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Paul’s latest miserable motoring mishaps

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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

 

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

The Other Blog – The Lightning Seeds Archives

As you may be aware, I’m a Lightning Seeds fan. I’ve set up another blog.

Go visit it: http://andrexlightningseeds.wordpress.com/

Cheers and gone!

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Special K

10469728_10152254959811378_1715836080619826648_nThe K series engine. It’s a bit of a misunderstood and maligned beast really. Talk of it on internet forums or “daaaaaaaaan the pub” and it will it will be met by OMGHGF (Oh My God, Head Gasket Failure in internetz speakz) and OMGALLROVAZISSHIT. This is because Armchair and Pub Mechanics know more than anyone whatsoever.

True, they have their issues. Yes, some suffer from head gasket failure but the way you hear the so-called experts harp on about it, you’d think the K Series is the only engine to ever suffer from head gasket failure. Aren’t we forgetting certain VW, Vauxhall, Renault, Fiat and Peugeot engines enjoy blowing them for a past time? The garage I worked at for ten years used to look after a lot of K series Rovers. Cornwall is retirement country and there are lots of people who probably should be dead already bought these K series Rovers. I found them as reliable as anything German that we looked after, but like anything they need routine maintenance. Keep on top of them and take care of them, they’re fantastic. Caution should be applied if no maintenance has been carried out.

A brief history of the K series
It was launched in 1988, fitted to the brand new Rover R8 200 series, then later powered the 400 and the Roverised Metro that appeared in 1990. Available in 1.1 single overhead cam and 1.4 twin cam versions, but later the range increased to 1.6 litre and 1.8 as Honda began to limit supply of their engines to Rover. The K series lumps were held together as a sandwich of components using long bolts which which held the engine under compression. The 1.8 was available with a Variable Valve Control (VVC) device that allowed more power, torque and performance. The VVC unit allows some form of witch craft to happen which allows the engine to be incredibly flexible and gives it a pretty much flat torque curve. And it red lines at 7,250 rpm! Later additions included the KV6 in 2.0 and 2.5 litre, 24 valve quad cam variants. Both the K and KV6 are still in production today, following the sale of MG Rover to China corportation SAIC, though they have been revised and renamed N Series and NV6, respectively.

My K-Series
My particular K Series, pictured above, is a 1.6 16v twin cam unit fitted to a Rover 25 of varying shades of blue and black. Today it clicked over to 119,000 miles and was treated to a service, its first service since 98,000! When I bought the 25 just over a year ago it was on 103,000 miles and has pretty much been neglected ever since. But to be fair, it has wanted for nothing. Up until today, the only attention the engine has needed is a tightening of the alternator belt. The cooling system is in fine fettle and the rest of the car has fared pretty well too, needing precious little to keep it going. It has performed brilliantly and reliably – it genuinely hasn’t put a foot wrong in the time I’ve had it. It’s a revvy, peppy, responsive engine and the service it had today has made it just that little bit better. I think the K series, especially the one in my car, is a cracker.

Really, if caught in time, a head gasket is not the end of the world. If repaired properly with good quality materials used, these units will soldier on. Like all cars there’s good and bad, but I still see a heck of a lot of K series Rovers on the road. Would I buy another? You bet your bottom booby I would.

OMGALLROVAZISSHIT? I won’t hear a word of it, thank you please.

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Dodgy Accent – Another car purchase

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A car at a car wash

I suddenly found myself without a car. The thing is I ended up selling the 205/family pet and that all happened rather quickly. Reasons? It was in too good condition to keep using everyday, needed a teeny bit of TLC to make it perfect but more importantly I was getting worried about someone denting it wherever I parked it. Something that hit home when it was bashed twice in one week whilst doing the nursery run. I decided to sell it and replace it with something that I really don’t mind parking anywhere. I put it up on evilBay expecting the usual “OMG WILL U TAK 30 QUID 4 IT N MY SISTER? WIL COLCT 2NITE” mongs that eBay seems to breed. Thankfully, none of that happened but the previous owner I bought it from contacted me and wanted it back. Within a day he’d bought it and driven it off.

