For the past 2 years I have been lucky enough to cruise around Perth in a 1973 Morris Marina 1800 (and for the record its the DELUXE model…ooooh). Isn’t she a beauty?
Betsy has been the family runabout in my girlfriend’s household for many years. Marion (my girlfriend Grace’s mother) generously handed the keys over to me soon after my arrival in Oz and since then my relationship with the car has blossomed. We’ve had our share of dramatic moments together and she’s not a fan of the wet, or the sun…come to think of it she’s not too sure of weather in general but, as a method of getting me from A to B I couldn’t wish for better.
As I’ve already alluded, driving a car as old as Betsy has been quite an experience. One that has taught me many valuable life lessons; lessons I thought worthy of sharing with others. So without further delay, here is what I think driving a classic car can teach you about life…
(I’d say buckle up and enjoy the ride but in Betsy’s time seat belts were usually considered a frivolous luxury…)
- Sometimes the brakes just won’t work – Or at least they won’t work very well. Most modern cars nowadays have disc brakes and ABS systems which ensure you come to a halt in a speedy and safe fashion. Betsy’s brakes are what’s known as “drum brakes.” For those with limited automotive knowledge, “drum brakes” are virtually just one step above just sticking your foot out of the door and planting down on the tarmac to slow yourself.
In life sometimes you’ll want things to slow down, to be able to relax and enjoy a more mild pace, or even bring things to a halt. This however will not always be the case, in fact it will be rare. My advice is the same as to anyone who fancies a drive in Betsy. Look far along the road and give yourself plenty of distance to come to a stop. Failing that?Brace for impact.
- The journey will be up and down, and not always comfortable – You’re thinking “where have I heard the name “Morris Marina” before?” Well its the car they loathe on Top Gear. They’ve pointed out numerous flaws; how heavy it is, how under powered it is and often how terrible the ride and handling can be. Now I’ll admit to being no car expert but I’d have to say it’s not the worst car I’ve been in in terms of ride comfort. Certainly at times it can be hard to discern where exactly the body is connected to the wheels below and yes, any corner taken at a brisk speed does lead me to visions of the car and its occupants in a state of acute “upside-downness” but overall I can’t complain.
This is much like life. You’ll often bounce along, on occasion having a hard time working out where the road you’re travelling on is. Be it rough or smooth, firm or soft, whatever the journey is like, if you keep going you’ll eventually reach your destination…provided you don’t roll into a ditch.
- Be prepared to work a little harder – There is no power steering on the 1973 Morris Marina and you’d be hard pressed to find power steering on most cars that are considered “classic” (pre 1985 in my book). Added to this there is no “synchro” on the first gear. “Synchromesh” is essentially a mechanical system that smooths the transition between gear changes and unfortunately this is a piece of engineering noted by its absence on Betsy. As such when driving I must employ a technique known as “double declutching” (dipping the clutch twice) which often results in the mashing of gears and the squealing of metal on metal.
On occasion you may find you’ll have to do a little more; work a little harder to get what you want in life. Don’t be afraid of this, it just makes the end result all the more rewarding. I find driving Betsy far more enjoyable then most soulless modern machines. Embrace hard work and life will embrace you.
Needless to say I don’t think I’ll drive another car like Betsy in a long while. She’s taught me patience, resourcefulness (I may have fixed her exhaust with a tin of cat food but that’s a story for another time) and to enjoy the ride no matter how slow or fast, rough or smooth.