Motoring: My Worst Car - Ainsley Harriot's BMW 518

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The Independent Online
Somehow I expected a lot more from a BMW, but then, this one was hardly brand new. It also had left-hand drive, so maybe I was asking for trouble. I know the 518 wasn't the best BMW ever built, but this Y-registered one only seemed to run for a day or so before needing a repair. Luckily - or unluckily - I had a mechanic friend in Brixton who said he knew all about BMWs and could sort it out. The thing was though, every little job seemed to cost at least pounds 70. I'd look through the bill and it was things like a washer at pounds 5 which bumped the cost up. I calculated that within six months I'd spent more than the purchase price of the car purely on repairs.

By far the most embarrassing incident involved me and a girlfriend starting to get amorous - the driver's seat broke, which ended any further developments. For a while, a black plastic bin-liner full of old clothes behind the seat kept it propped up. Of course, the cost of a brand-new replacement was more than the car was worth, so I ended up getting a second-hand one from a scrap yard.

Which is, now I come to think of it, where I should have left the BMW. My theory is that it must have been involved in a lot of accidents before I got hold of it. Everything rattled, and the engine behaved like an old washing-machine banging about on an uneven floor. The sills leaked in water, fitting a suppressor for a radio only seemed to cause more interference, and at least once a week it refused to start. I kept saying to myself, this is a BMW, so it must be OK. I dearly wanted to be cool, but that was difficult with steam billowing from the bonnet.

That BMW was a pig of a car. I part-exchanged it for a Fiat Mirafiori, and I must be the first driver in history to say they preferred an old Fiat to a BMW. The whole experience has put me off BMWs for life. That's why I drive a Mercedes.

Ainsley Harriot's new book `Meals in Minutes' (BBC Worldwide, pounds 14.99) accompanies his seven- part series on BBC2. He was speaking to James Ruppert.

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