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road rush

For some, the course of romance is dependable and true, the way William Shakespeare defined it in Sonnet 116 when he wrote: "Love is … an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken."

But sometimes love is not a Shakespeare poem; rather, it plays out like a country song, the kind where notices get served, and cars and houses go on the auction block. And so it was that I recently found myself on a car-shopping mission with a young friend who had some very specific automotive requirements – he needed a machine that would help mend a broken heart.

As an ex-mechanic, car writer and lifelong gearhead, I get a lot of calls from people who want help choosing a car. Their specifications can be unexpectedly complex. One colleague, who lives in a house that can't be altered because it's considered historic, asked me to help him find a car that would haul a trailer, yet fit in a garage that's just over two metres wide. Then there was my tree-hugger friend who wanted a car that would carry five people and run on recycled kitchen grease.

Such is the diversity of the car hunt. And now my young friend Eric needed a car for his divorce – after 14 years of marriage, his wife had taken up with someone else. As we headed out to the showrooms, I gave Eric my standard car-choice questionnaire – price, seating requirements, fuel economy, etc.

Eric had a two-year-old son who would be with him half the time. That meant a four-door machine. His family income had been cut in half by his wife's departure, so I assumed value would be paramount. I suggested a Honda Civic or a Toyota Prius for excellent economy, bulletproof reliability, etc.

Eric's head sagged. His wife had dumped him. Now I was condemning him to a fuel-efficient box that offered all the thrill of a cut-rate Howard Johnson's room. Eric needed a car that would lift his spirits with great handling and, if all went well, help him attract a woman. The Civic may be great, but it's not exactly a wheeled aphrodisiac.

Fifteen minutes later, we were at the Mini dealership, checking out a Clubman with leather seats and a trick passenger-side door that would make it easy for Eric to load his son's car seat. The Clubman would cost more than a Civic – but a lot less than a Porsche.

After months of asset division, custody arrangements and general misery, the Mini would be a boost. The Mini spoke of the open road and style – we had found Eric's Love Recovery Express.

As we headed back to the office, I could see that Eric's mood had improved. We'd spent an hour talking cars and sorted through priorities. After selling the house he'd shared with his wife, Eric could afford the Mini. And he seemed to need it.

For some, cars are nothing more than transportation. For others, they're much more – a car can be a status symbol, a means of expression or even a form of therapy. This got me thinking about the perfect car for the divorcee. What do you buy when you've been spurned, hurt and cuckolded? Here are some suggestions:

The Revenge Mobile: The ex who dumped you may have said no to that convertible, European micro-car or '60s muscle car. Now you're free to buy it (finances permitting.) With any luck, your ex will see you cruising with the hot new partner your dream ride may help you attract.

The Economizer: There may not be much cash left over after the legal bills, asset division and child car costs. Bite the bullet, buy a used Civic or Corolla, and enjoy the low payments. At least one thing will be going right in your life.

The Childhood Memories Car: Dream cars don't have to be expensive. I've always wanted to buy a machine like the ones my parents had when I was a little kid – a 1950's Borgward Isabelle or a 1963 Mercury Comet. It's therapeutic driving a car that takes you back to a time when you weren't married to someone who hates you.

The Therapy Ride: Your marriage may have been a joyless grind. Your new life doesn't have to be. Pick a car that's fun to drive, and makes you smile when you open the garage. It should be uncommon and cool. For Eric, the Mini Cooper appears to be the car of choice, but he's also considering the Golf GTI. Another entertaining car that doesn't cost the Earth is the Fiat 500 Abarth – I spent a few weeks with one, and found it unique and engaging. I liked looking at it, it was fun and it wasn't outrageously expensive. A perfect therapy ride for the newly divorced – here's hoping I never need it.

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