The Final Countdown?

Since last putting fingers to keyboard, my world has been rocked by a sudden death. A seriously flawed yet fabulous flame flickered out of existence, taking with it just a little brightness from this world.

Did I hear someone mention Amy Winehouse? I think not. While the tragedy of a young life being gripped and seemingly snuffed out by a cocktail of addictions is definitely something to be mourned, pitied and – if lessons are to be learned – in suitable time scrutinised and criticised, she never really rocked my world.

Instead, I have been touched on an entirely more personal level by the untimely demise of my much loved BMW which suffered from a sudden and terrible loss of coolant atop Auckland’s harbour bridge on Tuesday. Thankfully the force of gravity was enough to see it down the other side where it eventually returned to a temperature on the right side of thermo-nuclear and was tentatively returned to Grimley Towers. And there it remains; forlornly abandoned on the driveway, having managed the ludicrously expensive trick of simultaneously rooting both its radiator and head gasket.

Ordinarily, my head would take control of matters, ask my heart round for a cup of coffee and while it was looking the other way club it unconscious with a decorative table lamp. Then, free of the debilitating influence of emotion, a $1, no-reserve TradeMe auction would be started and the circling vultures of vehicle breakers encouraged to descend. But this is not an ordinary week, because as keen viewers of Prime will have noticed, Top Gear returned to our screens last Sunday.

And then there was one?

And as part of their opening news section, the Holy Trinity of automotive tomfoolery introduced the world to the website www.howmanyleft.co.uk. Like most of the content of the interweb, this is not likely to advance the cause of our species, but it did rather manage to tug at my heartstrings.

The concept is a simple one – you type in the car of your choice and the site trawls through British government records to show you exactly how many are left on the roads of the UK. And it seems that before leaving for New Zealand I wasn’t overly careful with one or two quite rare items.

Take my elderly Volvo turbo diesel estate, which went the great scrappy in the sky due to its engine being transplanted into a Vauxhall Victor. There are now only 130 living examples of its kind. My Mini 1000 HLE which was stripped for its engine and aftermarket Cooper ‘S’ discs is now survived by only 93 of the original production run. Even my shoddy old Skoda Favorit GLXIE which was thoughtlessly used and abused in a banger rally is down to 61 examples.

To put this in some form of perspective, there are 956 registered Ferrari 360 Modena’s, 385 Lamborghini Gallardo’s and a staggeringly common 3855 Bentley Continental GT Autos.

But perhaps my greatest sin was that committed against a Metro HL which I owned for precisely one day. It was bought in London, driven 100 miles up the M1 only to have its engine ripped out and the rest sent on a skip wagon to be crushed. Today there is only one left. One. A single, solitary example of what would once have been the proud result of hundreds of people’s endeavours in design, assembly, marketing and service. An entire subspecies of automobile is one car away from extinction.

Rust In Pieces

Which is why I’m struggling to make the call which will see my bung little BMW hauled off to the place where dead cars go to rest. Sure they are ubiquitous now, but it won’t be too long before they are whittled down to the same rarity as the poor Metro HL. Worst of all, without an equivalent website in Aotearoa, the first warning we’ll get is when there simply aren’t any left.

And I suspect that for this reason I’ll dig out my compression tester tomorrow morning to see if anything can economically be done to pull my budget Bimmer back from the brink. Is it silly and irrational? Quite probably. But to be frank, if you can happily sit back and watch bits of motoring history drift regularly into oblivion you’re obviously a lot stronger than me.

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