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The International Writers Magazine - Our 24th Year: What I Actually Dream About:

Honda Dreams
Sam North

I have this reoccurring dream. I am always happy to have it but distinctly unhappy to wake up and discover it wasn't real.

Last night I dreamt I opened up my garage and discovered I still owned my silver Honda S800 coupé. I was so happy to see it, despite that fact that it never once worked right and let me down so often I was forced to give it away.

Honda S800

How is it possible to be nostalgic about a car that made you unhappy? But I really loved that car. Sure it might be to do with the fact that it was a sports car that only had an 800cc engine, but it went really fast. I loved the black interior, even the seats that didn’t quite have enough padding and the fact that contrary to the useless MG Midget, it was a coupé and I could get beautiful Ping, my then girlfriend in it and Kandy, my Border Collie. Kandy adored that car and gripped the rug with determination as I drove the mountain roads at a speed I’d think insane now. The windows would generally be open and Ping’s hair would fly out the window as we drove and mine too. (God I had hair back then).

The problem with the car was the four SU carburettors would always and I mean always, cut out on any left-hand bend. So I could be driving at 100mph revving at 9000 rpm and the engine would completely die on left-hand bend or even slight tilts, but immediately kick in again when you straightened up, which could be disconcerting. Downright dangerous actually and very frustrating. It handled beautifully and I had the latest Goodyear 800 tires on it and when it worked it was a pleasure.

Sadly Honda could never fix the problem. Never. So-called experts looked at it. We wrote to Honda Japan in Japanese and they didn’t reply and spares in Cape Town were sadly lacking. It was a very disappointing purchase. No wonder the previous owner, a famous photographer, had let me have it at half the going price. (I believe they only made 11,000 of these so if you have one hang on to it).

I owned it for only eight months and at least three of those months it was in the shop getting looked at.
I forgot to mention the handbrake. It was soft. I discovered why when crawling under the car to find it was a bit of wire off a Honda bike and it kind of stretched very easily, so the handbrake would be tight for around ten goes and then be slack again. Not great engineering. Luckly it was the 1969 model and had front disc brakes. The engine was in fact an 800cc motorbike engine slotted into the engine bay. Light, revved high and made a great noise. I loved the noise. Ping loved it too. She’d occasionally borrow the car and I’d wince as she drove off spinning the tyres like a kamikaze driver. She had no fear.

Had a race around the Cape Peninsular one night (No cops at night) against a Jag XKE and MGB and even with the engine cutting out beat them hollow. Beat them so well I almost went home after reaching Chapman’s Peak they took so long to get around. I very much doubt I could drive that fast now, or have the reaction times necessary to get around those steep curves to towards Hout Bay. For gods sake I drive a VW Polo now. How dull can you get? There isn’t an ounce of thrill in it, but I get 44 to the gallon. When you are twenty you don’t care about mileage (actually at was around 30 mpg). Mostly it was more 'if I try this will it still stick to the road'?

Eventually I gave it to a guy who put a Ford Lotus-Cortina engine it, which is practical but sacrilegious in my book. Bought a VW Beetle 1302 which was fun, but y'know, not driving fun. (Discovered it floats one day when visiting a tidal basin). Of course both those cars are collector items now, but I didn't think about that back then.

So every now and then I have this dream and I open the garage and there is my silver S800, just as good as new. In the latest dream I am lying down on the ground reading off the engine number to a parts dealer on the phone. I was actually dreaming I was waiting for him to go check if they had the parts and that’s like ages of silence. I am actually even conscious of lying on the garage floor with dead air on the phone. It was that vivid. And those are the sad memories I have of that car that never worked. Interior

Although it was my second Honda, (the first was a Honda N600) I have never bought another. Just couldn’t bring myself to and Honda long ago stopped making anything interesting to drive.

I have owned Golfs, Citroens, Alfas, Fiats, and even a Buick, (another sad tale) a Rover, a Hillman Imp even and a Mini I had to abandon when it wouldn't go up a hill in Lyme Regis, but I only dream of the Honda. The Alfa-Sud 1.3Ti was the best to drive, but the gearbox dropped out onto the road when I hit a pothole and I was gutted.

Maybe it was just that I was happy being twenty. Still dreaming of being a successful writer. Maybe it’s something to do with being in love with Ping back then, who moved to the Wilderness (a stunning beautiful place up the coast) or the dog who came everywhere with me, but to be honest I think it was the car. I loved that stupid little sports car and it just didn’t care. I kinda hope I don’t have another dream about it for a while.
Hmmm…Wonder if there are any for sale out there.

© Sam North March 2023

This is an update of a piece that appeared in 2009

Read Sam North's 'Another Place to Die: The Endtime Chronicles ' the 2nd Edition of the YA Pandemic thriller or his new thriller 'A Cure for Sceptics'
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