I blame my father. Irish guys blame their fathers for many things - an angry streak, hereditary baldness, making them support an unsuccessful football team, not approving of a particularly unsuitable but tantalisingly over-sexed girlfriend. My father died when I was only twelve, so he didn't pass on many influences to me. One indelible mark he did leave however, was a lasting passion for big fast cars with ridiculously large engines ("Ain't no replacement for cubic displacement" as they say in the US). He was driving around in a beige Audi 80 when Ford Escorts were considered a sign of crass materialism in Ireland (as an aside, the first time I ever felt old was when I saw an identical car as an exhibit in the Brussels Autoworld museum). The car I remember most however, was a blue Mark I Ford Granada GXL. It had a black vinyl roof, a three-litre V6 engine strong enough to pull a lorry and an automatic gearbox. It was the business.
Gordon Jackson's character, Cowley, in legendary 70s cop show The Professionals (it had gratuitous violence and nudity - always a mark of quality) drove a similar vehicle and he was very cool. This cemented my dad's reputation as a hero and ensured a life long passion for large executive barges that co-incidentally could out-run the Millennium Falcon if provoked.
The first car I owned as a trainee auditor was LZG 945, a 1982 Opel Kadett, like the pne pictured to the left here. It had a 1.2 engine, was painted a strange rusty orange colour (Henna Red was the official description) and a slightly out-of-true boot lock that only I could figure out how to close with a single movement. I loved it to bits. Fiona & I drove all over Ireland in it. After 18 months however, the genetic bequest kicked in and I traded it in for a big black Alfa Romeo saloon with a three-litre V6 engine and an automatic gearbox. If vinyl roofs hadn't gone out of fashion, it would probably have had one of those as well.
Since then, my cars haven't gotten any smaller or slower. It doesn't make economic sense. It's just my thing. Fiona accepts this much as I accept her love of cats. I acknowledge that they're actually loving creatures with distinct personalities and she accepts that they're rubbish at carrying two people and a load of shopping back from town. As I get older, it is my intention that my cars will get lower and wider. Fiona has been very gracious in accommodating this desire - her one stipulation is that she doesn't want anything in the driveway that might lead casual passers-by to conclude that we're being visited by a pimp. Since I've always hankered after a Maserati, this will become a contentious point at some stage in the future, but for now I am indulged. The latest manifestation of this indulgence was when my brother and I made what is unlikely to be our last visit to the Nürburgring. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, the Nürburgring holds a special place in the hearts of car nuts. Let me tell you about it - at length:
Return to the scene of past crimes: 2007In late June I made the 2007 pilgrimage to the Nürburgring.