Readers Write

If you have a friend who is a crazy driver…

If you have a friend who is a crazy driver, chances are he’s been crazy from birth.           

Do you have a friend who is mad. That’s crazy not angry. I do. For some of my friends I am the mad one. But if they think I am mad they really need to get a life. I may be a slightly crazy expressive but I am not mad.  Yet!

Now my mad friend’s name (circa 1979) was, well, we will call him Mike (not his real name), to protect the innocent, which could be classed as me, but not really.

Now Mike had a Mini. An old Mini 1000. It was in pretty good nick when he got it, but not when he had finished with it. Why, because Mike was mad.

When I say mad I mean slightly crazy. We both lived at our family homes and Mike lived up the road from me. I was eighteen and he was seventeen. I never realised how mad Mike was until one day I saw him parking outside his place and he made me an offer I should have refused.

I was outside so I strolled up a few houses and as he was getting out of the car I said, “Hey Mike, what’s up”. He saw me and with his usual enthusiasm semi yelled “Hey Geoff. You gotta come with me.” And started to get back in the car.

“What are you talking about” I asked. “Just get in” he yelled from inside the car. I was just opening the passenger car door when his mother appeared magically outside on the drive and yelled at him to come inside for his dinner.

There was a lot of yelling from parents in my street as all the kids used to hang out together on the street, or go to the park at the end of the street. There we would play endless games of cricket, soccer, rugby and anything else we could make up.

One of the fun games was to see who could jump the furthest off the swings. We would get the swing going as fast and high as possible and then as the swing came through on the down arc and was just swinging up, we would launch ourselves off it and see who could land the greatest distance from the swings.

All the kids would have a go and would be egged on by the others. It all went well, and I think Mike won that game, but it all stopped when one kid broke his arm. Spoiling it for the rest of us. There were a lot of parents yelling at their children that day in the park I can tell you.

I should have known that Mike’s complete lack of fear was an indication of his mental state but I was too young and dumb to realise this.

So Mike and I both went inside for our dinner.  But before we parted he said “See you back here at seven o’clock”. “Ok” I said not knowing what to expect.

Seven o’clock rolled around and I was standing outside his place when he came outside. We jumped in the car and he “chucked a u-ee” as they say and we sped up to the top of the street.

Now our street was a dead end street off a main road. So we got to main road and chucked a right. “Where are we going” I asked. “You’ll see”, he answered. Now being eighteen I thought it was something to do with girls so I was looking forward to my surprise.

About a mile down the road he took a left and checked his seat belt.  I saw him do this and asked him what he was doing. “Tighten your seat belt” he said. Not fasten your seat belt, or, put it on, but “Tighten your seat belt”. 

We wore seats belts back then as we didn’t have the theory that in a crash we would be thrown from the car and this would save our lives. Yes we did have some brains.

As I tightened my seat belt I noticed he was accelerating up the road.  “What are you doing” I asked.  “You’ll see” he said.  It must have been autumn as it was getting dark so as we accelerated the street lights started going past faster and faster.

Now that Mini was not like a modern Mini so zero to one hundred KPH took about a year.  And it was sixty MPH back then anyway.  Note that the speed limit was thirty MPH but I wasn’t driving. Matter of fact I didn’t even know what was going on.

I glanced at the speedo and as it went past fifty I started to get scared. This fear increased when I realised that he wasn’t slowing down and that there was a railway line about one hundred meters away. Now those railway lines were raised above the road so there was a tarmac ramp up to the railway line, it was then flat across the line and sloped down the other side.

It was about 20 meters before the line when I started screaming at him to slow down but he just smiled and kept accelerating. I reckon we got about 60 mph from that that little 1,000 CC engine and about 140 decibels from my voice box as I screamed.

We were airborne for about two seconds, I think, I am not really sure as it’s been a while. We landed with the bang from hell and I was driven down into the Mini seat, bounced back up, hit my head on the roof and then back onto the seat.

Mike grabbed the hand brake, pulled it up and chucked the car sideways so we slid to a stop in the middle of the road.

I then exploded with every abusive word, phrase and colloquialism in my vocabulary yelling at him and abusing him, his brother and sister, his parents, his yet to be born children and anything else I could think of.  When I looked up, rubbing my head as I did, he was looking at me with a big smile on his face and laughing like a fool. I then let him have it again with twice the anger so that even a staff sergeant at a military training camp would have been proud of me.

He just laughed and said “You wanna do it again?” I paused for about three seconds and then said “Hell yeah”.

So we hit that railway line about six times that night. Checking each time that there was no pedestrians or traffic and if there was we would abort. I cannot remember how fast we were going each time but the Mini was getting maxed out as it hit the ramp. Why someone did not call the cops is beyond me. Really.

Mike told me that this was one of the best railway ramps he had found in the area, so he had tried quite a few over the last two to three weeks.  We drove home after this and he stopped outside of his place.  We got out, checked the Mini, all good, so we chatted for about another hour and then both went inside.

My parents asked where I had been so I just said I had been down talking with Mike. They nodded and I went to bed.

The next day I struggled to get up.  My back was killing me and there was something wrong with the skin on my lower back. Moaning all the way to the bathroom I lifted the back of my t-shirt, turned around and looked over my shoulder at my back in the mirror.

The problem with the skin on my lower back was that there wasn’t much skin left. It took me a while to work out, and an inspection of the Mini, but the bottom lower horizontal seat support brace had been scraping my lower back each time we landed. But I was simply concentrating on not hitting the roof so I didn’t really notice.

Needless to say I never played “jump the mini” with Mike again and I think he stopped it as the Mini started to break. But that didn’t stop us from driving it like the go-cart it was and having years of fun. They built Mini’s tough in those days.

Mike moved out of the street and so did I.  We never really saw each other much after that but about 17 years later we had a street reunion and all the adults who had played together as kids turned up for a group picnic in the park.  It was a great day.

I noticed Mike was absent and asked if he had been invited.  He had, and finally turned up about three PM. And no he wasn’t driving a Mini. He had done pretty well with his business so was driving a 1970’s Pontiac Trans Am.  I am not kidding you. The big black one with the big eagle on the bonnet and a bigger V8 under the bonnet.

When I recognised him driving I walked over to the road and stood as he did a U-turn. He pulled up, stopped beside me, got out of the car and we looked at each other over the roof. Both burst out laughing and calling each other old buggers.

“Hey” he said “Want to go for a drive”. I looked back towards my girlfriend at the picnic, who was watching me, and then at the Trans Am for about three seconds and said “Hell yeah”. I jumped in and he (still being as mad as a hatter) smoked up the wheels as we took off.

I should have known better. Oh well. Goes to prove.

Once a real maniac, always a real maniac.

  • Monty

    If you survived those experiences it was great fun. I rode a motorbike. I should not be here. Brakes? Drum and rarely worked. Weaving between traffic mandatory. Getting to the front of the queue at the lights and blasting off – except when I stalled and had the HT Holden about to run over me. Several near death experiences and a few license suspensions convinced me to buy a car. That was wonderful in a different way but my passengers were not so keen. 9 points on my license clipped my wings and I’ve had to slow down. It’s nowhere near as much fun but my passengers are happier.

Geoff Lines

Geoff Lines

AWDs and 4WDs. All good to me.