Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Slow recovery

As my arm heals I am once again able to do with ease the ordinary things I’d always taken for granted. Most things anyway – driving remains a challenge. Gripping objects in my left hand is difficult and painful as is applying any sideways force with my left arm. Managing unassisted steering is a bit of a chore and a gear lever is very hard work indeed. Even pulling on the handbrake feels like painful exertion.

It does give you a new perspective on car design. My Citroën needs more effort to move the lever into the plane of 5th and reverse than it needs to push towards 1st and 2nd. I can manage the push into first or second easily but fifth is hard work and I prefer to use my right hand to select reverse. There can be no need to make things hard work and my car is by no means unique in having a stronger spring on the 5th-reverse plane of its gearbox. In the old days some 4-speed gearboxes had no spring assistance, which made changing gear very easy but I’m not sure there are many cars that are tolerable with just 4 gears. A sequential gearbox would work too, just pulling and pushing for each gear. An automatic would be better.

The design of the old-fashioned pull-up handbrake seems to be falling out of fashion, which is a good thing as it is an absurd piece of design. Pulling it on seems to involve all the wrong muscles (especially when they are impaired in their operation). In my present condition a right-hand handbrake would make more sense (off the top of my head that means cars like the Jaguar XJS, Aston Martins, the Lotus Esprit and the W123 Mercedes-Benz). A lever that could be pushed forward, even with my left arm in its present condition, would be better still; or maybe a foot-operated parking brake is the answer (various Mercedes, the Citroën XM and lots of Americans). I’m not sure an electric handbrake is the answer – with automatic transmission it works well enough but I think something more progressive is needed when balancing on the clutch biting point.

Power steering is the obvious answer to ease the last of my troubles but it needs to be quite direct – don’t want too much arm-twirling. Citroën have probably made some of the most direct powered setups – the SM needed only 2 turns to go from lock to lock and if the CX was slightly less responsive it was still sharp compared to many of its rivals. A C-matic semi-auto CX would work well, I think and there are some CX automatics. An SM would be better, being left-hand drive the gear laver and handbrake can be operated by my “good” arm. But if someone lent me an SM while I recover I’d be tempted to fake my symptoms to prolong the loan.

1 comment:

David Wilkins said...

Hope your arm gets better soon!