Week Thirteen: Baby, You Can Drive My Car

I have a confession to make. Despite watching Top Gear on a semi-regular basis, I know nothing about cars. So little in fact that 90% of the time I probably couldn’t tell you what model they’ve reviewed once the closing credits have ended. As I suspect many others do, I watch the show purely for the challenges, the Stig, the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car, and of course, James May.

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That shirt. That beautiful shirt.

I’ve also never owned a car.

In my defence, this is not especially unusual if, like me, you grew up in London and worked in the City. Heck, I know at least two people my age who are yet to even get their driving license. The class system is alive and well in Britain, but for those traveling to and from Zone One, public transport remains a great leveler. Ancient as it is, and hellish as it can be sometimes, the Tube will typically get you where you need to go with the least amount of fuss, and buses take over where track was ne’er laid. Faced with the harsh reality of the congestion charge, lack of parking spaces, and long queues, most Londoners will reach for their Oyster cards without hesitation.

However things are about to change, as recent work developments in the JC household have made it imperative for me to buy my first car. At age thirty. What can I say? I’m a late developer. Fortunately the Vancouver International Auto Show happened to be in town, so what better excuse to drool over sleek sports cars, and cheeky vintage beauties?

Disclaimer: As I mentioned above, I know very little about cars. Consequently, if you’re expecting much in the way of quality technical commentary, you may be a tad disappointed with this entry.

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This is a Corvette. It is shiny. And blue.

After purchasing our tickets in the foyer lined with various Golf GTI models throughout history, we descended into the vast belly of the exhibition. I was keen to sign up for any competition that offered a car as a top prize, and we were swiftly approached by a smiling rep from Kia with just such a competition.

“No thank you,” said my husband firmly, not-so-subtly picking up speed as he strode past the exhibit.

“But it’s a free car,” I protested between clenched teeth, whilst simultaneously trying smile apologetically at the disheartened rep and adjust to the new gait.

“Doesn’t matter,” he hissed, shaking his head vehemently. “It’s a Kia.”

Sorry Kia rep.

We spent some time admiring some very big trucks, before moving on to the Red Bull car;

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Fast & shiny

Then I got very excited at Lambo’s new Batmobile;

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Gothic. Less shiny. Possibly armed with missiles.

But my excitement was short lived when I was startled by a robot, which unexpectedly started dancing just as I was beginning to turn my back on it;

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Insert joke about Fordism here.

Feeling somewhat out of place, I decided that the best thing to do would be to observe the more seasoned looking visitors and take notes. Many of these veterans took great pains to linger around the open bonnet/hood of the cars on show. Here they thoughtfully inspected the inner workings of the car for a few seconds, before nodding approvingly. Sometimes they held their chins contemplatively, although this was in no way mandatory. Occasionally one (the Originator) would assert their dominance at cars by pointing to something in the engine and making a learned comment about it to whoever was standing closest (the Recipient).

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This car comes with a complimentary engine. A significant upgrade from the 2010 model, which most reviewers affectionately referred to as ‘The Flintstone Car’.

The Recipient was then obliged to acknowledge the Originator’s superior knowledge of cars by nodding, or, if they were feeling particularly effusive, nodding and saying ‘Mmm.’

Occasionally the Originator’s dominance would be challenged by a Recipient who, rather than staying silent after nodding, inserted their own counter comment about car guts directly afterwards. The ball was then back in the Originator’s court, and they could either concede the point with a nod, or retaliate with a further fact. As far as I could tell, the winner was the one who got the last word in.

(Observing social scenarios is a key skill for a blogger.)

Soon enough we came to Mini’s exhibit, and spotted a car that even I can recognise;

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Cooper! It’s a Mini Cooper!

My husband encouraged me to take a seat behind the wheel, no doubt because he rather wants one, despite the fact that the speedometer was designed for people who are  too short-sighted to actually drive.

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I mean look at it. It takes up half the dashboard.

Whilst I was sitting behind the wheel, a rep came up to me and asked which model I liked best. It was time to put my observations into practice.

“The original one,” I declared, with all the confidence I could muster.

“You mean, the old 1960’s model?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I nodded. “Back when they were actually, you know, mini.”

At the word ‘mini’ I further illustrated my point by holding my two hands close together as though I was measuring a very small distance. He paused, at a loss of what to say. I put my hands back in my lap and beamed at him, determined not to be the one to break what was fast becoming an uncomfortable silence. Or eye contact.

“Enjoy the rest of your day,” he mumbled politely, before hurriedly scurrying away to talk to literally anybody else.

I had successfully asserted my dominance at cars.

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Time to ride off into the sunset before anyone can challenge me further

VERDICT: If you have an interest in cars, go to the autotrade show. Even as a non-car person, I could appreciate the beauty of some of the vehicles, and found it a pleasant enough way to spend a rainy afternoon. However I’m not sure I would pay $15 to go again.

And on that bombshell…

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I defy anyone not to read this theatre sign in Jeremy Clarkson’s voice.

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