So, armed with a small budget and a large mug of tea, I went on Autotrader, Scumtree and eBay to look for a set of wheels. Ideally, I was looking for something Italian, well looked after and cheap to run – what I really wanted was a Panda, Punto or Uno, but they’re all few and far between these days. I wasn’t prepared to travel very far to get a car, so most of the Pandas and Puntos I’d seen were too far away. I’d ruled out Fiestas and Polos on account of them being shit, so I began looking at Peugeots, Renaults and Nissans. All the Nissans were rusty, the Peugeots too expensive but there was a little Clio that looked rather tidy in the pictures. I knew where it was parked so I went to have a quick look before contacting the seller, did my usual checks and ended up walking away with a bit of the rear wheel arch, so I walked away. I then saw another car on evilBay, went and had a look at it and chucked in a sly bid. I ended up winning the auction the same day and picked it up two days later.

20140411_183435

Prince really sang about a Little Red Accent

So what is it?
It’s a Hyundai Accident 1.3i something or other. It’s that low in the Accent range that it doesn’t actually have a trim level designation. It’s not the car I envisaged buying, but it was pretty much given away, has tidy bodywork (albeit with some paint fade in places) and the interior is unmarked. More importantly, it came with a full twelve months MoT and six months tax. Wear and tear stuff has already been done including the timing belt, clutch, tyres and a recent full service so other than putting petrol in it and insuring it, I shouldn’t have to spend any money on it any time soon (in theory anyway). Under the bonnet is incredibly clean with just enough dirt to not make me suspicious. Boot floor is clean and traces of any rot under the carpet. I’m the fourth owner in fourteen years and it has just clicked over to 44,000 miles.

It’s the most basic of basic cars and one that years ago I would have dismissed as nothing more than disposable white goods. To think that, though, kind of misses the point. True, this car is miserable in every way with a body that looks like a cheap knock-off Astra/Escort, equipped with an interior formed from many, many different shades of grey. Its most redeeming feature is that it has no redeeming features whatsoever. But as far as a design brief goes, it does everything a car should do. It’s not something that I can get particularly enthusiastic about, and I very much doubt that if it gets to 27 years old, people will be looking at it with the affection as they did my 205. Still, it’s an honest, unpretentious little car and for that reason it has a certain charm.

How does it drive?
Erm, yes, this will be brief. Okay, so its equipped with a responsive 1.3 12v engine that develops somewhere in the region of 85bhp. 0-62 is rumoured to take 12.8 seconds and it tops out at 108mph. Respectable figures for a basic 1.3 shopping trolley, but none of which I have bothered to test. Handling? Yes it nearly handles. Steering? Yes, it has got steering. Brakes? Got those as well. They work. Gear change? There is a lever in the middle of the floor that allows you to change gear. To be fair, it does everything asked of it and it’s very easy to drive, just doesn’t have any pizzazz. All the controls are very light and easy to use.

Fifty shades of misery

Fifty shades of misery

It is comfortable and the ride is pretty good, but after wafting about on French suspension for nearly two years (that 205 really rode well) it doesn’t quite live up to that, but then modern French stuff doesn’t either. Driving position is pretty good.

So, to do an Auto Express (I feel dirty at the mention of those two words mentioned together) conclusion, here’s the plus and minus points.

For:
– Seats not made from plastic
– Has an engine
– Has doors to keep you closed in. Novel feature, this.
– Has a gear lever, pedals, handbrake, suspension and a steering wheel to aid driving.

Against:
– Uninspiring to drive
– Interior plastics made out of plastic
– Plastics have been used in some places inside the car
– Plastic used in the boot area of vehicle
– Plastic used in some places where plastic would be used, and the quality of the plastic used in these areas where plastic is used is a bit plastically
– Uninspiring plastics

My summary is it’s a pleasant enough car with no redeeming features at all, isn’t particularly entertaining to drive but at least is easy to drive, it’s likely to be reliable and economical. It’s a bit shite and it’s a miserable little thing and do you know what? I really rather like it. It’ll never compare with the 205 it replaced, but then to be honest nothing will. Unless I buy that 205 back in a couple of years.

