For many years we had disposable Minis.  In the UK they have a thing known as the MOT test. If a car is more than 3 years old it must pass a fairly rigorous test to make sure it is roadworthy.  Loads of things can fail a car, including rust. If that were the rule here in North America there would be a lot less cars on the road :o)

So we used to buy a car for about fifty pounds – usually a Mini – that had one year’s MOT certificate on it. We would then hope it would pass another year and if it didn’t, sold it for scrap and bought another one.  The one I took my driving test in could not go from 2nd to 3rd gear. We had to shift from 2nd to 4th and then immediately down to 3rd. I noticed the driving test guy looking a bit puzzled but he passed me just the same.

Aside: as you probably know most cars in the UK are stick shifts whereas most this side of the pond are automatics. I have never driven a stick shift in North America.  I am just not confident enough to try changing gears with the ‘wrong’ hand.

For a few happy years we discovered a garage about 150  miles away from where we lived that was flexible in their judgements, for a tenner or so plus the cost of the MOT test, miraculously we had another year’s grace.  It was a tiny little garage up a country road.  The line up to get in would stretch at least a mile or so.  Of course their popularity eventually caught the eye of the constabulary and that was the end of that loophole.

Shame but probably made the roads of the Uk a bit safer I guess. One of the best Minis we had was a Mini 1275 GT.  We loved that car.  To drive from our home down to see my family we would need to fill up the gas tank half way there and also add a gallnon of oil at the half way point. Yes I am serious.  The trip required two full gallons of oil.  The was this funny little pipe poking out of the engine and oil would drip out of it onto the hot engine and then burn off. Also, when we stopped to fill up with gas(petrol) we could not turn off the engine because the car would then die and we could not restart it until the thing had cooled down.  So we used to pull into a gas station, leave the engine running as we filled up, open the bonnet and pour in the next gallong of oil at the same time as clouds of black smoke (the burning oil on the hot engine) billowed around us.  Sometimes other motorists would ask ‘Do you realise you engine is on fire/” We would just smile and nod that all was well as most of them usually backed away probably convinced that we were nuts. Sadly eventually the poor thing did die but only because of the Police.  Alan had been driving home
on a motorway when the police stopped him because of the smog that he was creating – visual: small car, driving like the clappers and a cloud behind it that could have been used as the backdrop in any of the Lord of the Rings movies.  He got pulled over and they told him to turn off the ignition.  He tried to explain that if he did that the car would seize but they were quite adamant.  They were kind enough not to charge him, gave him a ride to the railway station and they phoned me “Mrs. Poulter?  This is the police, no don’t worry, your husband is fine, but the Mini is dead.’.

Then Alan got a sales job that came with a company car.  Our first experience of a brand new vehicle.  A diesel Vauxhal Astra.  It was OK, sounded like a London Taxi when he started it up but it had an engine that worked and looked nice.  It just had one small flaw.  It came with an alarm system that was very sensitive.  You know how irritating it is when you make a piece of toast and the flipping smoke alarm goes off, again.
Well this thing was about the same.  If a cat jumped on the car the alarm would go off.  Worse than that though, the fuse box was just under the bonnet and if it rained, it would short out and there was no way of turning the thing off.  Sunday afternoon, driving around North Wales, Dave Lee Travis on the radio and suddenly the car alarm went off because of the rain.  Cars in front started to pull over thinking this was a plain clothes Police ar.  I told the kids to duck down in the back and reclined the passenger seat and just hid while Alan tried to look like he might actually be a copper until we could pull over and rip the bloody wires out of the fuse box.

When we moved to Iowa we bought a Crown Victoria station wagon in a silent auction.  It had 102,000 miles on the clock and was a tank of a car.  I did most of the driving back then, going to Omaha to buy supplies. That car was huge.  You could turn on the ignition and not even touch the pedal and it would go from 0 to 35 mph all by itself. Our eldest son actually managed to get it airborne on a bridge after a keg party and our
middle son passed his driving test, drove home and did not take my word for the acceleration power of that car and mounted the considerable hill of our front lawn. It stalled just before entering the restaurant lobby. When we left Iowa the car had well over 200,000 miles on it and we gave it to a young man because we thought he might like to use it in the Demolition Derby.  We have heard though that the old ship is actually still on the road which we think is splendid.

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