The Failures

Thief Magnet – My Vauxhall Nova

Every young man should have a Nova, but it’s better if they’re not like this.

The gig at Volkswagen didn’t last long for reasons I can’t really be bothered to explain. Plus, this is a car blog, not an interview. All you need to know is that I had to give up the Lupo and once again invest in a car of my own.

This would have been fine had my salary at VW not been £18 a year. If it was more, I could have browsed the classifieds to my heart’s content and bought something with style, panache and comfort. Sadly though, such a scenario was the stuff of dreams.

Instead, I bought a Vauxhall Nova 1.2 Merit for £150. Oh, and before you chip in with a line about Novas being cool, you should note one thing: mine was a saloon. A four-door saloon. SWISH!

Again, not my actual car (mine was a face-lift) but it’s the right colour

Bought from the kind of used car pitch filled with vehicles that look like they’ve come straight from a crime scene, with a top end cost of £350 across the board, it perhaps wasn’t the finest establishment. But my needs demanded I must, and with only £150 in my pocket the world of used cars wasn’t exactly my oyster.

I paid a man who had a look about him to suggest he made a lot of money as a day-player in Crimewatch reconstructions, and drove off. My house was only four or so miles away. Apparently, that’s ample distance to blow the head gasket. I was of to a grand start.

A sensible person would have scrapped the car, but having just paid an eye-watering insurance deposit as well as road tax, I was left with no choice but to fix it. Sadly though, while my mechanical abilities had improved over the years, the repair of a head gasket was way beyond me.

After hunting around, a mate of a mate offered to do it for £150. An unfortunate financial pattern, given that’s what the whole bloody car cost, but hey ho. Once again, needs must.

With the car back and functioning, I could focus on what every young man with a Nova should: driving around town aimlessly with as many people as possible in the car. It was good for that, thanks in no small part to the extra doors. The large boot made it an indispensable tool whenever a beer run was needed and the benefit of opening rear windows made it an excellent vehicle from which to conduct ‘drive-by Skittleings’ to local youths (look, they threw chips at us first, I just turned around and allowed my passengers to show them who was boss). I even managed to acquire a CD player, allowing us to enjoy our pumping bass riddums an’ting. As the kids say.

A proper, and somewhat gorgeous Nova

It all started to go downhill pretty quickly after that. The electrics decided they liked to fail for no reason whatsoever, usually at night. This resulted in screams and rapid application of the brakes. Though I soon discovered that punching the dash brought it back to life.

I also crashed it into the back of a Peugeot 306. I had no idea the French built such an indestructible hatchback. It survived with nothing but a light scratch, while my Nova surrendered its headlight, bonnet, grille, wing and indicator. Poor swine.

The crash – in my mind’s eye

I cobbled it back together with parts from a pre-facelift SR that I bought for £200. A silver pre-facelift at that. You can imagine what the end result looked like. Also, because the early headlights didn’t really bolt into the later front panel, it was anyone’s guess as to what area of the horizon would be illuminated while driving. Some of it, none of it, all of it? It certainly made driving at night an adventure.

Oh, and someone bent my door back and stole my CD player, leaving me with a whistling door opening and the soothing tones of a thrashed 1.2 OHC engine.

My love for the Nova was fleeting, and fleeting fast. Luckily though, mother Pollitt stepped up to the plate and gave me her old car. Resplendent in, erm, cream, I was soon the proud owner of a 1993 Nissan Sunny 1.6LX estate.

Possibly not the most flattering picture, but hey, it’s the ACTUAL CAR!

The Sunny will get its own post soon enough. All that matters now is to say it spared me from being subjected to the Nova, which by now had been stuffed in the corner of the pub car park around the corner.

I’d been enjoying the Sunny for a number of weeks when I got a call from a mate asking if I wanted to go out one evening and play snooker. Always game for some ball play (arf), I accepted. My cue, however, was in the Nova’s boot.

Walking into the car park, I was confronted with a Peugeot 205, not a Nova. Now, either my £150 had bought me the most underwhelming Transformer ever, or the Vauxhall had been stolen. Turns out it was the latter.

Annoyed more than upset, I rang the Police to report it. Upon providing the registration I was informed it had in fact been stolen three weeks previously and they’d retrieved it from a field somewhere in Stockport. What joy. Still, as it had been stolen without the key, I hoped the thieves wouldn’t have gained entry to the boot and stolen my cue. I got the details of the yard that had it, made the call and arranged a time to see it.

Upon arrival I was greeted by your stereotypical large man in a small hat, wearing a hi-vis jacket, though it had probably been decades since it was either hi or vis. Still, he was friendly enough and happily tapped my details into the computer. Informing me that it’d be brought up on a fork-lift shortly, he ushered us both outside to wait.

Putting his hand on my shoulder, he looked me dead in the eyes and said:

“I’m really sorry lad, but it’s not in a good way. The door’s bent, the wing is smashed, the headlights are cracked, the wheel is buckled and they’ve made a right mess of the interior.”

As the car rolled into my line of sight I began to survey what was left of my car. Glancing back at Mr. Smallhat, I shrugged and said:

“Nope, that’s pretty much how I left it.”

He looked stunned. Then he looked slightly annoyed when I signed the car over to the salvage company rather than pay the near £500 recovery and storage charge. Though in reality he should have known that was never going to happen!

Glad the whole ordeal was behind me, I jumped in the Sunny and headed home. Oh, and yes, my cue was still in the boot.

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