I HAVE a reputation as a great businessman and deal-maker. Well, it hasn't always been like that and the story of how I acquired my first and very worst car is an example of just how naive I was. My mode of transport when I was 18 was a BSA Bantam motor cycle. It was brilliant and managed to get me half-way across England on more than one occasion. I worked for a lemonade company at the time and one of the inspectors suggested that what I really needed was a car. In fact, he proposed a swap: my motorbike for his Austin 7 car.

I couldn't believe it. This sounded like the deal of the century. A noisy, uncomfortable bike, for a quiet, comfy car. The big attraction was that it had a dickey seat. This was a fold-out arrangement, which meant that I could take two more passengers, or much more luggage. I jumped at the offer.

My big mistake was letting the inspector take the bike before I could take a close look at the car. After riding off on my reliable old bike the inspector promised to return the next day with the car; he didn't. Over the next few days he came up with all sorts of excuses for not bringing the Austin 7 with him. Finally, on Saturday the car turned up. I was waiting impatiently in the street and saw this immaculate Austin approaching. The closer it got, the more excited I became, until, that is, I saw another car behind it.

On the end of a rope was a rather sad looking, hideous dull-orange-coloured Austin 7. My car. In front was a larger, pristine condition Austin 9, which belonged to the inspector's friend. "There's nothing to worry about," said the inspector. "It worked yesterday, it was just a bit temperamental this morning." I took his word for it and pushed the car into a side street. Five months later it was still there. I'd bought workshop manuals and spent every spare moment trying to get that car going, but I failed. In the end I persuaded a breaker's yard to take it away. I used the fiver I got to buy a Ford V8 Pilot which caught fire.

Since then I've done rather better and the pounds 60 I originally paid for that motorcycle would just about brim the fuel tank on my chauffeur-driven Bentley.

Ralph Gold was talking to James Ruppert. His book `Good as Gold' (featuring a 10-point plan on how to become a millionaire) is published by Robson Books at pounds 9.95