Sunday, 5 February 2012

Herbie goes to the scrap yard

When we first arrived in Australia, it was like starting life again. We didn't have a place to live, nor a car to get us there. We managed to sort out the flat fairly quickly, but the car was to prove a little more difficult.

To get a roadworthy vehicle in this part of Australia for a decent price takes a lot of looking. Eventually, after scouring the Internet for what felt like an eternity, we found a car that was in our price range. An ancient Hyundai in a faded blue colour. Power steering, air conditioning, CD player, five gears, these are just some of the things that weren't included, but since our budget was low, and our need high, we handed over the money and drove away confident that the car would do us proud for the time that we needed it.

Over the course of the next few months, the car behaved well, answering all of our requests with not so much as a misfire. But a misfire was what it eventually developed. We were on the way back from a day out in Rockingham, about an hours drive from the flat and a great location for watching dolphins out at sea. The car felt like it had no power whatsoever, and then started bunny hopping, which is really not what you want on the freeway. We managed to limp the car home, and left it outside the flat. The next day, I tried in vain to start it but the car wasn't up to the challenge. It seemed that all was lost.

It was quite a while before we managed to get a mechanic to look at the car, and the news wasn't good. The distributor had basically rusted through, and needed replacing. Along with the distributor, all four of the spark plugs would need replacing, as would the battery. We spent some time deliberating over whether to get the car fixed, or to cut our losses and consider the endeavour a lost cause. Eventually, we decided to hand over the money and get the car fixed. After two hours, the car was finished. I jumped in, turned the key and... LIFE.

For the next few months, we drove everywhere. We took Sunday afternoon trips to see dolphins. We went on late night drives to see the city lights and the stars. I even took my girlfriend for a driving lesson in an empty car park. Most of all we went shopping, a chore made so much easier without the need to carry the bags home.

After a while, the car developed some quirks. For instance, every now and again, the dashboard lights would fail due to a blown fuse. The odd thing was that by turning on the rear heater, or pressing on the brake pedal the dashboard lights would come back on, despite being on a different circuit (according to the user manual). It was at this time that we named the car Herbie, since the car seemed to have mind of her own. With a name, Herbie began developing even more little traits such as losing power after driving for more than half an hour at 100kmh requiring us to pull over for a three minute breather before going on our way as if nothing had happened.

We had been driving the car a few months when, one Sunday morning, we decided to take the half hour drive up to one of our favourite pubs. We'd been out the night before and a pub lunch was an absolute must! We were driving along the freeway without a care in the world, and the car was running great when I saw a flash in the rear view mirror. A police motorcycle was pulling us over. This is not that unusual given that I have been pulled over more times in six months driving here than I had ever been pulled over in the twelve years previous.

Something about the way the policeman walked to the car told me that he was in a bad mood. This was confirmed by the way in which he spoke to me. He started looking around the car, and asking questions about some of the “features”, writing notes on his pad, and generally looking troubled. After a few minutes, he issued a yellow sticker, otherwise known as a compliance notice, an order to get the car fixed within ten days or get it off the road. We were distraught, as was the car. For the rest of the day, Herbie was acting a little slugish. Every time I went out to the car I expected her not to be there, having slunk off to die on her own.

For all her quirks, her breakdowns, her faded bodywork, we had come to love her. But after a long discussion (not within earshot of Herbie as we didn't want to kick her while she was down), we came to the only decision that our bank accounts and common sense would allow. This, unfortunately, was to be the end of our relationship with Herbie. No more long drives and late nights were to be had by the three of us.

Some of the times we had with Herbie were bad. Some were good. But most importantly through all of the 10,000KM that we drove her, they were never short of interesting, and I'm sure we will look back on those times with great amusement. But in the end, we had to let her go.

Herbie – 1992 – 2012

1 comment:

  1. We had a Dodge Dart that took us through the mountains on logging roads and all over the countryside on weekends. You do get to love a car like that.


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