Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Mange tout Dix Neuf, mate

Je suis Dix Neuf, non?

I’ve often made a point of how much I don’t see how car design as a whole has moved forward since, say, 1988. Sure, what’s produced today is much safer to crash into Euro N-cap rating cutouts and is much friendlier to Spiderman should he web sling in front of your Hyundai. There’s a lot more safety gear built in to protect you more should the worst happen. However, this has almost been undone by people who drive like complete idiots because they think they’re invincible and multimedia systems that may inadvertently play Coldplay. I’m really not a fan of the gadgets that weigh cars down. Do we really need all that crap, I don’t recall being asked? All that weight being pulled around by “super efficient” engines that in the real world don’t provide any more efficiency than a family hatchback from 1990, and more than likely won’t last half as long.

Which neatly brings me on to this 1990 Renault 19, one of the three best mid sized hatchbacks of the late 1980s. I was offered the opportunity to drive a 1.4 TSE belonging to a good friend, so naturally I had to take up the offer. Only problem being the 380 odd miles between us, so a meet up that coincided with a visit with family my wife has in the North East was scheduled.

Je suis un baton de colle. Maintenant

The first thing the struck me was how small it is compared with the new bloated tat that was parked all around it, yet how crisp and clean the design still is, considering this design is thirty years old. Once you step inside it’s a roomy old bus with very typically French seats. There’s a decent driving position, with pedals and a steering wheel that feel like they were fitted where they should be unlike *some other French Motor Manufacturers*.

One thing this does have that is also better than cars from *some other French Motor Manufacturers* is a bloody nice gear change and clutch action. Brakes have a nice progressive feel, too. Steering is unassisted but to be fair you don’t notice on the move and it’s weighted nicely. Parking speeds aren’t too much of a worry either.

The quality of the interior feels reasonable for the time and also looks a little more sober than some of Renault’s other 1980s offerings. It’s certainly no worse than a Golf or Astra of the time for fit and finish, better than the Tipo and leagues ahead of the Escort (both Mk4 and Mk5), though perhaps not quite up to Rover R8 200. It’s all very logically laid out and everything falls to hand easily. It’s a bit clip on headroom for me, as is the Rover R8, and doesn’t give the impression of space quite as well as a Tipo. As mentioned previously, the seats are typically French and very comfortable. Coupled with a typically French ride quality, this is a comfortable car to drive. It also doesn’t roll as much as I’d expected, but it managed the terrible roads in Billngham with consummate ease. All the bumps were soaked up in a way that is utterly alien if you’ve driven a modern Renault with 300 inch RIMZ and handling by Nurburgring.

I’m an honorary cretin!

Up front is the trusty single overhead cam engine 1390cc Renault E (Energy) engine which was new for Renault in 1988 and made its first appearance in the 19. Fitted with a carburettor, it develops 79bhp which is more than adequate to pull the 19 around. It’s lively and revs freely. Perhaps not quite as rev happy as a Tipo, but not much is as rev happy as a Lampredi motor. It makes fine progress and doesn’t cause much of a fuss doing so.

My time with this car was far too short but then a month with this car would have been far too short. It’s also interesting comparing this with the other two best mid sized hatchbacks of the late 80s, the Fiat Tipo and Rover 200. I’ve driven many Tipos, owned a Tipo Action and a Tempra and now, unless you’re blind, you’ll have seen I own a Rover 200. To summarise, the Tipo is the most enjoyable to drive and the best to look at, the Renault is the most comfortable and rides the best and the Rover has the nicest interior by far and has a fabulous sense of occasion driving it. They all do the job of mid sized family hack so much better than an Escort, Golf, Astra or 309. In fact it take Citroen until 1991 to launch a credible rival – the ZX.

But out of the 19, Tipo and 200, which do you buy? There’s never been an easier question to answer – buy a 1.4 version (1.4 Energy in the case of the 19, don’t do the Cleon engine) of each of these cars and you will not be disappointed. Buy one of each whilst you can still get a good one for peanuts. They’re simple enough to fix if a problem arises, reliable enough to use every day and each one will put a smile on your face.

Driving this car, driving my own Rover, the loan of the Mk1 Punto over Christmas and looking at the collective car collections of friends proves one thing to me – the late eighties to mid nineties car is when car design peaked and it’s not been improved on since. Cars were crisply styled, practical and fun to drive, simpler to fix if they go wrong and nowadays cost less to buy than one monthly payment on a *GENERIC GERMAN “PRESTIGE” DIESEL SALOON*. Just don’t crash one…

Special thanks to Dicky Braithwaite for not dobbing me in to the Fuzz for the taking of his French car. I have since walked home and thought about what I’ve done.


August 7, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rover 216 GSi

A Royal Roewe

I needed something reliable to use every day. Something with a bit of comfort, something with enough space that if it were used on a family outing we could actually put things in it, unlike the Ford Ka that at this point I was running. At least when it started. Which wasn’t that often, if I’m honest.

The Ford was meant as a stop gap car as there were arrangements for another car to join us alongside the Datsun. That fell through and the Datsun was without wipers and headlights, which in Cornwall is a problem as most of the time it’s dark and wet. So we were still using the borrowed Punto and the Ka was still on daily duties. However, with the Ka’s MoT due very soon and no respectable way of getting it to pass, I needed to throw it in the skip and get a new set of wheels.

This is where my mate Andrew who had been lending us the Punto comes in. He’d just purchased a car that would suit me down to the ground. It’s a little older than what I have been driving, but chances are it would start when required. So, he sent me a million and six pictures and before checking with Domestic Management I said yes to a 1992 Rover 216 GSi without actually seeing it in person. Then again, I trusted the git who was selling it.

