It was at the tender age of three-ish that I enchanted an aunt with a new word.

I believe she found me absorbed in a game of cars. One or two: not many. They may have been talking: I don’t remember, I was three, and I have problems remembering last year.

She came up to me, crouched down and said:”Hello, Katie. What are you doing?”

I assumed, I am told, an insufferably officious air. And then I enquired, in Freemansonly tones: :”You don’t know what a bunclactor is, do you?”

She didn’t. And she never found out from her pompous little neice, either. There are some secrets too important to divulge to a grown up.

What a shame I had to forget what one was myself. The mystery will never be solved now.

At a rough guess, though, a bunclactor is a slightly battered old car. Not yet vintage, but no spring chicken either.

I am no stranger to bunclactors. Most of us go through a bunclactor stage in our late teens and early twenties, when we have just enough to buy a car which is an oldie and hopefully a goodie.

My first car was a strange French number with a huge bottom which was hitched high (what is it with French cars and their bottoms?).

It behaved beautifully until it didn’t and then it stopped. It cost the earth to be opened up by a mechanic. I thought my car surgeon was a genius until my car arrived back Β with the gearstick attached backwards.

From then on, the car appeared to start in fifth gear. One became oddly used to thinking upside down.

As our incomes grew and children had not yet appeared, oh, how our cars progressed. We drove BMWs, naughty fast Fords and up-to-the minute Citroens, with all mod cons.

We forgot the charm of aged cars, and their little foibles.

Since family arrived we have operated a bi-bunclactoral policy. Namely: we run a safe, newish family car, while Phil amuses himself with a procession of seductive bunclactors on the side.

There was the gorgeous white almost-vintage Mercedes, the ground-hugging white Porsche; and latterly the Princess-Di-green softtop Audi.

But what goes around comes around, especially where pennilessness is concerned. One cannot run a gas-guzzler and pay school fees, and so our great grey faceless bus with electric doors has been despatched, and in its place Phil has procured the most glorious bunclactor.

It is a huge old wine-coloured Mercedes estate. The inside is upholstered for film stars, with great cream covered armchairs and enough space to brandish a glass of champagne. It turns surprisingly nimbly; It does not drive, it glides. It purrs along and asks no questions for 95 per cent of the time.

The other five per cent takes a little getting used to.

You see, my claret princess does not enjoy the cold. She acts like any member of royalty would, when faced with early morning or late evening unreasonable demands. She digs her pretty little stiletto heels in. She will not be hurried.

Have you ever sat there, physically willing a car forward when it simply will not go?

It can be excruciating.Β It is an over active choke, apparently: while it is very cold, the Mercedes engine happily throttles the great longmobile so it creeps forward at about 20 miles per hour.

This becomes a problem when one is negotioating rush hour traffic on the way home.

The princess sat in the car park at school all day today, getting chillier and chillier. And when I shot out, with just minutes to spare to collect my daughter from her coach, the new addition would not be rushed.

Twenty miles an hour, she crept up the main road out of town. Behind I built up quite a following, red-faced, infuriated drivers one and all. It did not matter how much, or how little I put my foot down; how I finessed that over privileged engine; not one mile an hour more would she do.

The bunclactor and I hotched up the road like a sort of crazed funeral procession, with me maintaining a constant monologue, imploring the car to go faster at any cost, acknowledging the certain fury of those drivers behind me, and bewailing the excruciating embarrassment of the moment.

The entrails of the situation did not augur well for the car.

But I am in love: my claret princess has me besotted, and I would forgive her anything.

From now on we will be taking measures to warm her for journeys when her tootsies are cold. I shall dash out of school five minutes before the off, turn her ignition, and give her a little wake-up time.

After all, even 4pm can be an unholy hour at this time of year.

Picture source here

74 thoughts on “Bunclactor

      1. the one in the pic says style and elegance, but not necessarioly transport for a whole family πŸ˜‰ that’s a car for me – makes up for being a dumpy slut

  1. Love this! I feel your pain – my bunclactor (a sprightly 8yo fiesta) was poorly sick last week and my not being able to accelerate to more than 20mph on a main road was clearly infuriating the man in the car behind. Oh boy! Waving and gesticulating all over the place he was. I actually put my hazard warning lights on to shut him up… Hoping she won’t let me down too often once we’ve collected her from the car hospital, where she’s had a proper check up and recalibration (!), as she’s otherwise a decent little car.

    1. Ah, a partner in pace πŸ˜‰ What it is to be out on the open road with an engine on go-slow…hope the car hospital did a wonderful job, Emma, and that yours is back to its sprightly self now!

  2. My first car was a three ton bakkie (pickup truck), no power steering. It was a monster. It once took me forty minutes on a Saturday to get out of a car park at a busy mall. I still sweat when I think about it, twenty years later.

    I don’t drive any more πŸ˜‰

      1. No, I only learned to drive in my late twenties. It was the company car for the Hub’s business but he didn’t need it that often so he used the car.

