Cars And Girls

Got such a nice surprise in the mail yesterday. A cheque from Toyota! Since I have been quick enough to voice my disapproval, in this blog, of any company that upsets me I may as well express approval if a company impresses me too.

I should note here that the cheque the company sent me was not payment for this entry. I only wish hehehe. Nope – it was a refund for my “Extra Care” roadside service policy which, when my car was stolen, became useless to me. I no longer have a Toyota car and I am not involved with them in any way. If Toyota, or anyone, ever pays me to write something for them I will mention I’m being paid even if it’s not money I get.

It’s not likely, of course, but I can dream that someday Toyota will give me a new car out of pure gratitude for this entry hehehe. I can’t be bought though. I’ll only take graft if what I have to say to get it is true.

So now that Toyota knows I’m for hire (I have great faith in relevantnoise and moreover – I’m sure their spybots will tell them), and you know they haven’t hired me yet, on with the entry.

When I was young, many moons ago, there was a well known connection between the description “cheap and nasty” and Japanese products. I used to get a lot of bladder infections and I remember being asked if I had a “Japanese bladder” when I went to the loo one too many times. The definition of the word “Japanese” was, in those days, “cheap and nasty”.

It appears the Japanese have successfully worked their butts off to kill that perception of their products. If I ask someone, today, about their “Japanese bladder” they look at me blankly. My children don’t relate to the concept at all even though I used it while they were growing up.

After I got married my ex insisted I get my driving license and cars became an important part of my life. This had nothing to do with the cars themselves and everything to do with my ex. He was a motor mechanic by trade and changed his car nearly as often as he changed his undies!

One day, for example, we got a dog. My ex nipped out and traded our standard car for a “Bongo van”. It had a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour but he said we would now be able to take the dog with us if we went to visit my family. My family lived over 800 kilometers away and we didn’t have the Bongo long enough to go see them in it.

My ex handed over the keys to the Bongo and went off to work. He worked in the oil field so that meant he flew out and did not return for 28 days. During that 28 days I pottered around in the Bongo. I got quite fond of it since it allowed me to take my girlfriends and all our kids to the next town to do our grocery shopping. All of us, plus our groceries, fit easily into the van and none of us minded how long it took to get there and back. We realised we had to take an esky after all our frozen stuff thawed on the way home the first time we went but that was the only real drawback as far as we were concerned.

When my ex returned he had to go visit his parents about 60 kilometers away. He set off in the Bongo and returned several hours later. In a car with a peeling vinyl roof! When I asked him where the Bongo was he said he traded it in for this, to use the term loosely, car. When I asked him why he said he couldn’t handle how slow the Bongo was. When I asked what we would do now about taking the dog on holiday he said bugger the dog – the van was too slow!

Thanks to his ability to work on cars himself we were able to pick up a range of second hand cars over the years and try them out. His main excuse for his car fetish was he could get them cheap, fix them up, then sell for a profit. We had big cars and little cars, 4 wheel drives and vans, old cars and new ones, foreign cars and Australian made cars and I’m fairly certain we never made a profit on any of them!

He dismantled the FJ Holden but never got around to sending it off for rust treatment. It got rustier and rustier and he sold it for parts when we moved. Most times he traded them in when his urge for a new toy got too much and we got bugger all for them.

Oh, wait, I lie. We did get one bargain. We had a big old VIP Valiant that he had gotten up and running and a mate was complaining about his two year old modern Mitsubishi. They both agreed to a straight swap over and my ex was thrilled to bits about the bargain.

A month later I ran up the back of a bus and wrote it off. We got 700.00 for the wreck and I was forbidden to ever breath a single word of criticism about his car fetish from that day on.

Most of the time, when a strange car pulled up in our driveway, it was the ex in a new toy.

At one point in our married life we owned a little general store with a petrol pump. The store was located about halfway between nowhere and nowhere else. My ex wanted to live out his fantasy of being his own boss and that was the only shop we could afford to buy. He “hired” me to run the store while he continued to work for someone else as the full-time manager of a service station in the next town.

One day he simply forgot that the little Mazda he was using to go to work and back actually did need petrol occasionally. He ran out of fuel half way between the petrol pump he owned and the petrol station he worked at. He was forced to walk to the nearest farm and borrow some petrol. The locals laughed and teased him for months afterwards.