The Rover arrived on January 14th, delivered by Andrew. So I had a cursory look around the car, thought it looked great so we went in for tea and cake. Many paperworks were signed, he handed me the keys and history file and I handed him the keys to the Ford as the mad bastard had agreed to take it back in part exchange and drive the sodding thing back home. Never have I felt so guilty handing over a set of keys in my life. No wonder he went to the pub as soon as he got home! Still, the comfort of knowing that the Ka would be scrapped very soon made quite a few people very satisfied.

The only time my Ka was made to look good. Photo by Andrew Puddick

Bugger me, this is a bit posh

Captain Mildly Luxurious

A first good look around the Rover and something became blindingly obvious. This car isn’t a bundle of misery like I’m used to. In fact, it’s midly luxurious. It has wood inserts on the dashboard and door panels and fabulous velour seats. Being the GSi spec, it also has windows, mirrors, locking and a sunroof all powered by electrical wizardry. There’s a remote boot and fuel filler release and a set of rear headrests. Why am I in a car like this? I like it. I like it a lot.

But what about oily bits? As it’s the 1.6, it comes with the Patented Obligatory Sell The Roewe on eBay catchphrase – the “BULLIT PRUF HONDA INJUN M9”. Single overhead camshaft, 16 valves developing some brake horsepower and somewhere there’s some torque. It’s coupled to a four speed automatic gearbox, and whilst it’s a lovely engine, and for the most part the gearchange from the autobox is smooth, floor it and it lets you know with a bit of a thud. The power steering has plenty of feel and it’s easy to drive, but it turns in really rather well. The brakes are no worse but no better than the 25 I had, but the ride comfort is much more settled than the MG ZR I had. Then again, Zebedee on a pogo stick was more settled than the ride in the MG. There will be things that I need to have rectified, for example the CV joints are occasionally noisy, the boots are perishing and it could do with a bit of a waxoyl underneath. There’s really not much more than that, which is excellent for a twenty six year old car.

Nice arse. I LIKE ARSES OK?

Raving queen…

Reading through the history of the Rover, it turns out it has a bit of a royal history. According to the service and warranty booklet as filled in by the dealer, its first owner was Sir General Simon Cooper of Buckingham Palace. Supplying dealer stickers and number plates are also still fitted. It’s also lovely hearing stories such as the previous owner’s refusal to let any other cars in the garage, brand new purchases included, whilst the Rover was still in her possesion. This car has been loved, and it still is. Sadly, it’s no longer garaged as there’s something else in there, but it’s looked after, washed and waxed regularly and most importantly of all, enjoyed.

That really is the key. Every single time I get in it I get a buzz of excitement I’ve not had from a car since I had my Peugeot 205. I’d had excitement in other cars but that was generally a raise in blood pressure when the bastard wouldn’t start. Or stop. The 205 I rated as being one of the favourite cars I’ve owned. I regreted selling it, even moreso now I’ve learnt it has been scrapped. I think this Rover has taken that place, now. I look back at it whenever I park it up and smile or grin. I look forward to driving it and it’s such a nice place to be.

The thing is, I had no idea whether I’d like it, despite always wanting an R8. Would it be one of those decisions that should have just stayed as a thought in my head? Like that time I broke into my neighbour’s shed dressed in a gimp suit. It was just a misunderstanding. The last car I really wanted was a Mk2 VW Golf and that turned out to be a huge disappointment and worse still an utter bastard of a car. I need not worried, this is in a different league altogether. It’s National Drive It Day this coming Sunday, but I drive it every single day and I’ve never had such positive reactions to a car in my life. People I don’t know have come up to me and complimented the car. My Dad for instance said it’s almost too nice to use, and to some extent I see his point. I think it’s too nice to have it sitting around dormant, I’d far rather be out driving and enjoying it.

Here’s the difference between my old Peugeot and this Rover. Yesterday, someone left a note under the left hand front wiper wondering if I’ll sell. Well, the answer is no I’m not selling it. At all.

Honda Injun M9. BULLIT PRUF. #foem

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting the Point

Punto 60SX. What more car do you need?

So with a broken Datsun and a rusty, hateful pile of bastard Ford, what would you do? To us, it was obvious. Drive a couple of hundred miles from Cornwall to Southampton on a cold early December day and borrow a mate’s 19 year old Mk1 Punto to use as a daily driver. I’ve driven hundreds of Puntos of all ages throughout the years, and they remain one of my favourite small cars. So getting the chance to borrow a Mk1 was met with quite a lot of excitement.

This year is the twenty fifth anniversary of the Punto, and it still looks fresh. Compared to the modern, bloated nonsense that clogs up the roads these days, it’s crisp, well proportioned and looks just right. Packaging, too, remains a marvel. I compared this one with the inlaw’s Grande Punto, it may be smaller on the outside, but I’m hard pushed to see where the extra room is on the newer model. Leg, head and arm room is excellent, the room in the back is ample and boot space is about the same on the latest Puntos.

One of the best laid out dashboards of the last 25 years

I’m also much more an early Punto fan when it comes to the inside. The dashboard layout had stood the test of time very well, the dials are clear and the switches are well placed. This particular model is the 60SX so is equipped with such decadent niceties as windows powered by electricity, locking powered by witch craft, radio cassette with auto reverse, remote boot release and colour coded bumpers. There’s no power steering, electrical driving aids or extra safety equipment so, God forbid in this day and age, you actually have to drive the car. This is an event and is so refreshing after driving cars with over assisted everything. When did we become so lazy and reliant on the car doing most of the work for you?

As far as driving goes, Puntos of all generations are a pretty decent steer. As it had been eight or so years since I drove a Mk1 last, I’d forgotten how enjoyable they are. The 1242cc may only deliver a whisker under 60bhp, but that really doesn’t matter. Because the body weighs the same as a box of tissues and the engine is more flexible than a Jane Fonda workout routine, this is not an issue. The little FIRE unit punches well above its weight. Steering is well weighted, it’s hilariously chuckable, the handling is neat and safe and the brakes stop you when they should. But that engine is a gem.

