Motoring My Worst Car: Jeff Stelling's ex-police Mini

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The Independent Online
NOT SURPRISINGLY, my worst car was also my first car. I was a very naive 20-year-old cub reporter on the Hartlepool Mail, and needed a little runabout to get my stories. I saw this white Mini advertised, and it seemed to be ideal.

I went to see it in the dark. I could certainly tell the car was white, but what impressed me most were the leopard-skin seat covers. I bought it on the spot for a whopping pounds 750. The next day, for no apparent reason, it conked out as I drove to work.

I managed to persuade it to work - and it lasted an entire day before breaking down again. On the third day it broke down again, and by the fourth day of ownership, when it let me down once more, I was having serious doubts.

I mentioned my Mini to a colleague on the crime desk, who then had a word with one of his police contacts. Later in the day I got a call from a friendly policeman. "What's the registration?" I told him. "Sounds like one of ours," he said. "What about mileage?" "It's only done 10,000 miles, that's why I thought it was such a bargain." "I think you'll find it's been around the clock at least once," he said. I went outside to the car park for a closer look at what had, briefly, been my pride and joy.

Suddenly I started to see all the things I had missed when looking at this Mini in the pitch black. There were holes in the roof where the blue light must have been. On the dashboard there were lots of unsightly holes where the radio must have been. I now looked more carefully at the paintwork and could faintly make out where the stickers had been. In fact, I could even make out the word "police". It had been driven to death and just about every mechanical component needed replacing.

I didn't waste any time and traded it in at a car dealer for pounds 250. So, in the space of a week, I had lost pounds 500. For a poorly-paid reporter that was a fortune. Owning that Mini caused me a lot of misery, but it was a lesson well learned.

Jeff Stelling is presenter of `The Winning Post' and `Greyhounds Live' on Sky TV