Readers' Stuff - part 2 (added July 2004)

Jaguar to 2CV (Tom Bartley-Smith)

My banger career, or, careering about in bangers (Barry)

Previous stories (February 2004)

Mk2 Polo (Alan Dodridge Jr)

Vauxhall Astra (Alun Rolph)

Jag XJ40 - student transport! (Tom Smith)

Two more Polos (John West)

Yet another Polo... (Robert Evans)

More Germans - Golf, Audi Coupe - and a Bluebird (Rob Bashford)

Some assorted tips ('Silvery')

Spitfire, Austin J4, SD1 Rover, cheap motorsport - Mark Wilson

Mainly Fords (Pete Murray)

A Toyota fan writes... (Bryan Harries)

Note that the copyright for all articles submitted remains with the contributor.  Views expressed are those of the contributors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the owner of this website.


Jaguar to 2CV (Tom Bartley-Smith)

Great to see the site updated!  I was especially chuffed to see that you'd included my earlier e-mail (back in the days when I was plain old Tom Smith from Jesus College, Oxford).  Well, one name change later (it's a long story...) and with my student days now a rapidly fading memory, I thought I'd touch base again.

The bad news is that the Jag's gone; she drank like George Best (most unladylike) and was costing an arm and a leg in fuel.  The problem was exacerbated by dodgy connections behind the dash, which meant that the electronic fuel gauge would vanish for days on end.  When the ghoulish green display returned, I'd find that I'd been running the car on fumes for the past 40 miles!  With over 200bhp, rear-wheel drive and no traction control, she gave me a few hairy moments.  Indeed, on one evening I'd sooner forget, I learned a salutory lesson on the dangers of injudicious use of the throttle when coupled with black ice and a nearby hedgerow.  Having tried to kill me, she was christened 'Julia', after an ex-girlfriend...

I briefly left the world of bangers after selling Julia.  I was faced with a daily commute from Cheltenham to Bristol and needed something safe, economical and reliable.  I bought a brand new Peugeot 206 HDi (an excellent engine in a car that unfortunately seemed to have been thrown together), which I ran for a year.

Having (finally) finished university (3 years in Oxford and 1 in Bristol) in June 2003, and not being due to start my training as a solicitor until September, I decided to take a few months to tour Britain.  My girlfriend and I settled on the idea of travelling from Land's End to John O'Groats, taking in as much as we could in between.  We bought a caravan and needed a car capable of pulling it.

Welcome 'Viv', a 1991 Honda Accord 2.0i.  Viv was perfect: she'd had four previous owners, came with a sheaf of bills, old MoT certificates and a nice collection of service stamps, showed 92,000 miles on the odometer, had a towbar fitted and drove like a dream.  She carried us over 4,000 miles without missing a beat and didn't cost a penny.  Unfortunately, my heart ruled my head with dear old Viv.  I should have sold her in September, with a few months MoT left, having served her purpose.  I didn't.  Call it nostalgia or pure laziness, but I parked her on my parents' front lawn, where she has stayed to this day.  I did make some (frankly pathetic) attempts to sell her in December, but it's not the ideal month to sell a car with 1 month's MoT remaining!

The problem is I've now got two more bangers cluttering mum and dad's driveway, and Viv really needs to go.  I've resolved to get her MoT-ed soon and pop her on eBay: fingers crossed for a quick, painless sale!

As I mentioned, I started work in Cheltenham in September 2003, and, with a commute measured in yards rather than tens of miles, I didn't need the economy of the diesel 206.  I yearned to return to my banger roots, and so in October sold the Peugeot (don't mention depreciation to me...) and bought 'Lynsey' from a colleague who was emigrating to Australia.  Lynsey is a 1996 Escort 1.8 Si and she goes like stink.  She was a 6 month old ex-demo when she was purchased by my former colleague, and he covered 130,000-odd miles in her.  So she's what the trade describe as 'a bit leggy'.  However, she's got a full Ford service history - the guy spent a fortune on her - and has the desirable option of (working) air-con.  The weekend after I parted with £1,000 for her, we slapped GB stickers on her rear and popped across to Calais to stock up with wine.  When we touched French soil the heavens opened, at which point I discovered Lynsey's one tiny fault - her windscreen wipers flailed around for a few seconds before leaving the windscreen altogether and flopping onto the wing mirrors, jamming both front doors closed.  Oh! the joy at trying to explain to a local mechanic, shouting through an open window, in best pigeon French, that 'le windscreen wipers ne marche pas'...

