Ma Renault Cinq cest tres petit.Avez Renault un auto midi?
Mais oui. parce-que vous would ne pas appear so shaggable dans la..
Ces't la vie. Mon homme friend avoir moi up le duff de toute facon
But round the back, periodically, he would have the odd old banger. And one day I belched past in the very smoky Ford Escort, and there was just such a machine.
A gold 1984 Renault 11, with a sign on the windscreen that said: "£200." AHA! Just my price range. And I knew my Renaults, after all - this was of the gereration of cars I'd spent a far from merry year poking inexpertly with screwdrivers back in the day. I knew how these things worked. I took a look.
18 years old and only 69,000 on the clock? Surely not.
I popped into the sales office and there I met the only honest second hand car salesman in the UK.
He was wearing a yak wool jersey and reading the Guardian. He rather grumpily told me that the Renault belonged to a little old lady who had decided she couldn't drive any more, and who had bought it off him many years before. She had come to him and asked if he could sell it for her. He'd agreed. And agreed to give her every penny of the sales price.
I went and had another look round it - genuine low mileage, unmarked upholstery, factory wheel trims, the real deal. I returned to the garage with my beloved. "Well?" he said, grumpy as ever. "It looks to be a nice little car that," I said.
"Are you kidding? you can't tell from a look. It could be a bloody death-trap." he said, sighing. "But it's £200, so no comebacks, alright?"
I put it on a credit card and drove it off the forecourt..
|If you squint, it looks a bit like a Delorean...|
Funny little motor, the 11. A 1.4 litre engine that dated back to the stone age, huge boot, ridiculously huge road clearance, which was good given the potholed state of the roads, but did make it lurch around like that other ugly French bugger, Quasimodo. There was just on small problem. Every so often it would simply stop. Dead. You'd pull up at junctions, go to pull off and it would just die. There was no rhyme or reason for it. No special weather conditions or anything.
just Phut. Thats it, I'm going nowhere, mon brave.
And an hour later, it would burst into burbling life again. I checked for a failing coil, for petrol icing, for faulty points and condensers, but nothing worked. Just burble-burble-phut. and always at the worst times.
I wracked my memory banks. It had to be ignition related. I remembered looking for tracking out in distributor caps - this was a problem with Renaults - they'd used shonky plastic on their distributor caps - they developed hairline cracks, and instead of the spark making its way from cap to plugs, it would run along these hairline cracks and earth out on the engine block. But the cap was fine. but, while putting the rotor arm back on, I noticed a faint black line on the end of it.
Aha! enlightenment - the rotor arm had a crack in it - but was it the cause? In the old days we had been taught to take a hand drill and perforate the cap along the line of the fault, because the errant spark couldn't jump the gap and that sent Sparky back to the plug lead. so I decided to interrupt Sparky again.
Instead of drilling a hole though, I put a tiny blob of superglue on the crack. Instant success - it never missed a beat after that. We kept ze' Automobile Francais for quite a while, or nine months in my money, eventually chopping it in as the deposit on a little Peugeot diesel when the ride started to get lumpy. They gave us £250 for it. When I took the Peugeot back because the thing wouldn't charge, the dealer complained bitterly that we had stitched him up as we'd obviously been driving around with only one rubber engine mounting intact out of three, hence the lumpiness...