Normally, I am very disciplined about my rules: no evening snifters before 6 o’clock, and only one whisky. Yesterday, however, I made an exception. Why was that?
The answer is that I was driving my Bristol back from town, where it had been undergoing a service. Having just filled up with petrol on a country road, I accelerated to get back to the speed limit for that section, which was 80 kph (50 mph). I then took my foot off the accelerator pedal. It was at this point that things started going wrong. The accelerator pedal remained depressed. In other words, my V8 engine of nearly 7 litres was accelerating me with all of its considerable might.
Now I happen to know that my Bristol will get to 130 mph (about 210 kph) really quite quickly. Do not ask me how I happen to know this: I just do. Furthermore, I happen to know that at 130 miles an hour, roads which normally seem relatively straight start to acquire a distinctly bendy sort of feel to them.
So, I tried gently tapping the accelerator with my foot, to see if this would free it. No. I tried getting my foot underneath the pedal, to see if I could hook it back up. No. By this stage, I was going really very fast. I tried braking, of course, but it was soon evident that this was going to be a losing battle. I tried putting the automatic transmission into neutral, such that the revs went through the roof, and I was still closing on the cars ahead with alarming speed. This was a narrow road, and there was a steady stream of traffic coming the other way.
So I did something that is probably not very good for a car travelling at around 100 mph. I forced the gear selector into reverse. The car did not like this much, of course, but at least it slowed me down enough so that I could put the car into neutral and turn off the ignition. That lost me my power steering and all power to the brakes, of course, but at least I was then going slow enough to be able to pull up by the side of the road.
As I sat there in the car, I could not help noticing that my heart rate had gone up to something really quite unusual. It was an hour or so before the tow truck came and I got home. I felt as if I could do with an early nip of single malt to settle down a bit.
The engine in my Bristol is, I think, the same basic animal as Bruce McLaren used to use in his Can-Am M8 cars, which used to do 0-200 mph in two shakes of a duck’s arse. Not really the sort of engine that is ideal when one’s throttle gets stuck wide open.