Saturday, October 31, 2009

My cars: a short guide. Part V - My Triumph Toledo and another sad end

After the undignified end suffered by my Datsun and I had sold it to my dope dealer (which sounds a lot more louche than was the reality), I needed another car and agreed to buy my flatmate Wayne's Triumph Toledo. Wayne Francis was a reporter on the Evening Mail where I worked as a sub, and Wayne liked a pint or two, then three or four, then five or six. The night Wayne didn't arrive home three sheets to the wind was the day of the Second Coming.

Wayne was from Bristol and had a broad Bristol accent. In many ways he fitted the clich├ęd view of reporters (as I did when I was still working as one, except for the heavy drinking. One girlfriend I had was warned by a doctor in the hospital in which she worked that reporters were like sailors - they had a girl in every port. She was living in South Wales and I was living in Newcastle at the time, and when she told me what the doctor had told her, I pooh-poohed it and swore my undying love. Unfortunately, I WAS running two more girls at the time, one of whom even had the same name as she did, she made it difficult when one of them rang and I was told: "Patrick, Amanda on the phone for you."), but he was a good reporter and eventually became the Sun's royal correspondent.

I met him again years later when he got sick of following assorted royals around the world and joined the Mail instead. He told me that the Palace operated a system of apartheid among the various royal correspondents and distinguished them between 'one of us' like, for example, the Mail's Richard Kay, and 'not one of us' like, for example gobby, hard-drinking Wayne from Bristol. But it didn't bother him one jot.
I can't remember why he was selling his Toledo (his was dark blue, not brown like the one pictured), but I was interested in buying it. I no longer needed a car in order to bump my income be fiddling expenses, because as a sub-editor I didn't get expenses, but I still needed a car to get around. It, too, provided good service for several years, although, if I remember correctly, the radio went on the blink, and there was some special kind of fiddling around with it to get it to work.

The end came for the Toledo quite quickly and in an unexpected way. By then I was working for Power News, the CEGB staff newspaper, and was once again creaming the moolah in buckshee total bullshit mileage expenses even though I was still a sub. (If you remember, we used to organise long and completed pointless trips simply to claim mileage, the odd thing being that everyone from the editor up knew what was going on.)

First the chassis 'broke'. I use inverted commas because I am not to sure chassis can 'break' but this one did and the engine sank by what must have been a foot or two. Now, I would simply get rid of a car like that an accept the financial hit, but then, I was rather more stupid and got a garage to repair it. This they did. A week later, I was returning from the printers in Bicester and was just north of Stratford when a car suddenly drove onto the main road and I went straight into it.

My car was a write-off, and I was lucky to survive, especially as my seatbelt was broken and I was, to all intents and purposes, not wearing one. And that was the end of the Toledo, just a week after spending £400 (in 1983, now, in 2013, anything between £1,1018 and £1,963 according to a very useful website called What's It Worth which you can find here for working out today's prices in pounds and here for doing the same in dollars) on having the bloody thing repaired. Next came my massive Vauxhall Victor, which was built and, unfortunately, also drove like a tank.

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