All revved up to find vroom for a Mini

Carolyn Aldis
Carolyn Aldis

THOUGHTS OF A FRUITCAKE: By Carolyn Aldis

So, I went looking for a little car for my eldest daughter to drive as she has been learning for a few months. I didn’t like the idea of her passing her driving test and then not driving for years – although she could drive ours, it’s a 7-seater, much bigger than she has been used to and also it’s an automatic. Having driven a manual for 24 years, I found the adjustment to driving an automatic fairly easy; it’s like driving a dodgem…apart from not hitting other cars constantly…and it’s not connected to the ceiling…and there’s not some random bloke hanging on to the back of it…well, not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

Ok, maybe it’s not that similar, but the workings of it are – 2 pedals, 1 to make it go and 1 to stop. There’s not even a central gearbox on ours, so everything is controlled by hand on the steering wheel – not helpful for a newly-qualified driver.

We had seen an advert for a little car that looked like it would be ideal, so I arranged with the guy selling it for us both to go and have a look.

Now, I was a little bit nervous, I have to admit…I’m normally ok with people I don’t know…but the fact he was trying to sell a car took me back to past experiences with pushy salesmen, plus my knowledge of cars is pretty limited. My first car was a W reg Mini and although I spent hours poring over the Haynes manual, trying to tell my solenoid from my alternator and feeling proud of myself when I changed a bulb, this information and experience is no longer relevant.

I needn’t have worried. The guy was incredibly nice and laidback, lifting the bonnet and pointing out a couple of things that would need doing in the future, saying that it drove well and was sound. I checked the few things that I had Googled, to look for when buying a car and then he offered me the key to test drive it.

I remembered to check mirrors, adjusted the seat and indicated to pull out. We drove down the road and my daughter said: “The engine is quite noisy.”

At which point I changed up to 2nd gear…

Driving a manual again really is not like riding a bike…it doesn’t come back instantly and after my final attempt to stop without the clutch, causing us to judder, my daughter turned to me and said: “Mum, I’m a better driver than you!” – which made us both laugh as we bunny hopped our way back.

I then realised I needed to parallel park the car back into the small space…sweat beading my forehead, I tried to remember how to do it; adjust mirrors, keep checking and then go for it. It seemed ok and so I got out, realising how far the back end was from the kerb by my daughter’s groan.

On the way home, having agreed to buy the car, she turned to me and said: “How did you pass your test?”

I’m beginning to wonder myself…