Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Review: An Estate Car Named Desire: A Life on the Road

An Estate Car Named Desire: A Life on the Road An Estate Car Named Desire: A Life on the Road by Martin Gurdon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unless you are really unfortunate, your car today will almost certainly start first time, be warm, dry and traffic allowing, you will make it to your destination with no dramas. However, motoring in the 1960’s when Martin Gurdon was growing up, was an adventure in itself. Cars could frequently be seen by the side of the road with the bonnets raised and steam coming out; it was not uncommon to take a full toolset and a spare gearbox, just in case… Gurdon’s fascination with all things with wheels was borderline obsession, he could tell the just from the note of the exhaust, what car was passing, by reading every detail in magazines he could glance at a car and tell just how rare it was. This just seemed normal, surely everyone was like this; weren’t they?

Then his happy childhood broke down; his mother’s illness caused a family crisis and he was dispatched to her sister in Lancashire. His new school tolerated him, but his father made the decision to bring him down closer to home and placed him in a vegetarian boarding school. So begins the final five years of his flawed education, an experience that he tolerated because of his continued obsession with cars, and the thrill of acquiring a Triumph Herald for illicit trips out. Stumbling out of school with no idea what he wanted to do, he ends up in a couple of dead end jobs, frequently visiting the job centre before slowly realising that writing might be something he could do, and if he could write about cars, that would be just about perfect.

Gurdon is his capacity as a motoring journalist has had the privilege of driving some of the world fastest cars, but he served his motoring apprenticeship in the appalling cars that were produced in the seventies, Reliant Robins, Morris Marinas, 2CVs; he is lucky to be alive after reading about some of the scrapes that he got into. Nostalgia seeps from this book like oil from a leaking head gasket and whilst Gurdon acknowledges that some of the cars he owned were dreadful, we see others through the rose-tinted windscreen, in particular his fond memories of his father’s Bristol 401, a car he loved so much, he bought one of his own. There are several laugh out loud parts in this book and a few of what my eldest would call ‘facepalm’ moments. Good stuff and an ideal book for your friendly petrol head.

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