Tag Archives: Corrado

Fettle the devil you know – motorcycle ownership just gets better

Those who know me if not intimately then at least well enough to keep their distance will be aware that given half a chance I will toss a day or three (and two weeks’ wages) on the pyre of executing cosmetic automotive improvements, or in other words fettling my cars.

Absolutely none of these vehicles has been anywhere near showroom condition, which ought to underline quite how distracted I can become when handed a bottle of trim gel, a hairdryer (for removing unwanted stickers) or a clay bar and detailing spray. In these circumstances my hands are the equivalent of the TARDIS for a faded window seal or a battle-scarred front spoiler, and such accomplishments deliver a hit no drug can rival (you’ll have to trust me on that).

The recent introduction of not just a Suzuki SV650S motorcycle but also a 22-year-old VW Corrado 16V to the family has upset the normal rhythm of my fettling regime, which for a couple of years until last December primarily involved keeping my Saab 9-3 Viggen clean but not so clean that the small patches of tinworm on the rear arches and bootlid would cause sections of the bodywork to break away from the mothership.

No eye-rolling highs there, then. For those I had to turn to cleaning her nibs’ feisty VW Lupo GTI, a fine example whose nick belies its 16 years but which, sadly, isn’t mine. There’s only so much elbow grease you can throw at somebody else’s toy, and I found myself unfulfilled.

Enter the SV and the Corrado. Being a more substantial not to mention older beast with the complex history any vehicle of its age has inevitably accrued, the latter requires the greatest attention. And one day soon I shall bore you witless about that.

Not today. What I want to celebrate is the discovery of yet another gratifying aspect of motorcycle ownership which I hadn’t been prepared for: ease and speed of fettling.

To keep the machine looking its best, on a weekly basis I need do little more than hose it down and give it a wash – the two-bucket method (email me for instructions) using regular car shampoo – before rinsing it and drying the most visible bits with a shammy. Ten minutes and it’s done. The wheels, which are nothing special, get a good wipe with WD40 now and then – a three-minute job. In periods of prolonged bad weather I wash the bike more often and apply ACF-50 regularly during the colder months, but that’s it.

In fact the longest I’ve spent titivating the SV was last weekend, when I borrowed my good lady’s hairdryer (as you can see I have no need for such an apparatus) and finally removed from the frame the original stickers advising me not to wash the bike using turps, to inflate the tyres to the correct pressure and so on. It looks better dirty now than it did than when it was clean beforehand.

Cleaning the SV is a buzz, then, though not half as efficient at ridding the mind of cerebral knots as riding the machine. This malarkey just gets better and better.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.

Much Corrado about nothing

Never having met anyone called Golf, or MX-5, or 320i Touring for that matter, it is cheering finally to come across a person who shares a name with my charabanc. The fact I have just spent six hours getting from Scotland to the heart of Italy means it is doubly uplifting, since I’m tired and in need of a boost.

“Aha – very good!” he says, looking at my iPhone as I hold it before him, his broad smile the only thing ruining an otherwise peachy impression of a dwarf Bryan Ferry circa Avalon crossed with Lou Diamond Phillips’s dad. “You are a Corrado,” I have just said, before pointing at the screen, “and this is a Corrado – my Corrado!”

It breaks the ice.

Into his car I slump before we haul ass out of Bologna airport and head to the small city of Reggio-Emilia. This is my second visit to Italy in six weeks, having been to Tuscany for my brother-in-law’s wedding at the end of April before hiring a car and visiting Venice, Treviso and Bologna.

As usual, driving and motorcycle riding are never far from my thoughts on this June afternoon, and with nobody in the Jaguar XF Sportbrake but me and Signor Corrado I fumble metaphorically in my pockets and locate, amid the fluff, something which looks very much like The Banter, or at least Man Chat.

“Why did you buy a British car?” I ask. Signor Corrado’s response would fill this page, but the short answer is he didn’t want a big German estate like everybody else, so he bought a big British estate instead.

We natter about Fiat, about Alfa Romeo, about the dreaded Dacia. I tell Signor Corrado that during my last visit I was initially unenthused by the predominant driving style of his countrymen, which amounts to veering this way and that and never indicating, a system which is rapidly gaining ground in the UK.

At this point one-third of the Jag is in the middle lane while the other two-thirds are in the fast lane, as they have been for half a mile. We are a gnat’s eyelash away from the Fiat 500 in front (90% of vehicles in Italy are Fiat 500s) and travelling at 85mph.

Pressing hard on an imaginary brake pedal with my right foot, I tell my chauffeur that my misgivings about Italian drivers soon gave way to approval for three reasons.

Firstly, everyone strays between lanes in precisely the same way, meaning you can predict how other motorists will behave. Secondly, the lack of indicating is entirely consistent – nobody indicates, not even nuns, so you quickly stop getting angry about it. Thirdly, everybody is trying to reach their destination as quickly as possible, whereas in Britain there is every chance of getting stuck behind a retired librarian in a Kia Picanto with a passion for hypermiling. If not swift, progress here is at least brisk most of the time.

As soon as you accept these conditions, driving in Italy is a cinch, I tell Signor Corrado. “Hmm,” he replies inattentively, absorbed by the complexities of his Bluetooth phone system, two wheels in the fast lane, mere feet from the car in front, barrelling along at 80mph.

I look out of the window across the plain and breathe deeply. When in Rome …

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.