We’re not building Thunderbirds…

There’s a little old lady, but not from Pasadena, who lives down the hill and owns a powder blue Morris Minor that’s almost as old as she is. Whenever she takes it out for a spin, she has a look of intense concentration bordering on manic glee that makes every trip seem an adventure as she pootles past. The throaty purr of the glorified lawnmower engine that drives it drowns out the whispering hum of the sleeker, more anonymous vehicles that back up behind her; sounding like a V8 by contrast. As the Beach Boys would have it, “Go Granny! Go Granny! Go Granny! Go!”

Much as people form relationships with their cars – we had an old split window Morris in the 60s that we called “Ada” and had to will up hills – there is a lot less romanticism about them here than in the USA. You can’t imagine a local equivalent of Bruce Springsteen singing, “We were building Austin Metros”, or “We were building Ford Escorts”.

Thunderbirds – quite a name in itself- are redolent of cruising across endless prairies on a “freeway” (and what a loaded word that is) at 100mph or burning rubber in strip races at Ventura Beach and Jack Kerouac proclaiming that “the only word I had was Wow”. The only local equivalent of “Get your kicks on Route 66” is satire, Billy Bragg’s “A13, trunk road to the sea”.

 If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness

Take the A road,

the okay road that’s the best

Go motorin’ on the A13

Even the opening line has a sense of compulsion about it. If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness…not so much an exploration as a chore, especially as you also have to go “rather near Basildon”. Somebody has to.

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