I do have a couple of negatives, though. Firstly, the headlights are abysmal, which is a bit of a Punto trait, and Stevie Wonder’s eyes would be much more effective in the dark. Secondly, the screen washer pump failed and the reservoir wasn’t in the best of shape. Finally, it wasn’t mine to keep. Much as I wanted to purchase it from the owner, he was more keen to let me borrow it for a few months as he didn’t want to sell it. I can hardly blame him for that.

Nice arse

Never once did it fail to start, proceed, break down or indeed have anything fall off. For a 19 year old car doing over 200 miles a week, I’d say that’s brilliant. In fact, screen washer pump aside, nowt went wrong and it’s comforting to know that when we returned it, it flew straight through its MoT test the following week. Both my wife and me thoroughly enjoyed having this car for a few months, my son was sad to see it go back and if it ever came up for sale, I’d be at the front of the queue. This Punto got under our skin a bit.

April 18, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Captain Misery’s Miserable Motoring Mishaps 2017

FIRE – Foeming Idiot’s Retirement Excellence

First off – glossary of terms used in this post.

CALAPST – This component no longer appears to work or function. A major spelling error of the word COLLAPSED seen on a post on a car group I help run.

EMOTY – An annual test performed by a grumpy twat with a screwdriver. These EMOTY TESTERS usually have perversions for shoving said screwdriver through the bottom of your car. In this case, some brain dead idiot exerted more effort to misspell MoT.

OMFGHGF – Oh my fucking God, head gasket failure.

FIXT – In relation to the calapst item, it has been repaired and deemed fully functional.


2017 started with and ended with some form of Fiat Punto. The silver 1200 Active that we’d had for a few years decided just after Christmas that its oil had no place staying in the sump. The steel on the sump had become so thin you could read through it so inevitably there was more oil on Cornwall’s roads than in my Fiat. The exhaust was blowing so needed replacement. So armed with parts I set about replacing the parts.

Or at least that was the plan. I did my back in the day after the exhaust arrived, so I sent it across to the garage I used to use for them to fit the sump and exhaust. But the catalyst also allegedly needed replacing because the flange was “non-existant due to excessive corrosion”. This is the same garage that managed to mess up the driveshaft on my MG four times. So, when I got the car back, the exhaust was misaligned and banging on the rear axle. They also neglected to leave me the remainder of the oil I supplied and tried to charge me for 3 litres of 15W40 (Anyone who knows these engines, it’s 10W40). Anyway, the bill was sorted out with some hefty discount applied, because the one thing you don’t do is a try to rip off someone who worked in the trade for over a decade.



The Punto provided sterling service for the next six months until we were 380 miles away from home. I’d noticed it lost power and started to misfire, so as we were on the A1(M) I pulled off at the next exit, found a safe place to pull over and assessed the situation. The cooling system had many pressurisings and when I re-started it, the Punto turned into a Tefal steam iron. The RAC turned up, confirmed what I already knew which was the head gasket was shot. They then proceeded to recover us and the car where we would be staying. It was 18 miles short of ticking over to 100,000 miles.

A tale of two Datsuns

A pair of TFDs. If you have to ask what that means…

With the Punto neatly* parked in the bin stores, my good mate Dicky came to the rescue with his K11 Datsun and lent it to us for a week so we could continue hospital appointments and visits with the family we were visiting. By the end of the week, I had said goodbye to the Punto thanks to a Middlesbrough based scrap man picking it up and handing over literally some money. We also picked up a K12 Micra from a trader in Middlesbrough, and finally met up with Dicky and his lovely wife to return the K11.

The early part of the week had seen all the usual places to look for OMGCHEEPKARZ WITH EMOTY scrutinised looking for the next set of wheels. Many cars were viewed, many were rejected because the 400 odd mile journey home would have been impossible in those shit heaps. We were determined to buy another car rather than hire one to get home. Why not? The same approach got us the Rover 25 and that turned out to be a cracking little car. Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, I’m something of a Fiat apologist so when the advert for a silver Stilo 1.8 3 door came up I jumped at it. Sadly that had sold as quickly as it was advertised, but the chap selling it told me he also had a Punto come in, so to come down and look at that.

We did just that and it looked more doomed than ours. The sump was knackered, coolant stains around the bottom of the radiator and support and a 710 cap that had shares in Hellmans. At that moment, Her Indoors spotted a Micra at the corner of Slim Shady’s lot that she liked the look of. It appeared to be in reasonable condition and drove fine. In fact, it was one of the first cars that looked as if it would make the trip home to Cornwall. It had a few months EMOTY so 300 quid was handed over and we drove it away. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, as it happens

Quite a familiar sight, this view

Our initial view on this Datsun was if it packs up when we get home, then it has paid for itself. Well, it wasn’t quite as soon as we got home, but not long after. It started displaying a few electrical maladies quite quickly, but nothing that was overly serious. It also developed an occasional misfire at idle, but whenever I went to investigate it, it would bloody disappear, which was frustrating to say the least. But whilst spending time fault finding minor issues, I got to know the car quite well.

I’ll start with the positives, and firstly it’s hard to ignore the styling. I think these things look brilliant, whether three or five door and whatever the specification. Secondly, it was a decent place to sit with comfortable seats, a well designed dashboard with decent control placement and operation and a good driving position. Roomy, too. I’m six foot and I could sit in the back behind my driving position with leg and headroom to spare. How can car manufacturers not do this today? It was also a fairly decent drive with a nice gearchange, good brakes and tidy enough handling. The only minor criticism would be the electric power steering, which was overly light and lacked feel. The 1.0 engine was a gem, too.

