I took a chance on love and car roulette and won! Sammie Payne tells Charlotte Vowden how her partner Chloe and a plucky Renault Clio have transformed her life.
When the Clio replaced the Renault 5 in 1990, it was the first generation of the French manufacturer’s cars to be named with a noun rather than a number. The intention was to give them a warmer and more human feel, and if the bond Sammie Payne has with her 1.4 RT called ‘Brie’ is anything to go, it may just have done the trick …
“It takes one person to ignite something inside you, for good or bad, and when I met my partner Chloe, I realised how much of a passion I have for cars. It’s been really fun discovering it together; I thank her and love her for that.
I was born in 1984 and although neither my mum or dad had an interest in cars, I really admired how the shapes of them changed as I grew up. The nineties was a really great era for design. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 26 and my first car was an unreliable and uncomfortable Renault Clio Mk2. I drove it into the ground. I put more than over 130,000 miles on the clock, and I adored it. At one point, it’s pretty much all I had, apart from my dog; it was just the three of us against the world. I was sad when I had to get rid of it, but it wasn’t well and with every MOT its problems were getting worse, but it cemented my love for the Clio.
Chloe found Brie, my Clio 1.4 RT, using the £1000 car roulette hashtag on Twitter (FYI, I’m not a big fan of cheese, but the previous owner named all his cars after a different type so it stuck) and the moment I saw her I knew I was going to buy her.
Our first drive home together was beautiful, she just cruised. I didn’t have to do anything, not even an oil change, before Chloe and I hopped in and drove Brie 400 miles to Norfolk; it was the most comfortable journey I’ve ever had in any car, ever! Zipping along the small, windy coastal roads knowing the car was going to hold when I flung it round corners (safely and within the speed limit!) was my kind of heaven. We went to a different beach every day, there were glorious sunrises, glorious sunsets; it was magical. That’s when I made a promise that I will do whatever Brie needs so that I can keep her.
A lot of people might not look at a Clio and go ooh that’s a real looker, but I think they’ve got a great front end and arse; the line of the wing flows really nicely all the way to the back. For a small hatchback it definitely packs a punch. The 1.4 engine isn’t massively fast but it’s got enough power for the size of the car and the driving position is really good. I’m 6ft 1 with relatively long legs so the fact that I can sit really comfortably says a lot. The power steering is nice and smooth too.
Brie isn’t a particularly fancy model, which I like, but I have upgraded her with a Renault Clio Phase II stereo and tape deck. I’ve replaced the speakers with new stock ones but it’s all still period correct and that’s important to me. The cassette is one of my favourite media, it was cutting edge when I was growing up, and Chloe and I really enjoy music; we’re known for putting the volume up loud. Jamming to tunes that are being played through original hardware makes everything sound even more fantastic, it’s testament to the technology. Power ballads are always fun but sometimes we rock out to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Status Quo. When I’m on a journey by myself, maybe going somewhere I’ve not been before or to see people I haven’t seen for a long time, I get a bit anxious so opt for something more relaxing.
I’m not really one for joining clubs, or a least I haven’t so far, and that’s why car meets like the one organised by Becca Treston for International Women’s Day are so important. Chloe and I were nervous about putting ourselves out there but it was an amazing day, we felt unbelievably comfortable and accepted. We love standing around talking about our cars, but everyone there knew there’s more to people than just the cars they drive so we talked about other experiences we’ve had in our lives. Becca has since launched the Women Driver’s Social Club on Facebook `and I think it will go from strength to strength.
Chloe and I go to our local scrapyard all the time for a wander. They’re really handy places, but searching for parts can make you feel quite sad because I see cars as living beings and it can feel as though you’re picking pieces off a corpse. It’s a weird concept, but looking around is almost like doing research because when I see a Clio it gives me an idea of where mine might start to go wrong. We all know scrapping cars isn’t nice but sometimes it’s just the way it has to be and knowing I’ve taken bits from other cars to help keep mine going is nice.
On one occasion I found a set of 14-inch Baccara wheels. There are very few in existence and I thought Brie would look fantastic riding on them, but they were hideously expensive – £500! As the weeks passed, the price came down and I put them on my credit card for £350. I don’t regret it. They’re not factory for a Clio RT but they are far better than the horrific hub caps that used to be on there.
I’ve done a few things to repair and improve Brie. I’ve put a new exhaust on so she no longer sounds like a tractor and I’m planning to put in a Phase II electric sunroof, which I also got from the scrapyard. It’ll be wonderful once it’s done. Every job I do I learn something new about my Clio. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought I’d have done any of these things myself so it’s brought real satisfaction.
Brie is a happy go lucky soul and I think I feel that because she makes me happy. When I look out the window, no matter what, it’s like she’s smiling at me and when a ray of sunshine catches her, it’s like she’s giving me a wave. In a very cutesy voice I’ll say: ‘Hey Brie.’
Chloe and I help each other get the cars we want and dream of. Her first car was an MGB and I’d love to buy it back for her one day. Her coming into my life with a wealth of experience and knowledge that she got from her dad, who has been a mechanic for 40-odd years, really opened something up in both of us.
Like a lot of people, I’ve battled with depression. Chloe and cars have helped get me to the point where I can enjoy my life again. It was that first drive in the Brie when I thought things are going to be OK.”
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