April 27, 2014 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Second listen: Split Enz – Conflicting Emotions

conflicting-emotions-504c7be878820Split Enz – one of my favourite bands of all time. They’ve had some fantastic albums, songs and singles whether head of creativity were the brothers Tim and Neil Finn or original co-founder Phil Judd. Early Enz takes a few listens to appreciate, later Neil-inspired work is more melodic and immediate. Conflicting Emotions falls into the latter camp. Largely claimed to be the Enz’ poorest album release throughout their long and ever-changing career, it’s also an album I always left on the shelf and never bothered to play more than once. I’d generally play a couple of the songs that were available on the excellent “Spellbound” retrospective compilation instead and basically ignored its existence. However, when looking for something different to play in the car on a journey this was one the LPs I picked up for a spin.

Conflicting Emotions would become the final Split Enz album to feature Tim Finn, and the album title was decidedly apt. Earlier on in 1983 Tim had released his debut solo album “Escapade” to commercial and critical acclaim. With some rumoured resentment over Tim’s solo success and tensions between band members, cracks were beginning to show. Tim had kept back most of his songs for his solo album and as such saw a shift toward Neil Finn as primary songwriter. Neil had already proved himself a pretty nifty writer with hits such as I Got You, One Step Ahead and History Never Repeats. However, this album seemed to lack focus especially when compared with the fabulous Time and Tide released in 1982. It also failed to crack the Australian Top 10

None of that really came to mind when I put the disc in the CD player. The album starts off with Strait Old Line and I’d forgotten what a funky little opener that song it is, and how catchy it is. You WILL be singing it for days after. And let’s not forget that this album also contains Message To My Girl, one of Neil Finn’s finest songs ever. It’s a heartfelt love song that McCartney would probably have wished he’d written. Another Neil-penned song The Devil You Know happens to be one of my favourite songs by anyone. So with that in mind, why did I bloody ignore this album?

Simple – Tim Finn! His songs on this album are bloody rubbish. I’m used to him belting out stuff such as Charlie, Bold As Brass, I See Red and all his songs on Time and Tide are superb. That and his solo album Escapade that came out before this album is very good. But here, with the exception of the bouncy Working Up An Appetite, which is a catchy number with an interesting rhythmic beat going on, they’re nonsense. I despise the title track, especially the introduction. Bon Voyage is equally hateful, and I Wake Up Every Night is okay to a point, but the brass sounds reek of cheap Casio keyboards. Neil isn’t exactly safe from criticism either with No Mischief being rather annoying, though through repeated playing I found myself warming to it and quite enjoy it now. Same thing happened with Bullet Brain and Cactus Head. Our Day, though, is brilliant.

So, to conclude, this is one of the most frustrating albums I have in my collection. Upon fresh listening, I absolutely love just over half of it but the rest of it isn’t even good enough for B-side material. However, there is a turn of events that make me appreciate this album a little bit more. To promote the album, The Enz needed to tour and to inject a bit of life into the band they held auditions for a new drummer. They ended up hiring the bloody wonderful and very sadly missed Paul Hester. Tim left shortly after, leaving the Enz in the control of Neil. The album See Ya ‘Round was released which had no content from Tim at all, and it wouldn’t be long before Neil disbanded Split Enz. Neil took Paul with him and formed a band which would later become Crowded House. Tenuously you could say that without this album, there wouldn’t have been Crowded House. I can’t (or won’t) imagine life without Crowded House, quite frankly.

Incidentally, the album artwork was created by Phil Judd, co-founder of Split Enz who left (for the last time) in 1977.