Negatives, well, I’m startng with the interior door fittings. Made out the same plastic they make plant pots from, and the door bins were that small I could just about fit my RAC card in it. They were that narrow that when i needed to retrieve said RAC card, I had to cut off my fingers. The electrics were a nightmare and I’m a seasoned Fiat owner.

More calapst motors

Farewell old faithful

With regards to maintenance, it soldiered on without the need to top up the oil or coolant. However time came for its EMOTY, and it failed. Rear brakes cylinders, track rod ends, brake hoses and brake pipes had all calapst. With all that FIXT, I was due to get it waxoyled, but no sooner the printer ink dried on the test certificate, the Skoda broke down. Didn’t need much of a diagnosis – there had been a bit of rattling from the gearbox and it was difficult to get into gear. Then there was a loud bang and no gears. So the Skoda was taken away by the scrap man, and its replacement arrived.

True to form with my car ownership, no sooner the Skoda’s replacement turned up, the Micra calapst. Eventually it was sold in February this year after the headlights and wipers packed up. The fault was traced to either the fusebox (or IPDM – Intelligent Power Distribution Module as Datsun call it) or body computer. Neither of which I could justify replacing on a 300 quid car, so it got sold onto a Datsun bothering trader.


Ford Ka. Hateful pile of bastard.

The temporary replacement for the Datsun was a Punto 60SX, and I’ll write about this in due course. I bought a Ka to replace the Skoda. It was shit. The end.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Skoda Felicia 1.3 LXi

Obligatory petrol station collection shot

So, since the last blog post, the MG decided to break down almost weekly. Culminating in the drive shaft popping out at random intervals because the garage I used to use changed their staff and changed them for incompetent assholes. A few other issues and the fact I fell out of love with the damned thing, I ended up selling it. Presumably the next owner got fed up with it as well as it is no longer shows up on DVLA’s website.

So, I was looking for a replacement and happened upon a little white Skoda on Facebook. Someone had posted one of those really irritating, lazy bastard “WOT CARS U GOT 4 50P MUZT HAVE EMOTY N TACKS” threads and someone replied with the Skoda up for £300. I instantly sent the Skoda owner a PM, and within the hour was looking at it. The temperature gauge wasn’t working and the offside front door handle was calapst. Chancing that it was either a thermostat or a temp sender, I handed over 250 notes and was now the proud* owner of a Felicia.

Fellatio 1.3 LXi

So, I got it home and assessed what it needed. Turns out the brake lights didn’t work, so a brake light switch was sourced from my local motor factors for a fiver. A replacement door handle was sourced from eBay for less than a tenner, and a replacement thermostat housing, which included a new temperature sender, was sourced from Euro Car Parts for 20 quids worth of pounds. All fitted and solved the niggles. New wiper blades and a set of new old stock Skoda wheel trims tidied it up, and these were the only purchases I had to make over the next eight months.


Surprising Skoda

The Felicias were never exactly bothered with standard equipment, the Felicia was a no-nonsense, no-frills car and that all adds up to the charm. Five doors, seats and an internal boot release were about all that was standard, however power steering was a welcome luxury. But with only a 1289cc OHV engine up front, it was hardly burdened with weight.

What it had instead was interesting and entertaining handling, a practical interior, solid build and an eager little engine of pre-historic design. Swiped from the Favorit, which in turn swiped it from the Estelle which in turn can trace its roots back to the Renault Dauphine, it provided nippy performance and an entertaining, if somewhat noisy, soundtrack. I love the sound of old pushrod engines. Well some, anyway, but that’s for another day.

Being based on the older Favorit, the Felicia’s a boxy old hector. This meant the interior was fabulously practical, with genuine seating for three in the back, decent headroom and excellent boot space. The fact the rear seats could be taken out completely gave a fantastic flat load space. With the front passenger seat folded flat, I managed to transport a king size mattress with ease.

I really enjoyed driving it. True, the steering sometimes had as little communication as a seasoned husband and wife, but it was adequate. The gearchange was pretty decent, the brakes had a good feel and the ride was far smoother than a car of this ilk had any right to.


Brilliant white

It provided eight months faultless motoring. Never failed to start, never left me stranded at the side of the road and was perfect right up until the final couple of journies. The gearbox became a little noisy and difficult to engage. It started rattling and eventually let go just around the corner from my house. Managed to nurse it home and there it waited with a wounded gearbox and lots of oil underneath until the scrap man turned up for it armed with 60 quid.

Would I have another? Absolutely. I loved it. I always liked the Felicia’s styling, I enjoyed driving it, I liked its no-nonsense charm, ruggedness and practicality. It stood up to my six year old trying to destroy its interior. More than anything else, over eight months it cost me £310 (excluding petrol, tax and insurance), that included buying it. That’s the same as two monthly payments for some bland, modern tractor engined eco* box. Driving shite has its advantages and it’s much more fun.

I feel a tad guilty for scrapping it, but my patience for idiots buying cars is at an all time low. I miss the old thing

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Paul’s latest miserable motoring mishaps


Fiat. Not broken. Yet

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve bored people with my yapping on about my old bangers so I thought I’d bore you all with the details of my latest incidents, break downs, purchases and general motoring mishaps. Oh joy*, you’re thinking.

Well, it starts from where I left off in the previous blog entry with the Fiat Punto Active. About a month into ownership, I heard a ticking noise from the engine then an almighty bang. All power was lost and the dashboard lit up like Blackpool. Managed to coast it to out of harm’s way and left it whilst cursing it. Walked home, had a pasty and a cup of tea and walked back with some tools. Turns out the number three spark plug had decided to part company with where it should be. Quite conveniently, I had a service kit in the boot as that was one of the jobs I was going to do that weekend. Took out the spark plugs, noticed that whoever serviced the car before had fitted two different makes of spark plug – two Bosch, two had some Chinese script on the side. It was one of the Chinese plugs that went popped out. So, new set of plugs, started up and ran like a dream. Quick engine service done there and then and all good.


