Motoring: My Worst Car - Roger Black's Oldsmobile Cutlass

Fast men in a slow mobile
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Indy Lifestyle Online
IT WAS 1986 and Chris Akabusi and I went to California to do some winter training. The only problem was that we didn't have any money. We were staying a long way from anywhere and getting to the track, our accommodation, or meetings was a complicated business. We were so strapped for cash, even taxis and buses were out of the question. In short, we had to have a car.

We trawled around the rent-a-car sites until we eventually found one we could afford. What they gave us was truly hideous. It was a big brown Oldsmobile and it was going to be ours for a month.

If I remember rightly it was an Oldsmobile Cutlass, which was a huge four-door saloon with a V8 engine. So although the rental was a reasonable $4 a day, it easily cost $20 in petrol. One reason for that may have been that it actually leaked petrol. It must have been a major fire hazard from day one, but the rental company did manage to put that right before we went up in smoke.

The big problem though was overheating. Every few days the temperature gauge would hit max, there would be loads of steam and cursing from us as it came to an unscheduled stop. Then we had to find somewhere to get water from, although eventually we got wise and took our own supply.

On a couple of occasions it really dropped us in it because we'd be stuck in the middle of a desert waiting for the car to cool down when we should have been warming up for an athletics meeting 20 miles away. It never failed to get us to where we wanted to go, it would just take a lot longer than we planned.

Actually, we got rather attached to that Oldsmobile by the end. Although the colour was horrible it was quite comfortable, with really soft suspension and that big, lazy, thirsty V8 engine.

Ultimately it was cheap and did its job. The fact we were breaking down in California helped. If we'd had that much trouble getting to and from a windswept and rainy Crystal Palace meet we would have minded a lot more.

Olympic athlete Roger Black presents `Fighting Fat, Fighting Fit' a video from BBC Worldwide at pounds 10.99, which takes 10 volunteers through their paces to see how they shape up over a 10-week period. He was talking to James Ruppert