IF YOU see a clutch of Nissan Micras parked outside a pub near a school on Friday night, beware. Chances are that the pub is full of teachers.
The model is particularly popular among younger teachers who need a cheap runaround, according to a leasing firm which has made a speciality out of providing cars to low-paid workers: namely, teachers.
Nigel Williams started out offering cars to Roman Catholic clergy in Liverpool but the business proved so successful that other denominations demanded a deal. From there, it was a small jump to church schools. Now he deals with teachers, nurses and other (mainly female) public sector workers who want a cheap, new car but don't want to trawl around showrooms to be patronised by spotty men in shiny suits.
As a specialist in "fixed cost motoring solutions" - that's cars to the rest of us - Mr Williams has developed an eye for different tastes.
Anglican priests - family men and women mostly - go for larger cars. "But Roman Catholic priests are celibate so they only really need a car big enough for one or two people and a set of golf clubs," Mr Williams said. Fiat Puntos are particularly popular.
"At one stage there were hundreds on the road. One chap I did business with in the Catholic church told me he'd never go in a pub with Puntos outside because he knew it would be full of priests."
Teachers' battered old cars have long been used by teacher unions as proof of the profession's impecunious plight. John Major, the former Prime Minister, opened his campaign for the Conservative party leadership in 1990 with the comment: "We want the good teacher to live in a good house and drive a good car."
Mr Williams is hoping that, though teachers may not have such a sharp eye for a bargain as the Catholic clergy, they will appreciate a straight, honest deal.
Older teachers may go for people carriers - strictly for the family of course, and never for carrying pupils. As for the newly-qualified, the Nissan Micra (only pound;130 a month) prevails. You've been warned.
* Newgate can be contacted on 0118 984 2494.