Bastard Hyundai Broken. Accent left at work. Again. Fiat not broken, to the rescue. Again

In the mean time, the Hyundai’s electrical system was proving to be a bit problematic in that it some of the time it didn’t want to start if it was cold. Or hot. Or warm. Or wet. Or dry. Or if the day of the week ended in Y. WD40 and a hammer generally worked quite well, as did replacing God knows how many sensors. On more than one occasion I had to leave the sodding thing at work because it wouldn’t start. Many swearings were sent in its direction, many Basil Fawltys were sent its way and how did it reward me a few weeks later? Spewing its oil out of the rotten oil filter and cam cover gasket.

Back to the Fiat and coming up to a year into ownership, November meant it was MoT time. Dreading handing over the keys as I generally do, I left it in their hands awaiting that bloody phone call. Not that I needed to worry, it went straight through no problems! Nothing else really happened in 2015 with the cars, but 2016 started off pretty shite. Not only were a whole host of famous people I like dying, things were happening to the cars too. The Fiat developed a stress crack in the windscreen, which was replaced.

The Hyundai, however, was a bit worse than that. It had developed a knock from the driveshaft and the running and starting problem returned. The nail in its coffin, mind, was the left hand front brake sticking fully on whilst driving along. On one occasion the damn thing pulled me into a hedge, and it wasn’t the sort of hedge I wanted to be in. It need a driveshaft, a front brake caliper and the electrics sorting and was going to cost far more than I wanted to spend on it to keep it running. To celebrate* this, I deliberately crashed it into some things then put it up for sale for scrap money, but no takers. In the end, I loaded it up one evening with an old washing machine and some old scrap metal ready to take it to the scrap yard the following morning. As it happened, I got a text message 7.15 the next morning with someone wanting to buy it. Before 8AM, I had exhanged money and keys, signed the log book away and had double what the scrap yard wanted. Bonus thing too, he took the scrap metal away with it.

So we were on the lookout for a new chariot, had a look at quite a few and although we same a few nice cars along the way, we saw a lot of really shocking nonsense. By far and away the nicest car I saw was a 1996 Fiat Bravo 1.8 HLX which would have fitted the bill quite nicely. But it was pretty much factory fresh, 22,000 miles from new unmarked interior and totally original. I walked away from it because doing the school run in that everyday, it would end up wrecked thanks to other morons – the main reason I parted with my 205. Plus, I needed a daily driver that would take a four year old boy with all his mess and a 33 year old wife with all her mess. This was far too nice, and we didn’t have the funds to buy two cars.


New MG ZR. Not broken. Then it was.

The search continued and my wife and I were doing the very modern thing of ignoring each other and having our heads stuck in our phones. We were both looking for cars and we were looking at a particular car at the same time. The wife and I agreed that we should look at it, so she made the arrangements as she had a day off. Now bearing in mind the last car she bought home and did the deal for was the Rover 25 (which turned out to be a pretty damn good car), it’s only fitting it should be the car pictured on the above right there somewhere.

So, Domestic Management did the deal and later that day we were literally some pounds lighter and driving home in a turbo diesel MG ZR. Yes, I know, me with a diesel! It pulls superbly, handles well and is great to drive. It’s not without fault, though. The sunroof leaks occasionally (standard feature), the goon that had it before me disconnected the rear speakers and CD changer and installed the current stereo like a complete minkey. About four weeks into ownership, it developed a knock from the left hand front, which a replacement drive shaft sorted. The driver’s side window doesn’t always align properly when returning to the top. Most of these are tiny niggles that can be lived with, but thankfully the money we knocked off the asking price of the car paid for the drive shaft.


Fiat’s clutch slave cylinder end bit. Broken.

With all this attention the new addition to the family, the Punto felt left out which it decided to prove on the Thursday before Good Friday. A phone call from the wife at 7am with the words “The Punto has broken down. I heard a bang and the clutch pedal stayed down” sounded expensive. Intitial thoughts were clutch, probably gearbox but whatever it was, it was going to be expensive. The RAC collected it and dumped it with the mechanic who looks after it and MoTs it, when he then informed me it probably wouldn’t be ready until after Easter. Oh fuck it. But then, a phone call three hours later informing me it was the slave cylinder and that he managed to obtain one and fit it was excellent news. Later that week, I decided to paint the rusty sump and give it a damn good clean. It’s been good as gold since, but need to put a new set of tyres on it before very long.


The MG and the Punto. Not broken. For the moment.

Both are behaving themselves at the moment. I’ll leave it at that…

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Far from being alone in the universe

d0058360Alone In The Universe

I meant to write about this back when the album came out, but being lazy and neglecting my blog to a certain degree, I never got around to it. However, I’ve got my backside in gear thanks in no small part to going to a certain gig a couple of weeks back.

But first, the album. I don’t really look forward to new releases except for a few artists. Jeff Lynne is one of them – I pre-ordered the deluxe version and it arrived the day of release. So, armed with a set of headphones I gave it a spin. Now under the moniker Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Jeff plays all the instruments himself, aside from some background vocals by his daughter Laura, and a few bits of percussion by his sound engineer. As before, he writes it all and produces it all. I’d already heard When I Was A Boy, the autobiographical single, and as well as opening the album brilliantly, fits alongside the old classics with consummate ease.

Love and Rain has some very pleasing guitar sounds and I defy anyone not to sing along with Dirty To The Bone after the first listen. When The Night Comes sees Jeff put a slight reggae slant on proceedings, and pretty successfully too. The Sun Will Shine On You is one of the best ballads Lynne has penned and is the stand out song on the LP for me.

