Milestones and cars: living your life by the cars you own

Published: 13 August 2007

From his first Mercedes to his long-term Seat, Ben Whitworth’s memories all centre around cars…

My wife uses songs. My brother (Lieutenant Commander, RN) uses ships. My best mate uses rugby matches. We all have different markers to note the passing of time but ask me any question about my past and the immediate images that initially floods my mind is the car I was driving at the time. I only realised I did this when a very polite bloke from Seat came to pick up my Altea long termer this month. As he drove the car away I gave it a fond mental wave goodbye – it was a fine car, and it’ll be missed – and realised that it would always be remembered as the car I was driving when my daughter had her first birthday party.

Thinking back, every milestone – moving house, the girlfriend that got away, university, immigrating, getting married, the birth of my daughter – is associated with a particular car. One of my first memories is sitting on my father’s lap as I steered our Mercedes 280SE (chassis type W108) down out driveway. Aged five, I controlled the wheel and column mounted gear lever, he operated the pedals on my instruction. It helped that we had a long driveway, so third gear was a distinct possibility. My early teens were defined by a raft of Peugeots – a 304, a number of 404 saloons and estates and a 504. My teenage years were about driving the slowest and most temperamental Mini 850 Traveller in the world or pinching the old man’s Rover SD1 late at night – when it worked, that is.

The best thing about this purely retrospective view is that hopefully in about ten years time, I’ll join road test editor Chilton and be able to look back and think about the time I owned a 911 – an immaculate 1973 911 T in metallic chocolate, of course… So, the question is, is it just me – or does everyone with a more than a vague interest in cars think the way I do? Do you also equate certain periods with the particular vehicle that sat on your driveway?

Always matching memories to particular motors? Let us know if Whitworth has lost his marbles or if every other car-mad bloke does this by hitting the ‘Add Comment’ button below…

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars