It wasn't just an ordinary one, though, it was the fast one, in the shape of the Gordini version with a 1,400cc engine. I found it pretty safe, because it really wasn't fast enough to fall off the road. The trouble was that the gear knob kept coming off at the worst possible moment - such as changing gear. It would do odd things and make a nasty noise every time I turned left. Further investigation revealed that it had suffered a big shunt on the left-hand side and not been put back together very well afterwards.
I swore that I would never have one again, but that didn't stop me sticking with the Gordini for the time being, which meant that it could leave me stranded in the middle of roadworks on the M25. It had to go, but that Gordini needed some special selling skills. So when the buyer came around for a test drive, I told him to drive right out of the house, first right, then right and finally right back into my drive. That was the only way I could avoid the noisy left-hand side showing up. Mind you, the guy I sold it to in Wigan was back two days later to complain. After that, I remember having a horrible bright orange Austin Metro. It never broke down, but it would misfire above 50mph and did abandon me at the NEC in Birmingham. I would never want another one, but I did end up with something as bad.
It was a Vauxhall Astra 2.0 GTE. Like the Gordini, it was a hot hatch, except that it would spin its wheels going up a hill and the handling was appalling. In lots of ways it was worse than the Renault and Metro put together. Luckily, someone liberated it on a bank holiday weekend in Manchester.
Simon Nearn is the managing director of Caterham Cars, one of the UK' s largest wholly-owned car manufacturers. Buy one of their sports cars by calling 07000 000077