What Vehicle Would You Buy if You Had a Bottomless Budget
Some people dream of any Jag or a Rolls royce. Nigel Gifford always wanted to get the an autorickshaw. He first saw them in Nepal 30 years ago, when he was in the army and heading off to climb Everest, and he has seen and used them frequently since, in his job running an adventure travel company. Presumably, if you spend your days arranging for people to float up the Amazon in a rubber dinghy or fall the actual a plane over the Sahara, you soon purchase a sense of humour about people and their wishes. Gifford decided not long ago to realise his personal vision - one in which, in an ambitious melding of automotive cultures, he would bring the classic Indian chicken-scatterer to the streets of his home town, which happens end up being Wells in Somerset. After careful research and series of inquiries that, one would hazard, were unique in the status for the DVLA and automobile Inspectorate, Gifford's Bajaj passenger four-stroke autorickshaw arrived at Felixstowe freight terminal, flat-packed in a crate from Bombay. Back in Somerset, assembly was carried out by Gifford and a couple of his friends who were concentrating on designs for a balloon that will fly to the extra edge of space. In spite of this impressive grounding in aeronautics, all three of them had trouble getting the autorickshaw's canopy on. Even then, before Gifford could depart up the high street, his autorickshaw had to be brought into line with European standards of roadworthiness. This has been nowhere near as labyrinthine as Gifford had feared. Indeed, it involved just five minor adjustments: most of these related to cowardly things such as seat belts and brake lights, and the most radical was the installation within a windscreen washer. (Gifford got his in the scrapped Fiat.) Gifford invited me to test-drive the tuk tuk on your streets of Water bores. I seized his offer gratefully, and waited with excitement since he pulled the tuk tuk out of his garage. (You can get it into reverse, but why bother when you'll be able to shove it?) They are hugely engaging vehicles, and instantly comical in the British context. An individual are turned it on its side, always be look as are going to were still flat-packed. Essentially, it's a moped with a widened back seat under a covering. It also happily combines some of one of the most cheerful features among the milk float, the ice cream van and the antique florist's delivery pickup truck. Small wonder, then, that in the strictly conserved streets of Wells, the mere appearance of the rickshaw, puttering bravely in the gutters, elicited from people on the pavement spontaneous outbreaks of waving and happy. Or, in the case of one teenage schoolboy, a fruity 'N'yaaaaaaa!' Air bags, underseat heating, electric windows and a CD changer - are generally just some on the many items which not fitted a good autorickshaw as standard, along with a fourth wheel. Air-conditioning is achieved the actual massive side vents or 'entrances', which maintain the vehicle at a steady bracing chill on even the hottest day. They offer a fascinatingly slow, gritty ride. Gifford says have driven it 18 miles to Bristol, which took him an hour-and-a-half, including pauses to, as he put it, 'allow the vibration to leave my body'. It's splendidly noisy, too. It sounds like a buzz saw, using a slight top note of a washer on spin regimen. Gear changes are achieved through the counterintuitive grip-and-twist method familiar to Vespa riders. There is no synchromesh. Thrashing about outside Wells Cathedral, I frequently found that, between pinching the clutch and locating the gear, I had almost slowed to an end anyway, thus treatment of need for the apparatus change. Easier, perhaps, to stick to first, where the revs are high and the buzzing is loudest. Say what you like, though, you can't argue with the figures on businesses. The tuk tuk does a challenging 90 miles to the gallon. Also, it only costs 15 each year to tax it, and Norwich Union will offer group-one comprehensive cover. Eat that, Audi business people. However, if you were thinking of restoring it to its traditional use for a taxi, you should forget it: be squandered anytime soon qualify for a hackney licence. Tuk tuks nonetheless a sensational local task-fulfiller. I was only disappointed to find out Gifford has not got round to importing the standard autorickshaw horn - one of those fat, squeezable numbers that bolts on towards the side of the windscreen. As PJ O'Rourke noted in his invaluable essay Under developed Driving Hints and Tips, 'in 3rd World most driving is done with horn, or 'Egyptian Brake Pedal', due to the fact is known'. There's no reason why this shouldn't also be the case in Wells, certainly on market day. Sadly though the loop hole within the importation regulations has been closed for some time, and a lot more can tuk tuks be imported as Nigel did 12 years ago, but to satisfy people who have would like to own a tuk tuk several companies in UK now import and modify them to address the road worthy regulations.