Thursday 08 August, 2013 by Uncle Spike
Ok, now naming vehicles… who else does it; or is it just me? Are you one of those rather dull as dishwater folk who just know your ride as ‘the car’, or ‘the blue Ford’, or are you perhaps a little more adventurous by referring to it by its make or model? You know the type of thing I refer to: “I’m just going out in the Jag”, or “Have you seen the keys to the Escort hun?”, or maybe even “Where did I park the damned GT this morning?”.
Or, are you ever so slightly nuts too, and drive a Honda called Kevin, or a Buick named Daisy?
Like pet animals, for some of us cars and bikes are like family too, and therefore by necessity have to be named. Over the years I’ve had numerous 2 and 4 wheeled companions, and here are just a few of them that I thought would share, just for the sake of nostalgia.
There was ‘Joan’. Now Joan was a VW Jetta 1.3 GL, so wasn’t it obvious she should be named after Joan Jet? Strange looking back through, as she was quite a staid and boring ride, but as I was driving illegally then (oops), the less attractive the car to the Boys in Blue, the better.
There was ‘Max’, whose name wasn’t that farfetched either really, as he was a Yamaha XJ550 Maxim, so Max was pretty sensible, all things considered. He started out all black and boring, but after receiving a custom paint job from a very talented member of my family back then, he ended up quite the spectacle. Dark green and gold flaked paint, with flames on the tank and side panels, and loads of extra chrome!
Our ‘Bert’ was my wife’s pride and joy, her first car. That little Ford Fiesta 5 door 1400cc was quite nimble and responsive actually and we perfected the double act of me overtaking other vehicles at speed, whilst she turned the A/C on and off to maximise power at just the right moment.
‘Rocket’ was my beloved Kawasaki GPZ900r – a phenomenal race bike back in its day, and the one you may recognise from the film Top Gun. I wanted to ride that dream machine for ever, but I probably wouldn’t have lived to write this post if I had hung on to it!
‘Ellie’ is one of my current babes. The naming convention here was logical too, as Ellie is a 1987 Renault 11. She might be old, have covered 297,000km, but Ellie is still very much alive and kicking, even if no longer all that road legal. But she’s one heck of a good farm truck these days!
‘Top Totty’ was another car with a simple naming principle; she was a sexy silver Audi TT Quattro. I have to say, it was one fine car to drive. Very responsive, stuck to the tight bends around the northernmost roads of Scotland like glue but always kept your heart floating somewhere between your ribcage and your teeth! The combination of 4-wheel drive and the 1800cc turbo-charged engine delivering 225 horsepower was sublime.
Named after a decidedly grumpy old camel ridden in Kenya, ‘Boz’ was a Mitsubishi L200 pickup, a tough and solid 2500cc diesel workhorse that we used to cart rocks and builders rubbish when building our house. We loved that monster, but alas, he was sold to pay for the kitchen and bathroom.
I had ‘Big Bertha’ in the early naughties. A large red 4,000cc V6 Ford Explorer 4×4, that just about squeezed onto our driveway; so a fitting name after all. It was supremely comfortable, had more gadgets than a submarine, and a cavernous luggage area. It was just a shame you could almost hear your wallet being emptied as you drove along: in hindsight, not ideal for those not resident in places such as Dubai or the US with their cheap gas prices!
‘Kermit’ was a bright green VW New Beetle. With a back shelf permanently full of stuffed Kermit The Frog cuddly toys, this one was a character not easily missed. But, ever so grudgingly, I’ll have to admit it was a surprising pleasure to drive, with its efficient 2000cc VW power plant.
From my youth, there was ‘The Hairdryer’. It was the first motorised thing I owned, a 1977 Suzuki B120. Not a name I chose, but it was the name given by my mates, and it stuck (you can read the history to that one with The Hairdryer post). Sadly it ceased to be when I crashed into the side of a car… oh the recklessness of a 17 year old’s ego on 2wheels!
One great old car I had was a white Fiat Palio station wagon called ‘Ayşa‘ (or A’isha, Āʾisha, Aisha, Aicha, Aiša, Ajša, Aïcha, or Ayesha). Whilst it only had a 1200cc engine, it served as an excellent off-road vehicle, and seriously handled territory I would have been thought twice about with some of the 4×4’s I’ve had – an impressive vehicle!
‘Taxi’ was a silver 4 cylinder Yamaha XJ750 that I had in New Zealand, aptly named as I always had paying pillion passengers with me to help my costs of touring the length and breadth of the islands in the late 1980’s. A powerful shaft-driven bike which used to eat up mountain roads with ease.
A dark silver Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 LT, gracious, majestic and masculine (or it was in terms of the budget available) – so of course, it’s been known as ‘Gandalf’ from day one. Quite an impressive family car for it’s price. With 124HP, loads of toys and gadgets and it’s 5 star safety features, everyone is happy.