Ain’t It A Drag takes inspiration from Mersey Beat and is a great up-tempo number, brought back down to Earth by another slow tune All My Life. I’m Leaving You is more than a cursory nod to Roy Orbison, but if I’m honest is probably the weaker song on the album.

Another stand out track on the album is One Step At A Time. For all the nay-sayers that say this isn’t ELO, listen to this song, it has all the ingredients you could want and sounds like it would fit in on Discovery after Last Train To London very well indeed. Title track ends the proceedings, if you haven’t got the deluxe version, and again sees Lynne penning one of his best ballads so far.

So, to sum up, Alone In The Universe doesn’t break any new ground but it doesn’t have to. For those that see ELO as nothing but a guilty pleasure (a phrase I hate), this album proves that Lynne is a master of his craft and certainly still has a knack for knocking out irresistible melodies and choruses. My only criticism of the album only applies to the deluxe version. The title track finishes off the album perfectly, then Fault Line kicks in, a song I don’t particularly care for. The other bonus track Blue is brilliant and should have been on the regular release, but slightly further back in the running order. But hey, this is nit-picking, it’s a fantastic album.

It’s a four and a half out of five for me.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Genting Arena 16/4/2016

The tail end of last year saw me purchase tickets to go and see Jeff Lynne’s ELO in his home town of Birmingham. The fact he was planning to do a tour was an event enough, especially as much as Jeff disliked touring. The radio 2 Hyde Park gig went down so well, it prompted this tour and the album. Time seemed to drag waiting for it, checking the post every day to see if the tickets had arrived. The excitement building up like I was a school boy again.

Fast forward to the night of the 16th April. Genting Arena at the NEC, we arrive and carry out the act of purchasing the obligatory tour programme, t-shirt, mugs and keyrings. We were sat quite far back, but as it happened had a perfect view.

The support band came on, and it was a band I had liked for a number of years. The Feeling, evident in their own song writing that they are fans of ELO (and 10cc, Wings and Supertramp) kicked off the night in great fashion performing some of their well known hits – Fill My Little World, Love It When You Call, Sewn, Never Be Lonely and an outstanding number from their new album. Best support act I’ve seen and I urge anyone who doesn’t own their material to buy some, and I would definitely recommend seeing them live.

A small wait, then it was time for the main show. A musical introduction morphed into an album track, Tightrope, a firm fan favourite, then went into hit single after hit single. Evil Woman, All Over The World, Living Thing, all brilliant songs and brilliantly played. When I Was a Boy, as I mentioned earlier, fits in wonderfully with the old classics and seeing it performed with them here just proves that further. Not only did it not sound out of place, but the whole audience sat and listened to it and it got one of the biggest applauses of the night. It was also the start of a nearly 34 year old man shedding a tear or two.

The audience and atmosphere were brilliant, the crowd singing along with Wild West Hero was spine-tingling as were the vocals from Jeff and the band. More tear shedding occurred during Can’t Get It Out of My Head but my personal highlights of the evening were 10538 Overture followed straight away by Secret Messages. These are two of my all time favourite ELO tunes, and the arrangement for Secret Messages live was fantastic.

More hits such as Turn To Stone, Don’t Bring Me Down, Sweet Talkin’ Woman were played with precision and the rendition of album track Steppin’ Out was superb. Everything right up to Mr Blue Sky where realisation crept in that this was near the end of the set, but this was played in its entirety and did it sound good. Off stage for a few moments before coming back on to do a rocking rendition of Roll Over Beethoven for the encore. Then that was it, all over and far too soon. A little under two hours went very quickly indeed, too quickly.

The sound was excellent, the playing from Jeff and the band was superb, the vocals were on top form as were the strings and keyboards. The icing on the cake was the light and stage display – you had to be there. My wife and I were, we were two of the 170,000 people that have seen ELO on this current tour. If they do it again, we’re going. One of the best concerts I’ve been to, and a real master class in how to do it properly.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heralding freedom of speech

Freedom of speech, something that a certain Scottish newspaper (without mentioning any names, but the clue is in the title) really believes in. Which is why it chose to remove some well reasoned comments I, and some of my friends, made on their Facebook page.

Normally, I really wouldn’t bother making comments on the Facebook page of a newspaper because generally I hate newspapers and Facebook. Combine the two and you have a match made in hell. But for once I felt I had to make comment, due to a gathering of words hastily cobbled together by a “journalist” and passed as a column by “editorial”.

Cast your mind back a short while back and you may remember a news story that involved a dash cam filming footage of a father keying an Aston Martin. To the tune of £7,700 worth of damage and, rightly so, he is awaiting a possible prison sentence. The general population would agree with this except this excuse for a journalist that submitted her column to this newspaper*.

This young lady believes this vandal should not receive any form of prison sentence, but instead should be awarded a medal. Because people should not be allowed to own or enjoy supercars, because the impression this “journalist” gives is they are all owned by bellends that drive them like they stole it or think they are The Stig even when they are parked. Being one for generalisations, she also proclaims, incorrectly, that boy racers don’t drive around in things such as the Fiat 500 (she has obviously forgotten about the turbo charged Abarth, and I’ve seen lots of these being driven by complete crayon munching assholes). She then goes on to say just how much she would like to key these “swanky”, high performance cars herself.

What she fails to comprehend in her “column” are many things. She hasn’t given a moment’s thought that the Aston Martin more than likely was the result of many years hard graft. Keying someone’s car is vandalism whichever way you look at. Doesnt matter if it’s Aston Martin or an Austin Maestro, it’s criminal damage and is punishable. She is basically condoning criminal damage and encouraging it. Hang around long enough and the silly bint will probably give you a medal and a pat on the back.

