30.01.2004 19:12 - Modern Car Ownership.
Some of you may have been lucky to see my old Geocities website, before the useless twits managed to lock me out of it and ignored all my pleas for help, then went and erased it. Basically, it was about my cars : my Mini(s) and my kit car. I used to enjoy maintaining the Minis and the striker kit car (which I\'d built from a kit) because they were designed to be maintained by anyone with a bit of knowledge, a toolkit and a Haynes manual. My minis and I had an understanding relationship. If something started going wrong, I would take it apart and fix it. If it was too big a job, I got it done properly as soon as possible by someone I trusted. In return the cars ran as sweet as nuts.
Which brings me to my girlfriend\'s car. It is a \"modern\" car - an Opel (the German version of Vauxhall) Astra and I hate it. It has a 1.6 litre engine - an ECOtec, which is a detuned version of the Vauxhall/Opel/Lotus twin cam - an engine which was considered a benchmark when first released in the early 1990\'s. I\'ve seen it put in minis and lotus lookalikes and they go like a bat out of hell, but for some reason, this particular one doesn\'t. \"Snail on valium\" seems to be more appropriate. Perhaps I\'ve been spoiled by the Striker and the Mini Cooper, but they, after all, are both 1300 engines (Ford Crossflow and BMC A-Series) and are chain-driven overhead-valve engines - a design considered to be somewhat restricted by modern standards. The A-Series doesn\'t even have a cross-flow head and it SHARES inlet ports between two valves! Perhaps the Astra is deliberately-geared to cruise along German Autobahns, I dunno. It\'s pleasant enough to drive in a sluggish way.
My real complaint about the Astra, however, is the lack of maintainability. Someone has snapped off the aerial, which sticks out of the side of the boot. Now on the mini, you simply stick your hand under the front wheel arch and unscrew the aerial, and replace. Simple enough. On the Astra, as far as I can determine, you must remove the plastic inner shell of the boot by unscrewing six separate pieces of trim. Furthermore, it is not held in place by ordinary screws. The trim is held in place by star-drive screws. Fortunately I have an adaptor for them, but I haven\'t yet got round to replacing the aerial, because at the moment it is either raining, snowing or whatever, and we do not have a garage or any place to comfortably undertake the task of dismantling the entire boot. I\'ve tried alternative ways to get at the aerial. I\'ve managed to painfully squeeze my hand through the rear indicator lamp access hole and get it round the aerial body, giving it a good tug, but it won\'t move, and there\'s a good reason it won\'t move, because Vauxhall/Opel have carefully crafted a plastic retainer as part of the inner shell to stop me from squeezing my hand into the access hole and pulling on the bloody ariel.
My question to you all is this : What sort of a lunatic designs a car so that a simple component, which is frequently damaged or needs replacement, requires half the internal trim to be removed? Personally, I think it says volumes about Opel/Vauxhall product. It also irritates me greatly, that my girlfriend seems to think that it is MY fault that I cannot do this simple task. After all, I built a car didn\'t I?
Yes, I did, and it didn\'t have a radio in it.