I had imagined the beginning of Christmas Eve 1997 differently. Suddenly I found myself in the backseat of a 1985 Toyota Corolla. There I was sandwiched between a few Surinamese Hindu teenagers. And I had one more on my lap. The family was on their way from Leeuwarden to The Hague to attend a mourning ceremony lasting a few days. The reason was that a loved one had died.
The driver of the Toyota had just picked me up near the Monument on the Afsluitdijk. There I was stranded with my Opel Corsa 1.2 S LS. The spark plug wires had become too damp from the pouring rain to do their job properly. The otherwise always reliable Opel OHC block had given up on hiccups, and luckily I was just able to get to the Monument. The Opel stopped in the parking lot, near the statue of engineer Lely.
Emergency on the dike
At that moment I realized that it hadn't been so smart to leave wipes and anti-moisture spray at home. It was pitch dark and the wind was blowing hard. Moreover, it was pouring rain, so I decided to leave the ANWB emergency phone alone for a while. I had switched on the hazard lights of the Opel, and the sympathetic Hindu family had noticed that. They dropped me off at Motel van der Valk in Wieringerwerf, because where I had lived in Leeuwarden for years, my parental home still stood in the village of North Holland.
Turbulent year with the Corsa
The scene was the culmination of a special year with the Opel Corsa from 1986. I bought it in early 1997. I told this at work, to which one of my colleagues came with a deadly and hilarious reaction: “It is not yet ready for a Cadet”. Everyone cracked up, including me. The Corsa was good for more special moments. A friend of mine had just become lease-less and asked if he could borrow the Corsa for a job interview. No problem, but the Opel did embarrass my comrade. During the rainy ride from Leeuwarden to Capelle, one windshield wiper broke (the left one, the mechanism turned out to be worn), so that my buddy covered part of the ride in a crooked position. And yes, after the appointment in Capelle he also had to return to the Frisian capital. Incidentally, I had not had any problems with the Corsa until then. The Opel always brought me a lot of pleasure.
Beautiful trips. And broke in three times
I got everywhere with the Opel, I ate miles in the interior with it. I also made a wonderful trip through Germany and the Vosges. Used it for removals, drove it to friends and family in the country. I loved the cart, which always brought me new adventures. Put your bag in the trunk and go. More people were charmed by the Corsa, it was also friendly to burglars. The villain foresaw it three times on the Opel. A battery, a toolbox and a Blaupunkt radio/cassette player were captured independently of each other. I solved it all. Yet I had had enough of the burglary sensitivity of the alarmless Opel. The confidence was gone.
Wipes and a miracle cure
And then there was the Christmas Eve of 1997. After a cup of coffee in the parental home, my father and I drove from Wieringerwerf to the Monument. With the Carina E, and coincidence or not: that was Toyota number two who helped me on my way to get the Opel again in operation to get. We were now handy to take anti moisture spray and wipes with us. At the Monument I dried the cables, treated them briefly with the miracle cure that has certainly been part of the standard equipment of my tool bag ever since. The Opel was running again in no time. We drove one after the other to Wieringerwerf and home We celebrated Christmas Eve with family. A week later I traded in the Corsa. I often regretted that later, because I had grown quite a bit with the Opel in a year's time.
But the memory remains, as does the thought of that sweet, kind Surinamese family, who did not hesitate for a moment to be helpful during that dark and rainy evening. And share the Christmas spirit in their own way. I still think about that with gratitude and love on a regular basis.
This memory of the Christmas Eve of 1997 was presented in a slightly modified form in episode 108 of the podcast BNR Petrolheads by Carlo Brantsen and Bas van Werven. You can use this right here listen back, the auto-reminder starts at 7 minutes and 40 seconds.
I wish everyone happy holidays!