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Having recently returned from living with my now wife in London, I was feeling decidedly buoyant and so took a Volkswagen Golf for a test drive. A White GL model. I couldn’t afford to purchase much more than underpants at the time, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to experience the automotive high I knew would arrive the moment I closed that ridiculously solid door. Thawump. There it was. The sonorous sound of Panzer Tanks, Bratwurst, Marlene Dietrich, the Berlin Wall and anyone named Wolfgang colliding with some rubbery stopper thing. David, the Sales Manager – a man too handsome to work for anything other than a European automotive brand, and one clearly uncomfortable with my postEgyptian-holiday-stubble – joined me and together we glided around the suburbs near my home. The car never touched the road. It hovered above it. Speed humps were reduced to yoga mats. Sharp corners were draped in velvet. For ten full minutes, my smile was so wide that, to oncoming motorists, I must have looked like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. When we returned to the showroom, it was like parting ways with that exotic exchange student you’d known for a week, but who now had to return to Azerbaijan. After some informal chit-chat with David, during which I gave no indication of being the poorest man in the Southern Hemisphere, I exited the dealership, gazing at my new flame cooling her German heels in the car park. I even think I waved. The showroom staff looked on, convinced David and I had shared a joint. Through the years, she never idled far from my thoughts. If I concentrated hard enough, I could hear the silence of her interior. While my friends were tempted by Audi’s and pre-owned sports cars, I never wavered. Not once. And so, eight years after that transformational test spin, I achieved my dream. I purchased a 2003 Volkswagen Golf with a 2.0 engine and bog standard 15 inch wheels. I was in love. Profoundly so. The Jane Austen kind. Certainly during the early years of our relationship. I never saw her flaws. Never questioned the oil light blinking as I drove out of the dealership after each service. (the Volkswagen automotive clinician told me everything was fine and because he wore a large badge on his chest, I believed him).
I was smitten all right, and this love lingered like that new car smell. For 36 months. Then the warranty ended. Time was up on my automotive pre-nup. And on the 1096th day, the shiezen hit the fan belt. Speedometer: 26,357 kms Unsavoury blips began to appear on the radar. Servicing cost more. My sun visor clip snapped off one day and harpooned a rear seat. On a different day, the passenger front window fell down into the door frame. Just dropped out of sight. Like it was trying to hide from someone. A rattle deep within the dash changed from barely perceptible to barely bearable. Something began click-clicking around the rear wheels. Still, I persisted with our relationship. After all, I’d paid good money for my prize. Over the odds. And why not? The Senior Sales Consultant knew I wanted the car. I knew I wanted the car. And I knew that he knew I wanted the car.. so, given our collective knowledge, I didn’t see the point of shifting personality to save four hundred bucks. Truth is, I wish I’d saved four grand. Because that is what it’s cost me to keep my treacle-coloured lemon on the road. Yes, I can say it now. I loved the wrong car. You see, the window-eating doorframe was simply the first of many issues. Timing belts needed replacing before their time. Coil Packs too. I required a new gear knob, after the faux chrome chipped away to the point that I may as well have installed a barb wire fence between the seats. There have been brake repairs. Discs. And rotors. Speedometer: 45,221 kms There have been wiper blades so expensive that I can surely now clean away whole bird carcasses should they hit my windscreen at speed. Maybe they repel troll attacks too There were more brake repairs, of course. Discs. Rotors. And this time, squealing. That’s right – soon after my brand new brakes were installed, they started squealing like old smelly ones. I phoned the mechanic, who said they simply needed to settle down, so I should do the same. The squealing worsened, evolving from a bloodcurdlingly high pitched reeeeuuuuuwwwww to a clunky, meaty whine – followed by a bloodcurdlingy high pitched rreeeeuuuuuwwwww.
My wife would return from driving my car, showering the air with expletives. ‘I hate driving that thing. I’m planning routes where I don’t have to stop till I enter our driveway’. Knowing I was about to cash in my last shred of credibility, I again called the mechanic who suggested that perhaps some dust had gathered on the settled down discs – he also suggested I bring the car in so they could blow it off, which they kindly did. Discs. Rotors. It was a miracle. The squealing vanished. For nearly a full day. Then it returned, angrier now. Like that spider you tried to stomp on, but missed. It was clear my car had turned against me and was now determined to embarrass me by squealing in public. And so, every time I slowed down, motorists turned their heads. Pedestrians jumped. Street lights flickered in Minnesota. Arctic wolves howled. And I'd fumble with some dashboard button to avoid eye contact with other motorists, glaring at me furiously as if my brakes were made from ducklings. I could no longer ignore one indubitable truth – I was at War. With Germany. Speedometer: 61,480 kms I was driving with our kids to the shops one day. Ambling around the centre’s park, I spied a free space and gently pressed the brakes. It would have been quieter to press the testicles of a Stegosaurus. The whine was electrifyingly loud. Two men in Santorini upended their chess game. Before turning off the engine, I put my window up – this is where it gets good. The window never made it. Sadly, it fell like a guillotine blade into the door frame, much like its older brother had done years before. ‘Needs a new regulator’, the mechanic would later laugh, while polishing a solid gold ingot on the groin of his overalls. The window regulator cost me $600. And another piece of my soul. This blow was decisive. I’d been destroyed. Sunk. These scars would never heal. I surrendered that day. Deep within me, those final embers died out. Speedometer: 69,622 kms One day during a highway trip, my Golf started ‘missing’ – this is where a car lurches forward and, in an odd quantum physics kind of way, gets a few inches ahead of where it should otherwise be. The heat gauge flicked from cold to normal, as if Uri Geller was standing on the bonnet, bending it. I endured this for 10 kilometres, wondering if it would ‘clear its own throat’. Eventually, I pulled over and popped the bonnet. I did nothing. I simply
stared at the engine as it fumbled and farted there in the slip lane, while able-bodied 20 year old wrecks zoomed past impressively. I imagined the oil lid thing part was its eye and sneered at it menacingly. I wanted to hit the manifold metal housing piece bit with something sharp, but had nothing with me. In the end, I got back in and went in search of the nearest mechanic. And on the way, suddenly, stunningly, out of the blue, the ‘missing’ stopped. The gauge resumed its normal position, and I spent the next ten kilometers shaking my head. Actually, I’ve spent ten years doing that. But no longer. Yes, I am selling my Golf. Giving her up. Dismantling my dream. Not because I can no longer afford to keep her on the road (which is actually quite true), but because, after driving a miserly 70,000 kms in 10 years, I am emotionally spent. Disappointed. Sapped. Bruised and broke. I no longer find any aspect of your Volkswagen Golf attractive or fun or enjoyable. I would sooner drive a hemorrhoid. It is time for someone else to become acquainted with this interminably frustrating runt of the litter. I’m sure they will love her, too. Who wouldn’t love driving this car? There’s not a f**king cent to spend. Practically everything apart from the duco is new. As for me, I look forward with gusto to the prospect of buying something eminently more reliable. It will, of course, be Japanese-made. If a country can endure Tsunamis and earthquakes and nuclear disasters and antiwhaling protests and STILL put extraordinary cars on the road, then I want the product of such a country. As for you Germany, I will always love your food, your beer, your forests, your economic prowess and most of your tennis players. I just cannot bring myself to love one of your automotive icons any longer. You killed my dream, Volkswagen. Drove into it. Reversed over it. Until it was flat and lifeless. I look forward to your company’s response. My tip: it will be curt and lacking any fart jokes. I hope for different. But then, I did when I bought your Golf, too. Regards, Mark