Cars and things

To my great surprise and delight a couple of weeks ago I was asked to help with the judging at a Classic Car Show. I don’t know much about old cars. I will rephrase that. I don’t know anything about old cars, except in those most  famous of words ‘ I know what I like’. But  I can tell as well as the next man or woman if someone has spent a long, long time cherishing and polishing or just reassuring their ancient friend. In fact in some cases their not so ancient friend. I remembered some of those cars as state of the art new when I was young!!

It turned out to be the first – maybe the only – day of summer and a glorious sea-side setting. Crowds of people trailed up and down the lines of cars earnestly discussing torsions and torques and differentials as two or three hundred glittering  bonnets were patted and polished.

Cars and things

As I walked up and down with my note book trying to look learned I couldn’t help wondering how many of those cars had names. A good few, I suspect. I should have asked. It would have made a good class for a prize. The car with the most original nick name. I was reading in a paper a week or so ago how women were more likely than men to give their car a name. I don’t mean the kind of name one calls a car that won’t start in the morning – that is the kind of name which goes with a good kick  which hurts oneself more than the car. (No, I don’t but I know people who do!) I mean the kind of name one gives a beloved pet.

Cars and things

Our cars have all had names. In fact my first bicycle had a name. Emmeline, because she was always getting chained to railings...  Remember your suffragette history?

Then came the cars: Paddy Wagon, (cost £50)   Speedy (£60 – going up market) then the grown up cars which came with a husband and children. Tiptoes,  Squeaky, the Beautiful Traffic Warden (that was car number related) Volvo, (oh dear – but she  was so reliable and had no idiosyncrasies!) , Mini-Max, and now, sounding nicely well integrated, Ravi.

So, is it only women who name their cars, seeing them as ‘people’ rather than mere machines as the article seemed to imply? I doubt it, but maybe there is a gender bias there. I should have asked the owner of every car I inspected what it’s name was.  Thinking about it, I wonder how many of them actually belonged to women. Not many. Almost none if the catalogue is anything to go by. Every one belonged to a ‘mister’ and only two to a mister and missus!

Cars and things

Anyway, whoever owned them, they were a beautiful collection with that wonderful ‘old car’ smell of oil and leather and the faint echo of noxious but strangely pleasant fumes hanging around them,  mixing with the showground smell of mown grass and burgers. The sounds of purring engines were punctuated  only by the manic laughter of seagulls circling overhead aiming the occasional missile at those shining primadonnas.

At the end the sight of an AA recovery vehicle creeping discretely round the back was an awful shock. Like seeing an ambulance at the curtain call of a matinee.

My grandfather’s first book  had the catchy title of   A Record of Motor Racing, 1894-1908. A few of his genes must have been jumping up and down with glee to see me there that day.  He might be less pleased with my inconsequential musings on the subject... But then, I am a woman  and, judging by the number of bored ladies sitting reading books and magazines or knitting  or masterminding picnics while their menfolk talked car,  this was indubitably an excursion into a man’s world.