The message this ill-advised column puts out is it’s okay to break the law and cause criminal damage, a view that is seems to be backed up by her editors and newspaper whilst playing the freedom of speech card once again. Ironically, if you look back at Catriona’s Twitter account, you can read a tweet where she got irate when someone reversed into her car. Seems damage to cars is only acceptable if they’re expensive and fast.

To put it mildly, the article annoyed me. Full of snide, self righteous drivel. But what annoyed me moreso was the actions of the newspaper’s social media team. Endlessly preaching on about freedom of speech, yet felt the need to disable the comments section on the online column and also felt the need to delete well reasoned comments from a wide variety of people. When I asked the editor via the means of the Facebook page why my post was deleted, the response I got was a further deletion of a post.

I reposted my deleted post screenshots and for the love of whatever, they are still there. I would assume that someone had to report to an office in Scotland this morning to belatedly explain what the fuck that was all about. I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting it to go quite as viral as it did which shows their naivety. This is 2015, things travel on the internet and social media quicker than you can say “key that Aston”. But lo and behold they have released a flimsy statement that claims what she had written was intended in a “sardonic” manner. Whilst still pulling the freedom of speech card. Yes! Once again! The newspaper claims the article was intended to “stimulate interest and debate”. This backfired dreadfully and make the journalist look like a jealous nobody with an axe to grind with no real valid point other than portraying a message that it is okay to cause criminal damage. The paper just looks inept.

I have once again asked why my posts were deleted, but as yet have had no response. I am also waiting to see if the newspaper and the “journalist” are likely to make apologies. Looking at the spiel she spouts from her Twitter account and the newspaper’s failure for stopping the story going to print, I am not holding my breath.

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Paul’s latest miserable motoring mishaps!

Usually I show off my latest automotive purchase via the medium of shite blogging instantly. I’ve normally photographed the car to within an inch of my phone battery’s life before it gets home. It’s a little different this time, most notably because I’ve had the car since the middle of November and we’re now in the middle of March. So instead, have a motoring saga update.

Fifty shades of misery

Fifty shades of misery

If you’ve been paying attention, you would have seen that I had two Hyundai Accents proving that I am indeed some form of winner* at life. Now, I’m going to give them names for the sake of this blog entry. The W-plate Accent is the good one, so from here on this one will be called Young Terence. The X-plate is, as you’ll find out (if you can stay awake long enough) a complete twatting bastard. From here on in, it shall be referred to as The Twatting Bastard.

Hyundai Accents are not bad little cars, to be honest, but as you can see from the picture, some form of mischief had occurred on a cold October day. Indeed, this particular day marked the beginning of the end for The Twatting Bastard.

My wife parked The Twatting Bastard up in the Park and Ride facility in Truro. Literally two minutes after switching it off and taking the key out the battery was flatter than a witch’s tit. Dead. Bereft of charge. Gone for a burton. Fucked. So, Young Terence (stand on me) came to the rescue with a set of jump leads, only for the sodding engine management light of doom to illuminate on the journey to the park and ride. Never mind, it got there and got The Twatting Bastard started. The trusty cheap code reader deleted the engine light so I left Domestic Management with Young Terence and I drove The Twatting Bastard home. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice the front grille missing on Young Terence, no thanks to some fuckspoon in a Renault Trafic van pulling out and not seeing a bright red car coming towards him. The Hyundai came off better than the van.

Later that evening, I decided to put The Twatting Bastard up for sale as I hadn’t gelled with that car at all. In fact I hated it, and wanted it gone. Immediately, if not sooner. So went on to Scumtree and evilBay and posted it up for a monkey. Got a call the following morning with someone wanting to view it that same day. I wasn’t expecting them to, but they turned up and took it out for a test drive. They liked it very much, right up until the point where the bastard thing broke down. So, they cleared off leaving me fuming with this complete heap of shit, kicking it and swearing at it profusely. Managed to fix it, but could I sell the bugger after this? No.

A couple of weeks later, someone else decided to come and have a look at it, sale price being quite a bit under a monkey now. The day before, the engine developed a noise that made a Talbot Alpine seem quiet, serene and refined. One or more of the hydraulic lifters had decided to spit the dummy so I then had to ring the bloke to say don’t bother, as no way could I sell it to a chap who needed to visit his wife in hospital on a daily basis. He still came around to view it, but I flatly refused to sell it to him but managed to put him in touch with someone who had a decent little motor for sale so he bought that. In the end I sold it for scrap value to the first person that offered me scrap money for it.

20140411_183435It was a shame as Young Terence has proven to be a cracking little “does what it says on the tin” sort of car. It’s not particularly exciting, it’s not greatly stylish and it’s not an involving drive but it holds a certain utilitarian charm. Problems have been few and far between. Aside from the scuffle with the van which rendered it requiring a grille (pinched that off the Twatting Bastard) and a replacement headlight (a tenner for a second hand unit), I’ve had it nearly a year and has practically wanted for nothing. It’s had a couple of niggly things, such as the window regulator failed and the wiper stalk fractured and snapped off, but these were inexpensive repairs. The engine light of doom has illuminated a few times, which has had the same recurring fault – Mass Air Flow sensor. £20 from the internet and a three minute job and away we go. Other than that, a couple of bulbs and splash and dash of oil. I shall reserve further judgement until the MoT test the end of this week, but this has been a good little car. If someone would have said two years ago that one of my daily drives would be a Hyundai I probably would have taken a dump in their Sunday dinner.

