My dad made some pretty strange car choices when I was growing up. The first car I remember was his Alfa Romeo Arna which he bought new.
From memory, this car was the first tie-up between Alfa and Nissan. The promise of Italian styling mated to Japanese reliability was pretty exciting. Sadly, the partnership worked the other way – styling was taken directly from the Datsun Cherry, while the engine and electrics were bodged together in Italy.
The car was a bit of a disaster – my dad was always content if it had no more than three major faults at a time. By the time we got rid of it, virtually all of the functions on the indicator and wiper stalks had been replaced by dash-mounted switches and the starter motor was converted to a button on the dashboard through necessity rather than style.
When the Alfa could no longer be resuscitated, he sold it and bought a second hand Austin Montego 1.6L.
This was the car I learned to drive and pass my test in.
The most memorable thing about the Montego for me was that we had studied it at school in computing class. Apparently it was one of the most advanced cars of its day, being designed by computer, built on a robotic assembly line and featuring a digital dash and synthesised voice like Kitt from Knight Rider.
Sadly, by the time of the revision we bought, they’d had so many problems with the digital kit that they’d reverted back to a completely analogue, low tech dashboard and electrics.
There’s not much to say about that car – it was big and fairly sturdy, but it handled terribly and was further hobbled by the nasty remould tyres it had fitted.
It also broke down regularly. Most mornings we’d have to spray WD40 into the air intake just to get it to start and, despite being relatively new, at least once a month it would overheat and leave us stranded at the side of the road.
Fortunately, after four painful years, the Montego decided it didn’t want to live, so I took the opportunity to take my dad car shopping for something a bit more interesting.
I found a sweet, one-owner BMW 320i (E30) and the Montego was consigned to history. Quite literally in fact… when we traded it in I parked it in the Homebase car park across from the dealer. The next day he went to retrieve it and the engine fell onto the Tarmac.