. "It's a disgrace." "It leaks and the lights are noisy," Top Gear whined. "It's a fucking rip-off" said everyone else, gripped by the Major recession and unwilling to give Lotus' GM overlords the twenty grand they were charging for this two-seater 1.6 litre plastic toy.

But I knew differently. I had a pirate copy of Lotus Challenge (incidentally still runs on DOSbox) and I was completely in love with the best car ever made by anyone. "One day," I said to myself, typing in the 9-letter race track generator codes (I recall TESTICLES was quite a good one), "one day I will be driving a real one of these, and it will be made of actual plastic and not just pixels."

Twenty years later, an amount of money came my way. Not so small that I spunked it in the pub immediately, but equally not large enough to consider my investment opportunities. It was a kind of "second hand car" amount of money and, on a whim I stuck "convertible" into Autotrader. The top result? A racing green Lotus Elan.

A week later, I bought the best car ever made by anyone for cash from a guy in Somerset and drove off into the pouring March rain with the biggest grin my face could accommodate. "It will do," the seller had assured me, "140 on the bypass." No such luck to be had that day however as it had barely warmed up before the Check Engine light came on. Undeterred, I ploughed through hail, sleet and torrential rain which appeared to be achieving ingress through every possible joint, seal and orifice in the car body. By the time I got back to London I was sitting in a puddle and the door trim glue had dissolved so much that a piece of crap 1990s carpet was lying on my knee.

The car had been neglected, honestly. The past three MOTs showed an average of just six miles per year - i.e. driving to the MOT garage and back - and bringing it back to half decent condition sucked up a lot of work and money. It needed tyres, an oil change, new roof seals and a new flip-up light control box. And interior lights. And a timing sensor. Then it burst a coolant hose, so I thought I'd up my game and replace the whole set. Then the petrol tank began leaking and I had to get a garage to remove half the rear suspension so we could lower the thing out and weld the crack in it shut.

In the end, I spent almost half again on top of the purchase price. I quickly realised what an awful mistake I'd made but I have an addictive and stubborn personality and found myself unable to avoid chasing my poor investment to its sorry conclusion. Every weekend when I woke to find it wasn't raining I would cancel whatever plans I had and work on the fucking car.

Some months after I bought it, in the Summer, I was changing the brake pads. I had jacked up the front of the car to get at the hubs and was obscured from the pavement by nature of having my head stuck in the wheel well. A bolt wouldn't let go and, in a moment of frustrated existential crisis, I found myself covered in toxic brake dust, hot, sweaty, broke and pissed off. This wasn't I'd had in mind all those years ago when I was typing TESTICLES into my Dad's PC. This was bullshit.

I glanced up for a moment and saw a young kid of about ten riding a scooter down the pavement, followed by his Mum and a push chair. When he drew level with the Lotus he stopped and stared at it. I could just see him through the window but he wasn't looking at me. Instead, he looked at the flip up lights and the low-slung chassis. He took in the shiny wheels and the classic yellow badge on the steering wheel. He didn't see the flawed electrics or the rusty wishbones, or the bearings that were probably on the way out, or the crippling fuel consumption. He saw the car for what it was meant to be. As his mother caught up with him he turned and pointed.

"That is a bangin' car, Mum!"

Made my fucking year.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 13:46, 36 replies)
You sue he didn't say "banger"? ;)
I've always had a soft spot for cars with pop-up headlamps.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 14:12, closed)
Ha ha yeah
Apparently they're illegal on new cars because they tend to eviscerate pedestrians.

Worth it, imo.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 14:36, closed)
not even inthe same league
but i once bought a Mazda 323F purely on the basis it had pop up lights. I used to flash people out of junctions etc just to see them go up and down. Never failed to get a grin.

Plus, it meant you didn't have to look at the great japanese mid-90's interior. Bombproof reliability though.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 15:55, closed)
I knew a guy who had an MX-5
It had a button that just lifted the lights, so you could be ready to flash. Problem was, it was right in the middle of the dash where the passenger could reach it.....
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 16:43, closed)
i can't drive
but my head is guaranteed to swivel like an owl's on the rare occasions when i catch sight of a lamborghini diablo
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 15:59, closed)
shhh. nobody cares.

