Diving the MX5

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This happened a few weekends a go, but i have been behind on editing and posting things! Better late than never!

I had a really amazing adventure this weekend! I drove the MX5 a friend and me have been restoring!

That’s a pretty huge achievement! Driving is one of those things which is firmly "not a jamie thing", like the sharp knives and rock concerts.

It all started while driving back from IKEA. Mike and me have been working on the little MX5 for about 6 months or so.

We work well as a team, he’s good at all the practical stuff (taking things apart, hammering stuff) and I’m good at debugging stuff (googling)…

We were discussing what to do if the MX5 we have been working on didn’t pass it’s MOT.

It turns out, leaving the haynes manual in the glovebox so the MX5 could study hard for the MOT isn’t how it works. Shame.

During the discussion we mentioned it was frustrating that I never got to drive the things we work on…

I don’t get to drive them for pretty much the same reason a people under 17 don’t get to drive cars.

While I can do most of the physical side of it, I can’t make decisions or predict other road users fast enough. Additionally when a loud noise happens my brain turns to ‘fluff’ and if all goes wrong as my body stops working.

Also I might get a little too ‘zoomy’ and end up backwards and on fire in a hedge.

Even as a learner driver I am very hard to insure especially on a sporty little two seat roadster!

However… Mike had an idea!

On private land you don’t need a license or insurance to drive a car and he happened to pass a car driving place called the ‘cardrome’ a few weeks earlier.

In exchange for £15 in coins the cardrome lets anyone explore their private road network in whatever car they like. There are some rules (like a 30mph speed limit) but it’s amazingly lax. You drive up, stick some coins in the gate and in you go!

On Sunday that’s we we did. Took the MX5 to the cardrome, paid our money, drove in parked on the grass and then swapped seats! Wow.

Driving is hard.

It probably sounds obvious but driving is really rather hard. There is so much going on! Mike was very patient (and the MX5 very forgiving!) and I got it going pretty easily.

For the first hour or so we just did a circuit around the private roads in first gear. Mike was explaining things like when to turn and what to look for.

I found this all facinating. I am technical, I design Lego gearboxes for fun after all. The mechanical side of a car is something I understand very well. But what I’d never really appreciated was how it feels to drive.

It’s not my very first time driving, but it was the first time in 7 years and certainly my first time driving a car while non verbal and with so many other challenges in my life.

After the first hour of practising I started to get a feel for it. I then started to explore brave scary things like second gear and using the brakes to slow down before turning…. Up until that point I didn’t need the brakes as simply taking my foot of the accelerator pedal was enough to to bring the care to a stop.

After 2 and a have hours I had a figure of 8 worked out! It included 8 turns and a mini round about. Complete with indicators, sometimes.

I wasn’t learning to drive on the road, I was just there to have fun feeling the car I’d helped to build. I enjoyed just the feeling of driving and threading the car around the roads. Every time I went around Mike gave me more tips and I tried different angles etc.

I doubt I will every be a full driver, in real life you don’t get to practise every corner 20 times over. But repeating he same few corners over and over was so much fun. Making it smooth, making it flow. It’s routines and sameness and refinements and oh it’s just marvellous.

Overall the day was amazing and I hope to do it again sometime. We left after a few hours because a rattling noise when we turned left was starting to worry us…

I’m glad I didn’t go with the aim of learn to drive.

I knew my challenge wasn’t the car but other drivers etc and on the day this bore out almost immediately. Next to the cardrome is a skatepark with loud music. Every time we passed I couldn’t focus on the car and it was a struggle.

Stalling next to it took a full 15 minutes to recover and used over half my spoons for the day.

I am still happy though. I never expected to ever drive the MX5! It’s driving purely as a hobby.

I am super grateful to Mike too. We sometimes refer to how he acts as Dad Mode. He does the protective but taking risks stuff well. This was a great example of dad mode. He was calm and patient, encouraging and relaxed…. He also refused to ask for directions.

The cardrome is awesome and I think it’s a good example of ‘autism friendliness’ hidden in plain view.

To those autistic folk who are mechanically minded but unlikely to drive it’s a great chance to explore our interest in a new and exciting way. I cant wait to try it again sometime.

(PS: I didn’t break the MX5, a sump guard had come loose and was rubbing a wheel)


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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