Me & My Car: Vlad the constant in family life
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What are you driving?
Vlad is a 2004 automatic black Vauxhall Astra station wagon, automatic. I spent 13 years in the UK working in various charities and I came back to New Zealand to run the music foundation.
I bought my two kids back and Vlad was one of the few large possessions we could bring home. He is the perfect example of how kids get attached to cars.
We had lots of adventures in Vlad, driving across France and Belgium and all sorts of other places. And the look on the kids’ faces when we said we were going back to New Zealand and Vlad might not be coming, it wasn’t a good one!
The kids were of an age when we knew it was going to be a wrench to return to NZ and Vlad was the perfect constant. He was familiar and had good memories for them.
When did you buy Vlad?
About seven years ago. The only time most people get to drive different cars is when they rent them. That is exactly what we were doing to get around the UK. A lot of the brands put me to sleep, there were lots of stops for coffee. We didn’t need those with Vlad.
I am not a huge fan of automatics but the way this car shifted through the gears and the way we could put him through corners and come out the other side was just fantastic.
I never find myself on a place on the road where I wasn’t expecting to be. And that is reassuring especially when you are transporting your family.
How does Vlad suit your personality?
He is dark, vaguely handsome, we think, and swallows up all the trappings of a family in the boot well. He responds whenever we ask anything of him. For a boring car, to us he has quite a bit of character.
What do you listen to?
The stereo is fantastic. I am sure it is just factory off-the-floor but there is a rich bass to it. At the moment, we have a lot of an alt-country Marlon Williams happening, Tami Neilson, and Delaney Davidson is getting a bit of a caning over summer, it’s great road trip music.
Who is allowed to drive Vlad?
My wife, obviously, and he is such a forgiving beast we would be fairly confident about lending him to nephews and other relatives.
My wife and I have hankered after a Maserati. But also, something that can take us to places we love off-road, like on to the beach at Muriwai and up to the Kaipara. At the right time of the day that is magical.
What do you keep in your car?
Plastic bags, it is the family wagon. Wet togs, remains of lunch, various items of clothing all get stuffed into those bags. And charger cables, that is another thing Vlad seems to collect.
How often do you clean Vlad?
Not enough, he scowls at me. About once every two to four weeks. Black is a brilliant colour for hiding that, by the way. He spares my blushes by being dark and mysterious.
Most memorable road trip?
Through France to Versailles just out of Paris. France is amazing to drive in. You must have a spare set of spare headlight bulbs, a breathalyser kit, a high-vis jacket and a safety warning triangle in your car, otherwise you get fined if you are pulled over. Which, when you think about it, is all sensible. But I am ashamed to say I wouldn’t know how to fit a headlight bulb if I tried.
If you could go on a road trip anywhere with any musician?
Something old, American and big with State Highway 3 from Te Kuiti through to New Plymouth on a beautiful day with Tami Neilson, Mel Parsons and Anna Coddington in the back seat and all with beehives, singing the whole way.
• Gibbs Farm at 2421 Kaipara Coast Highway is opening its sculpture park 10am-2pm March 23 to raise funds for the music charity The New Zealand Music Foundation. gibbsfarm.org.nz