25 January 2006

Motoring journalism 101

Yesterday was one of those days where, if something could've go wrong, it probably would. Which is exactly what happened.

I was handed a brand new Proton Gen-2 1.3 litre Campro to test out for one night - so I thought "Hey, wouldn't it be great to drive up Genting Highlands at about 5:30am?"

And why not? I would be able to get some rather nice photos of the car on a deserted hill-side road and I'd get to drive the Gen-2 in anger round some nasty twists and turns.

Well, I did get a couple of nice shots in (By 'nice', I mean that I could probably use them in print). And here they are:

The Gen-2 1.3 litre is a rather nice car to drive - it handles surprisingly well and has impressive mid-corner adjustability. Apply the power or the brakes, and the car's weight will shift predictably, providing either increased front-end grip, mild oversteer or induced understeer. Even the steering weighs up properly, not quite up there with the best that Europe has to offer, but better than most Japanese and Korean efforts.

It pretty much handles like how a well-sorted front-wheel-drive car should.

Aaanyway, back to the main topic. Having taken enough photos for the morning, I decided to head back down the hill...

...until I spotted a rather nice-looking, vacant parking lot with some nice scenery behind it. And so, I drove down a ramp, slowly scanned the area with my eyes and heard a loud, familiar "Thunk!"

And within seconds, smoke started to rise from beneath the car. Oh, dear.

I stepped out and was greeted by the following sight:

That's an awful lot of engine oil, isn't it.

And this is what I had driven over:
Notice the trail of oil?

And this is the damage it inflicted:
If you look to the right of the nut, that's a hairline crack and some oil dripping out of it.

Basically, I cracked the Gen-2's oil sump on a small rock about 12cm tall.

For those unfamiliar with what an oil sump is, it basically holds all of your car's engine oil and is usually located at the bottom of the engine.

Many people go through life without ever damaging an oil sump while driving. This is already my second time in almost the same number of years (The first time being with my own car).

The other problem, of course, is that a car cannot run without engine oil. If it did, all of the metal bits in its engine would start scraping together, before tearing themselves apart in a cloud of smoke and metallic shards. That would not be very pleasant.

Just to put things in perspective, the parking lot was about the size of a football field. And there was only one bloody rock lying on it. And I just had to drive my car right over that one rock. And of all the components it could've hit, I just had to hit the idiot oil sump, which isn't all that big either.

If there was anything that could make me feel incredibly incompetent, this was it...

But the big problem, though, was that I was in Genting Highlands. With an incapacitated car. At 7:45am.

Obviously, I was going to need a tow truck.

So I had waited for about and hour and a half before I could get in touch with the people who really needed to know that the Gen-2 they had entrusted to me was currently stuck on top of a hill.

Apparently, I wouldn't lose my job, but I would have to wait for the tow truck to arrive.

Ok, no problem. I waited till about 10am when my phone rang. And just as the tow-truck operator asked where I was, my phone hanged. Crashed. Froze. It hadn't happened before, at least not in the middle of a call.

And to make matters worse, it kept switching itself off the whole bloody day. Not particularly helpful at a time when you're expecting many phone calls.

Eventually, I was told that the tow-truck would arrive around noon. Not too shabby, considering I am a little out of the way.

After all, if you were a tow truck driver, would you drive all the way up to Genting Bloody Highlands to pick up a car? I know I wouldn't.

In the mean time, my mum and uncle had come to my rescue - we went for breakfast in the indoor theme park and went back to the Gen-2 at about 12pm to wait for the tow truck.

But there was no sign of it (the truck, not the Gen-2). Fine, maybe they're a little late.

Then, I got a phonecall from the tow truck operator. Apparently, the tow truck was on the way and had just reached Gombak (somewhere relatively nearby). Oh, ok.

So we waited. And waited. And at about 1:20pm I get another phone call from the tow truck driver himself - he said that he was on the way and had just reached Gombak (somewhere relatively nearby).


Right. Gombak.

The tow truck arrived at about 2pm - a full two hours after the promised time.

If you've never rode a tow truck down Genting Highlands before, I'd highly recommend it. The 50-minute journey to the bottom in a foul-smelling, harsh-riding tow truck is an experience in itself.

And of course, there's this perpetual fear that the Gen-2 would suddenly free itself from the tow truck and go on its own little excursion into the woods and off a cliff.

We finally reached the service centre at about 4pm.

And so, mission accomplished. We had successfully brought the car to EON Service in one piece. I then went into the main reception and asked to speak to a particular service foreman - only he didn't exist.


After spending a good 20 minutes speaking to various people, it suddenly dawned upon me that the tow truck driver was supposed to bring it to Proton Edar instead (a completely different Proton service centre).

Enough was enough. I had been continuously waiting around to sort out the damn car for almost 9 hours. I took a self-portrait for posterity and buggered off...

In the end, I had learned a couple of important things from this little event:
1. ALWAYS keep your eye on the road directly in front of your car when driving on a deserted, unfamiliar road.

2. NEVER ever wake up at 5:30am. Bad things will happen. Just go back to sleep.


Mel said...

Your phone isn't working properly? Well, I guess it's time for me to buy u a new phone :)

The Wanderer said...

and this time, stay away from craporolas. and i mean it. stay away. :)

Kelvin said...

Kia Ora (Hello) from a krazy blogger down under in New Zealand. Have they given you another car to "wreck" yet ??? (hehe) Great blog, great photos - especially the one of the rock. You can't win them all.Can I mention your blog on one of my blogs - 21 21 21 ???

celaka communication said...

cool. you've got your way to torture a car