Saturday 18 November 2017

'Peter the Punto was my partner in crime ... we had so many adventures'

Geraldine Herbert talks to motorists whose cars have a special place in their hearts and became part of their identity

‘A mini-orchestra’: Michael Wall says his vintage Jaguar XJ12 was his ‘companion’
‘A mini-orchestra’: Michael Wall says his vintage Jaguar XJ12 was his ‘companion’
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

On the whole, I like to think I'm rational, educated and quite a grounded sort of person. I'm not what you would call sentimental, particularly about material objects; I may have more shoes than anyone has a right to own, an ever-growing collection of sunglasses and an oversupply of scarves but I have no real emotional ­connection to any of these things.

Well, almost none - there was Sam, a Suzuki Swift, and probably one of the fondest emotional attachments of my young life.

Sam was there when I learned to drive, rescued me and my belongings when my flat was broken into successively, and became my refuge and second home during one sweltering summer when I returned to live under the family roof.

He was there too when I backed into a parked car because I was in too much of a rush to defrost the rear window. Such was the enduring appeal of Sam, with so many memories inextricably linked to this car, that when the day came to sell, parting with this small, grey three-door hatchback felt like breaking the last tangible connection to these past events.

And I am not alone.

"I still miss Geri," laments Maria Woods, the name she gave her green Hyundai Getz that saw her through her college years; then there was Alice, her "reliable" Toyota Auris that she bought when she got her first job.

Maria, a PR consultant, is now involved with Vivian, a sensible Volkswagen Golf, fuel-efficient, reliable with plenty of storage.

"But Geri," she says, "was the one true to my heart."

Maria, like numerous owners, admits to having "relationships" with their cars and "feel attached" to them.

Aoife O'Neill, a mother-of-two and now the owner of a limited edition Jeep Compass, fondly remembers Peter the Punto, a car that had been passed to her by her grandmother and spent 15 years in the family. "Peter was my partner in crime and so many happy memories involved him," recalls Aoife.

"Journeys with the people I loved so much in life that have now passed away.

"One of my favourite memories is being taught by my grandmother how to sing the song Swinging on a Star by Frank Sinatra with my sister in the car and my granddad driving when we were so young."

Edel Kennedy, a communications and marketing consultant from Dublin, is still the proud owner of Sunny, a 1994 Nissan with more than 220,000 miles on the clock.

"Reliable and friendly," is how Edel describes her Sunny, who has had quite a few adventures over the past 14 years.

"She's been stolen twice and I got her back both times. I'm not sure who was more surprised - me or the gardai," says Edel. "I'm fairly sure that if a nuclear bomb goes off there will only be cockroaches and Sunny left standing."

For some owners, their car is an extension of them.

Joanne Kenny, an office manager who drives a much-cherished 16-year-old Nissan Almera, remembers fondly family cars of old, from Ziggy, a 1.8 Nissan Primera, to Betsy, a Rover 214Si.

"It's like the friend you can call on at any time to help you out," says Joanne.

"It's a part of me. When people see it parked somewhere, they know it's mine. It becomes part of my identity"

It seems there are many drivers who truly love their cars, so much that they name them, adorn them with trinkets and associate them with some of life's most significant moments and decisions.

And if you thought it was young women who were most likely to develop emotional connections with their cars, then think again.

Michael Wall, a diamond and gem broker in Cork city centre, still recalls his classic Jaguar XJ12 5.3L HE whom he counted as his "companion".

"The leather creaked, the wooden glove box clicked closed with a 'snick', the tape deck whirred, the electrical aerial hummed into life.

"It was a mini orchestra of hand-built, handmade parts, all working away in unison," recalls Michael. "But the most memorable sound was the roar of the 5.3-litre engine, roaring into life.

"It took a sudden gasp from the dual fuel tanks, ticked over and roared in agreement as it waited to settle before take-off".

Others cite "dependability" or "comfort" as the attributes that keep them attached to their cars.

Connor Kempel describes himself as "very attached" to Louis the Lexus, his a gun-barrel grey IS200.

"It is 13 years old at this stage but I absolutely love it," says Connor. "I don't get the obsession people have with constantly getting new cars. Get one you love and keep it, even if it is already old. Of course, yes, depreciation is annoying, but if you are a true car lover, I don't think that influences you as much as it probably should!"

However, nothing lasts forever and the breaking point for many relationships is the day they can no longer rely on the car and costly repairs are necessary.

But for others, it's a partnership for life.

Ciaran O'Sullivan, a medical device engineer, reckons nothing will part him from his beloved 1991 998cc Mini. He bought the car in May 2012 as a project to work on at the weekends and learn some basic mechanic skills.

Today, Lucy even has a Facebook page devoted to her. "No matter how much I could sell her for, it just wouldn't be worth it," says Ciaran.

"In the last four years I have learned how to fix almost anything that can go wrong with her, so hopefully I can keep her on the road for many years and many memories to come."

Sunday Independent

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