GOOD NEWS! We’ve received a great little story from our man in the UK, Alex Waller, detailing shenanigans with his trusty, Dacia Sandero. Have you ever found yourself in the wrong place at the right time?
Reading Brian’s excellent piece reminded me that I’d had a moment, too, earlier last year.
I’ve been running my peppy little Dacia Sandero for just over a year and 16,000 miles now. It has moved both rave and ravers, shopping and furniture, played Alan Watts lectures in high traffic, and provided a trip to Ireland. Absolutely nothing has fallen off. Well, I think I lost few a plastic bits of trim only I know are gone, but nothing else really.
I have been commuting 200 miles a week for a time this year and, in the end, it handled the two-hour daily trip a lot better than I did. It might not be much on paper, but to point and squeeze it’s a fun way to get about traffic. It is absurd that 898cc goes into 4040mm.
Still, it feels good having this sort of attachment to a car that doesn’t yet have a niche for itself in British culture. Closest recent approximate might be a Lada in terms of cheap and Communist, indeed this Dacia is still sold as a Lada in some markets. And anyway, a few people drift Ladas these days, so it is true that any car can mean anything to anyone. Earlier this year, I accidentally illustrated this point with my car, which I will come to presently.
Back in April I went over to the Classic Festival at Castle Donington Circuit in Leicestershire, which is in England; managed to nab a ticket from a work contact. We all enjoy hurtling around in physically unattainable cars in video games, but to see it play out before your eyes is another thing entirely.
Apparently the Prince of Bahrain was there, and security was jumped up. I parked up (“just stick it in the VIP area mate”) and waited for the ticket at the gate. Later on I wondered what the reaction would be if someone unfurled a banner saying something dissident about the regime.
After all, there was no noise limit for the event; the thunder of old glory let loose to play, as one or two tiny-motored hatchbacks kept up with huge-engined Jags and various touring cars exploded around the track. Completely mechanical cars may not technically be the best we have ever made, but maybe there’s a certain purity with carburettors.
HANG ON. THAT NEVER HAPPENED TO JAMES BOND…
Lightweight Lotuses and Ginettas lifted inside front wheels as the corner contorted their fibreglass frames. The circuit-side air hung with money and burger vans, while the warm haziness of the pits gave over to acrid smells of mineral oil and untreated engine fumes. The smell of speed hurled by greed.
After looking over some Group B rally cars (the 6R4 had a mysterious Honda engine, which is not correct as there should have been a Rover V6), I sauntered back to my own car; a modern, dented, unwashed piece of poverty. However, I can only say that it must’ve been a dream of Cthulhu or something that I joined a convoy of pristine classic cars, because I don’t remember making a decision to do that – and yet it happened.
By only turning out of the circuit and using right of way graciously, I ended up in between two gorgeous pre-war racing Bentleys dripping with green and brightwork – each one a priceless piece of history and work of art. Probably had a couple chances to turn off but I didn’t. As we cruised down towards the village, I heard some youths cry from beer gardens, “There’s a Dacia Sandero!” and a few people seemed to get the joke.
Little did I know this convoy was headed to the village of Castle Donington, where there was a police road block diverting the convoy through crowds of people lining the streets. The roofline of the village was so small and enclosed compared to the vastness of the open circuit – and seemed entirely covered in bunting.
As we stopped and engines roared, revving in the tight street, I did my best with a quiet three-cylinders, dual-mass flywheel, and a little bit of boost. 100hp per litre out of my car is still a lot compared to these old cars in the village! I just smiled and laughed heartily at the lunacy of the situation. I was the feral youth in a car made by a formerly Communist country parading around with the British gentry.
Sadly I have none myself, but I wonder if anyone took and posted a photo to Twitter or something. Somehow, despite some generally negative feedback, stern looks, and visibly withdrawn cameras, I had managed a second lap of the village before an elderly steward came up and said to me, in as upper class a British accent as you’ve ever heard:
“Ah yes, you’ll want the exit to the village, it’s over there on the left.”
“Speed is key!”
And with that, I exited the crowd, shuffled past the cones, and went home – before I had chance to even consider a pub dinner around the cars.
I did buy two souvenirs that day: a book about Ayrton Senna, and this canvas print of Steve McQueen looking heroic. It would have been even more awesome if I had put that up in the windscreen, but then again I might not have lasted the two laps before being set upon by hounds.
I trolled the gentry because any car can mean anything to anyone. And look at what crumbs you’re leaving us with – dented, scruffy, steel-wheeled Dacia Sanderos that work just great, actually. Your slow car, your new car or any other kind of car, anything – if you like it, just make sure it’s yours.
. . .
[bd] I love this story. “Speed is key!” Alex was simply playing by the rules and blended into the background so perfectly, he found himself revving his own “piece of poverty” amongst some of the finest machinery in Britain. And at least a couple spectators appreciated that!