Sadly now resting up in my garage due to finances, this neglected little Chinese made friend is ‘Roxanne’, a 2-cylinder, 250cc cruiser-styled bike called a Regal Raptor. Old technology, slow and with poor handling maybe, but I love it, just right for an ageing biker living in a place with slow mountain roads.
Now ‘Indie’ really was a bundle of fun. A 2500cc diesel Jeep Cherokee 4×4 which sadly had severe engine problems just as the warranty expired, but was up until then, great fun to bomb around in. A tough off-roader that my dog and I spent many a happy hour in around the Pennines of Yorkshire. I’ll never forget glancing in the rear view mirror one day to see this large Staffordshire Bull Terrier suspended mid-air after just hitting a rarther large bump in a disused quarry. That mad dog loved Indie, often refusing to come indoors after arriving home, preferring to stay in the car for an extra hour.
And I’ll never forget ‘Vinnie’ the van. Named after the tough guy English actor and former professional footballer, Vincent Peter ‘Vinnie’ Jones. Actually his namesake was not so tough, as Vinnie was a very small panel van, a white 1300cc Suzuki Carry. I used it to deliver ironing back to customers in the evening; a bit of a contrast to my day job in IT, but you can understand the need to add some badly needed masculinity to the operation, hence, Vinnie.
‘Splodge’ was an old favourite of mine, a dirty black old Suzuki GS550L that I rode back in the mid 1980’s. She had a continual oil leak from the transmission case, but has a fond place in my memory, being the first grown-up bike I owned. It was also the one that my mother will never forget, having taken her to the dentist on the back one day after we just ‘happened’ to get back late from a short ride out.
‘Sonny Boy’ was a great drive. A 1978 white 2 door Datsun Sunny 120Y, a hatchback with black leather interior, a sexy brute really for such a small car. I travelled many happy miles around the UK in this one, in between a couple of my extended traveling stints in the late 80’s. Comfy too, having also been my home for a few weeks 🙂
And there was ‘Hunny’, a boring and slow old single pot Honda H100 commuter bike. It was all I could manage after a rather messy crash on my Suzuki B120, otherwise known as The Hairdryer. She got me through my bike tests and that was good enough for me. But for the life of me, I have no idea what happened to it!
‘The Box’ was one of those long old Volvo 245 DL station wagons from the 70’s and 80’s, the 245 model. A very practical beast and actually fairly nice to drive (even if I’ll not admit that all too often), but still, The Box was a fitting moniker and it stuck.
‘Suzy’ was obviously another Suzuki, but not quite as cute and feminine as the name suggests. She was one of the early big-bore Japanese muscle bikes, a 1979 vintage Suzuki GS1000E, bored up to 1100cc. A real monster of a bike that took some hanging on to around the corners and was the cause of a number of underwear changes over the years, not least for my regular pillion rider.
‘Madge’ was a small red MG Metro Sport, a suped-up 1300cc 2 door, complete with racing style red seats, red seat belts and a red leather steering wheel. Fun, quick, but a mechanical bag of spanners – can’t remember how much cash was poured into that one, with new brakes, ignition problems and a few other features!
And then there was ‘The Resin Rocket’ – yes, I was even the proud owner of a turquoise coloured ‘Plastic Pig’, or Reliant Robin 850cc 3-wheeler. With slight engine modifications it was tremendous fun, especially at 75 MPH (120 KPH). With a tall friend of mine darting from side to side like ballast on the tiny bench back seat, we were able to maintain our balance on corners at speed!
You’ve heard about The Hairdryer, but here was the actual Hairdressers vehicle… or so I thought. A 3-door 1600cc Suzuki Vitara mini 4×4. I know, I know… but seriously, it was really good fun, very nippy, superb off-road but just don’t get one if you need to carry more than 2 passengers and a newspaper. Highway driving in the wind was a tad hairy I’ll admit, but other than that, it was actually quite a competent and tough little vehicle. Its name: ‘Jeep‘. Maybe we were hoping it would grow up into one… it never did.
‘Erik’, it means plum in Turkish, but for some bizarre reason, this bike was named Erik. A slow old 2 stroke twin cylinder 250cc 1980 Jawa Laser, this smoky old Joe is superb off road, particularly on mountain tracks. With its low range gearing, just 4 of them, all 4 down too (bikers will understand) and an evil compression kick start, Erik is now resting up in an old warehouse. Maybe he’ll rise again, who knows…
One of my all-time treasures, and last on my list was ‘Norma-Jeane’. Named after Norma Jeane Mortenson, the given name of actress Marilyn Monroe. Why, simple, she was a Yamaha XVS1100a, a classically styled and fully-dressed cruise bike with two rather large cylinders up front, hence the referral to Marilyn, and if that wasn’t enough, she had 2 large running lights added.
There were perhaps a few others, but all of the memorable ones are here. Kind of like thinking back to all the pets who have come and gone during our lives, one starts to feel ones age when you spend a few moments reminiscing over the vehicles you’ve had over the years. But nonetheless, a happy trip down memory lane.