        I can’t help wondering if there’s a connection between my first car and me not driving anymore…

  3. Don’t talk to me about Mercedes !! ~ That’s all I’m saying on the matter NLOL (Just invented that one ~ Stands for ” NOT laughung out loud ” !!!!!!!!!!! )

  4. It’s hard to get back into the rhythm of warming/de-icing the car before going anywhere, isn’t it. The whole de-icing thing can take up to 10 minutes sometimes here.

  5. I am so unthrilled with vehicles in general. Guess unthrilled is probably not a word. But a claret princess – only because she is an estate might be interesting. I need to get into the car market myself soon and I dread the thought.

    1. As you say, Tammy, a lot of room is one of the charms of such a huge bunclacter. The back is cavernous! Good luck in your search. I shall cross my fingers that the perfect mobile appears when you need it…

  6. Love the part about what kind of old heaps we get when we are teenagers and can’t afford much. My first car was a 1954 Oldsmobile, a V-8 that only had 4 active cylinders. It lasted about 6 months before giving up the ghost and going to that great parts yard in the sky.

    I had a series of junkers that cost an average of $100 for the next few years before I bought my first new car during my first year of college. It was a 1966 Ford Mustang and it was pretty cool to drive around. Only one problem, it had the same aversion to cold as your claret princess, if it got below 40F, it simply refused to start. After numerous trips to the dealer to deal with this slightly annoying (HA, I wanted to shoot it) problem, it still absolutely refused to start when it was cold.

    Since I lived in Ohio then, (cue Judy Collins here), the cold weather sets in about November and does not end until March. Thus, left with the prospects of walking everywhere during this time or getting a means of conveyance that actually conveyed one, I sold it for a tremendous loss and swore off Fords for eternity.

    Sure wish I lived in Charleston, SC back then, I might still have that vintage Mustang and when you and Phil visit Charleston, we could see if we could get it over 20 mph.

    1. Lou, I sympathise…had I had a gun yesterday I might indeed have shot even my princess. Amazing that something as simple as temperature can hijack a brand new car, let alone an old one. Cars. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them…

  7. I shudder to think of that trip!
    I am not a fan of seedy murks, but must admit to having had worse options. Yours crawls in the cold; I had an Austin which simply gave up in the wet and wold only start again when well and truly dry. My pet names for it were many, varied, and all unprintable.

  8. “Bunclactor.” It’s a juicy word. I do love that. Clearly your prowess with words was foreshadowed long ago.

    Mine was a 7 y/o Subaru wagon with a stick shift, four wheel drive, and a hundred-twenty thousand miles on her. I was seventeen, and I loved her madly. She didn’t go more than 55, and that was downhill in fair weather. One day she developed a cancer of the undercarriage, and we had to say goodbye, lest my rear end ended up on the asphalt.

    Two zippy VW’s and a horrid minivan later, I still miss that little wagon.

    1. We mourn those special mobiles years after they’re gone, Cameron, don’t we? I can remember my favourite car as a child, a hillman minx. I even remember how the upholstery smelt. The right car for us – it’s an experience.

  9. The best cars are the ones we love in spite of their eccentricities. And, Bunclactor is the perfect word for an old car.

    My first car was a pee-green Honda. I wrecked it less than a week after I got it, leaving it to have multiple eccentricities for the remainder of the time I possessed it. My current car, Miss Mini, is my favorite car ever. She’s zippy and cute, and she doesn’t like to start when it’s cold, either. πŸ™‚

    1. Multiple eccentricities πŸ˜€ It says it all, Andra….glad Miss Mini fits the bill- very Italian Job. Now you can drive upside down in tunnels: that is, as long as Miss Mini is feeling snug and warm.

  10. Love the image of your claret princess and her stiletto heels teetering and tottering forward at substandard speeds when faced with substandard temps. πŸ˜€

  11. Ah, the almighty auto – can’t live with ’em and can’t live without ’em. πŸ™‚

    My late hubby and I also had a claret princess, once upon a time. She was a spanking new Chrysler Cordoba, long and sleek, with a white landau roof; positively gorgeous. However, she, too, was prone to fits of temperament — periodically stalling in the middle of a left-hand turn with oncoming traffic bearing down (absolutely terrifying), dying at traffic lights (maddening, to say the least), slowing on the uphill, no matter the pressures and urgings from me to move at a more reasonable pace. Despite numerous return trips to the dealership, her problems were never correctly diagnosed or repaired — flawed carburetor? hiccups not yet worked out of the newly introduced catalytic converter? — no one could discern the origin of the ailment. Hence, her tenure at our household was short-lived and she was traded for the much smaller, actually tiny by comparison (does anyone remember the Plymouth Champ?), but very dependable little workhorse that I drove happily for ten years (we called him Herbie)!

    “Bunclator. . . ” You were just a bit ahead of your time, Kate, and at three you hadn’t quite gotten the spelling perfected. See: Buncolator – A user-friendly app that gives Bunco players a quick and easy way to keep score for their favorite game (not at all related to cars, but fun)!

