Try, try and Triumph again

19th September 1997 at 01:00
Aye, what's for ye will no' go by ye!" I seem to have heard this phrase almost every time I or one of my friends have gone for promotion and failed to get it. That doesn't mean that I think all principal teachers of guidance are bad. It's just that I know lots of teachers who would be good at the job but never seem to get it.

I was reminded of this by something much more important - my search for a cheap, useable Triumph Herald. The advert for the car in Fife claimed it was in "good condition for year" and had a "long MOT". Since its year was 1962, the former statement could merely have meant that it had not yet been through the crusher to emerge as a set of spoons but I set off, accompanied by a pal, to check it out.

We were met in a car park in a fading seaside town by two close-cropped types I later nicknamed "the Kray twins". They led us through the fading seaside town to a fading blue car. Alan, the expert who had come along with me, took one side of the chassis and I took the other. It was not long before he was gesturing wildly from his underside of the car to tell me not to buy it. The Krays dropped the price by a quarter as soon as we began to walk away but it was not enough.

Stopping off on the way home while Alan had a look for a vehicle for himself, I bought one of the supermarket papers that (take it from me) are the place to look for old cars. And there it was, another Herald, cheaper and with a longer MOT. I got on the mobile (as you do) and called the number. "Ah'm sorry, son, it's sellt," I was informed.

Something told me I'd just missed a bargain because I'd spent the morning looking at a heap of trash. I told Alan, who had returned from shaking hands on a deal for a bizarrely coloured convertible. He commiserated, saying: "Ah well, what's for ye will no' go by ye."

I might have had time to ponder these words as we drove home if the Vauxhall Nova we were travelling in had not begun to lose all power.

We pulled into a lay-by, effected a repair to the ignition system using a piece of cigarette packet foil that happened to be lying on the ground and limped off in the general direction of Alan's place near Stirling. I then took a wrong turning which proved to be fortuitous on two counts.

First, it took us through Dunfermline where a large Halfords supplied the part to restore full impulse power, if not total warp drive, to the Nova. Second, sitting up a nearby side street, a "for sale" notice on its rear window, was another Herald. Inspection revealed it to be relatively sound so I took a note of the telephone number and went home singing "Things Can Only Get Better" (it was, after all, the weekend after the general election).

I now own the car. For those who want to know, it is a damson red 1360 saloon. Since mid-May I have used it whenever the weather has been semi-reasonable and quite a few times when it has not. My Herald is fairly slow, noisy and it leaks. In comparison, the Skoda is a high-tech marvel of smoothness and innovation (electric washer, a heated rear window), but it's great fun, with its bus-sized steering wheel, wooden dash, chrome and tail fins.

I got there in the end, more through coincidence than planning. Remember that, promotion seekers, because it seems to be worringly true at least now and again. What's for ye will no' go by ye.

Gregor Steele's Triumph Herald is older than some of his colleagues.

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