Laura Keane’s First Car……….

Betsie – A 96 Skoda Felicia

Like your first kiss, you never forget your first car. My first car was affectionately known as ‘Betsie’ a 96 Skoda Felicia. It was bought new by my partner’s parents as a run-around, which was then passed to him (in return for a new kitchen oven) before subsequently being offered to me, free of charge. I needed a car, how could I refuse? Some cute teddies, nodding dogs and strawberry scented fresheners later – Betsie was officially mine.

My first real taste of freedom and independence – now I could go to the shops to get my own milk! I have so many stories relating to Betsie, she really had character. My first job after university was in Meath, and I had to park her across the road from my house every night because the next day, at around 7.30 am – the sun shone on that part of the estate first and Betsie wouldn’t start if she was cold.

She was slow, so slow – she must have been 40 bhp, but she got me from A to B. Overtaking was a well thought out, tactical manoeuvre – a statistical analysis even – based on the velocity of any far away vehicles, the current gear I was in, the rev counter and the incline of the road. God help you if you tried to overtake on a hill.

On the days there was no sun, eight stone me used to spend my mornings with the car door open, pushing a one tonne car as hard as I could in the hopes of getting it rolling enough so I could jump back in and clutch start her – any vaulting team would have been proud. And Betsie didn’t discriminate due to attire, there was a night were I wanted to go out but she wanted to stay in – cue me pushing her in a mini skirt and heels, funnily enough there seemed to more men around that night then on work mornings to help me push.

And then there was that faithful night, I’ll never forget it. It was a dark, cold, winters night and I was driving the back roads in Meath, on the way to Tipperary. It was going to be a long way to Tipperary that night… In the middle of nowhere I hit a pothole, and I felt that something wasn’t right. I reversed into the next gateway – complete with a tarmacked hill leading into a lake below, got out and checked the tyre – yes, it was coming off. I made it my business to learn how to change a tyre when I first started driving, I was glad of it that night. As the batteries were gone in my torch, I left the hazards on to see, and changed the wheel. Spare wheel on, soaked through, I hopped in the car, turned the key – nothing. Tried again. Oh no. This was going to need clutch starting. I can’t push it up a hill so I’m going to have to open the gate, leave it roll backwards and hope for the best that I don’t roll into the lake. Handbrake off, into second and pump that clutch – result!! Drive out and close the gate behind me and off I go, I turn the lights on – nothing. Silly me, leaving the hazards on to see had drained the battery, the only way to charge it? Drive. So I drive 5 miles, in the dark with just my hazards to see before finally having headlights again. Oh the drama.

Drama or not, Betsie had soul. When I got my current car she was to be crushed, but a friend decided to take her – so she still lives on, now as a rally car. I couldn’t watch her the day she left; instead I sat at home and cried as my friend trailered her away to her new life.

My current car, while I’ve had some great experiences with it (it’s been featured in the world renowned Xbox game Forza 3 and I was on 6.1 news with it) you get up in the morning, you turn the key and it… just works. No drama, no character, no soul.

Betsie taught me nearly everything I know about getting cars running, and I will never forget her.

Laura Keane
31st July, 2012

Author: Laura Keane

Equine science graduate, loves all animals, has two siamese cats, fish, a lizard and a snake. Loves music, fashion, driving, cars and track days. If there is a dancefloor – she'll be on it!. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @optical_laura

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