The day after Valentines Day, it’s imperative I speak about the love of my life. One which, sadly, my friend and colleague, Tom Ford – shame on him – referenced in disparaging terms in The Sunday Times last weekend.
Of course, it is the Austin Metro: what other car qualifies for unqualified, unquestioning love? The story of my relationship with the Austin Metro (no Rover pretenders, thank you, and certainly no Maestros) is a Shakespearean tragedy, a tale of love and triumph and, of course, ultimately death. Many attempted deaths, in fact, before the final act of heroism. My first Metro, 997cc, black, no parcel shelf, tried to kill me by ploughing very slowly into a bridge in the snow and then crumpling more or less to a pile of rust right in front of my eyes, Yazz and the Plastic Population still spooling mournfully on the cassette player as the bonnet slowly folded towards my knees, engulfing the footwell as a final flourish.
I had my revenge: the back Metro was written off without further ado and sent to the overcrowded Austin heaven in the sky.
My second Metro, a valedictory white (well, no Metro was ever really any other colour than rust-brown – let’s call it two-tone), tried its very hardest to do away with me. Streaming downhill at 60mph on a country road one day, I watched, fascinated, as the bonnet, released from its tenuous mooring, flung itself triumphantly into the air, arms akimbo like a flamenco dancer, blocking my entire view through the front windscreen. Ta-da! It was the most dynamic action ever performed by the car. Impressed and startled by the Metro’s new-found alacrity, I managed to brake and steer to the side of the road without hitting anything in front. Shortly after, the white Metro too, crumbled to a puddle of murky rust. So much so, in fact, that my mother failed to offload it even to the scrap-metal man. She had to pay him an ignominious £50 to take it away. Sad days but a message to all Austin Metros: you mess with Baker, you get binned.
And still the love grows. Age has not wearied my ardour a jot. The fact that Tom Ford, Wookie to his nearest and dearest, so Mr Ford to me from now on, felt the need to be so gratuitously offensive, shows only his lazy attitude to the motoring industry, and his willingness to repeat cliches. He wrote: “car making is a business and if you don’t generate cash, you’ll eventually produce something like the Austin Metro and have to sack all your employees”. Now there’s a bald inference there, that it was the quality of the Metro itself that caused the demise of the badge. Quality-schmality – no one here has taken into account the love that the car inspired in its owners. You only need to reference Alfa Romeo to see that build quality has very little to do with popularity or indeed, love.
Of course, if I am forced to declare my allegiance elsewhere, I guess I’d be ok with the Valentine’s Day one-off special car unveiled yesterday: a McLaren 570S Spider, commissioned in honour of St Valentine, painted Vermillion red on the outside with Apex Red (grrr) leather inside. McLaren Special Operations (MSO) has merrily set to work on injecting romance into this super-sportscar. One can well imagine everything-for-a-reason McLaren “injecting” romance into a car, in a surgical procedure.
Still, I’ll take it. In fact, that’s pretty much heading towards my dream garage: McLaren and Metro. And maybe a Maserati. Mmmmm.