Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

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!

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

Dodgy Accent – Another car purchase


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.


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.

– 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.

– 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

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

The Dealership

The Apprentice Lad's bicycle, parked correctly

The Apprentice Lad’s bicycle, parked correctly

I’ve not seen this programme The Dealership. Apparently it’s a fly on the wall documentary about a, erm, dealership. Even though I haven’t watched it I think it should have been filmed at the garage I used to work at.  In fact I remember the salesman saying it would be a fantastic idea to make a fly on the wall documentary about where we worked. I think the best way of describing what the experience may have been like can be summed up in one word: unique.

We were a main franchised dealership for Fiat and Alfa Romeo. I no longer work there and since the dealership no longer holds the franchise. Some of the people I worked with were great, some not so. I’ve focused in on the people who I liked (except the General Manager), and the rather amusing anecdotes. Most of the recollections are “you should have been there” moments, but alas none of you were so I’ll have to tell them.

Day one at the dealership: Tall lanky salesman (who is a top bloke) says “Weellllll, what a load of old shit. What a fucking liberty” as a customer pulls up. I, the service manager, shares same level of enthusiasm and says “what does this prick want now.” On the same day, a second person turns up wanting to do something strange such as buying a car. Prospective customer number one sees the tall lanky one and is sold a car instantly because the customer has interrupted his online Scrabble game. Prospective customer number two makes the fatal mistake of dealing with the sort, dumpy one (General Manager – likes to tell many many tales of rallying, hearing aids and SAGA holidays. In fact, he used to rally hearing aids) drives in an Alfa 156 and leaves in a hearse. Post mortem later revealed customer died of boredom upon listening to stories of rallying, hearing aids and SAGA holidays. His Alfa 156 is in the customer parking spot for so long, it takes up root in the tarmac. (Some poetic licence in this bit, obviously. He hated SAGA holidays)

Day two:  Our beloved Jaguar XK140, one of the many classics for sale, is sold. The new owner, who was rallied by the General Manager, paid cash and like most people had a part exchange which were, unlike most part exchanges, an old tractor and ride on lawn mower. The lawn mower was taken on by someone who “used to rally lawnmowers” and the tractor served its purpose as a backup rally vehicle, after being fitted with a souped-up A+ Series engine from a 1983 MG Metro, the front brakes from a Ford Granada and the indicator stalk from a Peugeot 104.

Day three: Owner’s son shouts at the back my chair (I’m not there because I’m on annual leave): “Yoooouuuuu! You’re going down the road when you get back!” Our Welsh Mechanic stumbles home to his caravan, falls through a hedge into a stream. General Manager says “Oh my!” a lot

Day four: The owner’s son chases the trainee salesman, known to everyone as Ginger Tosser, around the premises with an air rifle. Can’t say I blame him as he really was a tosser. And ginger. Later on, Police are called to arrest a man for and it takes three to take the owner’s son down. General Manager used to rally Police cars, it turns out.

Day five: Chief mechanic, MoT tester and Mexican Freddie Mercury impersonator says to the Ginger Tosser sales trainee “ah well, at the end of the day, in all fairness I’m going to lock you in the fucking boot of that car.” And he did, good man. Chief mechanic glued radio dial onto Classic FM to stop people changing the radio station. Rebuild on Twin Spark engine interrupted by me talking in his voice to him, and the YTS lad speaking to Welsh Mechanic in his voice. Told many, many stories on how “I used to rally Datsun 120Ys” other enlightening rally stories by General Manager. I fall asleep for a while. Before falling asleep, we all talk to General Manager in his voice, because he used to rally it.

Day six: This day didn’t happen as I was still asleep from the rallying stories. Oh, wait, hang on… The owner’s son used to wash the cars and sometimes had to scratch “himself”. Police were called to investigate a man “masturbating into a bucket.” General Manager used to rally buckets, it emerges. News comes from Dealer Principal who has had to go to London for a meeting with Fiat. Travelled by Motor Cycle rather than car, something happened to his luggage – it fell and caught fire on the exhaust. Luggage found at side of the road on fire. Problem solved, new suit from Savile Row. News also filtered down that he opened the wrong door to use the toilet and ended up opening the front door to the hotel room rather than the bathroom and walked into the hallway stark bollock naked. Without a key. General Manager used to rally keys.

Day seven: Son of service manager of other branch steals my office chair. Wondering where it is I launch a full scale investigation to hunt down whatever bastard stole my chair. Its whereabouts are soon discovered. It’s at the back of the yard with a hoover and a photocopier smouldering on a bonfire. Fire brigade called out by the bunch of ejits at the council yard. Fire officer who knew the cheeky arsonist bastard what set fire to my chair, looked at it, basically said DILLIGAF and fucked off. General Manager used to rally chairs, photocopiers and Fire Engines.

