The MoT test holds the same dread for some of us as salad does for Eric Pickles. We pray that the tester will be lenient, kind and understanding; that the engine will run without overheating; that the workshop fire extinguisher will remain unused. Waiting for the phone call or hiding behind a four-year old copy of Car magazine in the waiting room can give us cold sweats.
Sometimes the car breezes through, but – for me – the list of maladies and failures usually runs like a cartoonish royal carpet out of the front door. I’ve often contemplated offering a blood sacrifice but am fearful the police won’t understand.
Knowing full well that the Range Rover Classic was in dire need of some TLC before venturing into a garage for its yearly check-up, I decided it was best to store the big green bus back in Scotland in my shed of shame for the inevitable rebuild it undoubtedly required.
However, the Rangie appeared to like living in Peterborough – when the day came to venture up north it developed a gut-wrenching cough.
Wholly used to bad behaviour from Range Rovers, this didn’t bother me. I’ve suffered worse, so I joined the A1 bewildered but untroubled by the latest running issue. Then excrement really hit the fan.
Wafting past Grantham, the engine spluttered so hard that drive virtually stopped. The revs bounced so awkwardly that in between gasps for air the V8 wouldn’t respond to the throttle.
With every cough the steering became heavy, the brakes turned to stone and the gearbox made noises like a pepper grinder – all at 70mph.
Then there was a huge pop from the rear of the vehicle – and a fine spray of oil covered the rear window. I was in serious trouble. Articulated lorries roared around me with blaring horns and flashing lights, passing mere inches from the rear bumper. For the love of God, I didn’t want to die listening to Steve Wright.
Mercifully, a lay-by was within stumbling distance and we lurched to a stop on a wave of adrenaline and soiled boxers. Steam seeped out from under the bonnet. Things were beginning to look bleak.
Seeing as I possess the mechanical skills of a boiled ham, all I could do was open the bonnet and then quickly close it, immediately knowing the Rover V8 had died. And it had to be in Grantham, an awfully long way from Scotland, but a bit too far from Peterborough to limp home.
Slumped in the driver’s seat after examining the mess up the rear of the vehicle (where I had discovered the rear diff had blown yet again), I let the engine cool before topping up the lost coolant and seeing to the differential oil. Have you ever placed yourself under your car only yards from thundering trucks? It’s one hell of an ordeal.
Chancing my luck, I turned the ignition to see if the engine would fire up, and to my surprise it cranked into life with that wonderful exhaust burble. Gingerly, I set off for Edinburgh.
Despite living in fear that the engine was going to cut out for a second time, I trundled up beyond Scotch Corner and onto the A66 – where it then happened again. Learning from my previous terrifying experience, I turned the engine off after coasting to the side of the road and then, starting it up, everything returned to normal.
She ran for the best part of 100 miles before it then cut out for a third time, but after a short break I finished off the 330-mile journey - having burnt enough fuel to dramatically increase BP's quarterly profits. I had avereaged 12 mpg...
I had never been so happy to see my parent’s farm track. Needless to say, I have some work to do - god knows when you'll hear from me next...