Christmas, Cars And Crashing
Like most boys, my love for cars started when I got my first Scalextric at Christmas (actually, in my case, it was always a Birthday AND Christmas present one of the disadvantages of being born in December). I remember driving it into the walls and over my dogs paws. I soon discovered at a very early age that you could NOT make them go faster by plugging it into the mains, after blowing up the car and the house and becoming the first white child in the 60s with an Afro hairstyle.
This became the first of my many mishaps with motor vehicles that was to be passed on in my genes to my yet unimagined two daughters.
Little did I know, my daughters would make this game a reality, hitting their rather expensive cars into other cars, bollards, walls and barriers. I hate to admit it but I actually taught them to drive somewhere amongst all of the screaming.
After leaving school at 16 my natural leaning was towards cars and after serving my mechanics apprenticeship with Jaguar and Henleys, I got my first job with an American car dealership. I was given 8.2 litre Cadillac Eldorados, Pontiac Firebirds, Trans Ams and Shelby Mustangs all to drive all over London (and to take home at night). I spent more time joyriding in London in these customers cars than I did fixing them. I was having the time of my life and I spent most of my late teens cruising around London in, what are now, classic automobiles which most enthusiasts can only dream about seeing, let alone driving.
When I got married at 24 (well out of my depth, I might add) to a very well known actress, I knew I had to maintain the lifestyle that she was always accustomed to (isn’t everyone chauffeured to school in a Phantom – not the new Lego block but the original one that needed a driver with 3 legs). I needed to change my tune and made a promise to myself, a motto in a sense, of, only own a car if it is a nice one. At the grand old age of 53 I have owned more cars than I can really remember, from Ferrari Dinos and Daytonas, Maserati Meraks, Khamsins and Boras, Lambo Espadas and Muiras to even a Daimler Dingo 2, armour-plated Scout Car (Monty used one). Mine was always parked outside Mortons and Barry Sheene and I used to scare the living daylights out of everyone driving round Berkeley Square in it it went 60 mph forwards AND backwards, as the steering position rotated. In the 70s there was hardly a performance car in the world that I hadnt had for, at least, a few days or more.
There were some drawbacks namely, the accidents that befell me during some of my jollys. I came up with every excuse under the sun, including some that even God hadn’t heard before. However, little did I know at this tender age, that this was to stand me in good stead with the future family I was to have. I had a fox come through the windscreen of a Maserati at 120 mph personally I was sad to see the end of fox hunting I still wake up in a sweat with the thought of that fox’s arse right in the middle of my field of view … and the smell … well, it just never leaves you.
Then there was the poor unfortunate soul that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as I was road testing a Jag V12 Coup. Both cars were written off and I cant remember what he was driving (I don’t think anyone ever knew) but when I climbed out of the window and went back to see if he was all right, there he was sitting in the middle of the road still in his driving seat and STILL holding the steering wheel (yes, the rest of the car was nowhere to be seen and, amazingly enough, the only thing he seemed to be concerned with was how he got there). Don’t get me wrong here, I am not condoning reckless driving but these were very different times (BSM Before Simon Matured). Anyway, all of my accidents were someone else’s fault, of course, which sort of brings me full circle to my daughters.
Unfortunately, to my dismay, my two perceptive children caught on to my motto and very quickly at an early age (one minute past the age of 17 to be precise) demanded the same treatment as their mother. After passing their tests, picking up ALL my bad habits along the way, I soon became the King of all Kings when detecting a lie. I mean how many times can a dent magically appear by itself? Actually – hundred’s according to my daughters who have gone to the ends of the earth to cover up their motoring mishaps. When examining some of their accidents and the resultant damage caused (attempting to do a three point turn down a one way cul-de-sac with cars parked either side was a memorable one), it was a surprise to see no other than a nail varnish touch up job, smeared in with a bit of the old faithful T-Cut which was never really properly polished off (at least I taught her something – what T-Cut was, however, she didn’t fully realise that it doesn’t rub off dents).
After 16 years of living in a secured estate in Surrey, I had never once encountered a problem with the fully-mechanical barriers which rose out of the ground. You simply swipe, wait (look) and then drive. This task was not as simple as it seems for my eldest daughter who decided to swipe, wait, talk to her passenger (who in this case was my youngest daughter), wait, talk some more and wait some more and then drive over the barrier just as it was rising. With her car balancing 5 feet in the air like a stunt car (you couldn’t do it if you tried) whilst I was less than a mile away, sitting comfortably with the reassurance that I had bought her a safe but rather expensive car.
After my daughters had finished playing seesaw with the car and barrier, the phone calls with the water works began and excuses started. Dad, it just appeared out of nowhere, I swear, Dad I think you should complain that its broken. However, as the Dad, Dad, Dad was trailing out of her mouth the sound of hysterical laughter could be heard from her passenger. Two days later, the security cameras proved otherwise! It also made me realise that perhaps having two sons would have been more sympathetic towards my wallet and endless digs into my bank balance because, of course, my precious girls were not going to claim anything on insurance as I was attempting to get them to build up their full no claims bonus.
At the age of 47 I bought the Colossus of all cars – a souped-up Bentley Black Label Arnage 2 tons from 0-60 in around 5 secs. After years of crashing other peoples, I now had my own to race around in (although, unfortunately, now with my own real grey hairs instead of the ones that I used to have put in by Sweeny Todds Hairdressers in Hampstead). Since then I have bought a range of Bentleys, a Mulliner Azure (known as the Ralph Lauren Car he copied me by only ever wearing black and having black cars – one of only 6 ever made) and a GT Continental for my wife when first launched (unfortunately my wife also can’t drive to save her life). She is another one of those people you see in a nice car who cant drive them (even with parking sensors). It’s so infuriating one of them has only just come back from the body shop and within two days had yet another dent in the door. Alongside this, I recently discovered (after I had parted with my limited edition Azure to a collector in Japan) that, whenever I left the house or was away, my youngest daughter (then 17) used to take my precious baby out for joyrides. Luckily, that was the only car she managed not to damage.
So, due to so many bumps and bruises, I’ve traded the Bentley for a mini which I have substituted by pimpin it out I get more fun out of my Mini Cooper GP special 2 seater, lightweight, supercharged racing car than I have ever had in any of the cars I have driven. You just have to see the face on the driver of a new Ferrari 599 when you come up behind him on the Auto route and flash him with my 4 cibie spots then drop down from 6th to 4th and scream past him at 140 mph.
Three women and dozens of cars later, the one thing I have learnt is, to always buckle my wallet first and then the seat belt.