I went to a business meeting at a client's offices in West London last week, and parked opposite their building in a multi-storey car park that I've used on and off for years, on the odd occasion that the client's car park is full.
I decided to park on the roof level, and to get there you drive up steep, but straight, narrow ramps, which have then have tight 90 degree corners - 4 corners and straight sections for each floor you're climbing up; rather than a constant radius circular ramp like you get in the car parks at Heathrow, for example.
When I first started using that car park I had a Rover 600 turbo (petrol) and, because the walls lining the ramps are only a metre high and you can therefore see that the ramps are devoid of any other traffic, I used to drive upwards pretty darn fast. I'd floor the accelerator on the short, steep straight section, twirl the steering wheel with the ball of one hand and wind on full lock when I got to the 90 degree turns, and wind off all the lock in an instant the same way before accelerating up the next ramp. All good fun. Coming downwards when leaving was even more fun. Again I'd rapidly wind on full lock by twirling the wheel with ball of my hand (none of this push-pull two handed malarkey for me - I'm neither a learner or a police driver), but instead of winding the lock off by hand, mid corner I'd let go of the steering wheel, prod the accelerator and the forward motion of the car would take all the steering lock off for me, and I'd smoothly take hold of the wheel again just as the tyres straightened up. A bit like you see Clive Owen do in Guy Ritchies BMW advert/film, except he does it in an M5 while oversteering through a corner.
Later, I had a V6 Omega, and although not as agile as the 600, due to its larger size, and not as fast due to less torque, it was still good fun to boot it up and down the ramps, and negotiate the tight bends at speed.
This trip was my first time in the car park in the Signum, having managed to park in the client's car park in my recent trips. Enter the multi-storey, onto the first ramp, wind on full lock for the first 90 degree corner and OH MY GOD I almost went smack into the shiney Armco barriers lining the walls of the ramps and corners. WTF? how did I get that so wrong. I eased the car back a few feet and took the corner at walking speed, and it just managed to negotiate the corner without hitting anything. Up the next ramp, same thing again - take the corner really slowly and I was so close to hitting the Armco. Three levels of this - 12 corners (don't ask why I didn't give up and park on a lower level, I don't know either) and I was starting to lose my nerve a little; the walls lining the ramps seemed to be getting narrower and narrower, and I was getting more and more worried that the Siggy would get stuck diagonally on a tight corner, unable to squeeze past the Armco at the front and unable to go back down in reverse through such tight corners. Believe you me, The Jezzy doesn't do "unnerved", so it was a new experience for me.
I finally got to the roof level, parked up and went to the meeting across the road. When I got back, getting down was also no fun compared to how it used to be, each corner having to be taken at walking speed - no letting go of the wheel and letting it straighten up by itself, that was for sure. All the while I was trying to work out what had changed. The Signum isn't as big as an Omega, so why was it struggling? Maybe it was because of the long wheelbase - the car pivots about a point somewhere between the front and rear wheels, so the overhangs aren't such an issue - it had to be because I was in a long-wheelbased car, surely? But is the Signum's wheelbase longer than an Omega's I wondered, even if the Siggy is shorter overall.
Then it hit me - the answer, that is, not the barriers. The Armco was shiny and new, and that should have given me the answer immediately - the Armco had never been there on my previous visits, it was just the concrete wall stopping you from going over the edge into the street below. The Armco was about 4" in depth, and mounted about a foot in from the wall, on both sides of the ramps, so in total the space to drive up had decreased by about two foot, so no wonder it was now a total PITA to drive up or down. Problem solved - I'm not losing "it" yet, not for another 20 years anyway....