Enjoy Strait Old Line:

Enjoy Message To My Girl:

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

My case for the Fiat Tipo

An early Tipo

An early Tipo

Largely gone from Britain’s roads and largely forgotten, the Fiat Tipo was a game changer not just for Fiat but for the whole market sector. Furthermore, it was built with a galvanised body shell to help prevent rust and to replace the Ritmo/Strada. This couldn’t have been better timed as not only had the Ritmo/Strada become rather pensionable but also a car that gained the unenviable reputation for being one of the most rot-prone cars built.

Launched in 1988 to universal praise, it was a modern looking, crisply styled car, though back in 1988 the Tipo’s styling was considered “controversial”. A range of strong engines including 1.1, 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 petrol lumps and a fantastic 1.9 turbo diesel (which, for a time, was the fastest car in the Tipo range) coupled to a brilliantly thought out and superbly packaged interior ensured this forward thinking car won the Car of the Year Award for 1989. It had a good size boot and three proper sized seat spaces in the rear, high-end models had a full digital dashboard and it was so far ahead of the competition it was embarrassing. Think of Mk4 Escort, Mk2 Golf, Maestro, 309, need I go on? The only car that got anywhere near it for a while was the R8 Rover 200 series, that car also a bit of game changer for Rover.

A couple of years into production, a high performance Sedicivalvole (sixteen valve) version was launched with the engine from the Lancia Thema which was good for 130 mph. The Tipo also marked the proper beginnings of platform sharing within the Fiat Group. The Tipo lay the foundations for the Tempra and Tempra SW, the Lancia Dedra, the Nuova Lancia Delta from 1993, the Alfa Romeo 155, 145 and 146, the 916 series Alfa GTV and Spider, the Fiat Coupe, Fiat Bravo/Brava and Marea and it provided the basis for the Alfa 156 (though this had been modified quite significantly) which in turn leant itself to the Alfa 147 and GT.

Tipo 3 door Sedicivalvole

Tipo 3 door Sedicivalvole

A three door version was absent from the launch, however in 1993 Fiat gave the Tipo a facelift and a three door option and the digital dashboard had been dropped. The Tipo gained some tweaks and improvements as newer rivals had been launched. However, to my humble and totally biased opinion, none of them were as good as Tipo. Mk5 Escort, Mk3 Astra, Mk3 Golf, need I go on? True, it started to age and was replaced by the Bravo/Brava (also based on Tipo platform) and although the Bravo/Brava may have had more striking and interesting styling, the packaging genius of the Tipo had been diluted at least in the form of the Bravo. I have also owned a Stilo (which replaced the Bravo/Brava) and there’s nowhere near as much room in that than in the Tipo! Don’t get me started on the current Bravo.

Why am I making a case for a largely forgotten car that no one is interested in anymore? Well, other than what I’ve just waffled on about and the fact that I may possess a pair of spectacles with a rose tint, everything about the Tipo was right (except perhaps build quality inconsistencies) from the off. They looked great, they were spacious, they handled and rode very well, they were fun to drive. Mainly, though, it’s because I’ve loved the Tipo ever since my Dad bought one to replace his Uno back in 1992. It was a three-year old 1.4 DGT, registration no. F62UAF,  finished in white – I even remember the colour code – 210. I was ten years old and my Dad had just bought a car with what appeared to have a dashboard from the future. It was comfortable to me back then, and my Dad recalls that car with a lot of affection. To him, it was reliable, good to drive and became part of the family. He part exchanged it some four or so years later for a new Punto (more on that car another time). The dealership delivered the new car and collected the Tipo, and to date it’s the most emotional my Dad has been about getting rid of a car.

Tipo3doorMore than that, I’ve had a Tipo – a 1.4 i.e. S facelift model. I very briefly had a Tempra saloon before selling it to a mate who desperately wanted a car. It gave him three years sterling service before it had to go. The Tipo history and derivatives are compelling, the original car is much underrated and under-appreciated. Shame, really. A lot of people don’t know what they’ve missed.

 

 

 

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

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