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racy lady 2

Mazda MX5 Mk2 – 02 Plate

It’s now a week since I picked up the Mazda. The day before I was worried I’d made a terrible mistake, buying such an old car after no more than a quick look round and a ten minute test drive. What if I’d missed something? Rotten door bottoms, bubbling wings, blue smoke, badly fitting rag-top, leaking oil, duff tyres. The list of things that can go wrong with an older car is long indeed, especially if it’s not been pre-loved, and the dealer turns out to be a rogue.

The car was waiting when I rolled up. The top was down and the guy had washed it off for me. To my immense relief it looked even better than I remembered. A quick card transaction, a handing over of documents, and I was on my way. In real terms it’s probably the cheapest car I’ve ever bought, but easily the one that has impressed me the most.

The drive home was a real pleasure; a hot, sunny afternoon, and the way taking me along the winding country lanes of the West Lancashire coast. The car warmed quickly and ran sweetly.

It has been loved, I think, and the wad of service reports reassures me it’s also been well maintained. I did no more than forty, but it felt like I was flying. I made a quick stop for petrol and the lad in the shop complimented me on the car. It’s a conversation starter, something that’s not happened in 35 years, not since the days of my ancient Mk1 Cortina Super. The Cortina was rotten underneath, but managed good show up top and conversations were frequent when I was out on my travels. Sure, it’s a long time since heads were turned by anything I’ve driven. The Cortina eventually collapsed, literally, its McPherson struts held in place by nothing more than spiders webs.

A long time ago. God bless it!

But now I’m cruising through West Lancs with the top down and girls are looking. Yes, girls! I assured number one son, who accompanied me, they were looking at him, not me. He assured me they were looking at the car, and not at either of us. We are both blessed, it seems with the same lack of self confidence.

I bought polish and spent the evening buffing her up to a deep blue lustre.

Oh, she’s lovely. Very lovely indeed!

I must have done a hundred miles since then, just driving around on short hops, getting a feel for her, identifying any problems areas. She’s not perfect. All but one of the tyres was duff, so I had to get a fresh set right away, and the brake pads will be next. The driver’s side hood clamp doesn’t latch – a common problem on MX 5’s – but hardly a reason for gnashing one’s teeth, and is easily fixed. There’s also a tendency to bounce when taking up drive in first and reverse gears when she’s cold – another common idiosyncrasy of certain Mk 2.5’s, I’m told, but this one’s more a question of how you handle her than spending a fortune on unnecessary ┬árepair. I’m sure there’ll be other things that surface as our acquaintanceship deepens, but my main worry, the bodywork, is fine. This is a 12 year old car, but it’s in better shape than my 7 year old Astra whose door bottoms, to my dismay, are already starting to bubble through.

The attention the car drew on that journey home has continued. A small two seater sport’s car cruises by and people look at it. I do ┬áit all the time, thinking: isn’t that lovely? And I must get one of those before I’m too old to enjoy it! So I don’t mind that others do it to me, but there’s another kind of attention that’s been much less welcome. It’s a kind of maleness I’m uncomfortable with, and it smells of over-ripe testosterone.

My longtime companion, that grey old Astra with his rotten door bottoms, does not inflame egos. We’ve done Seventy thousand miles together over the years, without so much as a second glance and that’s the way we like it. I’m not a sporty driver. I don’t take corners on two wheels. I like the feel of speed on the straight, but I don’t push my luck. But with the Mazda I’ve had cars overtaking me for the fun of it, running dangerously and blind on the wrong side of the road into bends. I’ve had other soft-top saloons suddenly come alive and pull wheel screeching burnouts in a village where the speed limit is a very sedate 20 MPH.

Oh, how I like the feel of this car! I like the sound of it, and I can’t stop driving it, but after a week, I’m growing tired of looking in the rear view mirror to see a fluorescent Ford Focus with go faster stripes and an adolescent-brained driver behind the wheel, sitting on my bumper, weaving about aggressively.

There have been three recent road deaths in my locale, all caused by stupidity and carelessness involving cars – the victims were all pedestrians or cyclists. Makeshift memorials pepper the black-spots, reminders as stern as the GATSO cams, that motoring without due care and attention is dangerous – says me with three points and an SP30 on his license.

I don’t know what kind of life my Mazda has known in the past, but it looks like she’ll be getting a lot of sand kicked in her face with me behind the wheel. If you’re out and about and you should cruise up behind a little blue Mazda with a silver haired driver behind the wheel, tootling along at forty, and you fancy a bit of sport, don’t bother, because he’s not up for it. Back off or pass me safely because the closer you get, the slower I’ll go. Let me enjoy my old Mazda in ways that does not involve you, or endanger other users of the road.

She and I are strictly Zen these days.

She?

Actually, I’m puzzled by that gender thing. The Astra is male, a safe, steady commute-mobile, slab sided and grey – old Grumpy. But the Mazda’s curves definitely suggest something female. A name hasn’t struck me, but I’m sure it will in time. The good lady Graeme fingers the frayed creases of the ragtop and suggests “Leaky”, but we’ve not been out in the rain yet, so we don’t know about that one for sure.

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