Rear wheel drive, 2.5 litre engine, push button ignition switch… sounds good doesn’t it? I had most of my formative driving experience in this vehicle. A battered blue Hyundai H100 van.
This particular example had a very special feature. At some point in its shady past, someone had attempted to steal it. After ruining the ignition barrel and most of the steering column they gave up and left. Maybe they were chased away. Maybe they took a long hard look at themselves and decided that they should be doing other things with their life that didn’t involve crouching in the footwell of a dirty old van. Anyway, this incident led to the installation of a shiny black start button mounted near the handbrake.
Jump in the driver seat, belt up, button down and go, go, go. If James Bond was a Traveller then this van would be his weapon of choice.
It was a wonderful thing to drive. It shared its engine with the Mitsubishi L200 at the time, except in the van, the engine was thrumming away beneath the front bench. There wasn’t any great top speed to speak of, but from a standstill to 40mph, the acceleration was instantaneous. I found out, by accident, that if you pressed the start button while the van was in gear, it wouldn’t stall – instead it would bunny hop into life and take off down the road. If this happened, you had better be ready to pop it into second gear and keep her lit.
It was noisy and cramped. The driver seating position meant that you sat close to the dash with the steering wheel between your knees. The divider between driver and cargo was comprised of a stiff grey curtain so you were always aware of the avalanche of tools and tyres slewing around in the back.
The Hyundai was my first taste of freedom and I loved it. At 17 years of age nothing can compare with the feeling of giddy fecklessness that comes from having a set of car keys, a full tank of fuel and enough insurance to get through a checkpoint. The vehicle isn’t important. The enthusiasm is.