A LIFETIME OF LONGING

I HAVE WANTED SOME STRANGE AND TRAGIC THINGS OVER THE COURSE OF MY LIFE, BUT IN MOST CASES IíVE WRESTLED MY OWN STUPIDITY TO THE GROUND AND MOVED ON TO FIND NEW FORMS OF FOOLISHNESS.

Stephen Corby

Back when The Lost Boys was big (a movie about cool teenage vampires that is so old it predates True Blood, Buffy and Bela Lugosi) I really wanted spiky blonde hair like Kiefer Sutherland. I probably wanted fangs, too, but sadly the hair proved far more tempting; after experiencing the unforgettable sensation of hydrochloric acid burning into my scalp, I left the hairdresser feeling like a million dollars and looking like a two-bob note.

Itís probably fair to blame hormones (rather than the acid) for frying my brain because this was around the same time that I seemingly wanted to turn myself into a smear of blood, bone shards and alcohol-ruined organs.

It wasnít just that I was so into motorcycles thatís both disturbing and mystifying to ponder now, it was my unquenchable and nonsensical mania to ride them as fast as possible. This desire to post big, stupid and essentially meaningless numbers, and a passion for telling people just how fast Iíd gone afterwards, is something Iíve noticed many boys bring into manhood. The only difference now is that they take phone photos of their speedometers.

Eventually a mix of fear and logic, and a few near misses so perilous they turned my hair even whiter, got me off two wheels, at which point I decided I was a sex machine, and thus in need of a panel van.

Not being able to afford a proper one, and perhaps confused by the meaning of the word Ďescortí, I ended up with a Ford version, with a bed in the back so small I struggled to fornicate on my own, let alone with the babes who werenít, incredibly, won over by the charms of its purple velour walls.

I did learn a lot from the Escort, though; about the front-end dartiness of extra sway bars, and how fitting them without engaging your brain might result in your car becoming hopelessly stranded over the pits at the local motor registry on annual inspection day (this was long ago). And about mechanical failure, and heartbreak.

Fortunately it was around this time that I started writing about cars and drove a BMW 328i from Sydney for a weekend of vomiting on my shoes at the Melbourne Cup carnival (the year Saintly won, 1996). At the time, this was for me the apotheosis of motoring (my Ďmeantorí wouldnít let me near a Porsche, or anything quick, for another five years) and I swore that one day Iíd have one.

I was recently reminded of those days, and desires, after spending a couple of glorious weeks touring a surprisingly sunny UK in a rich blue 440i. This descendent of the 328i would still suit me down to the ground, if I didnít have kids.

Our grand tour was just long enough to bond with the Beemer. I was struck by how much the things I loved about it today Ė the seating position, the feel of the wheel and its steering, the effortless surge of speed Ė were exactly what had turned my young and appallingly coloured head. Were I mad enough to still want to live in England Ė another foolish endeavour I eventually got over Ė Iíd get one, as there seems to be an unwritten rule that owners of German cars are allowed to sit in the fast lane and drive at least 30km/h faster than anyone else. I donít know how this works, but it does.

Sadly, BMW ownership may well remain beyond my reach, just like Kieferís good looks.

I dumped the motorbike and decided I was a sex machine, and in need of a panel van

Temptation Island

Back in the 1990s, the 328i would have cost me just north of $85,000 in Australia, while the admittedly faster and cleverer 440i would now set me back $100K. Taking infl ation into account, thatís almost exactly as unaffordable now as it was then. If I lived in the UK, though, I could have one for £34,200, or just over $58,000.