More Fun with Less. The joys of driving a Crap Car and Thoughts on Downsizing

First, some thoughts on downsizing

Downsizing – consumming less, spending less, the adoption of a more modest lifestyle be it out of choice, necessity or circumstance.

Choice – the choice of those ( often with a comfortable lifestyle) who decide to consume less or at least consume in a way that equates with their principles.When you have everything, less is more – ridding yourself of the burden of possessions and finding true happiness in a more spiritual mode, rather than à la mode.

Downsizing out of necessity. A job loss that might lead to a lifestyle reappraisal. Cutting back or just cutting out because you are now living in reduced circumstances. Downsizing to survive.

Sacrificial downsizing – once again, cutting down, cutting back, cutting out. Privation for a higher cause. No more expensive holidays so you can afford to put your kids through university. Saving up for the downpayment on a house, or simply saving now so you can live later – putting money by for your twilight years.

Make do and mend. A kind of downsizing because you are not upgrading. Do you really need a new laptop ? The old one works fine. Flat screen, wide screen, curved screen – do you really need a new TV ? It’s always the same crap on screen, no matter what screen you watch it on.

When circumstance forces downsizing. Chance happenings, those annoying but not life threatening incidents that oblige us to adopt temporary cheap or retrograde alternatives until normal service/lifestyle can be resumed.

It started with a smash

It started with a low speed collision with a low level traffic feature. A moment of absence, distraction, and inattention during a parking maneuver. Backing out of a space and reversing into a bollard. OUCH.

At the garage, the panel beater / bodyshop man, walks slowly and pensively round my car, inspecting every inch of the bodywork. There are a few other minor scratches as well as the fractured back bumper. He announces a fair price for the work to be done , says i twill take a couple of days and announces he can take the car straight away.

AH ! I’m going to need a car. « Do you have a courtesy car ? » I ask in pleading tones.

« Courtesy car ? » muses the mechanic with some vigorous head-scratching. « We can lend you a car, » he finally anounces, after more pensive cranial massage. Hi stone suggests though that there is something slighlty discourteous about the automobile in question.

« There’s the car » says the panel beater with a vague sweeping gesture that appears to fall upon a shiny new Citreon C4. « That’ll do for a few days,» I chirp happy and relieved that I won’t be driving a heap of crap.

« Oh no, it’s not the citroen » laughs the garage man, « your car is behind. »

Crap but roadworthy

Behind the Citroen is a Renault 5 – a mid 1980’s white Renault 5 TD – a wreck, a rustbucket, a heap of crap on wheels that only looks fit for the crusher. I am assured that the vehicle is roadworthy. I am shown all the paperwork to prove the fact.



First thing I notice as I get behind the wheel – there are 313,000 kilometres on the clock. « Yeah, you don’t want to drive too far in this, » says the man. « Just local journeys. » I scan the Dashboard – it’s all broken switches, though the indicators, windscreen wipers and headlights do appear to be working.

Manual aircon

Where’s the aircon ? Temperatures have been in the low 30°c for the past couple of days. « It’s got manual air conditioning » announces the mechanic « just wind down the driver window » No electric windows !! In fact almost no windows at all, the driver window is the only one that works and out of the four doors, only the driver door will actually open. I am advised not to take any passengers. The interior is also very grotty, and the smell – well take your pick – a hint of wet dog with a soupçon of stale Tobacco and a strong « eco » like someone has been using the car to ferry round dung, compost and damp garden refuse. On the upside the car does have five gears and a full working radio, there’s even a cassette player. No kidding, as I head off, I switch on the radio and Kim Carnes wth her Betty Davis Eyes comes crackling out the tinny speakers. This ain’t a car, it’s a veritable time machine. A trip back to when four gears was the norm. This car though actually has five gears and the remnants of power assisted steering.

So, keys in the ignition. I say goodbye to my Volvo and jolt off in my rattling retro Renault rust-bucket.

A few words on speed.

As the nation’s politicians prepare to legislate to reduce speed limits on the nation’s roads, and motoring lobbies moan about our existing measly speed limits, I am having serious problems getting any speed up at all. For sure, I won’t be braeking any records in this car unless it is the one for causing the world’s longest traffic jam. I press my foot down on the clutch to chage gear. It creaks like a bad sound effect from a B movie. The steering wheel has a similar sound, like a door in a Hammer Horror film. I’m fighting with the gears and the effort is bringing me out in rivers of sweat. Time to activate the manual aircon. I’m driving slow enough to wind down the window without serious coordination problems, but the sindow only goes a quarter down before the handle nearly comes off in my hand. After some effort, I get the car up to about 40kms per hour and into third gear.

Out of town and on to the dual carriage way. Maximum authorised speed on this stretch – 110 km. I’m accelerating with all the ease of an overweight, asmathic snail trying to crawl uphill. I get the car up to 60, then 70 and … I hit 80. FIFTH GEAR, but then the car starts to dangerously shake and rattle – looking for a suitable simile – it’s like an epeleptic with Parkinsons dancing under strobe lights in a discothèque. Back to 60 and back into fourth gear.

I LOVE this car

Well, time has come to give back my crap car, and I’m actually going to regret it, because driving his wreck has actually been great fun. The sheer joy of owning a lousy car. After this enforced circumstantial downsizing, perhaps I should sell my posh car and buy a wreck, because wrecks are great. I can park this car anywhere and who cares if the door doesn’t lock ? No one would be mad enough to steal this car. And what about all the time, effort and money we waste keeping our cars clean, only for them to get dirty again ? Drive a crap car and save valuable time and money. After a few hours it feels pretty good to be driving round in this dustbin cum ashtray on wheels.

Inspiring Adventure

You are what you drive – goes the saying. Driving round in this I feel kind of shabby and liberated. I feel young again. I’m a student, a teenager. I don’t care what I drive, I just have my own personal mobility. I have my own space on four wheels, and this car might be a wreck, but it is the kind of car that inspires adventures, because getting anywhere in this car give you the sense of achievement you might get from climbing a mountain, trekking to the North Pole or paddling down pirhana infested rivers in an inflatable canoë. I want to drive down to the sea in this car. I want to drive there on a hot day. Sweltering behind the wheel. Trundling along at the speed of a tractor, and when I get there, I want to throw myself into the waves.  I want to drive somewhere far away just for the sheer hell of getting there in this crappy car. I love this car. This is true carefree driving. This car is not a statement. It is not a display of weatlth. I’m not screaming at the world to look at my beautiful car!  I’m not competing with anyone. I’m just a dude driving a dustbin on wheels and I don’t give a ****. If you don’t like it, just overtake me. And one guy in a huge SUV did, followed by another in a BMW – and they screeched to an abrupt halt at the traffic lights, and they waited for the lights to turn green. They fumed with impatience, they tapped their fingers on the dashboard, they looked at their cell phone they … so much stress, whilst I trundled up behind in my wreck , just as the lights turned green and trundled past them.

Yes, I subscribed fully to that aspirational automobile dream. I hankered after bigger, better and faster. After three days of rolling around retrograde, I’m seriously starting to wonder about downsizing. A cheap, carefree car that I can bump about and bash around in. Where every journey becomes a road movie. Guess I just want to be young again.

Having less has been more fun, but I’ve probably only enjoyed it because I know I can go back to more.

Just for the record, I actually learned to drive on a car like this.