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Roy Lanchester addresses a long-running misconception

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The fully-lubricated regional journalist sets the record straight about that Nissan Primera incident

I’d like to take this opportunity to address a long-standing rumour about yours truly. It’s a rumour that rears its ugly head on car launches every so often, whether in the form of whispered asides, blatant accusation or, in one case, a whimsical song which wasn’t well thought-out as it attempted to rhyme “sat-nav” with “fat twat”.

I would therefore like to set the so-called “record” straight. The year was 2002 and I had booked in an example of the then-new Nissan Primera, the funny-looking one that proved to be both excellent and unpopular. As is customary, the car was delivered to my house by one of those moaning men in an anorak whose main job is to whine about a lift to the station even though they obviously have a perfectly good set of legs. Even that chap who used to drop off SAABs could walk a bit, despite his pronounced limp, and this is why I have always maintained a hardline stance on not dropping anyone anywhere no matter how much they claim to have asthma.

On this occasion I shooed away the complaining delivery man, had a quick look around the front part of the car and then went back indoors where no doubt I was busy writing/sampling an article/bottle on/of something. The following day, however, I was able to take the new Nissan for what I planned to be a lengthy drive though the weather, I recall, was very bad and I include this in my basket of reasons for what was about to occur.

One of the selling points of the 2002 Primera was that it could be ordered with satellite navigation which back then was still a novelty, even in press cars. Remembering this detail from the information pack I had digested, not literally, with a sausage roll and some reading juice the previous lunchtime, I decided to press it into action whilst out on my test drive, firstly to see how it worked and secondly because I needed some guidance later as I would be popping over to an unfamiliar address in Spofforth to pick up some cheap meat from a lorry garage. Accordingly, I began to tinker with the navigation controls which I noticed fell easily to hand. Shortly afterwards, the unit began to chatter away like an annoying lady robot and I believe it was this distraction that caused me to lose focus on other things such as the road and the act of remaining upon it.

The Primera travelled quite some distance across that field, mercifully missing a large tree and most of a hedge, and came to rest on the edge of a shallow ditch. My first thought was simply to reverse out the way I had come in but aggressive application of the throttle seemed only to make the situation worse and it became clear that the car was well and truly stuck, especially as it had now entered the ditch more fully. There was only one thing for it; I would have to immediately telephone the Nissan press office and tell them to come and rescue me. Sadly, I had inadvertently left a section of the B6164 that suffered very poor phone signal and I was unable to make contact leaving me with only the very worst option, which was to get out of the car and walk to get help. Accordingly, I emerged into the drizzly gloom of that fateful afternoon and began squelching through the foul mire pausing only to fall over several times. Within a few minutes, however, I had the good fortune to spot some lights in the distance and realised with relief that it was The Horse & Jockey near Little Ribston which was excellent news as it was a pretty decent pub and, as far as I could remember, I was still allowed in it.

Sadly this latter point turned out to be not entirely correct as when I arrived at these premises the barmaid made it quite clear that I was not permitted inside as I was “covered in cack”. I was, I confess, quite muddy but after a little negotiation with the landlord he agreed to pass me a pint through the kitchen window and then another one and then steak and chips and another pint and a chaser and one for the road. Unfortunately, he was less keen to allow me to use his landline as he said I had “muck or shit or something” in my hair and added that the cable “wouldn’t reach” to any of the windows overlooking the beer garden. Also, it was now 7pm and doubtless the idle Nissan press office would have closed for the evening. I briefly considered calling a taxi home but my muddied state would make me an unattractive passenger and I was already coming perilously close to using up my three strikes with most local minicab companies. No, there was only one thing for it; I would have to walk back to the stricken Primera and sleep there for the night.

My trip back to the car was, if anything, even more arduous than the outward journey as the countryside in the pitch black proves itself to contain a great many things to fall into/onto, at least one of which was a horse. However, I managed to arrive back at the Nissan, muddied, bloodied and with my takeaway pint long since spilt. A fitful night’s sleep followed, although the Primera’s engine proved to be silky smooth as it was not intrusive even though I left it running most of the time. Indeed, the thing that awoke me in the morning was a farmer who was armed with some robust observations about my car and its location upon his land. This initial anger was then replaced with a rural version of mirth as he observed the condition of the Primera’s interior and, eventually, agreed to pull the car out of the vile ooze using one of his many lavish tractors, all paid for by the EU no doubt.

Released from the muddy grasp of the countryside I was able to proceed home at a pace that accounted for the Primera’s offside front wheel and its general reluctance to point in the same direction as its colleagues. Once back at Lanchester Towers I was able to telephone Nissan and instruct them to collect the car and drop off a replacement, warning them that the first test vehicle had experienced some changes to its appearance, cleanliness and odour, and also that they were about to receive a bill from an agricultural man in North Yorkshire marked ‘car recovery’ which I had assured him would be paid within the week. The entire situation was therefore resolved without fuss, apart from the one made by several members of the Nissan PR team, and that was that.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, as I said earlier, the mis-reporting of this story within the motor industry has vexed me for years and I am delighted to have an opportunity to set the record straight at last. Armed with the facts about this incident, I hope you will now appreciate that the substance which Nissan later claimed “ruined” the Primera’s beige interior was, contrary to popular legend, mostly mud. To repeat, it was mud that required all the seats and three door panels in the Primera to be replaced and while, yes, there was also some faeces, I must emphasise the vast majority of it was animal in origin. I hope hearing the real version of events will finally put an end to those irksome folk who delight in referring to me as “the man who once shat in a Nissan”.

Roy’s new book, How To Be A Motoring Journalist, is out now