Over the years he gradually developed favourites. They were cars he found easy to work on for various reasons. The most important of those reasons was how easy he found it to get second hand parts for them from the wreckers but price, and cost to run, were also big factors.

By the time the marriage ended he had two main favourites in the small, cheap car category, Mazda’s and Toyota’s.

When the marriage ended I moved interstate and had to buy a car. I decided to stick with the brands that had my ex’s stamp of approval so I bought an old Mazda. I spent a fair few bob getting it working properly then spent around 700 dollars a year getting it over the pits for its annual roadworthy certificate but it was pretty reliable all things considered.

One day I was sitting at a stop light when a thick cloud of blue smoke wafted past me. I was no mechanic but, as a mechanic’s ex-wife, I knew this was not good. I looked around to see whose car was producing the cloud and discovered it was mine. I went straight to my son. He looked at the car then looked at me and said cars will tend to get a bit testy and do things like blow blue smoke if you let them run out of oil completely.

Oops. Turned out my ex had been doing something important on his days off after all.

I put oil in. My son said it was too late. I said you never know. I was right. The car continued to function without missing a beat. It blew smoke, of course, but not all the time so I didn’t worry about it until, one night, a cop pulled me over for having a blown headlight globe. My son was with me at the time and he kept nudging me and staring at the dash. As the officer walked around the car my son hissed “Turn it off! Turn the car off!” but the officer came back before I could ask why so I ignored him. The officer was just telling me he would not defect me provided I replaced the headlight asap when a cloud of blue smoke enveloped him.

That resulted in a defect sticker and I had to replace the engine. Things started going wrong after that and the car became unreliable so I wanted to get another one.

When the mechanic said my daughters imported car could not be made roadworthy one more time she went looking at new cars. She spoke to her dad and he said people who do not know how to fix their old cars themselves would do better to opt for a new one. We both decided to take his advice.

We both bought Toyota Echo’s. We both got all the extras. Six years roadside service, paint and material and undercarriage protective treatments and so on. We both bought through Toyota finance at 7% interest which was cheaper than any bank loan and we were happy.

My daughters car had a tough life from the start. How she fitted 7 people into that little hatchback I do not know but I am sure it was illegal hehehe. The first time she took it through a car wash the machine busted her rear windscreen but the car wash paid for the damage. It took a couple of weeks to get a new window but she finally got it. A month later someone threw a rock through the new window and smashed that too. Her insurance paid for it that time and, for a long time, she was paranoid over what might be happening to her rear window. She quickly clocked up the kilometers and then she drove it the length and breadth of Australia. It never missed a beat.

It has even been rammed from behind and pushed into a light pole. It had to be repaired, of course, but it’s still a problem free car.

As for my Echo – I babied it. I planned to have it for the rest of my life so I babied it. I drove it from the top end of Australia down to the bottom when I moved interstate to open my own business and had no trouble at all.

I’d had it for just two and a half years when thieves decided they wanted it. They took it “bush-bashing” and trashed it. The insurance company wrote it off and paid out the loan. I was left with nothing. I tried to talk the insurance company into using the payout to buy me a second hand Echo but they said they had to give the money to Toyota Finance.

Toyota Finance said they had no option but to use the insurance money to pay out the original contract. They said I could take out another loan through them and buy a new car but I did not want to start all over again. I had paid 11 thousand dollars on that car and now I had nothing to show for it! The man at Toyota finance was really sorry for me but he couldn’t help me. He said all he could do was tell me how to get a refund on the unused portion of my “Total Care” roadside assistance policy. He apologised from the bottom of his heart for not being able to do more.

One of the instructions for claiming the unused portion of my policy was to supply Toyota with the final odometer reading of the Echo but I was not able to find out what that was. I lodged the claim anyway. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was only entitled to get three and a half years worth of the six year fee back so I wasn’t going to get more than a couple of hundred dollars. As the months passed I assumed Toyota was not going to give me a refund because I had not supplied them with the odometer reading.

Now they have sent me a cheque. It has been almost two years since I lodged the claim but they have refunded me 100% of the original purchase price! Minus a 50 dollar administration fee. I’m impressed. After almost two years without a single phone call or another word from me they have elected to part with over 400 dollars instead of ignoring the claim.

It is, of course, really lucky that my children still live at the address I gave when I lodged the claim or I may never have got the cheque.

Hmmm. On seconds thoughts, after reading over this entry, I suspect Toyota won’t be sending me a thank-you-for-your-kind-words appreciation car after all.