    Another happy morning in the bloggers world, and I still have a post or two to read! πŸ™‚

  12. Dear Kate,
    I was a late learner and so did not begin to drive until I was thirty-six. My first car was red–not sure of the make–but I felt like royalty in it. It’s one quirk? I needed to open the hood and jam a long screwdriver down it’s choke to start it. I’d do that and then get in and start the car. It would choke of course from that rude impediment. I’d get out of the car, remove the screwdriver, close the hood, and drive merrily away.

    All was well until one day the car took off with me as I got out to close the hood. It shifted into reverse and backed across the parking lot and into the street. It then jumped the curb, continuing its backward trek. Suddenly and irrevocably, it struck the neighborhood post office. The plate glass shattered and came tumbling down on the sidewalk.

    I raced after the car. When it saw my approach, it shifted into drive and came forward. It’s swinging driver’s door slammed me in the face and collapsed onto the street.

    I ended up with eighty-six stitches. The car–whose name was Portia–ceased her journey when she crashed into the trunk of a parked Cadillac and shuddered to a halt. The story later became one that friends also asked me to tell–complete with gestures–at every gathering!

    1. I am not surprised, Dee πŸ˜€ Callously, I found myself laughing out loud. Please accept waves of retrospective empathy from across the pond…it seems Portia had a mind of her own….

  13. My beloved 17-year-old bunclactor died a few months ago and although she was quickly replaced with a spiffy new model, she is still missed.

    I’m afraid you and your beloved bunclactor would not fare well at all here in Colorado. Leaving your car unattended to warm up before you head out is called “puffing” and is against the law. Of course, if you choose to sit in your car and freeze while it warms up, you’ll be fine.

    1. Gracious. Without puffing, where would I be? I’d have to sit ad shiver reading Dickens for five whole frostbitten minutes every morning and every evening. Do people in Colorado construct effigies to sit inside their cars in their place? It would be my first thought…wicked.

      1. Effigies! Exactly what some folk (in WA state) have attempted on occasion in order to fly down the interstate in that lane reserved for carpoolers . . . As I’ve not lived there for many years, I don’t know if some still try or not…..the fines for such behavior used to be pretty hefty! πŸ™‚

      2. LOL. Never thought of using effigies for the puffing. And yet people try them all the time in the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on the freeway.

  14. Our neighbout has a bunclator. It’s an old peugeot. It has suffered an inordinate amount of abuse in the years she has owned it, the gears and battery are constantly in need of attention. It is started once a day, in her garage, and runs for about 3 minutes. Except on Wednesdays – when it takes her 3 miles to the shop and back.

      1. Ha! Found you out. Techie had a word – bollower – which he was never able to define for us, but they were little characters, we think…..

  15. Reminds me of a Ford Anglia 100 E we had in a previous life. On our first trip to Cornwall my boys took great delight in counting the number of cars we were holding up.

  16. oh oh oh I think I’m in love with a car, slow or not – though I do not envy you the funereal processions after… er, perhaps this is the way princesses gather followings? πŸ˜‰

  17. My first bunclator was a 1960something Dodge Dart. Gold, with a blue interior. My uncle went with me to buy it. The car dealer a relative’s son-in-law. Both told all 20 years of me to never let a boyfriend drive it. It seems it had a reputation, this Dart, for moving very fast very quickly. At any rate, the automatic choke would close shut and it wouldn’t start in cold weather. My friend, aka Country Mouse, showed me how to open the choke with a pencil. I’d open the hood, then open the choke with the pencil, leaving it in, run into the car, start it, put my books on the accelerator with the auto brake on, run back out to retrieve the pencil, close the hood and off I would go. The boys thought I was pretty cool! My sister was beyond embarrassed!

    Still waiting for the claret Mercedes – a car I lust after.

    1. It is amazing how we learn to finesses these old bunclactors, Penny. What a wonderful first car. Anything – including putting a pencil in the choke- becomes routine. Wonder if a pencil would help my plight?

  18. Very nice, but I have to admit that I am not and could not be a lover of a bunclactor. One of my greatest fears is of being stranded on the highway. It’s almost an irrational fear — one that I have been laughed at for many times. No, for me it has to be a new vehicle with a complete warranty, at the slightest sound of clunking, wheezing, gasping or rattling, I’m looking for a replacement.

  19. French cars and bottoms! You know that advert? It always makes me laugh, but not for the right reason. Next time you pass the said car by that company take a look.

    They look just like ducks.


  20. I love the sound of your claret Princess! My first bunclactor was a bright yellow pseudo-sportster that blew its horn every time I made a right hand turn. My last one was a behemoth pickup truck with monster tires and front grill like Armageddon when it came up in your rear view mirrors – her name was Helga…

  21. Positively fantastic. The interesting thing about your bunclactors is that elsewhere they would be collectible. And vice-versa. Things that are just random bunclactors here are collector cars in other countries. The current automotive love of my life is a peculiarly British bunclactor, though even there it may be elevated a level or two now. It is a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100. You can see her, her name is Catherine, here – http://www.bmc1100.com

    I have always had a fetish for peculiar British autos. In fact, I fear that the more peculiar they are the more I love them. But then again, the could be said for the way I pick friends too.

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