What do you do if your partner and your classic just can't get on


Author: James ElliottPublished:

Got a few thumbs-up on the way to Port's Thatcham Classic bash at the weekend, four up in the Triumph and driving very slowly so the rest of the family couldn't hear the screaming diff. Mind you, they had already passed their verdict on it. In my wife's case, about six years previously.

Her opinion was set during an early date when I was driving her back to Forest Hill one Sunday evening and, after we hit that always-dreadful Dulwich pinchpoint on the South Circular, she started noticing all the steam coming from behind the dash and misting up the inside of the screen. It was just a leaking heater matrix, but…

Actually, it had already disgraced itself before then. The first night I ever stayed over at hers, in fact. Because we already shared a lot of mutual friends (among them a couple of Exs, and that raises the spectre of "shared" in a sense I really don't mean), we were meant to be a secret when we started seeing each other. 

So she was none too pleased when, not only did the Triumph fail to start (flat battery due to a sheered alternator bracket) in the morning, but I then called one of those friends – the most indiscreet human being ever born, but someone who happened to live close by – to come and give me a jump start. Being the news editor on a national daily paper, he sussed pretty quickly why I was so far away from my home and so close to hers. 

Of course, once the car started, I gallantly offered to give her a lift to work and drive her to Waterloo Station. I'm not sure what sort of goodbye she was expecting on arrival, but it certainly wasn't the quick peck on the cheek and "see ya then" that she got. 

Fair enough, it was a momentous day in our relationship, I should have pulled over, switched off, opened the door for her, maybe even dashed into the station and bought some flowers and made it clear that this was a turning point in my life. But, unlike her, I knew that if I switched the Beast off,  it wouldn't start again. Sorry love.

After that, she never really liked the Triumph and, to be fair, it never really liked her. This usually reliable, rock solid saloon seems to throw a fit every time she comes anywhere near it. Maybe it saw – and sees – my wife as a threat, maybe it just doesn't like her, but it does seem to hate her, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

The incidents are never major (so far), like the time the overflow pipe blew off the radiator and there was a load more steam, but they are consistent enough to keep the animosity pressure up between the two of them, happily staring daggers at one other and resenting each others' very existence.

As a result, and also because of the noise and the super-springy rear seats that are not really suitable for kiddie seats, the Elliotts rarely travel en famille in the Triumph.

We did last weekend though and, sadly, my wife's opinion didn't appear to have changed. As if she didn't already have enough ammunition, eldest daughter chipped in first with: "It's not a special car daddy, it's just very very old" and then with "Why are there lots of holes in the roof?" At least my three-year-old had the decency to say: "luv noo car dagga", but then she is not famed for her sage judgment and probably did my cause more harm than good.

Of course, the car didn't break down, or even get close to it, and, lord knows how, but all three of them slept on the trip home. Fumes probably.

So, there I was about to bravely mention Elliott plan 74A or whatever – the sell everything and do up the Triumph one – when, on arrival at home, the missus goes to wind up her window and takes most of her finger off on a bit of protruding trim. Back to square one, never the twain etc etc.



LOVE this stuff James, rings bells with many of us !

Pre 80s TVR

Excellent stuff! Makes me realise how lucky I am, last time the TVR disgraced itself I suggested selling it as it is not the most practical car for a family of 3 my wife looked crestfallen and said "You can't, it's part of the family and I felt so envious of you setting off in it while I was in the Toyota". So it looks like it is staying, plus 22 month old George loves it and will one day learn all about cars from it.


TVR Car Club Pre80s Editor

Paul Sutton

Brilliant, as ever. So familiar!


Familiar indeed. My wife really isn'y very keen on our Saab 900 Turbo. I see the shape, the burbly exhaust, the way it drives - she sees the lack of headlining, the rattles and clanks and the heavy doors that tend to swing shut on her legs...


A great story James - you really should put more of that in the magazine! I think readers stories like yours would make a welcome light-hearted addition to the best Classic mag there is. I have my own trials in the Cooper S - 'brown noise' usually being the undoing of any brownie points I may have built up before I advise my wife that it is a field we'll be sitting in, whilst she feigns a smile for the curious. Still, you can't be sound-proofing an old classic now, can you?

Chris Martin

Yes mate, we've all been there, the cars are one thing, the wife another. Both, we can't do without, but expecting the wife to enjoy the masochistic pleasures of messing with old motors is like hoping Elvis will come back and make an electronica/hip-hop record with Moby.
Ain't gonna happen, so get over it.
Meanwhile, when I can find it, I will post a photo of my wife at Neil Tuckett's place in Buckinghamshire learning to drive a Model T Ford, but then I am 'The Lucky Guy'!
Chris M.



So true! My beloved BMW 525e was an irksome chore for Mrs Keyframe who normally drives a Honda Jazz. The BMW seat adjustment was the casue of much face pulling and the high boot lip meant lifting things to shoulder height before loading. The eta was replaced 3 years ago by a Volvo T-5R estate and it's been a hit. Her seat position is programmed into a memory button, the bootspace is enormous, the child seat opens from the armrest and she tries but fails to pretend she doesn't enjoy the auto'box and the extra urge from the turbo. No plans to replace it.

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