And so off we ripped, returning ten minutes later with the little Volkswagen sold. Sure, the driver’s seat was ripped, it had no service history and the mechanic at the local VW dealer advised against it; ‘too expensive to service the supercharger,’ he said. But by then I was hooked. Forget the Punto, ‘I’ll take it.’
The next night I picked it up with my dad. He wasn’t impressed. ‘Pah, a supercharger,’ he wheezed from the passenger seat, ‘I’ve told you before, there’s no substitute for cc.’To him forced induction involved cigarettes, not superchargers. I didn’t say anything, waiting instead for the road to clear before flattening it in first. By the top of fourth my old man had choked on his Camel and I’d made my point; 8.1 seconds to 60mph. It felt faster.
A shame then that the following week the exhaust fell off, the petrol tank collapsed and the rain flooded the foot-well. ‘Serves you right,’ my dad gloated, ‘too flash for your first car anyway.’ The first two faults the dealer fixed for free, but of the third he simply wiped his hands. ‘Not his problem’, he said, which was annoying, as the water leaked through a hole where the battery tray should have been. Leaking acid was the cause, but ‘not to worry’, the previous owner must have thought,‘I’ll just plug it with cardboard and waterproof the lot with an old carrier bag’. Genius. Until it rained. Which in Yorkshire is often.
For a while I just put up with it, lining the footwell with newspaper and sticking a fan heater under the carpets to blast the moisture away on weekends. But when a date complained of the water deep at her feet I had no choice but to find a fix. At the local backstreet bodge-jobber the man sucked his teeth. ‘I’ll have a go, but it’s pretty bad.’ And so when the car came back still leaking I wasn‘t one bit surprised. ‘More work needed’, he said. More money more like.
And that meant I didn’t sleep well that night. I was worried not only by the leak, but also by the cambelt and supercharger that would soon need attention as well. Best part of a grand I reckoned. Let’s face it; I’d bought a lemon. And so, after just two months of ownership it left me with that all too familiar dilemma - do I spend the cash and keep the keys, or do I clean her up and sell her on? The next day an ad went in the classifieds. It had to go. ‘Sold as seen’.
The first viewer redlined it from cold on the test drive. I felt like demanding the clown pull over and wait for the bus. Or the train. Whichever hit him first. Then a guy from London called. He wanted to know when he could come and collect it, no viewing necessary.
The next week I waited for him at the train station. It was a cold day, raining of course, and I stood there preying for a skinny kid to arrive, someone just as gullible and snivelling as me. But it wasn’t – he was a huge fella who was almost as wide as he was tall.
He spotted the leak immediately. ‘The carpet’s wet,’ he rumbled. I didn’t argue, I just stood there waiting for the pain to flow and my eyes to blacken. And yet the guy cared not one jot. Not about the leak, the ripped seat, nor the hole in the service history. It was to be his ‘project’ car, nothing more, nothing less. And so off he drove, him smiling and me relieved. ‘At last’ I thought, ‘I can now buy that Punto.’