(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 16:41, closed)
you may have taken a wrong turn, this is 'little moments of joy'

(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 20:38, closed)
a subject you'd know all about

(, Wed 29 Jan 2014, 16:06, closed)

My son's first Elise was exactly like this, he poured money into it until enough was enough, he sold it (for a small profit on the purchase price, but a massive loss overall.) His second Elise had pedigree. Bought from a main dealer, full service history etc, never missed a beat in two years. Third Lotus, (2-Eleven) is of similar pedigree. I think the lesson is that you get what you pay for with these highly strung, fickle cars.

Nice story. Thanks for sharing.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 17:00, closed)
That's a spectacularly bleak acronym
Accurate, though! At least it's old enough that you can actually work on it yourself and I'd be lying if I said fixing it wasn't a little bit fun. My main car is a lot younger and largely a mystery to me, other than the basics.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 18:27, closed)
Speaking as......
........someone who loses the skin off his knuckles when opening the bonnet, I admire your tenacity. Back in the day I used to do all of my own maintenance, and am just starting to enjoy trying again. Like you say, though, most of it is a mystery! Whatever anyone says, you own a Lotus Elan.

(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 19:04, closed)
not exactly whatever anyone else says.

As I think a lot of Lotus officianados would argue he doesn't own a Lotus Elan at all, the Elan being the revolutionary backbone chassis/separate body car made in the 60s and early 70s that set out the stall for pretty much every RWD lightweight Louts sports car since, and certainly is the true father of the Elise.

As opposed to the Isuzu/GM plastic thing made in the early 90s.

But that would be picky of them. I personally quite like it. And it does drive well for a FWD sports car.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 9:38, closed)
You're quite right of course
But the funny thing is, when I say "Elan" to pretty much anyone under about 40 they think of the 90s version first because it was such a distinctive little car in its own right. It's like the 2000s Italian Job; not a patch on the original but a perfectly decent film that should really have just .. had .. its own name..
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 10:31, closed)
I'm well* under 40 and I certainly fucking don't
go and wash your mouth out, son.

You've hit the point, though. Why didn't they just name it differently?

*a bit
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 11:36, closed)
And there's even a new one for the autistics to get their knickers knotted over
Much better to take the Porsche attitude.

200 names, one car.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 19:03, closed)
I suspect the trick with the second and third ones
was not buying one with a fucking K series engine.

But, yeah, maintainance helps. As does luck. Lovely cars to drive and look at but otherwise as much use a chocolate fireguard.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 9:29, closed)
Ha ha K series
I dated a girl with an MGF once. I looked in the radiator, sure enough it was nice and oily. She traded it in.

In fairness Rover were making some nice cars around this time; I used to have a 1995 216i which was both nippy and very reliable. But then again it did have the Honda engine. Sigh.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 10:34, closed)
I had a old Freelander with a K series briefly.
during a period of madness.

I even correctly predicted the journey on which the head gasket was going to go, it's that close to clockwork.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 11:38, closed)
Oh God I'm in pain laughing
I love that your takeaway from this experience was a feeling of pride at getting it right. It's very British - we take much more pleasure from correctly predicting doom than we would ever get from avoiding the foreseen trouble in the first place!
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 13:21, closed)
It was so much cheaper than the diesel equivalent
I figured replacing the head gasket at about £350 and I'd still be quids in.

Sound reasoning. Sort of.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 13:26, closed)
Chocolate Fireguard............
............is about right. The 2 -Eleven is a fair weather rocket, on account of having no roof, doors, boot, windscreen etc. It is totally impractical, but it's the most exhilarating thing that I've been driven in. (Not allowed to drive it myself, yet.) And if it's your thing, then who gives a toss. I'd love an Elise, but have settled for a Z4 on account of my age, comfort, insurance and my wife.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 11:13, closed)
Oh, and you were doing so well right up until you admitted to having the Z4*
... wait, hang on, your SON doesn't let you drive his car? That, my man, is a harsh burn.

