Now that I’m an old fart I seem to spend more time looking backwards than forwards – a bit like my wife’s driving, in fact…
But I digress. For reasons best known to myself – and, frankly, I don’t have a clue why, either – I’ve decided to write a few words about the three best cars I’ve ever owned.
That turned out to be a harder task than I had envisaged. It threw up a few surprises too, the main one being that my beloved Alfa Romeo GT Blackline didn’t make the final cut. No matter, it’s still a great car and I’d be happy to own another one.
And so to the final three. I’ll list them all separately and in reverse order. So without further ado…
Renault 19 16V (1992 to 1995)
The battle for the third podium place is a fierce one. In one corner we have a feisty phase 1 Renault 19 16V hatchback and in the other lurks a mean and moody phase 1 Renault 11 Turbo.
I’ll forever love and be grateful to my first 11 Turbo for not only being a great drive but for taking care of me when I was young and stupid. But I have to face the truth, and that says that the 19, though not as thrillingly responsive to the right boot, was the better car. Its grip, steering and general feel were all, as you’d expect, a generation ahead of its older sibling. And it’s probably true to say that it saved me from serious injury (or worse) when, one dank morning in 1994, an utter twat in a Cavalier massively overestimated the ability of his car to pass a line of traffic on a short straight. Heading in the opposite direction, I rounded a blind bend only to find chummy’s oncoming Vauxhall filling my windscreen and the contents of my bladder threatening to fill my trousers, leaving me with no option but to throw the wheel hard to the left and stand on the brakes. It was a close run thing, but the 19 was loyal and true to my desperate inputs, somehow managing to avoid both Captain Cretin’s Cavalier and the brick, er, outhouse that lay adjacent to the road.
But whilst any 19 16V can walk the talk, they’re not all made equal. So let’s sort the chaff from the wheat and get a few things straightened out, shall we? Sports Blue is by far and away the best colour, the styling of the phase 1 has dated much better than that of the phase 2 (which seems to be a Renault trait) and though the booted version, the Chamade, is about as aesthetically pleasing as a PFI schoolhouse, the hatch is a handsome beast.
Indeed, so appealing was my Sports Blue phase 1 hatch that some itinerant neds (chavs, for those who don’t parliamo Scottish) decided to half-inch it from outside my house late one night. Having blocked my driveway using the ex-kamikaze squadron Rover 213 that my employers, who obviously detested me, had given me as a company car, I didn’t expect to wake up and find that my pride and joy was gone. But that wasn’t the worst of it. In spite of the presence of my highly trained psycho ninja attack Beagle, the little scrotes had actually broken in to my house, nicked the keys for both cars and wheeled the Rover out of the way before hightailing it in the 19. Meantime said psycho ninja attack Beagle blissfully slept through the whole thing.
At least the bastards didn’t get far. There wasn’t much fuel in the 19 and the thieving oiks only made it about 15 miles before coasting to a halt in a lay-by. When I went to fetch the 19, I not only took the spare keys and a can of fuel but the aforementioned psycho ninja attack Beagle, a dog whose nose was so sensitive that NORAD kept pestering me with offers to buy him. Having searched unsuccessfully for the stolen keys (I presume that the larcenous toerags kept them), I introduced the psycho ninja attack Beagle’s nose to the driver’s seat and ordered him to follow the scent. His reaction was instant: he pissed on one of the alloys.
Notwithstanding the mute criticism of my canine chum, the 19 continued to serve up some memorable drives over the next couple of years. I’d love to have kept it longer, but I got the chance to buy back my first Matra Murena and finances dictated that I could have one or the other but not both. I tell you what, though, I’d have another one in an instant.