CARS

A NEW MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH

JON FAINE

RARELY – IF EVER – can I claim to have done work on a car properly. There is always something slightly bodgy in the detail, the short cuts, the final result, or the longevity. I am the master of the quick fix.

A competent analyst – if I could sit still long enough – would diagnose CARS. Careless Appalling Restorer Syndrome. I break things. I lose tools. I hurt myself. I damage rare parts. I strip threads. I scratch chrome.

I spend hard earned money on professionals rectifying my mistakes. It would be cheaper and quicker just to pay someone to do the job in the first place. But where would the fun be in that? And as I remind my dear beloved, if she inquires about the goingson in the shed : “It’s cheaper than a shrink…”

CARS has only recently been diagnosed, and the latest international research is suggesting there is unlikely to be any cure in the foreseeable future. The condition often develops in early adulthood, most commonly but not exclusively in males. It recurs regularly through adulthood, and can still be observed in later years. It has a causal connection with other rare but increasingly observed medical conditions including BIKES.

Belligerent Irritated Kick Everything Syndrome has been seen often in people with full blown irreversible CARS. If untreated, CARS can mutate into BIKES, leading to the urgent need for a more nuanced and complex treatment regimen, typically requiring self-medication combined with behaviourchange therapy.

Men in sheds have led to theories of cluster-like patterns of behaviour, with recent international surveys concentrating on searching rusty dusty barns for cures. The laboratory behaviours of sample groups have led to scientists observing inexplicable behaviour, irrational and florid expressions of mania, typically seen in public at what have been quaintly called “Classic Car Auctions”.

My symptoms flare up when doing what ought be a simple job, often causing two or three hour tasks to take months. The inability of the patient to resolve simple tasks, disorientation and confusion are all part of CARS and lead to BIKES.

For instance, swapping over old and despoiled headlight buckets on the 1975 DS23 Citroen started in August and now in November it is still incomplete. Earlier editions of this esteemed journal of record show the intricate steps involved and for the purpose of the avoidance of any doubt, I outline here the latest excruciating steps.

The front guards come off with just two bolts – Citroen genius! But to change a light bucket within the guard requires hours of patient undoing of cables, wires, brackets, rubbers and electrical cabling. Oh, and the heater ducts that snake their way through the wings.

The old buckets had discoloured badly. The used replacements were scrubbed, sanded, polished, painted, painted again, treated with a clear coat, polished again and then had lights installed.

The tiny plastic adjusters, all eight of them, were persuaded to work and the swivelling mechanism for the driving light was gradually reinstated.

The headlight glasses come in at least two makes – Marchal and Cibie. Each has etched onto the frontage a series of parallel vertical lines and a mysterious and faintly suspicious sequence of letters and numbers resembling the best efforts of the French Resistance to hide information from the enemy.

In the 40 years I have been wasting immeasurable amounts of brain space on trivial rubbish about Citroens, I have never met anyone who knows what the hieroglyphics on the headlights really mean. Clearly they exist to assist with aiming the lights. But what each symbol represents – a bigger mystery than the Rosetta Stone.

Reassembly is straight forward enough. The chrome strip that trims the headlight cut-out is secured with a tiny clip. Then there is a rubber gasket between the inside of the guard and the outside of the glass. The distinctive glass beaks are secured into place with multiple hidden adjustable steel stays and clips, and then, after yet another layer of foam gasket, the buckets are inserted into the guards with the lights already installed.

If the installer – in this case me – is suffering from even a mild dose of CARS, then it triggers the inevitable late onset of BIKES. The smallest mistake, some errant glue, a slipped corner of the gasket, a greasy finger print smudge inside the bucket… any and all of these mean un-installing the entire assembly and starting the entire sequence again. And that would make a visit to a real shrink look like great value.