Tuesday, 21 October 2014

My life in Excel

"It's got enough boot space to fit your girlfriend and a set of golf clubs," the car salesman reassured me.

Despite never having either of these, nor a need to put both of them in a car boot together, I still bought the Hyundai Excel.

It was 1999 and I was working in Townsville.

After enduring a sweltering tropical summer that had fused together the door seals on my 1980 baby-blue Chrysler Sigma, I determined it was time to get a new car.

I can't confess to be a car nut, but I had looked at a few other cars (remember the Starlet?) before settling on the Excel and have never looked back.

During the past 15 years and 128,000kms together, we've been through quite a lot: changing jobs, changing cities, and moving house a few times.

Sometimes it has been like a Tardis - bigger on the inside than the outside - as I've crammed Ikea flat pack after Ikea flat pack into its spacious interior.  I may not have had room to change gear on the way home but it never complained.

So it is with a tinge of sadness that this week I replaced the Excel with a new car.   While this isn't the end of the road for the Excel (it's going to my teenage niece), it is the end of our ride together.

As I manually lock up the Excel one last time (it doesn't have central locking), I recall eight unique things about my beloved old car.

1.  The cassette player that still pumps out the tunes
I'm pretty chuffed I didn't succumb to pressure around the year 2000 and get a CD player installed. Who's laughing now, hey?  As time has shown, CD players are as redundant as tape players, but at least with tape players you can still connect your iPhone just fine with a special tape and cord.

The "special tape" that connects iPhones iPods

2.  The front door smash
I vividly remember my flatmate knocking on my door one morning and saying I needed to go look at my car.  It was barely a year old and someone had reversed into the drivers' door causing considerable damage.  Thankfully, they left a note and it was all patched up.   Well, almost all patched up.  At the right speed you can hear the wind whistle through the door, and when it rains water drips in.

3.  The "fuck" scratched on the bonnet
One night, some vandal scratched this word in large letters on the bonnet of all the cars in my unit block, including the Excel.  I didn't notice this for a couple of days.  And I couldn't really be bothered getting it fixed so it stayed there for a year or two.   It was always fun to pull up at lights and watch crossing pedestrians do a double take.

4.  The air con that pumps out white smoke
Call it an environmental feature, but if you keep the Excel air con on during long journeys, the cool air is replaced by white smoke reminiscent of a Bond film.  It's not toxic (I don't think), it's just the air con's way of saying "hey, I need a break, crack open a window".
Don't be alarmed if white smoke comes out

5.  The ubiquitous dash crack
It seems every Hyundai Excel has this crack across the dash.  This is actually the second dash in this Excel, but the crack still returned.   Think of it as a sign of authenticity.

Dash crack

6.  The complete lack of safety features
ABS brakes?  Nope.  Side airbags?  Nope.  It's got a seat belt.  What more do you want?

7.  The bits of plastic that fall off
It's a bit unsettling when you go to open the door of your car and the handle falls off, but this is quite common with the Excel.   Perhaps it was intentional - some sort of security device?  My friend, who also had an Excel, had both handles fall off and so had to crawl into the driver's seat from the boot at a shopping centre.
This may or may not fall off

8.  The engine that just won't die
Say what you like about the Excel, but as my mechanic says: "they just don't die".  I took my Excel in for a service every six months and it rarely required any major attention.   It seems the lack of gadgetry is the key to the Excel's longevity; there's not chipboards to corrode or onboard computer to fail.  All the bits of plastic may crack and fall off, but the engine just keeps going.  It still purrs like a cat... ok a cat that smokes a pack a day.

So as the Excel drives off into the sunset and out of my life, I realise I never did test whether the boot could really hold a girlfriend and a set of golf clubs.   It probably could.

It's an Excel and it can do anything.

You be the judge: would this fit a girlfriend and a set of golf clubs?

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