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Posts tagged ‘toyota mr2’

Monsoon bucket of suck

In the weeks leading up to the move, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Well, ok, maybe not EVERYTHING. I suppose Husband could have succumbed to a critical mid-life crisis and left me for a pole-dancing accountant. But strictly speaking, that’s more deviant than ‘wrong’. So I stand by my original statement, as long as I don’t have to defend the position or address any pointed questions about it.

Three weeks ago, we were driving down Opanuku Road when we heard a strange noise coming from the back of the Hilux Surf.

At first we ignored it, because it was virtually indistinguishable from all the other strange noises coming from the general vicinity of the car. However, within a short space of time/distance, an expensive ‘CLONK!’ could be clearly heard – and felt – reverberating joyfully above the cacophony of mechanical acoustics.

After we pulled over, I tramped back up the road in my three inch heels in search of mobile reception. Then we all – my parents, Husband, Jed and I – milled disconsolately around the deceased car until rescued by Flame Haired Titan.

While the Surf flirted with the scrap heap, the parents magnanimously gave up custody of the MR2 during the last week of their holiday. Yet the 2-seat MR2 was not ideal for salvaging packing boxes, nor even transporting two humans equipped with 35kg dog. I was also anxiously conscious that the Surf was scheduled to relocate us and a trailer to South Island in less than 10 days.

Andrew discovered that, by disabling the rear differential, he could operate the Surf in modified four wheel drive. We coaxed the car to a garage; later that day, someone called to inform us that – as suspected – the rear differential was poked; he could replace it with a second hand part for $1000; and he had just got a limousine in for an emergency service so could we collect the Surf because there wasn’t room to store it – oh and he closed in 10 minutes, so before then.

Andrew decided to do the job himself. When he extracted the differential with a lot of swearing, two of the teeth on the cog were completely snaggled, shards of metal in the surrounding oil.

He managed to source a second hand rear differential for $275 on Trademe (when we turned up to collect it, there were about seven Hilux Surfs parked outside this dude’s house; according to his business card, he was a ‘South Auckland Toyota Surf Parts Consultant’).

Then Andrew spent two mornings rolling around under the car covered in grease and oil. I maintained a continuous supply of coffee and occasionally handed him a spanner. There was a tense moment when he removed a section of engine to facilitate the fitting of the 55kg diff, then couldn’t figure out how to get the complex and rather-crucial looking piece back in. With my assistance (I inadvertently hit him with it) he eventually manoeuvred it into place.

That crisis narrowly averted, I received the proof of About Time from my editor, who required a response within a week. For Smart/Casual, this stage of the production process was a soul-sucking, energy-sapping, time-consuming, will-to-live diminishing, hive-scratching, panic-attack inducing suckfest unrivalled in relentless tedium.

Proofing About Time was no different, except for the added frisson of packing crockery between adverbs. Also finalising the moving company, booking the ferry, changing address, cleaning the house, selling items, cancelling accounts, and setting up electricity at the new place. When I called Telecom to request a new landline, there was already a request pending for that address; this took another half a day to sort out.

Three days before we were due to move, the radio reported a fire had broken out 200m from our new house. People evacuated the area, the main power lines between North and South Island were shut down, and helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets were brought in.

For a while, we weren’t sure whether we even had a house to move into.

Space monkeys with liquid mind probes

Quite apart from its credentials as The Most Impractical Car in the World, the MR2 has four worn tyres and an alarming ‘clonk’ noise emanating from what I hope is the suspension (as opposed to, say, the brakes). Whenever Husband parks the car in The Outlaws’ driveway, it rolls forward to snuggle against The Bro’s car.

Three days after he bought it, the rest of the family was out when Husband summoned me down to the garage. The MR2’s front wheels were resting on planks of wood leading to the top of two paint cans.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to do what I think you’re doing,” I said in disbelief.

“Of course not!” said my beloved. “Don’t be silly. I’m just going to drive up these planks onto the cans and have a little look under the car. Can you tell me if I’m going straight?”

“No, no, no, no, no. I don’t want any part of this-”

“Part of what?”


“Sweetie! It’ll be fine. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“The paint can might spring out under the intense pressure and hit me in the face fracturing my skull and rendering me in a coma for months until the doctors advise pulling the plug because even if I did wake up I’d be in a permanent vegetative state not to mention covered in permanent, gloss finish, wipe-clean paint in Deep-Fried Sage.”

“Ah now come on, I don’t think that’s going to happen-”

“You said the worst thing-”

“Ok, are you going to help or stand around talking?”

“If I have a choice, I’ll stand ar-”

“Well while you’re at it, would you mind just telling me if I’m straight-”

“Ok, wait – stop, stop, STOP! Those planks are not going to hold.”

“Nonsense! This car is very light. It’s a very light car.”


Husband got out of the car and grudgingly wedged another plank under the wheels. I can’t tell you how precarious the whole set-up looked, the tyres being about three times the width of the planks.

“Alright!” shouted Husband, back in the car. He put it in gear and gave the engine a couple of brisk revs. “I’m going up!”

I clutched my head as he lurched onto the planks, which bowed alarmingly. But it was the paint cans that gave way both at once with a loud ‘CRACK!’

Husband’s head popped out the driver’s window.

“What was that, then?” he said cheerfully.

“Paint cans.” Husband rolled back down and came out to inspect the cans. They were buckled to half their original height on one side, with plank-shaped dents in the top.

“That didn’t work very well,” he said. Then he stashed the cans under the garage bench and forgot all about them.

Two days later, Rosina entered the kitchen swinging the cans at her poor, innocent husband. “BRIAN! Want to share what happened here?”

