Motoring: My Worst Car: Eddie Shah's Mini - Taking a gamble on a Mini

I HONESTLY don't think that I have owned a worst car. For me, the motor car is a fabulous expression of freedom. It gets you precisely where you want to go, which isn't as stupid a statement as it may sound. Purely as a business tool, I have found them invaluable as a mobile office. That is why my cars always look so untidy inside, whether they have been Minis or Bentleys.

So every car I've had has, in some way, reflected my personality at that particular time. My first car was a Standard 8, which was owned between seven of us. It cost pounds 17 and I remember that it also cost pounds 17 to insure. It leaked in water like a sieve, but proved to be very useful.

If you really push me, I might admit that the car I won in a poker game was hardly ideal, though it served me very well. I was playing poker with a few cast members of Coronation Street, among whom was a good friend of mine, Bill Roache. The debt was pounds 25 and it was suggested that I take a car in payment, which I did. It was a bog-standard Mini, but it had a paint scheme, which made it look like a Mini Cooper.

The roof was black and the bodywork was red. These cars had subframes, which held them together, and the rear one had rotted away. The only way that I could keep it in one piece was to tack some carpet down at the back. On my way into Manchester on the M62 when it rained, which happened quite often, the carpet would gradually soak up the water. I would hear a huge sucking noise and the floor would disappear. I would have to stop the car on the hard shoulder, then run back 100 yards to collect the carpet, roll it up, dry it out and tack it down again.

This was my first car when I started in newspapers selling advertising. It was such an embarrassing sight that I had to park it around the corner from my clients' offices. Not only was it awful to look at, this Mini was always breaking down. Even so, I still loved it because it helped me do a job and, to be perfectly honest, however many times it broke down, that Mini was always better than the cash I would have won in that poker game.

Eddie Shah chairs the Messenger Leisure Group, which owns the Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk Golf and Country Clubs. He spoke to James Ruppert