“Goodbye, Bob”: how I learned to love a hunk of metal

Saying goodbye to your first car is harder than you’d think

It’s not often you get sentimental about a large chunk of metal but when it’s the first chunk of metal with 4 wheels you’ve ever owned, suddenly everything changes. Here’s the story of my first car for no reason other that I’m rather sad to see it go.

‘Bob’ wasn’t my first love affair with transport: he was second fiddle to the mighty Gilera DNA 500cc I proudly rode in my teenage years up to about the age of 20 when it had been nicked and repaired too many times. Bob came into my life at the age of 24, when I finally passed my driving test.

Gilera DNA

This bad boy is a Gilera DNA (not mine, but very similar). You could put the helmet in the space where the engine would be in a proper motorbike. No crappy moped for me! Oh no!

(Both vehicles purchased by my very kind mum!)

Driving theory

First car: the journey begins

Bob was £1250 and wasn’t my first choice of first car. I would have preferred a Ford Puma but the insurance proved too high. Created in 1999, when I was just 14, Bob had a few deep weals along his door paintwork – the sign of a tumultuous relationship, I decided. Couple those ‘lover’s tiff’ scars with odd scuffs on the windscreen that looked as if a lithe bottom wearing jeans had slid down the front, Bob was a little bit of a mess. But he was my mess.

My first car was a Ford Ka

In February of 2010 I proudly stickered him up with L plates and rode around in my personal taxi with parent-teacher in a passenger seat. Up hill and down dale, in ditch and up kerb I went as I learned how to not die while behind the wheel.

First car Facebook status update

Passed my driving test status update

Two months later I proudly ditched the L plate after 3 attempts at the practical test and took him out for a solo trip to that wondrous place, Crawley.

He broke down.

Swinging in to the retail park, my heart pumping, my mind unsure what I’d done wrong, I rang my Dad who arrived with gallons of tap water and followed behind, me stopping every so often as the last of the water pissed out of it on the 10 mile journey home.

A setback

Next up was the misunderstanding with the DVLA just three months after I got my full license that meant they confiscated it for several weeks while they scratched their heads trying to understand that sleeping tablets do cause drowsiness, but only when you take them before bed. Anyone who takes them before driving is committing an offence anyway. So they returned it.

Driving License for my first car

Aw, look at the 16 year old me. Bless.

And then I was free again. And it was glorious!


I drove to interviews, to the shops, to the cinema. I filled my car with rubbish and coats and hairpins and lipstick. I proudly washed it. Once.

I got a new job, driving 10 miles each way in horrendous traffic and experimented with different country routes. I drove through flood water in Dorking. So deep it came through the bottom of the car and the upholstery smelled like stale rain for months.

I drove in snow. I almost crashed in snow. I swore at other drivers, let drivers out. Muscled past those selfish drivers who’d decided not to switch lanes until the very last moment. I developed my own sense of driver attitudes and bad habits. I smoked in my car. I got made up in my car (while parked). I toured my talk in my car, had big conversations in my car. Arguments in my car. I even sat in my car and cried while the torrential rain pelted down on the roof with no padding so I felt and heard every rain drop. I laughed and sang in my car, did disco (hand) dancing in my car.


We had a synergy, Bob and I. We went everywhere together. Guildford to run Skeptics in the Pub. Horsham and Brighton and Lewes to do my talk. Nottingham and Cheltenham to do my talk. Cornwall and back in two days. I went everywhere I could in Bob because I hate public transport and my car was my portable wardrobe. Even to the extent that when a pair of Doc Martens disintegrated at a Llama farm in East Grinstead I simply pulled another pair of shoes from the boot.


Massimo wasn't keen on the car wash

Massimo wasn’t keen on the car wash

I trained my dog how to be in a car in my car. He was sick in my car. He even shat in my car. Bob had seen it all. Even my first kiss with my (now) fiance happened in my car.

But now he’s “beyond economical repair” and I’m sad to see him go. I took him out for a last drive. He sat on 90,498 miles and I just couldn’t let him leave me without one last drive. Stereo ripped out and installed in his successor, a black Chrysler Ypsilon, Bob looked as derelict and dying as the MOT report said he was. He’s 15 years old and it shows. The steering creaks and the clutch screeches if you change gear too fast. His bottom wasn’t welded properly – the repair was simply spot welded – and water’s got in and ravaged his arthritic joints. So tomorrow the scrap yard will come and collect him and turn him into a little red cube.

Nostalgia can be suffocating if your car still smells like rain and old fags

Being back in him for those last 2 miles was nostalgic. Silence (due to the lack of radio) solely punctuated with the sound of his imperfections, the over-revving you need to get him to go and the loudness of an old car… well wasn’t silence. But it was the noise of 4 years of being a motorist. Of going anywhere and doing (almost) anything (sorry, Jeep, for stealing your tagline). Of my first car and true independence. Of all the songs I’ve ever sung at the top of my lungs, all the sad songs I’ve cried to on the long journey home from a breakup. Of all the giggling and exuberance of a first date that went well. The miles and miles of boredom on the journey back from Nottingham where the Sat Nav said “continue straight for 94 miles”. The slammed doors and screamed rows. The short journeys to Tesco. Every mile I’ve ever driven.

Saying goodbye to my first car is harder than I’d imagined

How is it possible to be so sad about a hunk of metal? Because it’s like the end of an era. An end to the youth – the teenage motorist years (despite getting my license at 24). No longer am I in a 15 year old little 3 door but a sensible 5-door with a nod to the future, married me. With fancy-schmancy electric windows, remote locking and the nous to switch off when not being driven and then switch on again when I put the clutch down.

But I’ll never forget Bob. Tonight I pulled out 4 years of crud and about 8 coats, 2068317 receipts and 7 empty, plastic bottles. Sorry I treated you so badly, Bob.

And then I did the one thing I always feared I would but never managed. I locked the key in the car. But deliberately. And I left him for the last time. Tomorrow the scrap man comes.

Goodbye Bob.

90, 500 miles on the clock. We've done 30,500 miles together

We’ve done 30,500 miles together