Tales of the infernal combustion engine

Chrysler PT Cruiser
Chrysler PT Cruiser

By Jerzy Morkis

Completely out of the blue, with no warning, my drive shaft went on my honeymoon. That wasn’t a Euphemism, it was a 1967 Triumph Herald.

And it was the start of my misfortunes with motors. Looking back, it was a clear indication to me that if the Good Lord had wanted us to drive around he would have given us radials instead of feet, attached to alloy ankles.

That first Triumph wasn’t my preferred choice of a personal internal combustion engine, that was a motorbike, a 250cc Royal Enfield to be precise, however I was persuaded a car was more of a marital match.

As it was, the drive shaft, which drained our Highland honeymoon resources, was only the start of a string of ailments, culminating in the car being towed to a scrapyard, earning me enough cash to buy a decent pair of boots and to stride into a period of pedestrian life.

Foot to the floor, fast forward, and as children came along, so did my first new car – a Citroen 2CV6.

For those who don’t remember this wondrous piece of French mechanical wizardry, it looked a bit like a frog, had a soft top, strange gear stick and came with a starting handle.

It was love – a car with personality and an all-round family friend. Talking of family friends, my mother hired a family friend’s son to do some work on her house as he started out in his trade. The lad worked hard and my mum fed and watered him through the renovation and was so chuffed with his finished work, she gave him a nice bonus. This he decided to share with a local pub and, after fuelling up on hard liquor decided, for no apparent reason, to bounce up and down on the back seat of someone’s car after removing the roof with a Stanley knife.

That was how the police discovered him in my 2CV6.

It would seem the Sheriff had some gripe with my Citroen and/or me when he sternly handed down the sentence of a compensation order for half the cost of the damage (payable at around £1 a week), with me liable for the remaining half.

Now a convertible car without a roof as we entered a Scottish winter isn’t an option, so the kids had a lean Christmas.

The Citroen got a new top but, like many presents, it wasn’t the best of fits and the result was when you reached fourth gear, the airstream lifted the roof up, acting as an air brake and freezing all inside.

It had to go, to be replaced with that bargain family car, the Skoda Estelle.

Scunnered with being a satellite of the Soviet Union and with the entire socialism business. the Czechoslovakian workforce decided to thumb its collective nose at its communist masters by taking it out on one capitalist consumer – me. Call me superstitious but when your brand new car catches fire leaving the forecourt, things aren’t quite right. Having actually made it to the road, it was a case of repair not replacement. That took a whole day and, given this was before courtesy cars, that meant around eight hours on the cobbles.

Nevertheless, assured its combustibility was now curbed and contained, my new motor and I set off for home. Stopping for petrol I was amazed at the capacity of the fuel tank, and subsequently surprised at how fleet of foot other customers were.

Then I noticed petrol coming out of the doors on the other side of the car. Those Czech wags hadn’t screwed down the petrol tank beneath the back seat and I hadn’t just filled that, I’d filled around 12 inches of the interior.

After many more misadventures, like when the seats sheared in an emergency stop or when then radiator exploded, that too was despatched. Since then my incompatibility with the motorised carriage has been underlined with a Saab 99, Ford Escort, Ford Sierra Saphire and a Vauxhall Vectra. There’s a book in that and when I’m out of therapy and it’s out the garage, I may, without weeping, tell the many tales of my sometimes invisible, but beloved, Chrysler PT Cruiser.