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DRIVEN TO
DISTRACTION

Craig takes a nostalgic trip down memory lane, reminiscing about his fathers' old Ford Sapphire Cosworth

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sk a broad spectrum of car enthusiasts what the catalyst of their obsession is and ninety percent will lay the blame at the feet of their father, at least in the case of those who are over thirty. I can still remember it now - the exact way my dad placed his hands on the Cavalier SRI’s three-spoke steering wheel, left hand resting at 6 o’clock, the right at three, both thumbs through the circular

holes, elbow nonchalantly grazing the sill.

 

I may have only been a toddler, but it was on one of our yearly road trips to Cornwall that I knew cars were going to be my life’s passion. I was enthralled by the way the little saloon filled with a family of five and assorted luggage would dismiss other traffic, willing engine barking away. There’d be another bark from my mother as an overtaking opportunity presented itself, the noise peaking as a mysterious lever and foot dance occurred, a knowing smirk on the corner of my dad’s mouth as I leaned forwards to watch the dial hit ninety. That confirmed it as naughty, mischievous, and I desperately wanted a go. 

From that moment on I was doomed. Whilst others would play with Star Wars figures, me and a select group of friends would be pushing around matchbox cars, making all the appropriate noises and sound effects as we drifted around the coffee table. In our imaginations everything became an opportunity - patterns within furniture and rugs became circuits with the racing line worn into the fabric - I hereby confirm Eau Rouge has nothing on the curve of an armchair. On shopping trips, my behaviour would be impeccable simply because I knew at the end of the mind-numbing boredom I’d be in possession of a large cardboard box, which I could turn into a car with liberal access to a set of marker pens. I’d scribble on headlights, taillights, a grill, an exhaust and the interior would contain such luxuries as dials, air vents and the all-important pedals. Hours of entertainment. 

During the school holidays, I’d be occasionally dragged into my father’s business. I’d never complain because the car park was like the NEC motor show. M sport 325i’s mixed with Quattro’s, GSI’s & SRI’s, XR4x4’s, Astra GTE’s, and even Honda Preludes with pop-up headlights. I’d spend hours arguing with my brother over which one was best, playing mental top trumps, rattling off stats whilst peering through the windows to find the car with the highest reading speedo. School tests would be failed and homework was eaten by an imaginary family dog because the only knowledge we craved was in the latest edition of CAR or Fast Lane magazine.

One night the SRI was gone and in its spot sat a Cosworth, one of the very first in Sapphires on the road in crystal blue. Going out for the first spin it felt like I was riding in the Millennium Falcon. Nought to sixty in six and a blink seconds isn’t even at the sharp end of hot hatch numbers these days, but I don’t think any car has ever felt faster, the combination of comedy turbo lag and lively rear end spiking the adrenaline. I can still impersonate the turbo whistle now. It left such an impression on my friend tagging along for the ride he bought one in later life. There was such a buzz about any Cosworth back then, one of the first hero cars, able to humble far more exotic machinery. My street cred skyrocketed, at school, the cool kids invited me into their circle. It was stolen the very first night it came home.

Fast forward to the present day, I now work for my father’s company. The old man still flies the flag with his M3, my brother devotes a large amount of his pay cheque towards an M2 Competition and I have the JCW. Old habits die hard. They are the outliers in a sea of 2.0 litre diesels and hybrids. I often ask the old guard about the good old days and why they haven’t persevered, and they simply state they’ve been priced out of the market. The taxman has gotten too greedy.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could get a seven-seater Vauxhall MPV with flared arches and an armful or torque steer. You might shudder at the thought of a Zafira VXR fuelling the inexplicable popularity of the drain pipe-equipped one-litre Corsa, but at least the driver is passionate about some form of transport, and would eventually graduate into something more serious. With the dads of today forced into increasingly mundane machinery, it’s little wonder the number of young people applying for a driving licence is at a record low.

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