Now, I’m not sure whether Father In Law was practicing evolutionary optimisation to protect his offspring, or genuinely thought he was responsible for the corrugated cans, but he took off on an elaborate story involving space monkeys taking over the garage with wedge-shaped helmets and liquid mind probes.

“My husband might be able to explain,” I said, evilly. “ANDREEEW! Rosina wants to talk to you!”

Husband, freshly arrived in the doorway, spotted the paint cans and his eyeballs swivelled around identifying potential escape routes.

“Ah-” he said.

“Husband?” I prompted.

“Are- are those paint cans?” said Husband, playing for time. I could almost hear him mentally rehearse a story involving space monkeys with wedge-shaped helmets and liquid mind-probes. “Ok, er, ah well. Oh yes! I meant to tell you about that . . .”

Right hand rule

I was getting quite adept at jump-starting the Mazda when Husband stripped off his shirt and glistened manfully in the sunlight. Oh yes, and he also sorted out the starter, exorcised the hazard lights, and fixed the driver’s window. The button now works in reverse to the rest of the electronic windows, but ‘works’ is the word to focus on here. (That reminds me, I really should go and wipe the greasy handprints off the inside of the window.)

We also got an air freshener.

After all that, Husband decided the Mazda didn’t suit his boy-racer image and talked me into buying a 1993 Toyota MR2. It’s a two-seater targer-top, which is quite possibly The Most Impractical Car in the World. (In the interests of fairness and full disclosure, I’d better point out that Husband claims the Yukon is the current titleholder.)

When we collected the MR2, we faced a dilemma. To date, I had fulfilled the role of Chief Navigator and, although I could give you the grid reference and corresponding map number of any street in the greater Auckland region, I am pretty rubbish at getting there without my eyes glued to the map and a spare digit following the route. Husband often turns left or right on whim, which doesn’t help.

So I drove the Mazda home with the A-Z propped against the steering wheel and Husband following in the MR2. By the time I neared Mount Wellington, I was well stressed, what with reading the map while watching the road and fretting about taking a wrong turn because Husband mightn’t love me any more (since I apply strict conditions to my love, I expect Husband does the same).

There is a bizarre right hand rule in New Zealand – or is it the left hand rule? – whereby – and look, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a bit here. Is it suspended? How about now? Ok. Visualise this: you’re driving along a main road, on the left hand side if you want to avoid head-on collisions. You want to turn left, and the car coming against you wants to turn into the same road, ie their right. Well, YOU HAVE TO GIVE WAY TO THAT DRIVER.

I suppose the NZ Transport Authority were kicking it around one day:

“What about this? Everyone’s driving on the left BUT at roundabouts they go anti-clockwise. Aw yeh? Aw yeh?”

“OR how about: everyone drives on the left except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays? We can tell them it’s to improve traffic flow. HA HA HA!”

“No, I have it. Alright lads, listen up. How about IF someone’s turning right, yeh, yeh, wait- ok, so they’re turning right, and someone else is turning right, no, left, no- WHATEVER, then that guy has to let the other one go. Except if he’s at a stop sign- no wait, except if he’s not at a stop sign. Doesn’t really matter. More obscure the better.”

“<awed silence>”

“Oh god, that’s beautiful.”

Now, I understand the left hand turn rule in theory, but in practice . . . I’ve examined it from any number of angles and maybe you can explain it to me, but it seems there’s just no way to make it work. Although I try.

On this occasion, I was turning right and the car coming against me indicated into the same road. She was moving pretty fast and I made the mistake of pausing. She went to go, then stopped, so I nudged forward, but she whipped around the corner, leaving me stranded across the wrong lane with a line of cars squeezing past.

“Did you see that COW?” I seethed to Husband back at the house. “That was TOTALLY my right of way!”

“Actually, not exactly,” said Husband. You’ll be noticing that after nearly 10 years together, the man still lives on the edge when he’s not preoccupied dicing with death. “If the car is turning left but there’s traffic backed up behind it which wants to go straight ahead-”

“Well how the <expletive deleted> am I supposed to know if they want to go straight when I can’t see their indicators?” I shouted.

Husband: “Yeah ok, it doesn’t make a lot of sense-”


“Anyway, in that instance they have right of way-”

“Ok look, you’re making this up-” I said, getting a bit teary.


“You ARE! You’re just- just making it up as you go along! You expect me to drive around this <expletive deleted> country – uninsured – and drive and <expletive deleted> navigate and expect me to turn LEFT! And then you make up some rule – I have no idea why, except you obviously don’t want sex for the next six months – or maybe you’re just trying to wind me up – well, I’M <EXPLETIVE DELETED> WOUND UP!”

I got my own back a week later, when I was driving the MR2 with Husband providing last-minute instruction from the passenger seat.

“Turn left here,” he said and, in my defence for what happened next, I was pre-occupied wondering whether I’d have to apply the handbrake to do so.

“Give way to that car,” said Husband. “Niamhie, the car turning right,” a note of panic creeping into his voice, “you need to give way-”

Now, Husband swears I floored the accelerator but he doesn’t have to swear because I admit it: I did, and thundered around the corner in oblivious violation of the Road Code, inches in front of the other car’s premature bumper.

“What the- what the hell!” screamed Husband. “Didn’t you HEAR me tell you to give way?”

“Kind of, yes.”

“But you ACCELERATED! . . . WHY?”

“Because the rule doesn’t make sense! Not even a little bit! None! Admit it! And ah,” I admitted, “I forgot.”


The next time we took both cars out at once, Husband offered to lead. After a short distance, I realised Husband’s method of navigation is according to whichever traffic light happens to be green at any given intersection. No idea where the fuck he’s going, bless him. (In case you were wondering, I still love him. Can’t explain it.)

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