A 1932 Rolls Royce has passed its NCT, Ireland’s roadworthiness test…
It had been a typical morning at the NCT Test Centre.
Cars had come and gone. Some had passed, others had not. Shocked millennials had found their cars rejected because of their shock absorbers, exhausted mothers because of their exhausts, balding executives because of balding tyres.
The morning then became untypical.
A car drove – no, glided – through the door. It fitted into the small workspace, certainly, yet seemed to fill it with its presence, to give off an air of being too good for its surroundings, as if the Queen Mary had just sailed into a fishing-fleet harbour.
Its registration plate read 32-D-1.
The Tester watched as the driver got out of the car, and found himself slightly disappointed that the man was not wearing a cap and driving gloves. The Tester walked over to meet him.
“Come for your NCT, have you?” he said, holding out his hand.
The Owner looked at the oil-spattered hand, and the Tester found himself wiping it on his overalls, then wishing he hadn’t.
“Yes,” said the Owner. “What exactly is the process?”
“Well,” said the Tester, “I check things like the central locking, the speedometer, the interior light, the onboard computer -”
“Ah, well then I can save us both a lot of time,” said the Owner. “Clotilde doesn’t have any of those.”
“My pet name for her,” said the Owner. “You can hardly call a Rolls Royce ‘Betsy’.”
“I see your point,” said the Tester. “But anyway, you say she has none of those things?”
“Of course not,” said the Owner. “She was built in 1932. Try thinking of her as Fred Flintstone’s car, but with an angel on the bonnet.”
The Tester looked down at his list. “What about washers?” he asked.
“The butler and the gardener?” asked the Owner. “Was I supposed to bring them?”
“No,” said the Tester. “The washers send little jets of water onto your windscreen.”
“In Ireland?” said the Owner. “Where it’s always raining anyway? Whatever for?”
“Um, well, never mind that,” said the Tester. He looked at his list again. “Demister?” he asked hopefully.
The Owner brightened. “Ah, yes,” he said. He reached into the car and took out a chamois.
The Tester sighed. “I suppose,” he said, “that if I mentioned the word ‘suspension’ you’d show me furry-dice hanging from the rear-view mirror.”
The Owner looked horrified. “Nobody,” he said, “would hang furry-dice in a nineteen thirty-two Rolls Royce -”
“No, I suppose it would be a bit tacky -”
“- because they don’t have rear-view mirrors.”
“Seriously?” said the Tester. “How do you know what’s behind you?”
“Why would you want to?” asked the Owner.
I’ve actually no idea, thought The Tester. “For when you want to reverse out of your driveway,” he said eventually.
“I think you’ll find,” said the Owner, “that people who own Rolls Royces tend to have a turning-circle at the top of their driveway. Usually with a fountain in the middle of it.”
“I see,” said the Tester.
“Are we done?” asked the Owner.
“I suppose so,” said the Tester, “but I don’t see how I can possibly pass you.”
“Did Clotilde actually fail any of the things on your list?” asked the Owner.
“Nice try,” said the Tester, “but if I followed that logic then people would pass simply by not turning up.”
“Look,” said the Tester, “Clotilde may not be able to tick all the boxes on your list, but she has experience. She has -”
He’s going to use the phrase ‘NCT of Life’, thought the Tester.
” – passed the NCT of Life,” said the Owner. “She’s like the old guy in the company who doesn’t have an actual degree, but who still knows more than the younger staff, because he’s seen it all before.”
The Tester hesitated. “Please,” said the Owner. “I only drive at thirty miles-an-hour anyway – she does four miles to the gallon if I go any quicker.”
At some times the Tester was hard-hearted, and picky, and merciless, but at all times he was a petrol-head, which was how he had ended up working on cars in the first place. He looked now at Clotilde, and basically fell in love.
He smiled. “Ok,” he said, “she’s passed.”
“Oh, thanks ever so much,” said the Owner. “I’ve to drive all the way to Killarney now for the weekend, and I feel so much happier knowing that you’ve said she’s in good condition.”
The Tester frowned. “Um, I didn’t -” he began, then stopped. “Look, just have a safe journey.”
“I will,” said the Owner. He got into the car, started it, then reached into the glove-box and took out a road-map of Ireland. He held it up and grinned.
“Sat nav,” he said.