Day eight: I try my best to get General Manager to swear and say “fuck”. I try all sorts of things and none of them successful. Closest I get is “bastard” and “shit”. Apprentice mechanic opens bonnet of a car and says “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” a lot. Instantly declares that the air filter on this JTD likes men. Then declares that all his colleagues like men and we’re all going on a trip to The Isle of Men, via a concert at the MEN Arena. General Manager apparently used to rally men.

Day nine: Fiat/Alfa DET “strategically places” airbag onto battery to see what would happen. It shoots across the floor underneath several scooters, fills the workshop up with smoke and causes Dealer Principal to come out of his office shouting “Who the fuck is letting off guns in the workshop?” General Manager says “shit!”

Day ten: I steal Apprentice lad’s bicycle and Chief Tech and MoT tester parks it in a tree (see picture). General Manager never rallied bicycles, strangely. Trees, however…

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Motoring, Other Stuff! | 2 Comments

Pass the blanket and slippers, I’ve bought me a Rover.

A Rover 25, yesterday

A Rover 25, yesterday

So, we’ve bought yet another car, though this time it’s not through choice or wanting to. Some inconsiderate cow of a woman-person decided it would be a good idea to have a game or Russian Parking Roulette. What would have been a routine visit and lunch at the local supermarket turned out to be a total twat of an occasion, as the aforementioned woman-person in her Renault Laguna caved in the rear door of our “beloved” (ha!) Corsa, and the insurance company declared it a write-off. The fact that this wrote off a 10 year old car is deeply frustrating and needless, especially as we’d spent a small fortune on the Corsa just before Christmas and got the thing mechanically just so. As working for a franchised Fiat and Alfa dealer when the scrappage scheme was in full force made me cringe as to what good cars were sent to the crusher, so to know this little Corsa was being sent to an early grave was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. However, things change and move on, and so it had to go. But what to replace it with? We needed something to carry us and a toddler approaching his terrible twos. Oh, and all his crap – literal and metaphorical.

We were due to go on holiday, typically, and two days before we were due to drive from Cornwall to Teesside the Corsa got collected by the insurance company. True, we had Edgar the 205, but I wasn’t about to do nigh-on 500 miles in a 954cc French buzzbox with wife and child on board. If I was doing the journey myself, I would have done! So, we were going to hire some brand new peace of Korean misery, but quotes were flying in excess of £350 to hire a car so bearing that in mind, we set to work to find a car that most people on Autoshite would be proud of. There wasn’t much for what we wanted to spend and the decent stuff was too far away. Plenty of stuff on Gumtree, again too far away. So we thought sod it, we’ll hire something and buy something when we’re away.

The following day we took a walk and at the end of the road was a 1999 Rover 25 in metallic blue, with 8 months ticket on it advertised at £475. My wife, knowing that I’ve gone on about the renowned OMGHGF of the K Series engine, asked if these are the ones that go pop regularly I confirmed it. We contacted the seller man-person, who turned out was a trader man-person who I’ve sold a few motors to in the past. We had a good look at it, looked at the vast amount of service history which included a replacement head gasket with the modified parts done within the last eight months. So we slept on it (not literally, that would be stupid) and reconfirmed how much it would cost to hire a car.

The following morning, the wife-person says something along the lines of “Well, if we beat him down in price, buy the car, it’s going to cost 100 quid maximum more than hiring some little box. If we don’t like it, we can sell it on and if it breaks we’ll bin it and grab another one.”

I liked her train of thought, so we thought sod it, we’ll buy it. Wife-person phoned up man-person, haggled a bit and got it for £430. We picked it up Wednesday evening, bearing in mind we were going away Thursday.

So, what is it?
Well, it’s a dark metallic blue Rover 25 1.6. Three owners from new, one of them clearly blind as one of the previous owner-persons fitted it with ghastly Lexus lights. SWMBO-person likes them and alas they’re staying put. If they meet with an “accident” then so will I, I’m told. Its interior has been relatively well looked after, got four good condition alloys, a pretty much full 14 year service history and (after the holiday) 107,000 miles on the clock. The bodywork has a few rust spots and in some places on the bonnet the lacquer has seen better days. Other than that, it wears its years well.

Equipment levels aren’t bad – leccy sunroof, mirrors and windows. It also has occasional central locking, ABS, airbags, power steering and comfortable multi adjustable seats. Rover definitely engineered this car for the older person-person. People with lumbago as there are so many different lumbar support positions. People with glaucoma or some other sight related deficiency as the steering wheel is the same thickness as the average German saloon, the gear knob is the size of a desert and all the switches are chunky and easy to read. Oh and there’s wood! Wood!

