Because I never had much money when I first started riding motorcycles and driving cars; because once when I was a student I took a car to a garage and the brakes failed leaving (I mean none. At all. After it had just gone for its MoT. In Bath, at a garage renowned for the foxiness of the mechanics’ girlfriends if not the mechanics’ other manual skills); because another garage charged me a couple of hundred pounds i didn’t have to not fix something I fixed myself using a £10 part from a scrapyard, I always at least try to fix things that go wrong with my vehicles. IMG_0218

Sometimes of course, you just can’t. I never even tried to fiddle about with the really seriously annoying fault on the Mercedes I had, that would just shut all its systems down, apparently for good, if you left a window open when you locked it. Everything. Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Under the bonnet everything was covered in plastic shields to stop you even thinking about having a look, so I left that.

This year though, I’ve got an old Saab convertible I’m strangely fond of. It suits me. And like apparently a lot of Saabs of that time, the cutesy information display that tells you how laughably few miles you’re getting to the gallon if you use the accelerator the way the Garett turbo likes you to, never worked properly since I got it. Given that it’s an older car and this was an electrical thing to do with pixels, I assumed it was going to cost hundreds, wasn’t worth doing and was best left well alone.

So obviously sooner or later I had a go at fixing it.  Equally obviously, it didn’t work. You pry the display out of the walnut dashboard with an old British Army REME pocketknife (assuming your pockets are the same size as King Kong’s) which has a nice thin and wide flat blade, making it ideal for this and yes, that’s why it lives in the glove box officer, what about it? Then you pull the box out, go into the kitchen, switch off the radio because it’s too distracting and fit a new data cable.  Clean all the glue off the contacts with a wooden lolly stick and meths. Carefully tape the contacts on the cable onto the metal contacts they need to mate up with exactly.

Which does nothing. So order a new data cable joined to a new screen. Which leaves you with a big line of no pixels across the screen worse than before. So give up and watch the instruction video on YouTube.

And realise that someone, at some point, had a go at doing this before. And left two screws out of the reassembly. Which means that however new the parts, if they aren’t joining up then it’s not going to work properly. Which is where my box of parts came in.

This is a plastic box full of stuff so odd and useless even I’ve thought of chucking it. But where else would I have found two screws just exactly and completely the perfect fit for the job? Not in B&Q or Halfords, that’s for certain.

So given that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, nor when it’ll come in handy, the box stays. Along with the other five. I’ve got a double gallery lamp standard to fix, after all.


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Racing In The Street

I mean, come on. I don’t do this stuff any more. Seriously. But if I did, I’d do it in this. I got it two months ago, after the kiss-off present someone gave me finally went to the Big Breakers Yard In The Sky. Assuming they still have breakers’ yards. I only know one now. There used to be loads of them, even one just outside Bath, with piles of cars, literally stacked on top of each other. You used to take your spanners and climb up the stack of cars and take off the bits you wanted, then go and show them to the bloke in the hut who’d charge you enough to cover the part you’d somehow forgotten to show him as well and everyone was happy. Everyone except the next door neighbours, presumably, and whoever had to sit next to you stinking of cold engine oil.

But this isn’t like that. It’s old enough, I agree. Older than the old Vauxhall Astra it replaced, when the string of good cars had gone back to whoever they  were leased from and times were not that bright. And this is the silly thing.


People are going bananas about this car. I keep saying look, it’s just a car. It  doesn’t alter who I am. It goes along the road. It’s actually older than the one it replaced, with more miles on it.

But whatever it is about it, it seems to make a difference. It doesn’t drive as if it’s got a lot of miles on it. 185 brake horsepower also means it shifts along considerably quicker than a Vauxhall Astra, however spotty and adenoidal the driver might be. But it does it differently, as well. It looks, I don’t know. Sort of respectable as well. Even though it goes like I don’t know what.

And the good news is there doesn’t seem to be anything much wrong with it. The pixels on the trip mileometer aren’t showing up and I think that was what prompted the previous owner to get rid of it, thinking as I did that it was going to be hundreds to fix the display screen. Which it would be.  Except ten minutes on the internet tells you that this pixel failure is a standard thing on these Saabs and it’s not the screen. It’s a data cable that comes loose, it’s been known about for years. And a replacement one just cost less than £15 on Amazon. By the time it arrives from Poland I’ll have memorised the YouTube video on how to pop the display out and press the new cable on.

The back tyres could do with a look at, because although the tread is absolutely fine there’s some age-related issues in the sidewalls I’d be happier if someone who knew what they were doing saw them, rather than me. The power hood stuck yesterday, announcing it wasn’t going to open with a little aircraft seatbelt-style bing. That turned out to be a huge pot I’d got at a boot sale being in the way.

Fuel-wise, the trip mileometer says it averages about 35 to the gallon, which for a 2.0 litre turbocharged car seems ludicrously good to me and I’ve seen 40+ mpg on the dial on a long 70mph run on dual-carriageways.

The leather on the driver’s seat is crazing a bit and it’s going to need regular saddle-soaping, but that’s what the cleaning stuff box is for, supplying things like that. I ran out of neatsfoot oil about a year ago.

The message “Fill coolant supply” flashed on three days ago. Half a bottle of £4.50 coolant fluid from the local garage seems to have switched that message off today.

So good. The power hood goes up or down in about half a minute, once you’ve unlocked the reassuringly heftily-engineered latch that keeps it in place. Everything about this car is solid and thought-through, secure and made properly. I like it in a way I haven’t liked a car for years. It suits me for now.

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