Archive for March, 2013

Saabs don’t float

I have been trying to find the photos that go with this story but sadly they are gone… so I will have to try and paint a picture with words (wish me luck);

It rains a lot in England. Maybe not as much as you might think if you are from California, but definitely more than you realise when you live there. That particular autumn it had rained even more than usual. Every dog walk resulted in a mud encrusted golden retriever and I was starting to grow webbing between my toes (okay that last bit wasn’t true, but I want you to realise just how wet it was..).

I was now living in a small village called Ropley in an old cottage that we had bought. It needed some work but had a long garden which backed onto horse fields and overlooked crops at the front.

Campbell Cottage Garden

It was a great place to live, very peaceful and with lots of great dog walks.


I decided that I should choose a local mechanic to build a relationship with; I had done that in Totton with great success and I was going to live here a while so it made sense. Although it might cost slightly more in the short term, having a mechanic that you trust and who is looking for long term business would work out cheaper over all. So after a little research I found a Saab specialist in nearby Alresford (remember that name, it has significance a little later) and made an appointment for a service. I had been told by my previous mechanic that the brake pads would need replacing soon so I arranged for it to be done at the same time. I drive fast and good brakes are essential.

I arranged with the ex to follow me the five miles to the garage and then she would give me a lift home. We discussed the best route and agreed that we just needed to head down the A31, turn right onto Alresford Road and then right again onto New Farm Road. Simple. She needed to get her bag together so I headed off and said I would see her there.

I drove down the A31, turned right on Alresford Road and then right again… hang on this felt wrong because of the lack of houses, maybe it was second right? No problem a left turn was signposted Alresford so I took it. It was a very small road, but this was the countryside so no big deal. I cruised past the sign below:


Hey a Ford! Great, I like a nice water splash! Sadly I had failed to notice the lower part of the sign, and as I mentioned at the start of this post, it had been raining quite a lot. The sign probably should have said “Very Deep, don’t even think about trying to cross it in a Saab”. But it didn’t.

As I approached the Ford I remembered my Dads teachings (low gear, high revs, steady speed) and accelerated as I hit the water, but the car started to slow and as the bow wave crossed over the bonnet I started to worry. I tired to accelerate more but the water was too deep and the engine lost its battle and stalled. I quickly opened the windows having seen movies where people get stuck in sinking cars and grabbed my phone: “Don’t follow me… I drove into a deep ford and now I am stuck… and the waters starting to fill up the foot well… I need to go and call help….click” and then a loud bang as the airbags deployed.

By the time the ex arrived I was thigh deep in the water attaching a rope for the guy from the garage to tow me out. All she could do was laugh and take photos.


The insurance company contacted me a few days later to say it was beyond economical repair and they would send a cheque… the only saving grace was that it happened before I spent money on servicing and brakes.

I had the same amount of money as before and the same requirements and shockingly the first car that came up in my search was a Saab 9-5… in the same colour! but this one was on 20k less miles and had the 3.0 V6 Turbo. My accident had resulted in a younger, healthier version of the same car with 200bhp instead of 150bhp. Not a bad result.

My third and best Saab….

Saab 95 V6

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Things were going well. I had been hired back by the company I had left in New Jersey, the ex was back as a Social Worker and we were enjoying cheap rent.

Working for the old company was great, it meant free quarterly trips back to New Jersey and my friends and my job required travel which meant I saw lots of Europe, particularly Finland and Sweden. (Two great places and I seriously recommend you go!).

The Audi was a lot of fun but was old and we needed something better for long distance dog drives and for when they got wet… which was a lot!

Dogs Playing

A budget was set and the selection was narrowed down…


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Who says you can’t go home?

I had a great time in my 911. What a car, it was fast and the ride was compliant (something to do with high profile tyres) and looked so good that I turned back every time I parked, and smiled.


Having said that, it wasn’t without problems.


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1. In the beginning….. My first car, and in my head an Astra GTE….great fun and NOT a mini (which was important at the time)

19893-1984 opel kadett gt-e 3 door front

2. The university years….  –  My dad bought me a sensible car for my commute to college, it was fun and reliable and most importantly cheap!


3. Nine points + young driver = cheaper car – I forget the year I think it was a 1976 but I’m sure my brother could tell me… I panicked about car insurance after getting 6 points on my licence, but actually they made a mistake on the quote and I went back to the Escort and the Mini was left to Rust in Piece at the family Mini graveyard (aka my brothers house)


4. First job and my first great car….  – Two amazing years of fun. It’s a car that you can throw into a bend and come out smiling on dry roads, wet roads and even in snow. Predictable and flexible. Always a blast.


5 Time to act like a grown up…


6. Economising in style… – same engine as the Golf – what a great torquey, flexible lump!


7. Wheeler Dealer… – remember the car that a blew up? well this was it!


First car in the US –

8. Move to the USA part 1…


9. Life in New Jersey (and a dog named Barney)


10. Dreams can come true… – I promise to write more about this one later!


Back to the UK –

11. Who says you can’t go home?


12. The good life in the UK and time for another car….

Copy of DSC00142

13. Saabs don’t float


14. A Mid-life crisis at 35 – A great car, one of the best I have owned


15. An easy decision


16. Anaphylactic Shock in Finland


17. Time to be sensible…ish – remapped, awesomely quick for a diesel.


18. Inspiration from Down Under – I always love a Golf! always more fun than the numbers say


Back to the US –

19. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair


20. Football’s coming home….(I really don’t like silver cars, but I seem to have owned a lot of them)

Jag (6 of 24)

21. My darkest hour – I got married and sold the Jag. Technically this wasn’t my car but I did drive it for 4 months…. right up to the day I crashed it (sorry P!)


22. And Finally…. – sound familiar? yeah I said I liked Golfs. There really aren’t many affordable cars that are fun to drive, seat four, quiet at speed, reliable and easy to park in the city (and that my wife would approve)


23. And the winner is…..


24. I’ve only gone and done it again…


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