Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My cars: a short guide. Part IV — my Datsun Cherry and its sad end

Before I start, I should note that I am quite aware that an account of all the cars I have owned might not make the most interesting reading. However, I have private (and very simple) reasons for doing so.
The 1300 did great work, carrying me up and down the country to visit my then girlfriend - I was living in Newcastle and drove down every 3/4 weeks to see her in South Wales - and then saw me through to my move to Birmingham when I joined the Evening Mail as a sub. But within a few months, a turned into a side street just off Colmore Circus where the Mail offices were (they're now in some godforsaken industrial estate in Castle Bromwich near Spaghetti Junction), lost my concentration as I cheerily waved to a friend and crashed into a car coming the other way. The car wasn't a write-off, but it would have cost an arm and a leg to have it repaired and I couldn't be arsed. The only silver lining was that about an hour after the crash, I was approached by one of the compositors who I had never seen before who informed me that he had witnessed the crash from an upstairs window and that the other guy had been driving in the middle of the road. So we were both to blame, and as far as insurance was concerned, I wasn't out of pocket. I got rid of the 1300 and bought my nest car. The one irritating aspect to the 1300, which was otherwise quite a nice car, was that BL, or whatever they were calling themselves that week, had used a fancy hydro-suspension technique in its design, which provided a great ride when it was in good nick, but which you could never again get quite right once it was out of kilter. And by the time I came to get rid of the 1300, it was well out of kilter. Steering was becoming a challenge especially at high speeds on the motorway.
Datsun Cherry (which looked very much like the one in the picture on the right) was for sale at a secondhand car dealership at the bottom of Milner Road, the street where I lived in Selly Park, Birmingham. It cost was in a very nice condition and cost me a round £1,000. It had no blemishes of any kind and ran very nicely indeed. I was particularly pleased with the spring-loaded gear shift. However, a week or so after buying it, the alternator failed. I was in Leicester at the time, visiting me girlfriend (another one, not the one mentioned above) and, to be fair, there is no way the dealer could have known it was on its way out. However, once I had bought another (courtesy of the RAC chap who came out to help me - they and their AA counterparts have a sideline in supplying parts to stranded motorists who pay a little over the odds, but are grateful for getting the part there and then) and was back home in Birmingham, I walked to the bottom of the road and asked the dealer - there was two of them, in fact - what they were going to do about it. Nothing, they told me, and pointed out, as I just have, that there was no way they could have known the alternator was about to go tits up. Dear reader, I then did something I have never done before and which taught me a valuable lesson: I simply sat it out, was perfectly reasonable and insisted that I should get part of the money back. I was patient, kept it friendly, but I didn't let up. And, finally, I bored them into submission. I can't remember how much they gave me to offset the cost of a new alternator, but I remember being happy with the sum.
The Cherry gave sterling service, was a nippy little car and I liked it. Then things went a wrong. I noticed a little rust on one of the front wings, a tiny amount really, hardly noticeable, but still being young and stupid enough to fancy a little car DIY, I went around to a friend's house and borrowed his Black & Decker. The idea was that I would gently sand of the top coat, get to the rusted area, sand away the rust, apply a primer, then apply paint. The trouble was that the deeper I sanded (actually I was using the rotary wire attachment), the further I delved into filler: it turned out that most of the wing consisted of filler. It seems the dealers were buying up care which were closer to wrecks than anything else, having the body tarted up and selling them. It made - and makes - no sense to me unless they bought them for a song and the bodywork undertaken cost them almost nothing, or else they would not make a profit. And another puzzle was that mechanically the Cherry was very sound and I do not remember having any trouble at all. Anyway, needless to say (although, as always when people use that stupid phrase, I shall say it anyway, whether or not it needs to be said), after my botched attempt at DIY - I didn't fill in the rather large hole I had made - the car looked rather more ragged than I should have liked. Added to that, while on a trip to Essex to try to get off with a girl I fancied (I didn't), someone skidded in the snow and smashed into the Cherry while it was parked outside her house. So it looked even more ragged. That's when I decided to get rid of it. I sold it to the West Indian chap I used to buy my blow from at the Kings Head in Balsall Heath. I was surprised he wanted it, but he seemed happy enough. My next car was a Triumph Toledo, which I bought from my flatemate, Wayne Francis.

No comments:

Post a Comment