At the 2015 National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska in Co Laois, the many trade stands included one from Skoda. On a podium at the front of the stand, as shiny as the day on which it was bought, was a Skoda Octavia. It was a 2002 model, and was thirteen years old, its odometer had recorded 825,000 kilometres of driving. For those of us who grew up in the times before metrication, that’s 512,631 miles. In thirteen years, that is a total not far short of 40,000 miles a year.
Buying a three year old Peugeot 207 in 2010 with 42,000 kilometres on the clock, and driving in Co Laois, there quickly came a realisation that its time as a “low mileage” vehicle would quickly pass. The digits on the odometer flew around and the idea grew that instead of trading it in, it would be more economical to keep it going and going. In 2015, there came the thought that if a Skoda could reach 800,000 kilometres, then my humble Peugeot should definitely manage 400,000. Eric, the long-suffering mechanic in Ireland, had thought the 1.4 litre diesel engine would have no problems in outliving the rest of the car, fearing that the body would not sustain the punishment of rural Irish roads. The car held together though seven years of bad roads and worse driving.
Back in Somerset, Eric has been replaced by Richard, who looks perplexed when I arrive at his garage. He wonders aloud if the cost of the servicing does not exceed the value of the car. He is right, the resale value is approaching zero, but the mechanical work is less expensive than buying another vehicle, which would still have to be serviced.
Stepping into the car at lunchtime and turning the key, the dashboard display lit up and there was a click. A second attempt produced an identical result, a click, no sound from the engine. A dead battery, it had been dying for sometime. Borrowing my father’s car, a 2000 Nissan Almera that has covered just 60,000 miles, Richard’s garage was reached in a few minutes. The battery was not typical and had to be ordered, it was collected just before the garage closed.
“£98,” said Richard, rubbing his chin, as if dubious about the purchase. The card machine processed the payment with a speedy enthusiasm.
The odometer reading is approaching 400,000 kilometres; at 402,336, the car will have covered a quarter of a million miles. If 400,000, then why not 500,000? It would still be 300,000 less than the Skoda, and it would mean frequent further opportunities to watch Richard in perplexity.