A free-wheeling act of random charity leaves our correspondent flummoxed.
A strange thing happened last Saturday. Gawping out of the lounge window in the semi-comatose state common to the domesticated house male, I clocked a silver Golf GTI driving slowly down the road. As it passed, I noticed that the driver was peering intently at my house. Odd, especially as I was not even performing naked star jumps in the bay window, which is usually what attracts the eye (and the ire) of passer’s by.
The GTI performed a three-point turn and pulled up in front of my house. The driver, a man whom I did not recognise, got out and walked up the drive. He then set about examining my Clio, which was parked in front of the garage.
Eh up, I thought. What’s going on here?
A number of possible scenarios presented themselves. One: the Clio was leaking fluids, or perhaps had caught fire. Two: the man was a brazen and/or incompetent thief planning to make off with the Clio. Or three: the man intended to brandish a wad of money at me until I sold the Clio to him. (It says a lot about the Clio that all three scenarios were equally likely, but number one occurred to me first.)
I opened the front door. “Can I help?” I asked. (Bear in mind as these events play out that I was clearly not expecting guests. Thus I was wearing a vest, swimming shorts and was going about in an unwashed state at 3pm.)
“Nice Clio Cup,” said the man.
“Thanks,” I said, discounting scenarios one and two.
“I used to have one,” said the man. “Good fun. My missus hated it.”
“I know how that is,” I said. (Indeed I did/do.)
“Hold on a minute,” said the bloke, returning to his car to retrieve something heavy covered in a plastic sack from the boot. “Have a look at this,” he said, handing the bundle to me.
Inside the sack was an alloy wheel, minus the tyre and centre cap. It was exactly the same size and colour as the ones on my car. “Oh,” I said.
“I had it refurbished,” said the bloke, “but it’s been sitting in my garage for a year. Do you want it?”
I cast about in my mind for a proverb warning against buying single alloys from strangers whilst wearing a vest and swimming shorts, but instead I found myself asking, “How much?”
“You can have it for nowt,” said the man. “I can’t be arsed to put it on eBay, so I’m taking it to the tip. But I’ve seen your car in the village, so I thought I’d find you and ask if you wanted it.”
“Oh,” I said, baffled by the unlikely specificity of the man’s charitable quest. A part of me grew suspicious. I wondered whether the wheel harboured an awful curse, like the videotape in The Ring. Frankly I would not put it beyond Renault’s procurement team to buy wheels hexed with Haitian voodoo, were they to be cheap enough.
But no, the alloy looked fine. Gathering my wits, I said, “Thank you. In that case I will gladly spare you your trip to the tip.”
And with that the man made his exit, cackling maniacally, leaving me standing in my porch grappling both with an alloy wheel in a plastic sack and the mounting surreality of the situation.
So I now have a refurbished alloy wheel for my Clio Cup that someone gave me for free, which may or may not be tainted by witchcraft. And I never even left the house.
It says something about a car when complete strangers give you spare parts as an act of charity. Sadly the Clio does not run on donations and the recent drop in fuel prices has been handy when slaking its thirst. Switching from 95 RON to 97 Super Unleaded has yielded a decrease in fuel consumption from 22 to a heady 24mpg. Who said small cars were economical?
It does not help that the Clio produces peak power at 7500rpm and is gutless below 3000. 197s and 200s have a flat spot between 2000-3000rpm that I suspect is imposed by the ECU to curb emissions. As a consequence the Clio must be constantly given some stick to make genuine progress; fine if the engine is a rev hungry monster, but the Renault mill builds revs with the alacrity of a Frenchman being turfed out of his bed. I have also learned to be lenient whilst the engine warms up with its first coffee and Gauloise, lest more Gallic chuntering be incurred. A shame, as the Clio is capable of quite marvellous things once motivated. In that regard it could not be more French if it tried.
Fortunately the Clio has suffered no further technical maladies. The bill for replacing a defective headlight bulb mentioned in my last report came to £25, half the anticipated cost, after my mechanic worked out how to access the back of the cluster through the wheel arch instead of removing the front bumper. Again, how typically French: complicating the most basic functions, necessitating an entrance from the rear.
Miles since purchase: 2400
Miles since last report: 800
Expenditure since last report: £25 (head light bulb)