I've been driving Womble for exactly a week now, and some things have occurred to me. I thought I'd share them, in no particular order.
Because I'm driving
, not steering. No power steering, no servo brakes, I am in touch with what the car is doing every second I'm driving. I do something, and I get instant feedback. I'm suddenly redeveloping all the good driving habits I used to have - looking further ahead and watching traffic more, correct hand-position on the wheel, feeding the wheel through my hands as I turn, slowing with gears before brakes.
It's a cliche, but it's seat-of-the-pants driving.
I drove Kitewife's Focus a couple of days ago, it was a disaster! Taps the brakes, do an emergency stop - steer with two fingers, weave all over the road. There's no feedback, nothing to tell me by feel exactly how much braking I'm doing, or how fast the wheels are turning. I had to look at the dials to check the speed and watch the revs before changing gear.
Modern cars, I have decided, are only one step short of video games.
- Maybe that's part of the reason for the rise in roadrage?
There's no need to take pride or care, because the car does it all for you. Spend enough money, and the only thing that will kill you is if you drive at a tree. Even that may not be possible with radar-triggered brakes soon to become more common.
If you have abdicated all responsibility for your safety to a mindless mechanism, who do you blame if something goes wrong? Where do you direct your anger? The only target left is the other driver
- I seem to have joined a sub-culture.
I'm not the only driver of a proper Mini in my area. I pass two or three every day. Amongst others, I've seen a white one, striped pink, with a bubbly blonde driving. I've seen a 70s Traveller in immaculate condition. Several jobbing
Minis, in every-day-driving state, and a Mini wedged full of teenage lads, fully kitted out for racing, roll-cage and all.
Every single one of them waved, flashed their lights or otherwise said "hello"
as we passed. I have never seen drivers of other kinds of car do that. It's pretty good, getting a friendly wave from a stranger. It lifts your day, puts a smile on your face.
It's like we share a happy secret.
- Minis attract comment more than cars that cost fifty times as much.
If people see a Ferrari in the car park, they might nudge each other and make admiring comments, but if they see a Mini, they come over, say hello. On Saturday, a huge hairy rocker, returning to his big Japanese family car, children in tow, left his children in his car, and came over for a chat about the surprisingly roomy interior of my Mini, and an idle chat about the type of engine (single-point injection, if you're wondering).
People might wish they could afford
a supercar, but they are genuinely jealous of people who actually own a proper Mini.
- Everybody has a Mini in their closet.
I'm not really a petrol head, and I don't work with petrol heads, but suddenly everybody wants to talk about cars. They all seem to have had an adventure in a Mini, their own or a friend's. Half of them regret having sold their Mini years ago.
OK, so the old Minis don't meet modern safety rules. They're slow, utterly lacking in luxuries (my heater has two settings - on
), but if somebody started building them new, using the original molds for the panels and frames (they still exist), and charged five or six thousand pounds a pop, they would make an absolute fortune.