Tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner of the back page of the national and world news section of our local paper this morning — the bit reserved for “quirky little stories to cheer you up after the doom and gloom you’ve just had to wade through over your coffee” — was the brilliant tale of two German schoolboys who were stopped by police after driving their home-made car on public roads.
Apparently, the two youngsters, aged 13 and 14, cobbled together a working vehicle out of a lawnmower motor and bits cannibalized from old cars, even including a clutch and brake pedal. Magnificently, they engineered the steering wheel so it worked backwards: steering left made the car turn right, and vice-versa.
I’m not sure whether the crazy steering was deliberate or not, but either way it worked and somehow they managed to drive the thing around without getting killed. Quite rightly, the police stopped them — it was an incredibly dangerous thing to be doing and quite illegal — but I have to say: hats off to the boys. Speaking as somebody who can barely put together a flat-pack wardrobe without incident, I’m impressed.
These days, we hear so much about how modern communications technology is turning us all into zombiefied dullards (in my day it was television; now it’s smartphones), but the fact is that just as has always been the case, countless teenagers everywhere are quietly being geniuses: sending home-made rockets into space, inventing generators powered by urine (and no, I’m not making this up), and now making cars out of lawnmowers.
The article said nothing about whether anyone was punished in connection with this. But if I ran a car repair shop in their area, I know I’d be offering them an apprenticeship when they leave school.