South West Customs Est 2004 Chippenham
Karl Lubieniecki - A Childhood of Cars
My father once said I had an ilness when it came to my obsession with cars. I wasnt your usual teenager with a picture of a Porsche 911 or Ferrari F40 on their bedroom wall, instead I was more interested in hot hatches of the period, the 1980s. My father up until 1986 always had, lets say, terrible cars. A Renault 6, a Renault 12, the odd Austin Allegro. An early memory was from when I was 5 or 6. I remember being in the back of my dads green Renault 12 driving through Cirencester when he stopped passed The Stratton Motor Company. They were a small Renault dealership that sold the odd hot hatch. Outside was a gleaming black 1985 XR3i, the one in the picture below. It had all the extras. Front fog lamps, side stripes, and rear reflective trailblazer. It was super cool. My dad part exchanged the Renault 12 and he bought it, our first cool car. Although he loved it, my mum struggled with the wide wheels and lack of power steering. Due to this after only 6 months they part exchanged it, same garage, for a brand new Renault 5 TSE in black with optional alloys. That was a nice car, albeit not cool like the XR3i.
It wasnt long before he fancied something a bit quicker and cooler so along came a super rare white Renault 11 Turbo complete with body kit and red bumper inserts. An obligatory item for any white late 80s hot hatch. This was a great car, unreliable granted but great all the same. it was brand new when he got it, and I remember the RAC man coming to our rescue fairly often. I also remember my mum kerbing the alloy wheel so badly that a chunk of wheel came off, I'm sure my dad had to buy another wheel. At the time, late 1989 my mum worked in Swindon Town Centre, so my dad wold park in the local multistory car park
on his day off and we would wait for my mum to finish. A picture of this can be seen below. After this I rememebrr my dad going to look at a Renault 19 16v, however he prefered the 11 Turbo. Due to the reliability issues, in 1991 my dad part exchanged the Renault 11 for a brand new red Peugeot 106 1.0! A big down grade from the Renault, but it was cheap simple and reliable and my mum couldnt kerb the non existent alloy wheels. This we kept for about 8 months until he upgraded it to a slightly
better model in Miami blue. From here he went
back to Renault, and to the totally opposite end of the car market. A large 1990 Renault 25 2.2 GTX auto. It had everything including a talking computer that told you the fuel level was low. My mum loved it, power assisted steering, air conditioning and Automatic. From here my parents never went back to a manual car, my mum refused. Sadly, the 25 GTX had a hard life. In 1994 we had some floods in Swindon and my mum decided to carry on driving when the roads flooded. The conrods bent and it sat on the driveway unuesable. Temporarily it was replaced with a beige 1986 metro Vanden Plas
however my mum wasn't a fan. I remember my changing the Renault's 2.2 litre engine on the driveway. I wasn't allowed to be involved, however at that age I was probably too busy going to town with my friends. The Renault 25 was shortly resurrected from the unusable and back on the road until late 1996 when the alternator decided it would fry all the electrics.....again the car was unusable. From here my dad purchased a nearly new, Ford Escort 1.6. Super simple, reliable and it lasted them years. In 1997 my car journey started. originally I was going to have a 1987 MG Metro as my first car. My parents had used it for a few months due to the issues with the Renault 25, but to be honest it was terrible. These things came out of the factory with surface rust, and this one after 10 years on Britain's salty roads was worse for wear.
In the late 90s I was an avid Max Power Magazine collector (I now have a collection of every edition published). I badly wanted a hot hatch, one like my dad had and that I rememebr as a child. Sadly Indurance ratings meant that the chances of me having a first car such as a Renault 5 GT Turbo, Escort RS Turbo, or Puegeot 205 GTI would be near impossible. At the time I was at sixth form college and worked a simple part time job in a cafe in Swindon's famous Designer Outlet Village. The summer of 1998 allowed me to work full time, 7 days a week for 5 weeks. I remember my pay cheque for that period being £1100! I was over the moon.
Remembering that back in 1998 there was no or very little internet as we know it today. Facebook, Instagram and Ebay did not exist, so all I had in order to find a car was the local paper on a Friday, or a few other publications such as Exchange & Mart or Auto Trader. The latter were great for higher priced cars, but I only realistically had £8-900 to spend. It was June 1998, on a Saturday when my father told me that he had seen a car for sale in the local paper, a 1990 Ford Orion Ghia, and it was Orange. He remembers going to see it with my mum whilst I was at work on the Saturday, he returned to my mum saying that I will definitely want it when I see it. That evening my dad drove me out to Wroughton to the farm where it was, and as he said, I had to have it. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't in great condition, but it was large enough for my friends and a good stereo system, and it was Orange! Super cool in the late 90's. I purchased the car for £900 and spent the rest of my money on road tax, and some fuel. My parents bought me a CD player for it, an Alpine, which at the time was the head unit to get! I remember my father helping me fit some speakers into it, and then I remember my mother asking the priest to bless it. It must have worked as below you can see the car still lives on some 24 years later! I rarely drive it any more, but if I do it brings back the same emotions I had back in 1998.