We were pootling along a surburban Leicester road to nowhere much, in our cool blue  Marina van, at around 11 p.m. when the brilliant idea entered my braincell: I would teach the wife to drive, right away. The road was well lit, of new construction and straight. What could possibly go wrong? The example of things not to do after a good night out started with the usual lurches and inappropriate revs, but we were indeed heading in the right direction. And then we were not heading in the right direction at all. The pavement was mounted, the revs increased, and we were soon journeying across a neatly mown lawn but, at least, our destination was now known.

We hit the bungalow wall where, though the details are a little hazy, there was some sort of protrusion which embedded itself more or less centrally into the bonnet. We sat there gathering our wits for a minute or two. I seem to remember steam but there was no doubt about the curtained window and, it was with a detached interest, that I saw a light go on, the curtains twitch and a face appear. The stranger looked at us for a few seconds as I resisted an impulse to wave and then vanish. We decided that there was no easy way out of this one and, in a rather unnecessary gesture, politely knocked at the door. The rudely disturbed residents turned out to be astonishingly unperturbed, so we picked up on their serenity and went home for a milky drink before bedtime.

I found the Marina to be a tough and dependable little beast and, our example, was still drivable. The rad was as bent as a bootlace, but it held water fine, and only needed a hose to be tightened.

Just round the corner from our house was a little garage run by two shifty sidecar racing blokes who used the words "sorted, mate" with glib regularity. Their establishment was part of a Dickensian, enclosed and galleried, quadrangle of habitations.  Daniel Quilp would have been quite at home there and so was an eccentric bachelor who ran the most bodged and decrepit Morris Traveller I have ever seen. It was held together with sticky tape, string, a miscellany of fastenings and a thick layer of glooped on silver paint. It was a vehicular collage fashioned by a caddis fly humanoid.

The boys glanced at the modified front of the van and knew what to do right away. They attached it to the garage wall with a wire rope and reversed until there was some semblance of normality. They then slapped on many kilograms of ugly sister pancake gesso or body filler. After a brief application of a sander the finish was wavy, with troughs and swells, ripples and peaks, in a surprisingly artistic interpretation of the Marina name. I was actually quite pleased with the overall effect, especially without the bumper. I thought it was rugged and characterful, and considered roof lights and chunky tyres.

The van gave impeccable service for a couple of years after the bungalow incident, but when the time came to fit a new shocker it was quite a struggle due to misalignment.

The garage boys returned to their endless NSU 1200 Prinz sidecar tinkering. They tested this edge-of-engineering device by blasting it along the brick terrace back street, like an enormous scuttling lizard. They did offer me the passenger seat, but as they also did their own welding, I declined their kind offer and went home for tea.


Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here