Will Martin Port and moderns ever get on? Probably not.

| 21 Aug 2012

It was written in the stars. Fate. Like natural selection, the Gods dictated that certain people don’t deserve to drive new cars and (with some pride), I guess that I am one of them. Sadly it was stupidity that brought me to this conclusion.

With the Scimitar sat in the C&SC workshop undergoing an axle swap, I was fortunate to be entrusted with the keys to a new Volkswagen Scirocco, courtesy of the kind people in the VW press office.

The swanky new leather-trimmed version of the ‘80s angular classic doesn’t really bear a great resemblance to the original Scirocco – in fact, the rear side window looks more like that on the Scimitar, and being a two-door, four-seater, I guess it’s remotely possible that Tom Karen’s original GTE was glanced at during the modern design process (really Martin? Ed).

Anyhow, the loan car would provide me with replacement transport while my classic was in dry dock, and for two days it did just that: got me to work and back with some style and not-to-be-sniffed-at performance, too. Then came the ‘phone call: “Hello, Volkswagen? I have one of your cars here… and it won’t do anything”.

My fatalistic diagnosis was, I thought, justified: I had driven it the 50-odd miles to work and when I got back in it to go home nine hours later, the key wouldn’t turn fully and the front windows just blipped up and down by a fraction. No other signs of life were visible anywhere.

“We can get Volkswagen Assist to you straight away” was the response of the helpful lady on the other end of the ‘phone. And, while that would have provided a solution, deep down I had a feeling that it was probably some incredibly complicated imobilising system at fault – not because it was broken, but because I had inadvertently pushed a button that I shouldn’t have, or pressed the lock symbol on the key fob for a nano-second too long, therefore activating the ultimate anti-theft device.

“Hold on, I’ll put you through to Rory – he’s more technically savvy than I am” said the inadvertent troubleshooter. Meanwhile, I got out of the car, locked it, then unlocked it. Twice. But the automotive equivalent of ‘turning it off and on again’ still brought nothing. I tried pressing different combinations of foot pedals – the start up procedure tells you to depress the clutch but my fancy footwork still failed to coax any signs of life.

“Hi Martin” said Rory, and I immediately began to explain the situation without trying to blame the car or appear ungrateful – up until that point I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in the coupé: it handled great around the bends, the two-litre engine shoved it along nicely AND you can fit four people in it.  

“Have you tried moving the steering wheel? The steering lock is probably on.” suggested VW’s long-suffering troubleshooter.

And with that, the penny dropped. Like the time that I got frustrated with the ‘inept’ person at the Indian before realising I had called the Chinese. Yep, a brief nudge of the steering wheel and the key moved, the dash lit up and with a press of the clutch the modern fired straight up.

“I’m sorry”  was all I could muster, but diplomatically Rory assured me that other journalists had done much worse and that he definitely wasn’t going to have a chuckle at my predicament. I’m not sure I completely believe him on that one, but I wouldn’t blame him if they did.

So there you go. More proof, if it were needed, that I am in the right business: old cars with no fancy electrics to blame – even if they weren’t at fault in the first place. Sorry Volkswagen…