Ladies – don’t be afraid. Just as my half marathon post wasn’t really about running, so this isn’t really about building a car. It’s just about a very happy man and his new hobby.
Gentlemen – apologies if there isn’t enough technical detail for you. I don’t understand it and I’m just not interested. If you want the technical detail, might I recommend you read a manual?!
My daughter woke at 6.30 on ‘Caterham day’ (or Kate-rum as she pronounces it). Of all the kids, she is by far the most excited. My husband has been bigging it up to her for months and she has been counting down the days until its arrival. Rather rashly, perhaps, he has promised her a ride in it on her birthday – just over two months away.
My husband set off for work early, but was back ‘working from home’, although barely able to focus, by mid-morning. At 11.15 he got a call to say it would be here at 12.30.
And at 12.30 on the dot it arrived. I was in the middle of hoovering, although had finished the hall. We opened the front door and about 20 leaves swept in on a gust of wind. A small, black, shiny lorry branded with Caterham drove into our drive (half on the footpath next to our drive, to be honest) and its contents were revealed in all their glory. The silver body of a tiny sports car. It looks like a car. It hardly looks like it needs building. But there are lots of boxes too.
My husband proudly carries the first box into the garage and another gust of wind catches the garage door. In some freak move it kind of turns upside down and hits my husband on the head, knocking him to the ground. He is OK, just a bit of a cut. But we decide to leave the garage shut for the time being and just stack the boxes next to it.
The body of the car is wheeled out on something rather like a hospital trolley. As I hold the garage open, my husband and the driver carefully carry it in to the garage and set it down flat on the wheels. The engine (Ford, apparently, if you’re interested) is lowered down onto a trolley on a little crane thing.
Within half an hour, the lorry is gone and we have a complete Caterham, only in boxes, in our garage. My husband decides the delivery driver must have the best job in the world – he’s like Father Christmas, delivering presents to very happy men. Caterham produce 600 cars a year – 300 of them go abroad and the rest are delivered from Land’s End to John O’Groats by this man and his shiny lorry.
The first visitor is, strangely, a lady in her mid to late 60s who helps my elderly neighbour out. She knows it’s a Caterham and she knows about building stuff, because her husband builds motorbikes. Mainly in her lounge.
Next up is my Mum, who was going to wait until my Dad got home before she came round. But she couldn’t. Good news travels fast and my brother and his dog are next. My brother say it is beautiful, a proper car, but ‘a bit snug for fat boys’. It’s a bit snug for thin boys too, I reckon.
My husband is under strict instructions to call his colleague as soon as it arrives, which he does. But he doesn’t turn up until 9.30 the next morning. When he arrives, he loves it. Back in the day when corporate hospitality still existed, before the days of their own business, they both drove Caterhams on a work-related jolly. Caterhams have been at the back of my husband’s mind ever since.
The kids are straight into the garage when they get home from school – admiring, inspecting, questioning and generally being very excited. My Mum is back soon afterwards, accompanied by my Dad this time, who is suitably impressed. As they leave, they promise to send their neighbour, a car obsessive, round soon.
After tea, my husband and the boys go out into the garage for ages and start sorting through the boxes. Then they start to get really excited. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is is my eldest who is the most enthusiastic. It gets a bit cold in the garage, so they carry the boxes into the house. The house which had been ‘spacious’ for about three hours following the removal of the Christmas decorations.
It is like Christmas all over again as they open the boxes and get all hyper about washer bottles, windscreen wipers and the top of the gearstick. The seats are quite comfortable, so they sit in them to watch telly.
My husband can’t start the build proper because he is waiting to borrow some stands from his friend up north, but he can begin to assemble something to do with the steering (I think). He does this in the lounge. This is fine because all the parts are brand new and clean, although it does make the house look rather untidy.
My husband’s friend leaves the chaos of life with his own three children for chaos with ours. He arrives in the morning with the stand things and it is all systems go. He is a huge car fanatic, who has owned more cars than he’s had hot dinners. For him, this is like a dream come true. Although he probably prefers more rust, oil and grease rather than brand new parts and a clear instruction manual.
I don’t hang around to see them work and make them cups of tea. I have things to do, so I leave them to it.
When I get home many hours later, there are two happy men in the garage. The car is up on the stand thing and there are things sticking out of the front of it. I don’t know what they are, but this is clearly progress. It is dark, but there is an industrial light illuminating proceedings for them.
Inside the house, there are some empty car parts boxes and two abandoned children watching The Simpsons. The remaining child, clearly craving human contact, has wandered off to see his friend down the road. There is school stuff all over the floor.
It looks like we may have lost Daddy for the foreseeable future.