PASS ME DOWN the tin opener – I need to crack the top off a particularly hefty can of worms. I’d say this started at Christmas on one of those evenings when you’ve had too much too drink and have got too little to do, but the truth is, the conversation I had over the festive period only served to crystalise the thoughts that have been nagging me for a while.
I was chatting with one of my oldest friends, and with it being Christmas and with us being old farts, we were reminiscing (about cars). Without getting the rose-tinted welding goggles on, we came to the conclusion that our fondly remembered first cars were notable for a couple of things – even at the time, they were old, decrepit and most importantly, cheap.
Ten year old cars then were not like ten year old cars now. I would quite happily jump behind the wheel of a 1996 Mondeo tomorrow and drive the length and breadth of the country. In the mid Eighties, you wouldn’t jump into any decade old motor for fear of falling through the rust compromised floor, and any trip was only to be tackled when fully equipped with a tool kit, gallon cans of oil and water, and plenty of second-hand spares chucked in the boot. And on the back seat.
Back in the days of dodgy mullets, snow wash denim and George Michael being straight, we both found ourselves driving cars that are now regarded as proper ‘classics’, but then, they were old bangers that no-one wanted. Both of us had a budget of about £300, and we both ended up getting the cars (I paid about £120 for my 1973 FIAT 850D at auction, his auntie gave him a MkI Escort Estate of similar vintage) and insuring them for the money we’d saved. Sounds incredibly cheap, but we were both broke and canny. But to put it in context, my brother had paid £300 the year before for a very tidy, MoT’d MkI Escort two-door. Read it and weep.
Fast forward to the future. The modern equivalents of our first cars are in a different league – they handle and brake better, rust tends to be cosmetic, and even the most basic will be loaded with driver comforts, security devices and safety aids. Alright, plastic bumpers tend not to wear the years too well and they will no doubt go a lot faster. But Gaffer tape and a little restraint are wonderful things. It’s also interesting to note, that because of the way society has changed and our expectations have altered, the cars now are almost as cheap – pick up the local rag or spend ten minutes on eBay, and I reckon £500 will get you a very usable car.
So we get to the heart of my dilemma. I’m 17. I have £1000. I buy my £500 car (Ka, 106, Cinquecento, Nova/Corsa, Micra…). What are my chances of getting it insured with the remainder of my budget…? Ridiculous? OK, double the budget and try again. We’re not even getting close. And my question – why and when did the world change so much that first time or younger drivers have to find these frankly ridiculous sums to insure their cars?
So, can you help me out? I have a couple of questions to put to you, and with your answers, maybe we can work out where it all went so pear shaped.
When, what and how much was your first car? Why that car? How much did it cost to insure?
And secondly, what do you consider its equivalent today – and do you see that becoming a classic in due course?
This is all in the name of scientific research. Plus, you may just save me from starting to refer to the Eighties as the ‘good old days’…