“Hmmm hmmm heh. He said wood, hmmm hmmm heh.”

However, the way it drives is totally different. It doesn’t drive like a 107,000 mile car, feels about half that. It’s quite sporty. That 1.6 K series lump is smooth, refined but an absolute gem when you apply the right foot. Indeed, it’s a very rev-happy unit. The steering turn in is a marked improvement over the Corsa, being a hydraulic system rather than the ball ache electronic unit. It handles nicely, corners well, though the gearshift is a bit too clunky. Boot is a good size and the front is roomy enough, however because of the sloping roof, the rear headroom is a wee bit clip.

So, to summarise: Corsa gets side-bummed by stupid woman-person, nasty man-person in transporter takes it away, we buy a 14 year old Rover with a K Series engine instead of hiring a new car with full warranty back up and breakdown cover. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Well, ye of little faith, nothing so far. In just over a week it did a trip from Cornwall to Teesside and back again and including the driving around the North East, that’s 1200 miles. 1200 fault free, comfortable miles. It hasn’t missed a beat. Plus for the wife to go to work and back everyday since getting back home (35 mile round trip). For the moment, this car is a keeper, but hopefully we’ll keep it longer than for the moment as we’ve grown quite fond of it. It has minor irritations that need sorting, such as the dreaded water in the boot, which just so happens to coincide with the rear screen washer not working, the central locking sorting and a quick engine service. But for what we paid, this is a seriously good little car.

Looking for a cheap car? If you’re prepared to accept that at some point you’ll have to have the head gasket done, you could do a lot worse than a 25. The interior build still seems solid after those years and miles, the whole car still feels tight. It’s good fun to drive and refined at the same time. Try one, just don’t believe that they’re only for old people!

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April 12, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austin Metro 1.0 City x 5 Door 1985 B reg | eBay

Now, I like a bit of Italian exotica, as you know. What I’d do for a 246 Dino or a Delta Integrale is anybody’s business. However, I’m more intrigued by and interested in boggo standard, basic shite cars from the 1970s and 1980s. Cars from the eighties moreso as that’s the decade of my childhood as I were born in 1982.

The Austin Metro was a reasonable car when launched and was the best British Leyland could do with their limited budget at the time. However it was quickly outclassed by newer rivals.

None of that really matters thirty years on. What does matter, despite the Metro’s propensity for rusting before your eyes, cars like the one in this this eBay listing survive. Much like my own 205 Junior, the Metro City X will never be regarded as a fully fledged classic and that’s a good thing. They’re pretty low down the pecking order compared with 205 GTis, even MG Metros and certainly anything with a VW logo on it. However, it means what you have is a useable and enjoyable car that if maintained well enough will provide fun motoring. The best thing about cars like this is you can pick them up for next to nothing, they’re easy to fix and still modern enough that if looked after could be used as a daily driver.

The Metro in this eBay listing is rather splendid. I love how BL or Austin Rover as they were called made everyone know you were driving the basic model. The recessed headlamps, the iron gurder bumpers and CITY X in great big letters down the side. Excellent stuff. You could probably get a Metro cheaper than the one in this eBay listing, but this one is a little beaut. I like it a lot.

Austin Metro 1.0 City x 5 Door 1985 B reg | eBay.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Six months on with Edgar

Six months. That’s how long I’ve owned the white Peugeot 205 with blue denim seats. A car that my wife has named Edgar. A car that was supposed to be a stop-gap until I found something better, but truth be told I don’t want to find something better. It’s like the family pet, now. It’s the first car my wife has given a name (as far as I can remember) and my 20 month old son is obsessed with the “Puurrrrrrrr-jooooooooooeeee!” Especially not now, anyway, as the car now has a new, crisp MOT certificate. Not without needing some remedial work, mind you.

I was expecting a fail. It’s a twenty-five year old car. More than that, it’s a twenty-five year old French car. A twenty-five year old French Peugeot made from steel so thin you could read through it. I was expecting it to need lots of work. Chiefly because up until MOT time, the bonnet has been open for nothing much more than checking levels and when it had a quick engine service. Only once has it needed to be opened because it wouldn’t start at all. One fouled spark plug cleaned up and a liberal spraying of WD40 on the leads ensured it started first time afterwards. The only other work I’ve done to it is reseal the boot lid because, typically Peugeot, it lets in water. That and I drove it through flood water. Seriously, since I bought the car other than fuel and insurance (which is on a classic car policy as, because I don’t think I ever mentioned it was twenty-five years old), I’ve spent the sum of £30 on service items and a pair of wiper blades.

