Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A tale of two Renaults OR Why it pays to be slagged off by your brother

For the last several years, we've been driving around in a Renault 19 Biarritz.

And it's been fab.

The left elastic on the parcel shelf didn't work. Every six months, a bit of trim fell off. And every year, something went wrong that cost around £500 to put right - a radiator here, a clutch or exhaust there - just enough to make you wonder if you shouldn't sell the car and join a car club, or take cabs when you really need to. But not quite enough to push you over the edge.

You maybe, but not us. Not yet.

A few weeks ago, the car started making terminal noises. We thought it might take us on our final, one-way trip to the Dordogne before dying in the land of its inception, but it was not to be. Too many things were going wrong at once. The clutch again. The exhaust again. And at 1.4, the engine probably wasn't strong enough to pull the trailer I was ordering, anyway.

We needed a car. Fast. Preferably left-hand drive. French (almost everyone in France drives a French car). Decent-sized engine. For under four grand.

To the InterWeb!

I found a few left-hand drive garages - bizarrely, none near the Southern ports - and was set to take our old Renault on its final journey to Chesham, when I had an idea. My older brother, who I haven't got on with since my teens, has a friend in the car trade. Maybe I could make the budget stretch a bit further and enlist his help.

So I made the call.

And took the predictable abuse. (What it must be like to have a brother who can say: "Sorry, mate. Can't help you there." or "I dunno. I'll ask around." Ah, well.)

I ended up giving myself a hard time for calling. When I got home, I told Clare not to let me be so stupid again.

Then my brother called me.

"This is spooky," he said.

Now spooky, we like. This whole project has been what you might call spooky. We wouldn't. But you might.

Apparently, my brother had gone to the pub and continued to slag me off for being whatever enough to think there'd be a left-hand drive car in Leicestershire. What a whatever I must be. What a complete and utter...

And the guy sitting next to him tapped him on the shoulder said he had a friend who was thinking of selling a left-hand drive Renault Scenic. Not just a French car, but a French-born-and-bought car with English plates.

It's sitting outside our house now. With a shiny new towbar. Well under budget.

And it's fab.

For those with an interest in "coincidences", and you'll see plenty on this blog, the MOT is due on my birthday. And the left elastic on the parcel shelf doesn't work.

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