*Unless it's a Z4M with the stupid fucking wank runflats removed in which case I'll probably forgive you.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 11:35, closed)
The run flats have been removed, and the "S" button is permanently on. It's a 2.5 five speed, so accelerates right through the box. And I know that doesn't earn me forgiveness, but sometimes one has to compromise.

And I'll be able to drive the 2-Eleven when the insurance is sorted!

A sort of win/not lost scenario.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 15:23, closed)
That is a sad compromise but a necessary one
My mate was also forced into buying a Z-4 in similar wife-related circumstances, and swapped his beloved Giulietta for it. Sad times. Mind you, the Alfa really was a shitheap. The fuel outlet was at the front of the tank so you couldn't get up steep hills if you were below 1/4 full. While on holiday he had to reverse up an entire mountain. IN ITALY.

I'd laugh at Italians forgetting that mountains exist, only someone would say something smartarsed about our famously rain-intolerant British convertibles.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 13:35, closed)
My wife.........
........drives a Cooper S. She's had faster cars than me, but prefers a bit of luxury nowadays, and I can't say I blame her. The Z4's an okay compromise, in that it's relatively fast, warm and dry in winter, yet fun with the top down on windy winding Lincolnshire roads. We both preferred the Honda S2000, but the tax & insurance were astronomical.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 15:30, closed)
I'm surprised the Z4 is cheaper
IIRC the S2000 came top for "general ownership experience" on the Top Gear survey pretty much every year it was in production. So it must've been worth it.

Just wait for the 'classic' status to roll around. The Elan, in London, fully comp, 10k miles a year (and honestly I won't do half that) is £250. WinRAR.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 15:43, closed)
Insurace £220 fully comp, group 16.
S2000 £620 fully comp, group 20, much larger xs too.

Sometimes the wallet has to rule the head. Sadly.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 16:48, closed)
Jesus, that's a little stern
Is it prone to being nicked or something?
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 17:32, closed)
No, it's prone to fucking you up and leaving you in a hedge backwards
It really is a handful in the wet, because the power delivery is astonishingly abrupt and there's an LSD and no traction control.

I bloody loved it.
(, Thu 30 Jan 2014, 11:45, closed)
Could have .....
....something to do with me being old. Once I get to the "age" question with the S2000 the line goes rather silent, and polite coughing noises are made. The Z4 is still rather mainstream, hence the affordability.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 17:54, closed)
But £620 is hardly a 'fuck off' price
And wouldn't age make you a lower risk? Or do you need catlike reactions to keep it on the road? Frankly, given the state of its suspension and brakes, I'm amazed insurers will issua a policy for an MGB driven by anyone less alert than Lewis Hamilton. This doesn't seem to bear out in the prices I hear, though. Mainly because they break down before they get up to ramming speed...

I hear you on the age thing though. Some cars are .. better suited to the more mature gent. I am not very young, and also quite tall, and have suffered many 'did it blow your hair off then?' jokes over the past year.
(, Tue 28 Jan 2014, 19:02, closed)
Being retired.......
..........is a major no-no. Swiftcover simply cancelled my insurance & told me to look elsewhere when they knew I'd retired. As for hair, what's that?
(, Wed 29 Jan 2014, 10:16, closed)
The classics one is really interesting
because you're spot on. My '72 B (in profile) was more terrifying at 70 then innumerable other new cars I've driven at 140. It could get sideways at about 10 mph with no difficulty and I had to disconnect the servo assist on the brakes because it actually made them better.

Yet it cost me £150 a year to insure. Go figure.
(, Thu 30 Jan 2014, 11:48, closed)
REALLY? I had an S2000 when I was 27. Parked on the street, in fucking Bracknell of all places. Cost less than £700 to insure fully comp.

Have you raped some insurance underwriter's dog at some point in the past?
(, Thu 30 Jan 2014, 11:43, closed)
Hahahayeah. I bet there's almost a sentence worth of anecdote buried in all that shite.

(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 20:29, closed)
........forced anyone to read it. You choose to, or you choose not to. One takes one's little moment's of joy where one can.

Have a little moment on us, there's a good chap.
(, Mon 27 Jan 2014, 20:33, closed)

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