It’s midday, 8 March 1982 and a code orange status has just been triggered in the offices of RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). Colin Goodwin has just been issued with a driving licence. Two o’clock the same day: RoSPA raises the alert status to red. Goodwin has purchased his first car.
That damned piece of paper had taken nearly two years to obtain. The people at the DVLA, or whoever was responsible back then for organising driving tests, had been on strike and there was a massive backlog for dates. I’d applied for a cancellation and got a date a week later, having had no lessons. I took it in a mate’s Fiat 127 Sport that fouled its plugs. I failed. More disasters followed. Anyway, I was beyond desperate to go solo (er, legally) hence the lack of dawdling to buy a car.
The machine was a Vauxhall Viva HB in SL90 spec. Brush painted, F-reg, already rusty. Forty quid. A 1.2-litre engine producing not much horsepower. That didn’t matter much because most of my friends owned American muscle cars and the Vauxhall could have had 200bhp because it was the deficit in cylinders that inspired their derision.
I don’t remember much about the Viva – not even how long I kept it. Not as long as a year, for sure. I had a Norton Commando 850 (I passed my bike test very soon after my 17th birthday) for high-speed sorties so the car was more for transporting the muscle car owners when they’d run out of petrol money and for taking girls out. On one date, the fan flew off the end of the water pump and into the radiator. I thought she’d be mightily impressed by my fixing it with a raw egg but no. She probably married a stockbroker and now drives a BMW X5.
Thirty-six years later, Autocar’s Dan Prosser and I are sitting in the Vauxhall heritage collection’s Viva HB. It is in perfect condition. D-reg, but otherwise identical to mine, even down to the colour. I’ve owned more than 40 cars, the bulk of them during my 20s. This is the first time I’ve revisited one of the old ones. It’s more usual these days for me to drive something that’s old and tired now but was new when I first drove it, such as the Porsche 968 Club Sport that featured in our 'best of 1994' feature last year. Today, the car is in far better shape than the one I drove first time around.