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Buying a car is firstly a thrilling rite of passage for most young men, then a money gobbling necessity and then much, much later, if all goes well, a power statement when you sport a feather cut, discrete dye job and keep Viagra instead of condoms in your wallet. I can well remember the envy and hatred I felt for old geezers driving cool sports cars while I had to make do with a third hand Oriental banger shaped like a Coke bottle.

At university, two car stories stand out. A group of my chums couldn’t afford a car, but they got a fairly decent looking one from the scrapyard which was minus some essential bits, like an engine, gearbox and diff. On Saturday mornings in summer, they’d roll it down the hill from their squalid boarding house and wait next to the road leading to the coast. Sooner or later, a kindly farmer would offer to town them “to their parent’s house in Gordon’s Bay”.

On Sunday afternoon, a similar story usually got them back to Stellenbosch.

Another chum, an engineering student, desperate for wheels, purloined a pre-war Skoda from his father’s collection of vintage and veteran motor cars. It had a two-stroke engine, and a wood-and canvas body. It was painted violet and shaped like a pregnant squid. He got it going one weekend and he and his merry men were soon on their way to the beach for the day.

Returning to their car after a sensational day of sea, sand, girls and beer, they found the vehicle had been ticketed and a long list of violations filled in. This was not spite on behalf of the traffic department, because the car had no licence disc or bumpers and the tyres were smooth, inter alia, as they say in the classics. The offending pink ticket was publically turned into confetti and they drove home in a cloud of oily smoke.

Just short of Stellenbosch, the car caught fire and burned to the ground. All that remained of the Skoda were the wheel rims and some misshapen lumps of metal where the engine had been located in the rear.

A month later a fussy little man in a safari suit and a centre parting turned up with a summons.

The conversation between my chum and the man from the traffic department went something like this:

“I have never owned a three wheeled motor vehicle.”

“A Skoda? Never heard of such a make. Where is it from? Czechoslovakia? That’s a Communist country! I would never drive a Communist car! A purple coloured car? Do I look like a hippy? Made from wood and canvas? Meneer, are you trying to be funny – who ever heard of a car made from wood and canvas etc etc.”

And that was the end of it.

Beware of fancy cars, they tend to be expensive to run, maintain and repair and spares are always “on back order.”  Owning an exotic motor car is like tearing up R200 notes, but what a pleasure!

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