Confessions of a Petrol Head

I’ve always been a petrol head, since before I knew what petrol was!

I think it can be traced back to my (very) early childhood just outside Wickford when my best friend – Timothy Bray –
had two ‘Triang’ pedal cars, (a Jeep in camouflage colours with a white star on the bonnet, and a red convertible) while I didn’t have one.

pedal car

Not one of Timothy’s cars, but the convertible looked like that.

While I don’t consider myself to have had a deprived childhood, my parents conceded that perhaps that was an error,
and that perhaps I’ve over-compensated since.

When I was a teenager I had a poster of Jochen Rindt on my bedroom wall.

I’ve made some mistakes, over the years, but here’s the (incomplete) pantheon.


My first car – a Hillman Imp van… cost me £175 in 1975.

It didn’t have a headlining which caused a few problems in the wintertime, but (within weeks of my acquiring it) it had a stonking cassette player that was state of the art in its day!

Then a Pale Blue Mark One Ford Escort

and a Triumph 1500TC.


Then in 1979 I purchased a Mini.

The Mini soon boasted a Sharp radio cassette with auto-reverse (again, leading edge in those days),
wooden dashboard, clubman air vents, air horns and all sorts of extras…
they was all powered through a Fiat Miriafiori fuseboard in the glovebox.

I loved that car!

I sold the mini in 1983, and used the funds to buy a Sinclair Spectrum (the ‘big’ one, with (gasp!) a full 48k of RAM) and a colour TV to use with it – my first computer.

In 1985 we bought 1980 Ford Cortina Carousel. Bizarrely this had electric windows retro-fitted… our first car with leccy windows!


In 1987, following a promotion at work (I was a bona fide Bank Manager!) I became entitled to a company car,
and the division I was working in had a very generous car allowance.

Consequently, my first company car, in 1987, was a Rover 820SE.

The Rover was an ‘oyster’ silver colour and was, frankly, a nightmare, trashing three cylinder heads in four years, not an easy thing to do with an automatic.

I researched the history of the car with my local dealer (after the third trashed cylinder head) and learned that it was built on the Friday before an August Bank Holiday weekend.

That was state of the British motor industry in the eighties.

That was replaced in 1991 by a Nissan Bluebird Executive, which in turn went back when I left HSBC (Midland Bank) in 1993, after some eighteen years.

Nissan Bluebird - at

The Bluebird Executive was – Wikipedia notes  “the real pick of the crop from the Bluebird range…
These had their own range of colours, leather interior, body kit, lattice alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a vast array of standard equipment

Saab 900i

I bought a Saab 900i in 1995.


Our first Mercedes – 1997 – 2000 (R5 MRC (Robert’s Merc))


Our Second Mercedes – 2000 – 2007


Our 3rd Mercedes – a 350SL – 2007-2008 – man that was a great car!

Our 4th Mercedes – another C Class – 2008 – 2019 (never got a picture).


Alongside the various Mercs, I had a Honda Civic Coupe (an IBM company car) in 2001.


Then after leaving IBM, a Toyota RAV4  between 2001 and 2006.

The RAV4 was in turn replaced by a PT Cruiser from 2006 – 2011.

Then in November 2011 I traded the PT Cruiser for a Peugeot 307CC


I kept the ‘Pug’ until the summer of 2015 – the story of her departure is documented here.

In December 2016, after Val’s passing, I decided I needed something to make me smile.

It’s something that Val and I had discussed, and so I ordered myself a Mini, I figured that,
if you can’t smile in a rag-top Mini, then you’re probably beyond help.

In the autumn of 2019 I was advised that the Merc. was going to start to get
expensive to get through her MOT.

My mate Jeremy was running a ‘P’ Reg (1996) Merc. with
186k on the clock and a grumbly back axle.

He also shared a house with a mechanic, so could get repairs done more cheaply than me, so I offered the Merc to him.

It’s what mates do.

Jeremy and Pavel, his housemate, kept the Merc on the road until 2022 when Jeremy drove it through a wall and wrote it off.

For me, in 2019, for the first time in 22 years there was no Mercedes on the drive.

I then spotted the ‘MG Café’ in London’s Piccadilly and, curious, popped in for a look.

It was indeed a café, but they had a couple of cars at the back. One, the new ZS, looked interesting and,
to cut a long story short, I traded the Mini in and bought a brand spanking new, black MG ZS.

Five weeks later, she arrived, fresh from the factory in Shanghai and I kept her until September 2020.


In the summer of 2020 we had a planned trip to Goa cancalled.

I decided to spend the ‘holiday money’ on a Toyota MR2 Roadster.

My fourth convertible and, frankly, the best handling car I’ve ever driven.

Sadly, the MR2 wasn’t a good buy, yes she handled like a dream, but the clutch was playing up, and would have cost more than the car was worth to replace – particularly as I learned that she was a “Cat ‘N'” (non structural) rebuilt write off.

Regretfully, she had to go.

Meanwhile, Ali agreed to buy her late father’s Skoda. It was one of the last things he did before his health failed, and he loved the car.


After the MR2 went, we discussed getting something ‘for the sunny days’.
I’d already dismissed getting another Mercedes, they were “Val’s thing” and I’d sold the R5 MRC registration that I’d owned since 1997.

Ali suggested a Saab, not knowing that I’d owned one back in the late 90’s, so in the spring of 2021 I rejoined the Saab club,
and indeed the convertible club, with a 2011 9-3 convertible; one of the last they made.

Saab 93t

I guess it’s just as well I’ll never be invited to drive a reasonably priced car on Top Gear.





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