Name: Mike Sleath
Occupation: Aviation Safety Consultant (recently retired)
Current Level: Advanced driver and motorcyclist
How long have you been driving?
I started learning on my 17th birthday and passed my test in the same year (1975), so I have been driving for over 42 years. At the age of 13 I met a school friend who was a true “petrol-head” (well before the term was invented) which led to my own interest (or obsession?) in all things automotive.
How long have you been an Advanced Driver?
34 years. I passed my second IAM test in September 1983. (I failed my first test due to taking my hands off the wheel too often (to push my slightly loose sunglasses up quite frequently!) and, I think, being too relaxed and engaged in conversation with my examiner!!)
Why did you decide to take the test?
Apart from many car magazines, in my teens I read two significant books: “Unsafe at any speed” by Ralph Nader, and “Very advanced driving” by A. Tom Topper. From reading those books and many magazines, I was well aware of the IAM while I was learning to drive, and always had the IAM test in mind as the next step. I waited until I bought a nearly new Austin Metro 1.0 in 1982, then watched out for an IAM open day in Southampton; that open day was in April 1983.
What was next?
Within a few weeks of my test pass I went to the 1983 Southern Group AGM and volunteered to join the committee (with one or two others). During the following year I was trained to observe and at the 1984 AGM I was elected to take over the group secretary role.
What is next?
What do you currently drive & what do you think of it?
I currently drive a 1971 MG Midget (bought in 1985) and ride a 1997 BMW R1100RS motorcycle (bought in 2003). Over 32 years I have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the MG (also known as an upholstered roller skate!), but I take great satisfaction in having re-built the car and then just keeping it going. When it’s working well, I love it; but it does occasionally let me down – that’s when the motorbike provides a reliable back-up. Would I recommend it? As an only commuting vehicle, not really; but as a fun machine (or toy?) – definitely: it’s one of the cheapest classic sports cars you can get, does 40mpg on a good journey, it’s fast enough to keep up with modern traffic, and it’s small so that there’s room in a single garage for it and a motorbike!!
What bad habits of other drivers annoy you?
Not checking their headlights are working, showing too many lights (e.g. front fog lights when not foggy, brake lights when stationary in queues), not indicating (generally at roundabouts).
What is your dream car / favourite car?
Dream car: probably Jaguar E-type. I would love to drive one, but would never really want to own one (too expensive and valuable to drive on the public road!).
Favourite car: there are quite a few favourites, but this week, having been admiring one last week, I think I would like to find a well-rebuilt Triumph Stag – but I might have to sell the MG and motorbike for the garage space!