We all remember our first car. Our first flavour of the open road in a set of wheels that belonged to us, spelling out youthful adventures and great memories. This will be the first, of hopefully many, features where Motor Hipster recaps the motoring days of yore of many different motoring writers.
First up, is me, Mike Armstrong. Where better to start than with the founder of Motor Hipster himself?
It was 2007, and I had just begun my first series of driving lessons during my A levels. A trip to eBay, accompanied by my father, left me searching endlessly for an affordable and cool first car. Typically, I was thinking something sporty, petrol and cheap on insurance. Although grateful for the effort put in, my heart sank like the Titanic upon reading that I was the winning bidder. What was it I had won exactly? A Polo? Corsa? Fiesta?
Unfortunately it was a 1994 Peugeot 106, in dark blue. “Not even the face-lift model”, I thought, as I imagined class colleagues with their bank of mum and dad funded new Fiestas and Mini Coopers. Poverty spec bland hub caps, vomit coloured interior and rather flamboyant “Mardi Gras” stickers vandalising the side; I was not exactly a happy bunny. Still, I remembered the £600 I had paid for it and soldiered on to justify my purchase.
The day arrived to collect my prize from a Peugeot dealership in Hampshire. Money was exchanged, documents were signed and keys handed over. Suddenly the realization that I actually owned a car dawned upon me, as I began to feel the excitement flow through my veins. Out of the entrance I flew, searching for my new blue chariot. Where was it? I looked around, 206’s to the left of me and jokers to the right. “It’s round the back”, offered the middle-aged dealer, pointing behind the showroom. Low and behold, there it lay, beneath a tree which littered twigs and berries onto my first foray into motoring life; which was sat there with large puppy dog eyes, begging to be re-homed. Now I could see it in the flesh, faded panels, mis-matching budget tyres and all! We started up the tractor-like diesel engine, and headed home.
Upon passing my test, I quickly grew an attachment to my micro Mardi Gras, as I racked up miles through social activities and spirited driving sessions close to Biggin Hill. Soon, the Merdi Gras found itself the victim of the bite of the modifying bug. Fear not though, as Lexus lights and expanding foam bodykits were never quite the forte of a would-be motoring writer.
Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing…
Firstly, a set of Raptor alloy wheels from the next generation 106 GTI were purchased for a reasonable price via a certain owners’ club forum. Once fitted, they completely transformed the look and the ride. The comical under-steer was mildly improved owing to how much wider than the bog standard steelies the new and significantly improved shoes were. Next, the addition of an XSI spoiler cleared up the back end a bit more. Memories of the shock and amazement my friends displayed when I unveiled the new spoiler which had adorned my Merdi Gras’ bootlid still live vividly with me today; along the lines of “Where the f*** is it?” Other improvements included culling the Mardi Gras deformities and including a stereo which not only worked, but connected to my spanking new iPod.
Verging onto contempt with my micro Pug, if not slightly proud by this point, the blue supermini began to become the source of many banterous adventures. There was the time me and a very good friend impulsively traveled to the Isle of Wight and wild camped for two nights, with a boot full of cider and a craving for mischievous adventures. What began as one of our routine teenage runs to devour half of London’s fried chicken reserves turned into a late night ferry ticket from Portsmouth and sneaking onto a campsite undetected at 1am. We then had a Scrumpy Jack fueled barbecue before falling asleep on the grass, atop a piece of cardboard (homeless style). We then woke up the next morning to discover how close we were at one point to toppling over a cliff on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. All of this out of the way, we placed the obligatory pirate flag on the wing mirror and headed into various towns to continue our impulsive and immensely enjoyable adventure.
The vastly under-powered piece of French tosh became the source of more adventures, visiting friends at university, gigs across the country (Including a long journey to see The Kooks in Doncaster, which a friend purchased not realizing how far away that was) and other typical first car traits. After my first term at university, the 106 accompanied me in my freshers year in Canterbury, where it became a part of my every day life. Eventually I picked up a part time job as a delivery driver for a sketchy Chinese restaurant in the city centre, where this little beastie helped deliver food in record time!
The beginning of the end…
Unfortunately, my biggest mistake for a first car was to buy French. Although the trusty 106 remained fairly reliable throughout my ownership, signs of death were looming nearer by the day. Interior panels were beginning to test Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity and motion, various components under the bonnet were beginning to despise their own existence and the sunroof developed an incontinence issue with the slightest signs of precipitation. Due to my university commitments, by which I mean alcohol fueled misadventures through Banterbury, the car which I had so proudly shined in the leafy suburbs of Bromley as a 17 year old A-Level student began to gather dust and became almost permanently embellished in mud.
The time had come to move on to pastures new, and the Mardi Gras was advertised locally for £500. A sale finally materialised in the form of a school friend and university coursemate, who paid cash and collected soon after. It was sad to wave goodbye to my first car, especially after the adventures we had together. Little did I know on that fateful day in June 2007, when I regretted placing a bid on a well-known auction site, that the day would eventually come where one would reflect on this sorry sack of s***e and maintain that the choice was perfect. Sure, this Peugeot was painfully slow, cramped and pissed rainwater on my passenger sadistically, but it had become a major part of my late teenage years. To this day, I remember it fondly and smile about the good times. The right decision.
The right decision which I refer to was to sell the bloody thing, as it soon threw a tantrum and destroyed its alternator. Its new owner grew so frustrated after a couple of months that he “forgot” to place the handbrake on as it rolled into a tree. Meanwhile I had purchase a younger and sexier Peugeot 106, which turned out the be the single worst motoring decision of my life. All hail the first one!
by Mike Armstrong