That sucks.

Looks like I will be driving my old Chrysler Valiant for a long time to come then. I hope.

I got the Valiant, no test drive, from ebay for 1200 bucks. My kids could not believe their eyes when they saw it. They wanted to know what on earth possessed me to buy such a big old car. I coughed and spluttered and finally admitted I bought it because I knew I would be able to memorise the number plate.

Part of me blames the ex too. He used to buy those sorts of cars all the time. It looked kind of familiar to me. Like an old friend. I should have known to be wary of such things by now. Remind me to tell you the tale of the house I bought because the two old car wrecks in the yard made me feel like I was home!

My third reason was, and is, I am hoping even the most desperate of car thieves will not want such an old car.

Anyway – I bought the Valiant and took it to a Holden dealer to be fixed up and given the roadworthy certificate. Sigh. Dumb move. Must have been having a blonde moment. They charged me two arms, a leg, and my first-born child. I got the roadworthy but the car went right on stalling and revving.

One day I had to go pick my daughter up from work. On the way there the accelerator cable got stuck and I drove all the way there at 80 kms an hour without once touching the accelerator!

When I got there, frazzled and frightened, I turned the engine off. Three minutes later – I timed it – the engine finally stopped coughing and spluttering and jerking the car around.

When my daughter came out we got in the car and, heart in my mouth, I turned on the engine. I could hardly hear myself swear over the roaring of the engine and we travelled home at 80 or more kms per hour, again, without any need to touch the accelerator.

I dropped my daughter off, parked the car, wiped the sweat from my face and called someone to come fix it. He found the trapped cable and freed it but the car continued to act like I was some 18 year old adolescent boy with his first car and a desire to race every car on the road away from the stoplights.

The number of people who raced me from the stoplights was amazing. Even women took the sound of my engine revving beside them as a challenge! Any time the car was not revving, however, it was stalling.

I knew something was going to give but I didn’t have the money to do anything about it. Apart from curse the ex and the number plates. I had a gambling problem at the time and I cursed that too. Finally it happened – the car refused to start. In despair I priced push-bikes but then my daughter loaned me the money to get the car seen to.

It was a flat battery. That only cost me a call out fee, a new battery, and labour to adapt the battery to fit the weird set-up in my car. After I handed over my other leg as payment I carried on driving the car. I continued to eat the dust of cars who raced me from the lights and put up with the stalling until, finally, the car refused to start again.

This time the mechanic said it was the fault of the electrics. The car would need a whole new electronic ignition system and it would have to be modified to fit because the originals were not available and they were no good anyway.

I had sold my house by then so I authorised the work. It fixed the problem with stalling and the worst of the revving problem so things were looking good.

Until it died on the way home from work one morning. This time I called the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria I think that stands for) and they came out and got it going. They said not only were the electrical ignition systems in this model shit so was the automatic choke. He said my car revs because it is getting too much fuel and the cure is to disconnect the automatic choke and install a manual one.

I have not done that yet. I have no arms or legs or first-born children left to pay with.

It will have to wait. For now I just amuse myself trying to pick who will think I am issuing a challenge when they hear the car rev beside them and who will ignore it. I have yet to meet a young man who refuses the challenge. Many older men move from the stoplights pretty darn quick too and so do a lot of young women. Only the occasional older woman takes any notice but they move fast when they do accept the challenge. Sporty cars NEVER ignore the challenge no matter who is driving and beat up old wrecks take me on now and then too. Those drivers always look really happy when I pull up beside them at the next lights.

That’s because they all beat me of course, I won’t race my cars, not even this one. My son says it’s a wonder the car will run for me at all given how offended it must be with me.

The car is a devil to turn with no power steering. It’s even worse when I forget to keep the tyres properly inflated. I have to be real careful choosing parking spots. If someone parks too close to me I can only get out by doing several hundred two centimetre three point turns.

On the other hand, people don’t tend to mess with me in some ways. They don’t cut in front of me or insist on right of way. Not even when I sail through stop lights because I was looking at the green arrow instead of the red bit. I don’t know if that is because it’s a big car and intimidates them or if it’s because they know the plastic of their cars will come off second best to the steel of mine.

Part of me suspects it’s more likely they just think a little old lady driving a big old hoon car who challenges people at stop lights to a race is probably nuts and should be treated with extreme caution.

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