The end of the Insignia…

The advice was – don’t let her go low on oil, whatever you do. Keep plenty of oil in her.

Then later.


There was an almighty bang and a plume of smoke. I couldn’t see out any of the windows for about twenty seconds. When the cloud cleared, it was like the aftermath of a drone strike. Parents running stunned away with kids. Abhorred traffic and two lads at the pub door coughing and spluttering and unsure what the hell was happening.

One of them came over and said: ‘I think your turbo’s gone.’

‘How do you reckon that?’

‘The smell. The smell of burning sweet rubber.’

‘That’s not too bad, I suppose.’

‘Did you notice anything beforehand?’

‘No. Just put oil in it?’


‘Oil? A good bit.’

He thought, said: ‘You might be fucked so.’

I tried starting it. Sure enough, it fired. Hesitant, then strong. Maybe it was too much oil. Drive her out of it. Hope for the best. I pushed on -away from the new smoke, and the onlookers and into the oil free future.

It was then I noticed the temperature. It was over the usual half. Gone past the dangerous three quarters. And was now at full tilt maximum. I thought then I should maybe stop but I was sure when a big light came on and said: ‘Engine Overheated. STOP IMMEDIATLEY.’

Great craic. I got out, tried to breath, struggled a bit. A Romanian man came along, asked:

‘Car has problem?’

‘Turbo I think.’

‘I think not.’


‘No. I think more like, how you say….KAPUT?’


‘Iz ok.’

And he walked off. Darkness coming now. And some cold. Rang the breakdown assistance. Told them I think it was the turbo. They said they’d send someone down. And they did. He pulled up, all lights and swagger, said: ‘Overheated?’

‘Turbo maybe.’

‘Any lights on?’

‘Just for the oil.’

‘And did you put much in?’

‘A good bit.’



‘Oh. You’ll need a taxi home. I’ll let them know.’

He rang the taxi. Put the car on the truck. Said we had to go to some town, some place. Sat in. Talked about life, kids, mortgages, Brexit, the price of cars. Then he said we’ll stop here and wait for the taxi.

We got out. Kind Friday air. Decombusted week. Then – more smoke. It was coming from the back of the truck. Had to be my car, a new fire, a latent sizzle gone rogue. But no. It was the truck. Smoke coming from here too. Something to do with wheels, rubber, axles, calipers. He explained while he poured water over the source and said he had to call a breakdown truck for himself now but he’d have my car back in Athlone by the morning and here comes your taxi.

The taxi man was delighted. Long handy fare. Asked me had I the car long and what happened. And was Athlone nice and do they have good chippers?

After that, we drove and didn’t talk much. Not much to say, only the dark night and the dead road and the carless future. He dropped me off on Connaught Street and I told them they do good chips in Mr.Pizza and he said thanks and charged me a €182 for the fare.

Great day, sure it might be grand. The next day I rang the mechanic and told him the craic and he asked me where the car is now. And sure I hadn’t a clue. Some town somewhere, on the back of a smoky truck. I’ll get back to you on that, I told him.

Insignia still not scrapped.

Ah, sure lookit. These lads had it sorted. Big operators. Big into the car business. Known for doin yokes up. They wanted the remains of the Insignia. It was imperative they got it. Said they’d give €500. The loved Insignias. Had five or six of them in the forecourt out the back of their mother’s yard. They were from some town. Some village. Some rural stretch on the road. Spent most days turning screws with ratchet screwdrivers and talking about buying Insignias. Lately they found a beaut. A real winner. Class price. A Brexit bargain from beyond. There was a trip over, and a boat back, and a drive home to the rainy dealership somewhere between the wet fields. Ballyfin, Ballindine, Ballyhowya. Somewhere. It didn’t matter because they had somehow found their way to Athlone and seen my sick model in the grey mist gathering dust and praying for an owner. Praying it wouldn’t be turned into Greta bean cans somewhere. And now here were the Messiahs.

The mechanic rang, said: ‘Them lads were here, would you take €500?’

I would. Half it even, but I didn’t mention that.

‘Ok, I’ll tell them. They just bought another Insignia they want your one too.’

‘The engine is gone, do they know that?’

‘Doesn’t matter.’

‘Are ya sure about that? It usually makes a difference when trying to drive it. Just talking from experience.’

‘They don’t want the engine, just the body.’

‘Fair enough. They mightn’t get far though.’

