Monday, April 30, 2007

The End Of The Road For 'Old Red'

I bought a new car over the weekend. I'd had my last one for exactly 10 years and in total, it was 15 years old. I keep things a long time.

I never really liked my previous car as I'd had to buy it in a rush and it would never have been my car of choice if I'd had more time and money available. I guess this made me resent it a bit - although the old girl rarely let me down and hadn't a drop of rust on her. In a previous post, I documented when it reached the magical 100,000 mile mark so although I didn't put many of those miles on her, the previous owner travelled daily from Manchester to Leeds and back and he certainly get her off to a 'good start' so to speak.

I'd had to buy it in a rush as my previous car, my beloved Ford Mondeo, had been stolen from the forecourt of a petrol station while I was inside paying for the petrol. I'd foolishly left the keys in the ignition and some yob who had been waiting and watching for just such an idiot, jumped in and drove off while I watched in stunned disbelief from 20 ft away.

Initially my insurance company refused to pay me as they said my policy clearly stated that the owner must take due care of the car at all times. This would normally relate to leaving the doors open and the engine running while nipping into the chippie but they said it also covered leaving the keys in the ignition of an unlocked car.

I saw their point, of course, but given that I'd just 'lost' a very expensive car and couldn't afford to just go out and buy another one, I fought the insurance company and with the ombudsman in my corner, I won and ended up with more than the value of the car. Victory for the little guy.

Sadly this all took time and in the meantime I needed a car for work. When the news went around the office the day after the theft, a colleague a few desks from mine came and said he was getting a company car in a few days and so needed to sell his current car. I had a look at it in the car park and although it was not the most ugly car in the world, I would never have bought it under normal circumstances. I was a Ford man through and through and this was a Peugeot !! It was also RED - my most loathed car colour.

But it was cheap (as he wanted a quick sale) and he had to be honest about any faults as I worked with him. I was also seduced by all the electric goodies from windows to sun roof which helped offset the fact that it was 5 years old with a lot of miles on it. I bought it there and then.

10 years later and it was time to say goodbye. It's MOT had just run out and I knew it would cost a lot to get it through this year. It hadn't been serviced for 2 years and strange knocking sounds were coming from more than one location. It was a large saloon that guzzled petrol at a frightening and wallet busting rate around town and I rarely went on long drives where it did at least manage a very respectable mpg.

So a new small car was needed. This idea didn't excite me one little bit. I've always dreaded buying cars, new or used. I hate haggling for anything. It's not in my nature and I'm just no good at it. I enter a car dealership as if I'm wearing a t-shirt with "I'm A Mug So Feel Free To Rob Me Blind" written across it.

No, a car is a means to an end for me and although I might sneak a peek at the odd episode of Top Gear, I'm as far from being a petrolhead as you can get. So I did what I do best and did nothing for weeks. I'll do something tomorrow became my mantra. Now and then I'd surf for top 10 lists on various car review sites and narrowed my choice down to a handful of cars.......but did nothing about it.

Then last Thursday I decided I'd REALLY better do something before the DVLA computer spewed out my details and Mr. Plod came knocking on my door asking for non existent paperwork. I went to a Renault dealership as the Clio was top of my list as it ticked most of my boxes, if you follow me. Ok, it mostly ticked the 'cheap enough to buy new' box and the 'economical to run' box just below it. I took one for a test run and when I headed onto the M621, I think the salesman thought he was being kidnapped.

I might not be able to haggle, but I do like to drive !!!

When we got back it started.

"What will it take to get you to buy it ?" he asked.

"Making it a Ford would be a great start" I replied.

While he rolled on the floor and mentally added £100 to the price, I thought it over.

Did I really want to go through this with other dealers ? Hell no.
Did I like the Clio ? Actually, yes.
Was I secure in my own sexuality to get over the fact it's a girlie car ? Not sure.
Did they have one in my first choice of blue ? No.
When would they have one in blue for me ? 6-8 weeks.

Dang it.

To get me to wait the 6-8 weeks for a blue car, the price was dropped and a few goodies were offered to soften the delay. Protective coating on the paintwork and some sort of fabric guard on the upholstery. Whoop-di-do. Now if a pigeon crapped on the passenger seat, the mess would just slide off like a turd on an ice rink.

I said I'd take the deal and wait the 6 weeks. I'd just hide if Mr. Plod came a-calling and plead insanity if he gained entry. I'd use Leeds United's plummet into Division 1 as the obvious cause for this insanity and I'm sure I'd be treated sympathetically.

Then the salesman said they had a white one upstairs that was being prepared for the showroom. This was news to me as all the reviews I'd read online had claimed the only solid colour for this model was blue. Apparently not. So although I said no to this idea, I'd nothing better to do at 5pm on a Thursday afternoon so I went upstairs with him to have a gander at this white version.

It was like a scene from a Disney movie from yesteryear. Right in the far corner of this huge cavernous floor (can a floor be said to be cavernous ? Well you get the picture) sat a brilliant white Clio. It called to me. Being a Renault I'd no idea what it was saying of course but a bond was made and I wanted it.....or her. Whatever.

Of course I kept my excitement well hidden so as not to show my hand - but my girlie screams and cartwheels around the floor kind of attracted attention.

I beamed.

The salesman beamed.

My bank manager tut-tutted.

Sod him. I wanted whitey.

Emboldened by all this haggling, I said I'd take it if I could still have the deal I was offered downstairs.......the one that was meant to sweeten the 6 week wait for a blue model. Obviously worn down by such professional haggling, the salesman gave in and like his colleague from Del Monte, he say YES.

That was Thursday evening and it took a couple of days to sort out the paperwork, registration, insurance and of course, to slap on the paint protector and fabric turd suppressant. So at noon last Saturday I drove 'old red' on it's last short trip (by me anyway) and handed her over in part exchange. The paperwork showed that the dealership had finangled the figures to show that they had paid me a token £1 for her. I knew that wasn't true but I didn't mind.

I may not have liked her as much as I should but she'd given me 10 years excellent service.

So now I've embarked on a new wise. Me and whitey. The odometer has changed from 100127 to 9 so we have a long ways to go.

I've a couple of trips coming up (Nottingham and mid Wales) so will get a better idea if I've made a good choice.

Am I excited ?

Sure I am. I can now relax and not rush upstairs and hide everytime someone knocks at the door - well unless they're Jehovah's Witnesses of course !!

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