Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying. It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though! But after a couple of months of being back in England […]
Archive for January, 2011
So in my last article I told you a little about the company Reflections Classic Car hire in North Yorkshire, but enough about the company and more about the car that was rented and experience we had. The choice is small but very classy, and in the end I opted for a 1951 MG-TD. Other options included a great looking MGB and a Triumph Stag with an engine of biblical proportions, but in the end I chose the oldest car they had. The TD would have been around all through my father’s early childhood, and was the car that offered the most vintage appeal. I was sure he had never driven anything like this car before and probably wouldn’t drive a similar car again, and this was going to be a day and experience for us both to remember. Am pretty sure it’s also the first time that the company has rented out their oldest car, and had the main driver be older still!
The only worry that both me and Charles at Reflections had was the weather. Temperatures had been dipping to double digits below zero and, as you can imagine, a 60 year old car’s traction control is pretty non-existent! In addition, the heater was not said to be that good in the car. But the gods must have been smiling on us, as the day dawned with cloudy skies, but no snow falling. In fact, the cloud may have even kept temperatures a degree or two higher than they would have otherwise been. Still, at -3C it was a little nippy (is that a politically correct word to use these days? Let me know).
It was a little different to say the least, going from a Jaguar XJ Sovereign into a 1950s sports car. Out went the satellite navigation, bluetooth and heated seats, and in its place came a extra fuel can behind the passenger seat (as the car has no fuel gauge and only a green “almost out of petrol” light), seats that don’t move forward or back to compensate for driver sizes (am assuming in the 1950s everyone was the same height), and a heater that didn’t heat. Well maybe the latter is a little harsh; it may have provided some heat – every so often it felt like someone had breathed on my face from somewhere in the footwell, but that’s about it. Gloves, jackets and hats were worn in the car. Only later did I realise that I should have got hold of some Red Baron-style goggles and a white scarf to go with it!
But what this little car did have was class in bundles. As you passed people you could see heads turning and people pointing. Older folks would smile, perhaps reminiscing about seeing those type of cars in their youth and then thinking about how “they don’t make ’em like that any more”. Which is so true; you look at this car and it just looks like a classic. But what cars from the past couple of decades will we look back at in 50 years time and call “classics”? There just aren’t that many of them. Perhaps the Lamborghini Gallardo, one of the Ferraris and a Jaguar XK8, but that’s about all I can think of. Maybe I’m just getting old but on the whole good looking cars seemed to cease production some time in the mid-1970s.
The car itself drove well considering its age. Gear changes were pretty smooth, with no crunches as you go into a new gear, and the car was equipped with a 5-speed transmission. The engine ticked over very nicely and gave us no issues at all. Only things that took some getting used to were the pedals (two of which had the pivot point below the foot, so as you step on the accelerator or clutch your foot starts to go horizontal; and the brakes, which didn’t actually feel like they were there at all. On a number of occasions I was ready to fling open the “suicide doors” (those being doors that open backwards compared to modern ones) and start using my foot to slow us down! Air conditioning it seems came as standard in the 1950s, provided by the gap between the top of the windows and the roof lining. It gave you just enough of sub-zero temperatures blowing in your face to keep you alert and aware that you’re driving!
After driving around for quite a while, we noticed light snow showers coming and going. Not wanting to test out the fun combination of night driving and driving in snow, we headed back to Reflections to drop the car off. Have to confess, it did feel nice to get into my dad’s car and be able to turn on the seat warmers to defrost ourselves a little. But we left with some great memories of a great day and a classy little car.
Am currently at 33.000ft over Northern China, so what better time and place to write a much overdue entry for the site? As for why I am here, that will all be revealed in a post to shortly follow this one, but in a nutshell I have been back in good old Yorkshire, England for the past 10 days for a Christmas at home.
December also marked a very big occasion in my family’s household. In early December my father passed “three score and ten” and turned 70 years old. I’ve been extremely lucky to have the parents I do and they have always done a lot for me, never leaving me in need of things. So I felt that this time I had a chance to give something back in the present I gave. Straight away I realised that a physical present just wasn’t going to do it. It was going to have to be an event, or something I could organise for him that would stay in his memory for a long time to come. And it was going to be something we could do together, spending some quality father and son time.
And so the hunt started. I looked on some of those “experience” sites. But diving with great white sharks, hurtling down a mountain in a racing bobsled or skydiving from 10,000ft just didn’t seem completely appropriate for someone turning 70! I wanted an experience that he would savour; not one that would kill him! In the end, I opted for the rental of a special type of car; something he’d wouldn’t have driven before and probably wouldn’t get the chance to drive again.
It was easy to narrow it down to 2 types of car from this point: a classic, or a supercar. After discussions with a few people, I ended up opting for the former. It seemed a little more appropiate for his age, and the supercars of the world are not renowned for being the easiest cars to drive around town. Had to remember I was going back in the middle of December, and not the middle of June (when my choice may have been different).
I hunted around the internet and eventually came across Reflections Classic Car Hire in North Yorkshire. From the first reply I got back from them it was clear they were going to be a very easy company to work with. Their reply was swift and personal, which was in huge contrast to the previous company I had tried; a much larger organization who were not returning my calls or emails, despite be wanting to spend a not insignificant amount of money with them. Charles at Reflections however, gave clear and very practical advice, answering my questions and offering recommendations on the most appropriate car to rent.
In the end I opted for their oldest “classic”: a 1951 MG-TD in cream with red leather interior. There were another couple of cars that would have offered a more sporty ride, but this one would have been around when he was a child, and would be something completely different to anything he’d driven before. They also offered a Christmas deal whereby a message informing my father about the hire would be put into a Christmas cracker, and sent to him for my arrival back into the UK, so we could open it together.
Got to admit, I wasn’t expecting temperatures to be dropping to as low as -18C at night in England in the middle of December when I chose this car to rent, but that’s what I got on my return! Everything was handled very professionally by Reflections though, who kept the decision in my hands right until the day of the rental, in case the weather turned to where it would be unsafe and/or not enjoyable to rent the car. If it did then the rental I had organized could be transferred into a voucher that could be redeemed any time within the following 12 months; an excellent gesture and one of those little things that makes you appreciate the company more.
In my next article, I’ll report a little more on the car itself when we rented it, and some of the interesting things about driving a car almost 60 years old with a co-driver 70 years old! But I wanted this entry to be a bit of a background, along with a “big rap” as the Aussies call it (please let me know if that needs a w at the start of it) to Reflections for all their help and assistance in making the whole experience smooth and memorable for us.