Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Automatic Granny by Ken Dunn

The car was dead. Long live the next one but….there wasn’t one. Granny was not happy. She needed a car. Life would be very difficult without one, especially living in Lapta. The year was 1992. Granny’s previous car, a Ford Laser, the forerunner of the Orion (remember them?) had expired. It was well over fifteen years old and basically worn out. The terrain of Lapta had a lot to do with that well before the improvements to the roads in the village which the Belediye organised a few years ago.

In any case, Granny needed a new car and, sensibly, thought an automatic would be a better option rather than having to faff about with a manual gearbox up the steep, narrow roads up and through Lapta. There were, first of all, none to be found. This was before the huge importation of new cars to the TRNC. So, what to do? After a couple of weeks of being car-less, having to depend on taxi’s and the ‘creative’ skills of local bus drivers, Granny then found that one of the local mechanics in Lapta knew of, and promised her, an ‘automatic’ at the right price which would be perfect for her. He brought it up to the house, parked it carefully and she came out to look at it.

That might have been an end to the problem for another few years but it wasn’t. Within two months the thing began to ‘sag’ mechanically, became distinctly asthmatic and lost the will to drive up through the steep roads of Lapta. Then it began to leak oil, water, brake fluid and after several expensive repairs Granny’s patience joined the general exodus of confidence. The problems of being car-less began all over again. This time there really were no automatics to be found….anywhere.

Two weeks later Mehmet, the same mechanic who had found the automatic, introduced an ‘agent’ to her for a car distribution business in the TRNC, a new venture, and he seemed to have the solution to the problem. The agent told her, via his company, he could import a brand new car to the island, exactly to her specification, and it wouldn’t take more than a few weeks, four at the most, to have it shipped over and delivered to her house. The bonus was that it would be well below list price due to the tax concessions which existed then for new vehicles arriving from abroad, in this case Turkey.

The agent happened to be a main land Turk, a bit of a ‘chancer’, and we didn’t realise at the time that Turkish Cypriots and mainlanders didn’t always get on with each other that well. But, in any case, that’s where the problems began and after a while we had to step in. Granny, bless her, had given this character the full amount for the new car, well over five thousand pounds. We then found that he had used the money for ‘something else’ and Granny was left high and dry and car-less, again. She had the good sense to place the whole sorry business in the hands of her solicitor in Girne and waited and waited and waited. In those days Cypriot law didn’t operate any more quickly than it does today.

She had to resort to taxis and buses again. By this time Christmas was looming and she always came back to the UK to stay with us. At the end of the second week of January we phoned the solicitor in Cyprus to find out if anything had happened. Nothing had. Granny was upset and wondered what she should or could do next. She wasn’t looking forward to going back to Lapta without a car of some sort.

I resurrected a suggestion we had made two years before when the old Ford she had then was obviously on its way to the big car park in the sky. The notion was simple. She could buy exactly what he wanted over in the UK and then all of us could pile into it and drive it back to Cyprus. It would be quite an adventure, wouldn’t it? Well, no it wouldn’t. A few years before it might have been but some rather explosive events in the Balkans put a stop to that.

The easiest way had been cut or rather blown to bits. There was no way we were going to try the old Yugoslavian route with most of the population there trying to kill each other. Granny didn’t fancy the drive at all and who could have blamed her. When you reach your mid 80’s there are certain jaunts that no longer appeal. Besides, it would still take at least two weeks whatever route we took. She was happy to fly back and leave the ‘delivery’ to us.

With that agreed we looked around for a suitable vehicle. Two weeks later we found it. A local Ford dealer had a Ford Fiesta, low mileage, three years old, in near perfect condition and, best of all, an automatic. After a fast piece of ‘horse trading’ from me we agreed the price, three hundred under what the dealer had originally wanted and all was set for the final purchase. The dealer promised to give the car a full service, a lick and a shine and we would be back the following day with the cheque for the agreed price.

Overnight Granny changed her mind. What if the car she’d ordered in Cyprus turned up? The cost of taking it over? Import duty? We’d been over all of this but it was her decision. I phone the dealer the following day and they ‘understood’, making me feel like a total pratt! I phoned her solicitor in Cyprus but nothing had changed. No car. Granny wavered then later that day changed her mind. She would buy the car.

In short, I phoned the dealer, the car was still available and we bought it the next day. So far so good. Now I could begin to plan the journey. It didn’t prove to be as straightforward as I’d hoped. All kinds of ‘advice’ began to arrive from friends. The channel tunnel would knock off hours of the journey. The channel ferry crossing would give slight respite to the journey. The route through France might, or might not, be expensive. Germany might not be the best way to go. Going through Switzerland would be fun. Catch a ferry from Venice, Piraeus, Brindizi, Istanbul , Mersin…. It went on and on.

Every suggestion had missed the vital point that the journey had to be as direct as possible. Time would not allow for the gentle meanderings of a tourist at large. In early February Granny flew back to Cyprus, looking forward to seeing her ‘new’ car rolling off the ferry in Girne but she was still fretting about the one she’d paid for in Cyprus. If, under threat of legal action, the car was delivered she’d have two cars after I brought the other over. What would she do with two of them?

A week later and I’d received a ‘doorstop’ of a package from the AA. It was a highly comprehensive and detailed route across Europe but there was little information about driving through Turkey. That might be a problem with the whole of the western coastline and the southern shore to negotiate, a mere eight hundred miles or so. Then we found, from another call from Granny, that the Chef of Police in Girne had stepped in to apply pressure on the ‘dealer’ but still no car.

By the end of February I was well on my way to being ready. All I had to do was organise insurance cover and have the car fully checked over. The last thing I wanted was a breakdown in the middle of Turkey but then the weather became the next problem. Huge snowfalls throughout Turkey blocked many of the roads so I had to wait until things improved. Weeks floated by with no word about the Cyprus car so, if the weather improved I’d be on my way soon. As March was almost at an end the weather reports had improved considerably and I had to make my mind up to go or not. I decided to go.

With every final check on the weather complete snow was no longer a problem. Mid-week, in a few days’ time, would be ‘launch’ date. April 1st. How’s that for a date! So, at 9.46am on April 1st I was ready to go when the phone rang. It was Granny. The new car she had paid for months before had arrived! So, there we were with a car we didn’t want nor did Granny. It took six months to sell the damn thing. Automatics, then, were not that popular but we did eventually sell it at a slight loss.

So, if you buy a car in the TRNC be careful and don’t go near ‘agents’ or one man operations. When we came over later in the year I found a pair of number plates in the boot. They were three years old!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.