96 Tears

It would be unfair to suggest that the Rover 213 is the only car that tried to bump me off, for in the words of Master Yoda, “There is another…”

That other was a Saab 96. Not the original three cylinder variant, but a later, Ford V4 powered version. It belonged to someone whom, in order to protect the guilty, we’ll call ‘Will’.

Back in the early 90s, Will and I were part of the ‘Ayr crew’ – four young men training to become officers in the Royal Naval Reserve. We all lived in or near the coastal town of Ayr, hence the moniker given to us.

Ayr was a good 30 miles away from our base, HMS Graham in Glasgow. So, being young and not exactly flush with cash, we formed a car pool. Every Tuesday we met at a central location and piled into the car supplied by that week’s designated driver.

And so it came to pass that we found ourselves heading back to Ayr in Will’s Saab on a dark, wet night in the spring of 1991. We were about half-way home when we noticed that the car following us had its main beams on. In spite of our increasingly frenzied attempts at, ahem, non-verbal communication with the driver of the offending car, its headlights remained resolutely on main beam until it swept past us.

“How curious”, we thought as we chugged along the dual carriageway at a regal 50mph. Our curiosity deepened as another car behind us started flashing its lights. As it passed us, the front-seat passenger looked at us, pointed to his head and rotated his index finger. “Must be an anti-social type,” observed one of the lads. “Either that or we’re in The Twilight Zone,” said Will cheerfully.

We soon began to wonder if Will might be onto something, as car after car flashed their lights at us, for reasons that were quite beyond our comprehension. After all, the Saab’s lights were on, Will wasn’t exactly speeding and there were no untoward sounds or smells to indicate any sort of problem with the car. A cursory inspection on our return to Ayr likewise failed to highlight any issues. How very curious indeed!

When we reconvened a week later, Will announced that he now knew the reason why the world and his wife had been flashing their lights at us. We listened with growing horror as he nonchalantly explained that fuel had been leaking onto the Saab’s exhaust pipe, causing it to trail a jet of flames. Steve, Derek and I stared at Will with wide eyes. “You could have killed us, you effing idiot,” we bellowed in unison. Will, however, remained the epitome of insouciance. “Think of it this way, lads,” he said easily, “we’re pioneers – even Stig Blomqvist didn’t get to travel in a Saab with an afterburner…”

We never used Will’s Saab again. Last I heard, he’d graduated to a brand new TVR that he quite literally got for chickenfeed. But that’s another story…

Feature image: (c) Andrew Bone, used under a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

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