River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

June 2004

A delightful look at the use of motor vejicles to promote your status

I was riding along in my automobile (to borrow someone else's opening line), wondering what the heck I could write about for the next issue of The Pump when I thought: "Cars!" A rich and varied subject that I know absolutely nothing about. To my untutored mind they are just tin boxes on wheels that get us from A to B and cost a ludicrous amount of money to run. If you ask me what car

any of my close friends or family drives, I would have to think very hard before I could even come up with a colour - never mind the make.

Which puts me at a severe disadvantage in a world where everyone is defined by the cars they drive. When people refer meaningfully to 'Mondeo Man' or 'Volvo Drivers', I haven't a clue what they are getting at. (Similarly, 'four by fours'. Whatever are they?) However, I do know about White Van Man because he is constantly overtaking me as he would rather - quite literally - die than be seen driving behind any other vehicle, especially one with a middle-aged

woman behind the wheel.

I guess the forerunner of White Van Man was Toad in The Wind in the Willows. From the moment he is knocked flying by one, he is totally smitten by the motor-car. Poop poop! Needless to say, he is an abysmal driver. He pays no

attention at all when a worried Badger admonishes him: "You're getting us animals a bad name in the district by your furious driving and your smashes and your

rows with the police." Quite!

We aren't told exactly which make of car Toad drives with such reckless abandon except that it is of great size and painted bright red. An early Rolls Royce, maybe? Of course, vehicle snobbery was around long before the combustion

engine was invented. Jane Austen's arch snob, Mrs Elton, never misses an opportunity to bring her 'barouche-landau' into the conversation.

A barouche-landau was probably as desirable a set of wheels in its time as James Bond's Aston Martin became a few hundred years later. But the Aston Martin had a certain something that would never have been mentioned in any novel of Jane Austen's - blatant sex appeal. Practically every pop singer from Chuck Berry to the Beatles has praised the pulling power of the right car. In the interests of research, I asked a teenage friend which car has the biggest 'Wow' factor for her generation and she told me a Mercedes soft-top would do the job, every time.

Even I, who can hardly distinguish a Roller from a mini, once looked favourably on a podgy and rather dull young man, who drove around in a racy little Morgan. Naturally, that was many years ago - long before I became sedate,

sensible Vauxhall Astra Woman. (Poop poop!)

Marion Clarke

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