My life in cars… Rhys Denham

When initially asked to complete this blog, I was instantly met with a sense of dread. Surely the office would disown me when they realise that my car collection has been as about as inspiring as a bowl of wet porridge on a damp, cold, and windy wintry day.

But, following a period a nostalgic reflection a small grin slipped onto my face as I realised how much joy, pretty much every car I have owned, has brought to me – each one teaching me a lesson in its own right. Therefore, I must apologise for the over-indulgence of this blog.

The motors may not be the most exciting but I’m old enough to open these garage doors with a sense of pride. Welcome, to my life in cars.

Suzuki Swift 1.0L, 3dr

The Suzuki Swift was the first car that I managed to get my hands on back in 2006 for a mere £300. Nicknamed ‘Red1’, this 993cc little run-around holds that place in motorists’ hearts which can never be replaced.

Featuring a hole in the exhaust to give it a lovely little purr, she would regularly be found rattling and bouncing her way around the West Midlands. She came with a preinstalled, modified sound system but still used a tape player as her main audio source. I remember my trips to and from university, where I pushed the tiny engine to its limits on the M6, only to back down due to various nuts and bolts flying at me as she bravely battled against all laws of physics.

However, like many first loves, it was to end with heartbreak. It was a cold December day and having taken the angle wrong on a muddy, country road in Herefordshire, I found myself spinning before ending up in a farmer’s hedge. Red1 managed to reverse out, but the damage was done, and her time was up. I like to think that after she was picked up by the salvager, she was recycled into metal for bean cans and not left in her mangled state to rust in a yard.

She sure was my tin of beans on wheels!

Peugeot 206, 1999 model, 1.1L, 3dr

Following the incident with Red1, I needed a car quickly so that I could complete my first teacher training placement.

A family friend’s daughter was selling her Peugeot 206 so I quickly popped round for a test drive and £500 later, Red2 was in my hands.

The power steering and more comfortable ride meant I would now glide through the mean streets of Stourbridge. Taking any corner at 30mph no longer felt like I was about to tip on to two wheels. Red2 also felt safe enough to tackle longer journeys and I was happy to volunteer as the group transporter.

I only had Red2 for just over two years. Her time came when, on a journey back from Worcester, her back end started to wobble whenever I went above 30mph. My heart sank – and my gut instantly told me something bad was up. It had turned out that her back axle had given up. The cost of repairs was too much and I had to let her go.

Audi A1, TFSI S Line 1.4 3dr

The Audi A1 was the first car that signalled a significant change in my status for me. My career in teaching was looking promising following a promotion at the end of my first year in the profession. I was no longer reliant on my parents to bail me out, so following a £500 deposit, I was the owner of a silver Audi A1 TFSI, S Line, and boy could it shift.

The stiff suspension brought in by the S Line features, coupled with the 1.4L engine under the bonnet meant pottering from A to B in a banger were in the past.

Unfortunately, the A1 was also the first car I owned where I encountered the force of hitting a deer at 50mph. I am glad I owned the A1 as I am pretty sure Red1 and Red2 would have disintegrated upon impact. Thankfully (not for the deer) this wasn’t the case and she was repairable.

I now look back at my time with the A1 and realise that it also marked the final time I would approach driving with the youthful vigour of recklessness most of us go through.

2017 Volkswagen Golf SE 2.0 TDI, 5Dr

I am going to say that this was the best car that I owned and regret letting it go as early as I did. I had always wanted to own a Golf since I was in my teens so when the opportunity came to swap my A1 for a new Golf SE, I jumped at the chance.

Its power was an upgrade on the A1 but it also had the comfort with the ride which I was looking for. The Golf would eat up roads comfortably and still gave me moments of joy when navigating its way around the Cotswolds, my new home. Not too much to say about this car except that I look back at it as the one that got away.

2017 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S-Tronic, 5Dr

The last car that I officially owned was a second hand, 2017 Audi A3 2.0 TDI. I felt that the A3 would be an upgrade on my Golf and give me the thrill of driving the A1 gave me. In hindsight, moving from the Golf to the A3 was not necessary.

I had always seen the Audi A3 as a more grown-up version of the A1 – a friend owned one when I had the A1 and I always found myself staring at it with jealousy.

I like to think that the first Covid-19 lockdown took all those moments of fun out of her, especially as I got her just before the country shut down. She was great. I can’t have many complaints about her. She was just not it. My time with her was short and lasted only 2 ½ years before selling her on.

2017, Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L Nav+

Ok, so this isn’t technically my car but I do want to mention her. As I changed career from over a decade in the classroom to PR in the automotive agency, I sold my A3 and due to the change in work commitments, my wife and I decided to stick with one car for now.

We have two Dalmatians so this car provides the perfect boot space required to house the animals (her previous Evoque did not), but most importantly she marks a return to my favourite colour, red. Red3 gives me everything I currently need, and man those seat warmers are something else!

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for indulging me. I do not know why you stuck at it, but I salute your resilience.

Who knows what is next for my garage? One thing is for certain, if it’s red then it has instantly got my attention!



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