So, expecting it to fail on lots it was with a heavy heart I handed over the keys to my “old banger”, returned to work and waited for the phone call. And waited. Did some more waiting. And waited a bit more. I kept thinking that yes, the car has been fantastically looked after by previous owners but I own it now, it’s cost me next to nothing over the last half a year so something’s got to give. And let’s not forget it’s quarter of a century old (did I mention that before? Don’t think I did.)
Then, the phone call. “Paul, hi. It’s Gary Baldy-Biscuit from the testing station. Bad news I’m afraid, your Peugeot has failed its MoT test.” My first thought was bollocks! I enquired as to what repairs were needed.
“It needs two brake pipes and both rear wheel bearings replacing.”
I responded with “…and what else?”
“That’s it, just an advisory on the windscreen and an offside CV boot perishing.”

So, not too bad. Yes, they were the front to rear brake pipes that go up over the fuel tank and two wheel bearings so there was a fair amount of labour. But as I had neither the time or the inclination to repair it myself, the garage continued with the repairs. Literally some time and a couple of hundred sovs later I was presented with a crisp MoT certificate, along with a few other minor niggles that were unrelated to the MOT but rectified free of charge all the same. An advisory of O/S/F CV boot perished and windscreen delaminating in places were the only advisories.

I knew it was a pretty sound car anyway, and I viewed it twice before buying. But to be told by the MOT tester that it’s the cleanest Peugeot he’s worked on in a long while and is solid as a rock is relieving and feels good to know. The fact that it’s the cleanest Peugeot he’s worked on in a while isn’t really a huge recommendation, but then think of it this way – the 205 for a flimsy French buzz box is a pretty tough old boot. They’re pretty resilient to the old tin worm, the engines are strong if maintained well and mine being a Junior means there’s nothing electrical to fail. Have you noticed just how many 205s there still are on the roads? The paintwork in places is showing its age (I never mentioned it before, but it’s twenty-five years old) from the first owner who liked to use the gate posts as parking sensors. The interior is in great condition, and will be better once I receive the rarer-than-rockinghorse-shit glovebox (currently missing from mine) I ordered off Fleabay t’other night. The engine, currently, runs sweet as and even in the coldest of weather we’ve had has taken a maximum of two attempts to start. Let’s hope the next six months have been like that last.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Junior Delinquent

The last blog entry I wrote entitled “I went on the internet and I bought this…” recalled the encounter of me going on eBay to buy another banger. I’d been looking for a cheap runaround to replace the Punto as its floor had fallen off. I’d found a rather charming little 1987 Peugeot 205 Junior with 44,000 miles driven by 2 owners from new. The promise of a huge lever arch file full of service history, the photos on the auction listing and the fact that it wasn’t a Corsa looked too good to be true. Thankfully the car looked better than advertised and drove a treat. So, as this entry was written before I’d picked it up I thought I’d update the story with any set backs or breakdowns I may have encountered along the way in the two months I’ve had it.

So in my best Autocar style, here’s the road test bit.

Yes, it has one of these. It has some doors, windows, headlights, bumpers, bonnet, tailgate, wheels and much more which make up the exterior. This being the Junior model means it also has some stripes. On both sides. And some Junior badging. And colour coded wheel trims. Seriously though, it’s a fantastic looking car and considering the 205 was launched in 1983, its crisp lines still looks quite modern. Certainly, the 205 has always been one of my favourite hatchbacks of the 1980s.

Interior and equipment
It’s got one of these, too, largely made up of seats, dashboard and carpet. This being the Junior model means it has light stripes on the seats, and indeed the seats themselves are upholstered in a lavish and luxurious denim. The carpet is incredibly lavish pile made from expired French peasants. The dashboard is formed from the finest quality plastic with a grain not too dissimilar from an elephants’ bottom. Everything falls to hand readily (no, falls to hand, not falls off) and the controls logically situated. Steering wheel is in a good place, which is in front of the driver’s seat and the gear lever and hand brake are situated in the middle between the two seats. I’m not sure this idea will catch on personally, as it means your passenger could interfere with your driving by sabotaging the gear lever with, say, some super glue or worse still, leave a rancid Kipper on the handbrake. Still, the previous owners of this car have thankfully refrained from either of those practices and the interior is immaculate. Equipment wise, it has an up to the minute cassette deck with automatic tuning device for the radio system. The dials are fantastic, you have a speedometer which is handy for seeing if you’ve actually managed to get to 26mph yet and a fuel gauge which basically tells you there is fuel in the tank but not how much. The most impressive dial is just to the left of the speedometer. It simply says “Peugeot” and I’ve figured out what it’s for. It’s to remind you to that you couldn’t quite afford the GL model.

