Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 04 November 2013

Grandma’s convertible

A local garage has a 2002 VW Golf convertible on the forecourt for £3990. A bit expensive for this vintage, but there’s a hidden bonus. It has only 9000 miles on the clock, has been garaged by one owner and is immaculate.

Grandpa WebbAs a long term motoring freak I keep an eye on the local forecourts. I know that grandma has coveted a Golf convertible since John Alderton drove one in a TV series many years ago.

The car showroom is crammed with people buying cars. It’s the time of year when the number plate changes and lots of upwardly mobile people are ordering the latest models on the latest plates.

“We’re very busy, all the salesmen are with customers -- can you come back tomorrow?” says the lady on reception. Well no. By tomorrow the bargain convertible – the oldest (and cheapest) car on the forecourt, may have been snapped up by another bargain hunter.

I grab Ollie, a salesperson who at that moment is passing the reception desk. “Look, I know you’re busy, so can you hold that convertible for me until tomorrow, so my wife can see it?”

Ollie looks doubtful. I decide to cross his palm (or the palm of the dealership) with silver. “Suppose I leave a returnable deposit –- say £200 – for you to keep it for me until tomorrow?”

Ollie disappears into a back office and returns a few minutes later with the news that a returnable deposit of £500 would do the trick. A debit card is produced and the deal is done. I have first option on grandma’s new convertible.

On the way home I begin to think about the consequences of what I have just done. Grandma already has a very satisfactory car. I’ve got two cars – a hatchback for carrying people and goods and my Mazda MX5 competition car. The driveway has room for three cars. If we buy the convertible, one of them will have to go in the road – or go altogether. Decisions will need to be taken.

When I tell her the news, grandma is pleased I have reserved the car for her, but not sure about which car has to go to make room for it. That evening, after the dealership has closed, we sneak up to the forecourt and have a look at the convertible.

Grandma’s convertible“I thought you said it was blue?” says grandma, examining the metallic green paintwork. I am colour blind, and apt to disregard things such as colour in my enthusiasm to examine details such as the treads on the tyres, the soundness of the exhaust system, or the condition of the hood.

Later I do some online research. As I suspect, the price is high for that model, but the exceptionally low mileage justifies a bit extra. Most similar cars have more than 100,000 miles on the clock. I also discover that a power-operated hood was not a standard fitment. On this model it was an extra for around £600.

Power-operated hoods are great when they are working, but can cost an arm and a leg to fix if the mechanism goes wrong. Some people prefer manual hoods because there’s very little that can go wrong with them.

Next day we meet Ollie to take a closer look at the car. Grandma tries the driving seat and looks around for the button to press that would electrically retract the hood. “It has a manual hood,” says Ollie.

Putting the hood down involves pressing two buttons and pulling down levers near the top corners of the windscreen, then pushing the hood back like a pram hood. To refit it, you must get out of the car, lift it up over the passenger compartment, then get into the car and re-lock the two levers.

This may have been OK in 2002 perhaps, but not nowadays. Now, at the push of a button, convertible cars are able to open their own boot lid, take out a three-piece hard top and neatly assemble it over the passengers without any input from the driver. Compared with that, this car looks a bit stone-age.

We break the news gently to Ollie that this is not the car for us and please can I have my £500 back? It is very difficult choosing a car for somebody else.

On the way home, grandma says: “It’s a lovely car – is there anybody else we know who would like it?”

I don’t think so. Many years ago I recommended to a neighbour that he should buy the then newly-announced Austin Maestro. He got a silver one that looked marvellous. Until he discovered that it let in water. Despite their best efforts a succession of British Leyland garages were unable to find or seal the leak.

So I don’t recommend cars to anybody any more. After all, I can’t even choose one for my wife…

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