£600 outlay for the initial purchase, it came with 11 and a half months MoT and six months tax. It had also recently had a full service including cam belt and clutch. To keep it running for a year has cost less than £250 which is cheap motoring for a year. Obviously, that doesn’t include the tax, insurance and petrol but it returns between 37 and 45mpg depending on the driving, costs less than £200 a year to insure and the tax is cheap. This is proving as cheap to run as my old kettle series Rover 25. The end of this week it has its MoT so fingers crossed it’s not too bad!

So, after the monumental cock up of the X-plated pile of shit, I did consider yet another Accent. Indeed I went to look at one, a metallic blue top of the range on an 05 plate. £800. Looked as good as one of these can get, except for the gargantuan blob of rust on both rear wheel arches upon closer inspection and it had more scars than a bodged plastic surgery victim. So I walked away. I then clocked on eBay an immaculate Fiat Brava 1.4 SX and decided that was the car for me. It was well within budget, wasn’t far away from my inlaws’ house and would put me back behind the wheel of something Italian. Except the seller was a total bellend and and didn’t bother responding to my messages so it was with a heavy heart that I excluded that one.

My new baby

My new MG X-Punto SV 1.2 Active POWWWEERRR

We were staying with my wife’s parents in Leicester at the time, which is a good 360 or so miles away from my home in Cornwall. It was then that my mother-in-law declared that there was a Punto for sale at a garage around the corner from their house and that we should go and see it. So we had a look, I took it for a long test drive, haggled and shaved the price down and the car was ready the following day with a fresh ticket and a pair of new front tyres. It was down to the wire because the following day I was due at work for 8am, but picked the car up at 4.30pm, loaded it with our belongings and an hour later I was driving it home and my wife and son were in the Hyundai. The drive home was long enough to see if anything was wrong with it, thankfully nothing fell off, broke or bust into flames. It also averaged 53 mpg on the way home, proving that you don’t need a sodding hybrid or a modern EGR-munching diseasel to provide good fuel economy.

So, this racks up my fourth Punto and my thirteenth Fiat. It’s good to have something Italian again. Someone’s got to love them! It’s not been totally uneventful with it, but more about that and the post-MoT report on the Accent when I can be bothered!

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

I went on the internet and I bought…

wpid-20140911_171850.jpgWell, I bid farewell to my trusty Rover OMFGHGF 25, a car that started out as my wife’s and ended up mine as I stole it from her. It endeared itself to me greatly, but alas the poor thing was starting to get a bit senile. Still, someone contacted me who was prepared to give it a bit of TLC and a deal was made. I said “old out yer ‘aaaaaaaaaand. You’ve just bought yourself… a Rover 25!” I was genuinely quite upset when it drove off. I do miss it to be honest and feel a bit guilty for selling it as it was such a good steed.

So, armed with some cash, I do what I normally do and that is to scour eVilbay, Scumtree and Farcebook for a new motor for very little outlay. I wanted something Italian again, preferably a Punto or if I could find one an Alfa 145 or 146. I viewed a couple of different motors that weren’t Italian then I thought I’d found a nice Punto. It’s one I oversaw the PDI on and looked after when the previous owner had it. Looked great from a distance, then I looked at it properly and it all fell apart. I’m sure the car would before long, too. Didn’t help matters that the owner’s dad kept blurting out nonsense about the car that I know wasn’t true and on further investigation found a badly fitted, badly repaired and rusty wing with a gaping hole under the bonnet. It had wheels from a Coupe that were too big and rubbed on the wheel arch liner leaving a mark like a monk’s head. The exhaust had more blow than Kate Moss, so needless to say I walked away.

Pissed off, I went to phone the missus to say the car was a no-go. Whilst waiting for her to phone back I checked my Facebook feed and on one of the Facebook Mong Selling A Car Pages I saw a car. A Hyundai in fact. A red Hyundai. A red Hyundai Accent. A red Hyundai Accent like the one I already had.

wpid-img_359142706873745.jpegSo the missus phoned back, we agreed to both take a look at it and within half an hour we were outside the guy’s house looking at it. I had a quick sniff around it and on first glance it was, cosmetically at least, scruffy, dented and a bit tired. Mechanically it was sound with a recent clutch and an MoT pass from a few days before with a couple of advisories. Underneath looked pretty good and the engine purred into life and sounded fine.

So, we agreed a figure, I paid a deposit and went back to collect it the following evening. Said “old out yer ‘aaaaaaaaaaand. I’ve just bought myself… a Hyundai Accent”. Pretty uneventful journey home except I realised I’d made the fatal mistake of leaving my wallet with Domestic Management and I hadn’t bothered to read the fuel gauge before leaving. Anyhow, made it to the fuel station to fill it up and in sympathy my other Accent decided it needed some fuel too.

wpid-2014-09-12-21.31.26.jpg.jpegDrove the car home and parked both Accents up for the night. It’s got the beginnings of a Slough taxi rank.The following day I got to evaluate the purchase properly, and compare the two. The first Accent, the three door, is a 1.3i which means it has some seats and an engine. The additional Accent is a five door 1.3 GSi which means it has central locking (on three doors), electric windows all round, remote hatch release, some seats and an engine. It drives as miserably as the other one, has the same fifty shades of doom interior and has the same styling qualities* as the other one.

wpid-20140917_172041.jpgSo a reliable if somewhat dullard of a vehicle, then with nothing that could possibly go wrong? Erm, not quite. The orange light of impending doom reared its ugly head the very next day. Its get up and go had got up and gone and power wise, it was flatter than a witch’s tit. Seemed a familiar problem, so disconnected the mass airflow sensor and performance was restored. Ordered a new one from eVilbay, fitted it and cleared the fault and it was happy again. Also treated it to a new cam cover gasket as it was losing more oil than it was keeping, and because the plugs had a but of oil fouling, a new set of those too. Now it has developed a scraping noise from the left hand front.




Bollocks. I could have bought an Alfa and had these faults…


September 22, 2014 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

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