Gather round, there’s a bit of a story here. It started nearly eighteen years ago, before Carol and I had even met*, and ended with an incredulous look on her face that I will treasure to my dying day.
Carol is many things; exceptionally tolerant of my generally selfish behaviour, a proper parent to our two rather lovely daughters, a calm head in crisis’ generally of my making and the glue that holds our little family together. After fifteen years of marriage, she knows me better than anyone so stoically deals with a level of spousal impulsiveness than would have left most males by the age of, say, 11.
All this and attempting to steer the good ship fiscal probity through the rocky rapids of Al’s toy obsession surely merits some reward, other than often muddy and occasionally bloody husband pitching up late at night to break the washing machine. While many of these toys have passed through my hands, the only material possession Carol ever came back too was this tiny two seater sat in at some obscure car show back in 1995.
This, in a rare moment of introspection, was the line of thinking which arced from way back then to right now and sparked an idea perched on the exciting ridge separating brilliance from total stupidity. Logically complex and financially tricky, this secret project could still be absolutely fantastic if I could pull it off. But, based on my history of over-promising/under delivering, it was more likely to the Wikipedia citation for a cluster-fuck.
So instead of careering off alone with my somewhat limited knowledge of how cars actually work and what stops them working, I roped in a number of long-suffering friends who’ve all been burned by a ‘project Al‘ sometime in the past. Yet they still came to the party, bringing with them short term cash loans**, proper mechanical knowledge, ownership of a large warehouse and contacts for serious tradespeople skilled in the arts of stuff that seventeen year old cars need.
Yeah you read that right, this was a one year import of the Japanese Kai Class Suzuki Cappuccino which totalled just over a 1000 cars. Since 1995, that number has dropped to about 350 road-worthy examples – most of which are never going to be for sale and many of the remainder in what we shall call ‘restoration project state‘.
Like I say, logistically tricky but rather than spending the rest of this post describing the web of deceit/tales of Al’s low cunning and downright heroism in the face of all sorts of difficult shit/the so-many-almost-disastrous slip ups/the sleepless nights wondering if she’d even bloody remember why she wanted one, let’s concentrate on what’s important and that’s how it was received.***
The only way I’d managed to keep this a secret from Carol for the best part of a month was to tell everyone else. It was what we call in the industry an EFK (ever fcker knows) secret which included both the kids who share their father’s inability to keep their traps shut. But having recruited an entire support team to make this happen, my only job was to get Carol out of the house long enough for ‘package to be delivered‘
So day off booked. Unseemly haste to get Carol on the Mutt Walk. Furtive phone glances showed nothing and I was running out of excuses to drag the hound round yet another field. Finally ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ confirmed it was time to Wake Up Little Suzy leaving Carol mildly confused as I strode off in an entirely different direction to the one advocated some four seconds earlier.
I have to say I was shitting it. For so many reasons; firstly it’s not the most practical present. It is the size of a well apportioned shoe with a roof that you can detach - with a week or so’s training – in about an hour. There’s a tiny boot but you can’t use that because that’s where the roof goes. It has no power steering, no brake servos, no ABS, not much other than a tiny 700cc engine with a big fuggin turbo strapped on all driving a pair of ickle rear wheels. It’s a proper little sports car and I’d no idea if that’s what Carol liked about it.
Secondly it’s Tiny. I know I’ve mentioned this already but honestly somebody asked me if it’d fit in the back of a VW T5. It’d fit in a T5 GLOVE BOX. During a particularly traumatic motorway journey in the pissing rain, my friend Jason remarked from the loftiness of my Yeti that you couldn’t actually see the Suzuki at all as it was all below the window line. Chances of getting crushed by a lane changing BMW X5? About 100%. I didn’t want to give Carol the motoring equivalent of ACME bomb with a burning fuse.
Thirdly, it’s not the easiest thing in the word to drive if you’re a *ahem* normal sized human being. At six foot, I found it a bloody trial. It’s about an inch off the floor which precludes anyone over the age of seven entering or exiting with any dignity. Pretty sure if I checked the manual, the official entry procedure would be 10 quick steps onto a Gym Horse finishing with a double pike into the front seat. Remembering to take the roof off first. Assuming you ever do manage to find a driving position where both your knees and arms are in the same side of the car, your eyes will focus around four inches above the windscreen giving an excellent view of the roof lining.
As for exiting the vehicle, the only thing I’ve found that consistently works is to open the door and just fall out. Try and park near some soft ground and take your chances would be my advice.
Anyway you now have a share of my worries as we rounded the gate only to find my enterprising younger daughter had covered it in various tarps and blankets exposing just one wheel. Carol’s quizzical look translated to a verbal ‘have you hired us a sports car’. Me ‘Not exactly, take a proper look‘. She did while Mr. Smug here bathed long in the joy of knowing he’d actually done one bloody thing right for someone else.
“You’ve bought me a car” / “Yep, it would seem so”. “You’ve bought me the one car I always wanted and we couldn’t afford” / “Indeed”. “How did you manage that?” / “I had a bit of help, anyway get in make sure it fits”
She did and it does. Soon after we were spinning along the local lanes with the roof off under – for once – perfect blue skies. All my fears were unfounded; this is a car that fits Carol in every way. And while I’ve always had her down as quite a sensible driver, within 15 minutes I was genuinely in fear for my life. Comparing notes with Jess later on suggested this experience wasn’t a one off.
We had a fab day. No room for the kids of course. The two things might be co-incidental but probably not I think – and I’m not sure because my understanding of this stuff isn’t much more than guesswork – Carol loves it because she’d never consider buying one herself. It’s impractical, it’s certainly not going to replace her Honda****, you probably get to drive it with the roof down 30 days a year and it needs proper looking after including a place to hibernate for at least four months of the year.
But it puts a massive smile on your face and dishes out joy with every bend. It’s not a tool to go from A to B. A to B is the journey with the destination being largely optional. Of course it’s silly. I like silly. Always Have. Really bloody brilliant to find out Carol likes my kind of silly too.
As an anniversary present for 15 years of marriage, it’s pretty cool even if I’m somewhat biased in that opinion. It let me take all the mad stuff I know drives Carol nuts and make it work for her. It hopefully says something I’m not very good at saying.
And for that and the look on Carol’s face when she realised it was really hers, it is worth ten times the time and money spent to get it on the drive.
* well we had met, but she had me tagged as an immature show off and I had the hots for her best friend. Not much has changed. Except for the bit about her best friend. Just to clear up any possible misunderstanding there.
** Carol and I have nothing but shared funds. I’ve never worked out why you’d want to operate differently. But this did present a potential financial hole that ‘Wow, that was a big shop‘ was unlikely to cover.
*** There will be later posts covering off these points in probable tedious detail. But you’d expect that.
**** Wow more vehicles than you can use at one time. I wonder how I could have thought up such a concept.