Anecdote – My Minivan, no brakes and a diving copper outside parliament.

My Minivan, no brakes and a diving copper outside parliament.


As a student I had no money (mainly because I was spending what little I had on gigs and albums). I had a minivan and struggled to put petrol in it. At that time I remember petrol was 26p a gallon! My minivan had a brake cylinder that was leaking but I did not have the finances to get it fixed. My solution was to top it up with brake fluid at regular intervals.

Then, manna from heaven, I discovered a big gallon can of brake fluid in the basement. A year or two’s supply.

Over the next weeks I noticed a problem. Gradually the brake pedal would get harder and harder. Eventually the brakes would come on and seize solid. The only recourse I had was to slide under the car and release each of the wheel bleeding nuts. Brake fluid would squirt out and the brakes would be released.

This was very strange. I couldn’t fathom it out.

I kept the right spanner on the seat next to me and every now and then jumped out and bled the brakes. The main downside of this procedure was that it left you with no brakes for a mile or two. Then they would gradually start coming back on. I became quite adept at driving my minivan through the London traffic with no brakes other than my handbrake.

On one occasion I was driving past the Houses of Parliament having just bled the brakes when a policeman took it into his head to step out into the road in front of me to allow a Member of Parliament out.

I jammed on the handbrake too hard which locked the back wheels. The back end started snaking around but the van did not slow. I was hurtling straight at him.

At the last minute the policeman hurled himself out of the way. I put my foot down and disappeared quick.