Not exactly a triumph: from new to scrap in 52,000 miles

I REMEMBER my worst car all too clearly. First of all because it was the only brand new car I have ever bought and, secondly, because it gave me no end of grief. I suppose the salesman must have seen me coming. This Inca yellow Spitfire sat forlornly in the showroom, but I was smitten.

I soon realised what a big mistake I'd made. The speedometer didn't work and flicked from 0 to 100mph like a metronome on heat, with an incessant ticking sound. On the M6 near Coventry, I flicked the wipers to clear some dead insects off the screen. The intermittent system turned out to be a permanent one, and within miles the washer bottle was empty and the wipers melted on the windscreen.

After three months, the bodywork started to reject the paint. Rust set in and it spread like a rash up the bonnet. Overdrive was fitted to the gearbox, operated by a switch on the knob, but nothing happened for about 10 miles. Headlamps blew all the time.

I could only afford the hard-top version, but you could take it off. I only did that once, because it was such a swine. The nightmare was refitting it, because none of the bolts lined up with the holes in the bodywork. Then someone hit... correction, two other cars hit the Spitfire, in the same place, seriously smashing the boot. The aerial was vandalised, so it drooped a bit and, finally, one day I caught it in the boot lid and it snapped off. A passer-by laughed hysterically.

A little later I noticed that the temperature gauge was very active while driving to Stockton-on-Tees. There was a chronic radiator leak, the engine overheated and I leapt out sharpish Having third-party fire and theft insurance, I hoped that it would simply burn to the ground. No such luck: I had to fork out pounds 700 for a replacement engine.

Four years after I had bought it, that Spitfire had covered just 52,000 miles and was completely shot.

I have a suspicion that it was built late on a Friday afternoon.

Alex Lester can be heard on Radio 2 on weekday mornings at 6pm. He was speaking to James Ruppert

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