I had this bizarre but delightful experience the other day when I went to collect a car that my old man had decided to buy himself, pretty much right out of the blue.
It was a Fiat Coupé 20v Turbo (don’t ask, he’s about to be 75 next month for heaven’s sake) and it lived in West Norwood – to the left and down a bit from Croydon. Dad had agreed to buy it for £1300, which sounded like quite a lot of money to me for a 15-year-old car that had done a whisker over 100,000 miles.
Yet when we arrived we were greeted by not one, but two, absolutely immaculate-looking 20v Turbos, both blue, one festooned with skirts and spoilers, the other standard but looking as if it’d just been driven out of the showroom as new – which was the one we’d come to collect.
The bloke selling them was ‘quite an influential’ member of the Fiat owners' club, and when we got talking it became apparent that not just he but most of his neighbours were unashamed car nuts. Which was nice, all things considered.
Just next door, for example, a chap who used to race for Ford used to live. Except unfortunately this chap had died several years earlier, since when the brand new Sierra Cosworth that Ford had given him when he hung up his racing boots had remained in situ in his garage.
Even more unfortunately, his wife had subsequently lost the keys by all accounts, which means it has sat there unloved and unused for aeons. According to Captain Coupé it has covered less than 400 miles, ever, which must make it one the rarest, most desirable Cossies in the universe – if it could somehow be made to run again by someone who knows how.
But that’s nothing compared with what was on the drive of another neighbour, two doors along. On his drive were the following; four Alpine A610s, one beautiful pearl white Renault GTA Turbo, a mid-1990s Bentley, a Renault 21 Turbo and what appeared to be most, but by no means all, of a Renault Avantime.
According to Mr Fiat, the chap used to own a Renault garage and is now a national authority on all things Alpine. He wasn’t in at the time, otherwise I’d still be there now, trying to persuade him to sell me the GTA Turbo for way less money than its worth, what with it being one of my top five, all-time favourite cars.
When I climbed into the BMW 1M to follow Dad home in his new toy, it felt kind of ordinary somehow, even though it isn’t. Funny how nostalgia can bend your mind. Or maybe things really aren’t just as exciting as they once were…