”They have another Insignia at home. But she’s English.’

I didn’t understand, said: ‘I know what you mean.’

‘And they got her at a good price, but the import tax is colossal.’

‘The VRT?’

‘Yeah, nearly twice the price of the car.’


‘So what they’re goin to do is take the engine out of the English one, and put it in your one and then they have the English engine in an Irish registered car and don’t need to pay the tax.’

‘Sounds messy.’

‘I need the space in my yard either way so will I tell them to take it?’

‘Do. Do. Do.’

A week later, the car was still there. Looking like this:


They had trouble sourcing a truck to bring it home. There was a cousin with a girlfriend who had a brother and his father owned a truck but he wasn’t willing to give it. They’d be back in a few days with a plan. More time passed. The mechanic offered them a triangular yoke you could attach to the back of your car and tow it that way. There was excitement about this until it transpired they didn’t have a car with a hitch so that wouldn’t work.

Another week went by and no word. Eventually they said the logistics wouldn’t work out, and there was a lot of work to be done on my yoke, and they hadn’t accounted for that time I scraped it off the pillar downstairs and wrecked the back door. And something might go wrong with transferring the engines and then you just have two useless Insignias and no money left. So they abandoned the great plan, let the genius subside, and went back to screwing screws with ratchet screwdrivers, and waiting for the next great moment.


El Nino Cover-1

Nice warm chips.

He was late sixties maybe. Galway accent. Denim jacket. Beard. Kristofferson look.

Bonnet open, Toyota, side of the road, hoping something might happen. He’d been there a while. Contemplating the engine, listening to the scream of the traffic on the bypass.

I pulled in. Asked him the rhetorical: ‘Everything ok?’

‘The car just stopped.’


‘I was driving down the road and it just cut out.’

It was getting cold, and dark, and supremely dangerous. We stood there. I said: ‘I can try it.’

He gave me the key. Put it in the ignition. Turned it. It went: clackclackclackkkkkk.

It reminded me of something. Maybe the Astra when the starter went. Or the Mitsubishi after the alternator broke. Or maybe it was when the engine went on the Insignia. Could have been that time with the Avensis too. Either way – there was no tools. No expertise. No hope. So I asked: ‘Do you have breakdown insurance?

He shook his head in a way that said the car should hardly be on the road at all and never mind that fancy stuff. There was nothing for it only give him a lift into town and try find a garage. On the way, I asked him: ‘Had you plenty of petrol?



‘I don’t know.’


‘Well there was a quarter tank in it when I left Galway.’

‘And is there much in it now?’

‘A drop. I think. Maybe I ran out of petrol?’

‘Where were you goin anyway?’


‘From Galway?’

‘Yeah. I was goin to take a left at Clara and up through Tullamore and into Portlaoise and onto Carlow then down to Bunclody and into Wexford.’


But I might turn back now.’

‘If you get goin.’

‘That’s right. Do you think will I?’

‘Get goin? I don’t know. I doubt it.’

”The oil light was on too.’

‘For long?’

‘A good while.’

‘And did you check it for oil in Galway?’

‘No….maybe I should have?’

At the garage, they had some ideas. None of them that good. Rain coming now. A bitter bite, white hot sky and clouds. The guy’s name was Jack. He took advantage of the Supermac’s across the road. Got a large chips. Came back. Sat there. We both thought. Eventually he said: ‘Them are nice warm chips.’

‘Was it not a bit ambitious leaving Galway this morning, for Wexford, in a car low on petrol? And oil?’

‘It’s not my car, see.’

‘Who owns it?’

‘I just borrowed it. Think will I get home?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘I might get the bus back.’

‘And what about the car?’

‘I’ll have to sort it out I suppose. Do you know anyone with a truck?’

Now he was thinking. I had a myriad of numbers from previous breakdowns. Chanced one of them. He was working. Said he could be there in twenty minutes.

So we went back to the car and waited. Jack still working on the chips. The sky still working on the rain. The traffic doing its best not to hit the Toyota. Loads of beeps. Incredulity. Exaggerated swerves. Jack said: ‘Tis a busy spot here.’


And then the breakdown truck came. Hazard lights. Chains. All that. Got it loaded up. A big puddle of oil on the ground from underneath. The driver said he knew a garage and would get Jack to a bus or a train or whatever he needed. Jack tried to give me €50 for my trouble and I said no. And off they went.