Somewhere under the bonnet beneath the carburetor lies an engine. Lies being the operative word seeming as it’s the Douvrin XV8 unit (the engine leans back 72 degrees). It develops an immense 45bhp from its 954cc which is enough to propel it to 83mph. It’s lively enough around town, but slower than time stood still for anything else. It’s a pretty smooth running engine that in its 25 year existence has covered all but 46,000 miles. It’s noisy in comparison with a newer car, but in a fun kind of way. These old lean-back engines have a distinctive whiney when pushing on, which makes you more aware that you’re extracting every little bit of power the poor little thing has to offer. I love it!

Erm, moving on…

Fuel economy
Impressive, in a word. It’s more miserly than Albert Steptoe. I’m not sure it even runs on unleaded to be honest as it’s that infrequently I actually need to go the petrol station. I can’t be arsed to work out miles per gallon figures as I have better things to do. Like write rubbish roadtests. Suffice to say we did a 120 mile round trip to Bude to see some family. Two days before, I put fifteen quids worth of unleaded in the tank from next to bone dry which did me a days worth of driving to work and back and the trip to Bude and back before replenishing any additional fuel.

Ride and handling / On the road
The 205 gained a reputation for being fun to drive. This one is no exception to be honest, even in lowly basic poverty specification such as this Junior. It’s not as sharp as the GTi, quite obviously, and has a fair amount of body roll but it’s fun to chuck into the bends all the same. Steering is light and is great for parking, but the turn in is good and feels positive. The gearchange is typical of other Peugeots from the time I’d driven. It’s rubbish until warmed up properly and then when warmed up very slightly less rubbish. The brakes are lacking in braking ability so much so that I think the front brake pads are made of Weetabix and the brake discs formed from water biscuits. The ride is superb even compared to more modern cars, thanks to typically French lofty suspension coupled to comfy seats as with most French cars of the time. This means it can at least transport eggs on French cobbled streets in superb comfort. So, dealing with the potholed roads of the UK is easy. Whereas speed bumps in my wife’s Vauxhall Corsa are undertaken as if it’s a bloody expedition to climb Everest, this little Pug makes speed bumps appear flatter that witches’ tits.

Living with the car / Reliability
It’s always exciting when you buy a new car no matter what age it is, and two months on the novelty hasn’t worn off. I went on about the condition before I drove it home, and getting it home meant I could have a proper look at it. It really is fantastic. Solid underneath, never been welded and the good sign is it won’t need any. Well, first day was event free on the drive back from Wadebridge to home via Falmouth. No fuss whatsoever. And if I’m totally honest, it’s pretty much been like that ever since (touching every piece of wood in sight). It has been given a minor engine service and a polish. So far, the bonnet has been up to top up the screenwash and to do the aforementioned service. It generally starts first (or third) time. Third attempt is a record so far, and that was on a blustery, rain-soaked day so I can forgive it that. My Basil Fawlty starting encouragement branch has yet to be used.

There are odd little bits and pieces here and there that I will probably end up doing but none of them are things that overly concern me. It has a very slight noise from its left hand front driveshaft, a pinhole in the rear silencer, a very minor engine oil leak and could do with its wheels balancing. Whilst we’re on the subject of wheels, I may put slightly wider wheels on at some point. It may be a little bit more stable on something a little bit wider than 135 section tyres. Nothing untoward will be going on as I’d like to keep it as original as possible.

To sum up the 205, then? It’s slow. It’s noisy compared with new stuff. Aside from a central locking kit that’s been retro fitted, there’s next to no equipment. The gearchange is rubbery and the brakes quite woeful. However, none of that really matters as it has a character of its own and makes me smile every time I drive it. That’s as important as anything else for me and the fact it’s cheaper than walking is also very appealing. It has quickly become one of my favourite cars so in my illustrious history of slightly shite motors. Is it going to be a stop gap car until something better comes along? I hope not. There’s not many of these Juniors at this age left on the road and I aim to keep this little machine battling on for as long as possible,  Yes, it’s bloody clean for its age. I’ve seen five year old cars look worse than this, however it’s a daily hack and therefore needs to work for a living getting me to work, doing the nursery run, going to the shops and filling in for when the Corsa is being repaired. Repeatedly. It will be cleaned, polished and maintained as well as possible to keep it going but it has to earn its keep. Final verdict? 10 out of 10.

October 12, 2012 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , | Leave a comment

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