If I’m honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this Saturday. You can fake all the bravado you want to your friends, but when push comes to shove, only a true mental case would actually look forward to putting on a pretty Heath Robinson superman costume composed mostly of women’s undercrackers and crawling through an assortment of freezing swamps.
The Tough Guy and Gal Challenge is one of those events that seems like an absolute hoot sometime around January when severely intoxicated. What a laugh it would be to go for a bit of a jog through the countryside, occasionally pausing to wade through a few streams and finish off with a warm shower and a tincture or two.
Reality comes with a fairly savage bite when the day comes around and you realise that the actual process involves standing in a series of chilly queues with several hundred people waiting to be shoved into what purports to be water, but actually smells like an outbreak of equine dysentery at the Melbourne Cup. However, despite everything I managed to haul myself around the course and after a freezing shower in the car park, was readying myself for the tincture stage of proceedings when things suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse.
‘Hey Tim, you know a lot about cars don’t you?’
There is nothing more certain to strike fear into my heart than hearing these words, because the end result is always one of two things. Either someone wants to introduce their Uncle Norris who has spent the last twenty years rebuilding an MG using only his teeth and is dying to spend the next twenty explaining to someone every step of the process in minute detail or even more terrifyingly, they want to talk about a car purchase.
As you well know, people are fairly precious about their beloved automobiles and I’ve yet to discover a way of telling someone that they are a mush-brained berk for choosing a Holden Barina over a Ford Fiesta that doesn’t result in some degree of umbrage being taken. It’s all well and good to take a swipe at a global motor manufacturer who, despite having a small African defence budget to play with, still turn out a rotter of a motor, but I’ve never liked breaking an individual’s heart by telling them that they would have been better off investing their hard-earned wedge on a decent pair of walking boots and a bus pass. Thus, in order to maintain some semblance of integrity, I’m forced to conduct the entire conversation with vague hand gestures and phrases along the lines of “It’s very you”.
Although even that is preferable to what I was actually asked: what used car someone should buy in the first place. While I could – and occasionally do – bang on for longer than is socially acceptable about the comparative merits of various manufacturers’ current model range, how a car stacks up several years down the line can be a bit of a lottery.
Take for example the greatest car I have ever bought. It was a Volvo 740 and that was down to the fact it could slide around roundabouts at 20kph with a wardrobe in the back, make your bottom warm on cold mornings, had an entertaining overdrive button on the gear lever in lieu of a fifth gear and only cost $700. It was a thoroughly magnificent beast and is the car I regret selling over all others. Even with 400,000km on the clock it ran like a dream and I would have happily sold it to my best friend, such was my trust in its Nordic abilities.
Although this was a sale unlikely ever to go through due to the fact my best friend refused to get in it. Despite all of the plus points mentioned above, less than careful previous owners meant it had one or two minor foibles such as the roof lining randomly falling off, every door, window and the sunroof leaking like a baby and the whole thing reeking of damp labrador.
If the earlier caretakers had put a smidgen more effort into basic upkeep and not keeping sodden pets in the back it would have been perfect. A car is only as good as the people who have used it and until the day someone starts vetting the social and mechanical standards of people, the process of purchasing an older vehicle will always be a bit of a lottery.
And therefore if faced with the same situation, I can only recommend you take the option I did; resort to abject cowardice and come up with a solution that you are absolutely confident no-one will buy. My recommendation of the Renault Laguna station wagon as a safe, practical, fun and reasonably economical family option was totally on the mark, but there is not a cat in hells chance anyone spending $10,000 of their own money would risk one over the likes of Subaru’s Legacy or Nissan’s Primera.
I’ll admit it was pretty shameful behaviour for one dressed as a superhero, but after that mud run, I was happy to get out of sticky situations in any way I could.