Alan Donohoe Of The Rakes On The Joy Of Motoring

Rakes frontman Alan Donohue tells of his love for the open road and his Triumph 1300 - and his hatred of Jeremy Clarkson

I never wanted to drive

Basically I never really had any inclination to buy a car, I’d never really owned a car before, and wasn’t massively into them. I just moved to Brighton in the last eight months, and there’s a lot more space there. Living in London there’s no point in having a car. Our press girl told me about her 1960’s Ford. You don’t need any tax on it, because it’s exempt if it was manufactured before 1973. The MOT was 40 quid although I had to buy the parts and fit them in. And then there’s insurance which is about 140 quid a year.

Avoid Eastern Bloc motor vehicle technology

Because we’d been in Berlin, I thought I’d buy a Trabant. So I found a couple on eBay and had a look at one when we did a couple of shows there. So there was a Trabant for sale for a couple of hundred quid which I went to check out, went for a spin in it, and they’re really hard to drive. The gear stick is like nothing I’ve ever seen before; there’s this red box in the dashboard. It’s also a two-stroke engine whereas the car I decided upon is a four-stroke engine. It’s more like a motorbike engine than a car. It’s really noisy and they’re really dangerous because they’re not made of metal, they’re made from this stuff called Duraplast which the East Germans invented using side-products from the East German dye industry mixed with products from the Russian cotton industry. Put together in a chemical process, that’s what forms the body of the Trabant. It’s actually flammable, so if you crash in a regular car made of steel it’ll get hot, but at least it won’t enclose you in the flames. Yeah, pretty dodgy cars, had a spin in one of them.

My car is a triumph

So I settled on a Triumph 1300, which Triumph started making just before Dolomites. It’s like a Dolomite. 1300 is the size of its engine. We had a show at the Cardiff Barfly and someone had put it on eBay, so I went up and had a look at it that day… had a spin in it. It’s actually a really cool car, really nice. It’s a British car, the Triumph, but in its heyday they actually exported a lot to Europe, so this was actually a left-hand drive because it was exported to France in the late 60s. This French guy bought it for his grandson who was about four at the time, so it wasn’t really used. So even though it’s about 41 years old there’s only 30,000 miles on it, which is what a lot of cars do in a year. They brought it back to England via a specialist to get scrapped but he saw that it was a functioning Triumph and sold it on to this guy who I bought it from in Cardiff.

I now know a thing or two about the mechanics of a motor

The car wasn’t starting well, and kept stopping in the middle of the road. I didn’t know anything about cars so I bought a Haynes manual and joined the Triumph UK club, and went on forums. The guys are helpful out there. Big shout out to Dollyboy1300. No, they really are helpful, because in the end I just don’t know enough. It passed its MOT, it just needed some maintenance, and I got it to work fine. If it cuts out at the lights, the issue there is, when you’ve not got your foot on the accelerator there might not be enough fuel getting into the carburettor, so you have to turn a screw and the carburettor allows more petrol in on its idle time. I got out the tools, got the manual out, took out the spark plugs, measured the gauge, got out the WD40… It was frustrating before, but slowly, in two weeks, a crash course, I’ve learnt about the basics of the fuel system and the ignition system enough to get the old boy working again.

Our generation have lost the ability to tinker

Talking from a car perspective, with new cars, there’s like a 12-point socket under the steering wheel, and when you go to the mechanics they plug a computer into it to see what’s going on via that. Otherwise it’s a sort of mechanical trial and error. Maybe a lot of things have got so complicated that it’s now such a specialist knowledge that you can’t really get in there and get your hands dirty. It’s specialised labour. They’ve taken the fun out of it? Yeah! And made it all work properly!

Jeremy Clarkson is still a cock

I was joking to my wife, saying "I’m a petrolhead", putting on a Clarkson accent: "just going down the garage, such a petrolhead, love it!" Driving through the English countryside and polluting it. I’m not massively, I don’t sort of go "ooh look at that Ferrari!" but I do like my car and I do like the old, especially English cars. Without wanting to sound like an American, they are very quaint. They’ve got a lot of character. I’ve only learnt this in the last few weeks really, sort of cottoned on to it. I hate Jeremy Clarkson. I really hate Jeremy Clarkson. Having not really watched Top Gear, the only sort of thing I know about Clarkson is that sometimes he writes columns. I pick it up now and again, and there was this one piece, and obviously he plays devil’s advocate and is a wind up merchant… And I read one of his columns recently about why bullying was good. Which I thought was quite funny. If he wasn’t bullied at school he’d be worse than he is now, that sort of thing. I started writing this song about George Monbiot plotting Jeremy Clarkson’s murder but that never quite made the cut for the album. I’ll have to finish it off another time.

I like nothing more than a spin in the country with the wife

The day after I bought the car we drove out to the countryside, and down the Sussex Downs going for a spin. That’s a lovely place to pollute; sparrows falling off their perches. Having some pinot noir. We drove in there for some wine tasting but the place was shut that day. Obviously I’d spit it out. I’m a very responsible drink driver. I used to wear blood red gloves onstage and I wear them when I drive as well, with a jacket, you know, the whole look.

I’m environmentally covered

[My car is] very light, though it isn’t as efficient as one those horrible cars, what are they called? Those new sort of smart cars. It’s not like I take it out apart from the odd spin at the weekend or something, but in my defence I am a vegan, and that diet is very good for the environment. I can’t back it up scientifically and I don’t know who said it, but a vegan in a 4X4 is still using more emissions than a meat eater on a bicycle. I went to this talk by this guy from The Vegan Society and he was talking about people having enough land to sustain themselves, and he was saying a vegan could live off one acre of land using the resources of everything within that acre. So environmentally, I’m covered.

Not all cars are penis extensions

I think that applies to balding men in their mid 40’s and early 50s driving around in Ferraris. I don’t think anyone would see me in my Triumph 1300 and say "ooh, he’s compensating because he’s lacking in some other department."

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