Helen Grange

How sizzling can a car get? My ‘black steed’ (Hyundai Getz 1.4, 2007), achieved stratospheric temperatures as he staggered towards the end of his life but, like a whip-happy horse rider, I squeezed every last mile out of him, even paying for multiple organ surgery to keep him going.

If cars could tell a story, I fear the black steed would report that although he had an adventurous life, he wished his owner had been older, wiser, and gentler on the pedal.

For my part, I loved him from the moment I drove him out of the Absa repo lot the year he was born. I think he liked me back, as he was happy to go uncomplainingly to all manner of jaunts around town, to interviews and lunches, exhibition openings and parties. To Durban, Cape Town, the Kruger Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. To drunken celebrations in Melville when we won the FIFA World Cup, where he got stolen and, without me, went off to Soweto.

‘Hot’ he was indeed, but not for long. As I boarded a plane for Durban two weeks later, the Diepkloof police called to say they’d found my horse, doors flung open as his two joyriders ran for cover after a chase. So back the old steed came, dusty, but in one piece. I read this as a sign that we were truly meant for each other, and that my negligence in leaving the key in full view on a table, was all forgiven.

But then he got hotter under the bonnet and cruised to a standstill one night just as I took the Gordon Road turnoff. Watered down in the garage, he jolted back to life, and I stuffed that incident into some deep memory pocket. ‘Repression’ it’s called. Of course, issues bubble to the surface eventually, and so they did in fizzing fountains. But you know how it is when you need to get somewhere and, let’s face it, we always need to get somewhere.

A few months later the black steed got very hot indeed. So hot he blew a gasket. Thus began the admissions to a sickbay in Fordsburg, where greasy men with names like Charl, Mikey and Pete, tended the patient with spanners, then produced a bill that might have come from Sandton Clinic.

Alas, they’d fixed the heart but not the arteries. So within a week, the steed burst his ancient black veins, and back he went … many times. Another blown gasket later, another eye-watering clinic bill, and I’d fallen out of love with the cantankerous old nag. I decided to pack him off on Gumtree, the Tinder for cars, where he got six likes in one hour.

Turns out his cheap and cheerful profile was hot as mustard, so off he limped to a fellow who looked like he preferred body parts over the whole horse. Call me sentimental but I kept two of the steed’s bust arteries. I might frame them to remind me of our hot dates in the early days before it all got much too steamy.