Much as I was enjoying Lynsey's company, I realised that a bright red XR3i lookalike was not doing an enormous amount for my credibility.  I needed something quirky; something fun; something as enjoyable to drive as my old Land Rover.  Enter 'Jemima', purchased in January of this year.  Jemima is, without doubt, the coolest car I've owned to date: a 1987 Citroen 2CV6 Dolly.  She's covered a genuine 57,000 miles from new, has all her original booklets (including the sale invoice) and looks very smart indeed.  She's not perfect, and will require a bit of welding for her next MoT, but for £690 (plus 40 euros - all I had in change and enough to sweeten the deal!) she looks like a bargain to me.  The most amazing thing about Jemima is other people's reactions to her.  I was bracing myself for sniggers and general derision, and have received quite the opposite.  Everyone seems to love her.  I wrote in my previous e-mail that one gets a 'warm glow' inside from driving a bargain motor; that feeling is even sweeter when you're getting admiring glances from people who ignore 'mundane' SLK Mercs and Porsche Boxsters!!

Thanks again for a superb website, and I hope this latest update has been of interest!


My banger career, or, careering about in bangers (Barry)

Since about 1985 I have owned 38 cars, some that could (very) loosely be described as "classics", but most of which could most definitely be described as bangers. At least now I’ve found this site I know I’m not alone in having a taste for cars which are not exactly in their first flush of youth .My cars have ranged in price from £35 (actually £34.50, as I found 50p under the back seat) for a MK 1 Cavalier 2 litre automatic to £850 for an 8 year old MK 2 Cavalier 1600 hatchback, when I decided I’d had enough of old wrecks and bought a sensible car. That phase didn’t last long, though. The car that probably best sums up the ‘spirit of Bangernomics’ was a 1985 Cavalier 1600 GL hatch that I bought for £100, with 6 months MOT, as a runabout while I converted my Vauxhall Carlton into a pick-up. (Told you I had strange taste in cars) I gave it a service and replaced the knackered water pump, and when the MOT came round it failed on rotten rear spring mounts and a rear wheel bearing. One welding session later I had a nice new MOT. When the exhaust back box started blowing I ‘repaired’ it with a coke can and lashings of exhaust paste, and shortly after that sold it to a mate’s next door neighbour for £150. And the worst? It would be a close call between the Morris Ital 2.0 HLS Automatic (the rare one!) and the Peugeot 505 estate. I kept the Ital for a week, which even by my standards wasn’t long, before the seized front suspension and rattling big ends convinced me to move on. I’d only bought it because I fancied another auto to replace a very frilly Triumph 2500 TC. The Peugeot was intended to replace a 504 saloon and was bought in haste, in the dark. (Spot the 2 banger buying rules I broke there...) I spent a lot of time and money putting right years of neglect, and since it appeared that it’s first oil change had also been its last I treated it to a dose of flushing oil. I’m still convinced that this was the reason for the demise of it’s big ends the first time I drove it. I sold it to a chap who exported 504s and 505s to Africa, and its probably still rattling around somewhere, full of Goats and Chickens.

On the rare occasions I feel the need to justify not rushing out and buying the latest gizmo laden, new ‘n’ improved model I look at it this way: on an average weekday my car is on the road for approximately 40-50 minutes, 20-25 minutes travelling to work and the same coming home. Does that really justify spending ten grand plus? I have to smile when I park next to a car at work that probably costs more to service than I paid for my car, knowing that for the next 8 hours the only thing it will do that mine won’t is depreciate.

At the moment we have a 1988 Astra Merit 1.3 estate, a 1994 Skoda Favorit GLXiE hatchback and a 1963 Humber Sceptre MK 1. The Astra has been a good workhorse since we bought it for £350 in March 2002. Since then it’s had new rear shocks, new rear brake shoes and cylinders, new pads, a new clutch, new water pump, a new exhaust, new radiator (£10 from an autojumble, don’t dismiss them as a source of parts for ‘modern’ cars) and 2 new sills (amazing what someone could do with fibreglass and underseal....) plus a few other bits and pieces, and the usual service items. I also fitted a second-hand bonnet due to an ‘incident’ (with the emphasise on ‘dent’...) when my partner was learning to drive.... and it needed a strut top bearing/mount assembly and a small patch on the front inner wing/chassis rail for the last MOT.

We’ve had the Skoda since December 2003. I was using the Humber every day after my partner passed her driving test and took over the use of the Astra. However the novelty of cold vinyl seats and scraping the ice off the inside of the widows soon wore off. (been there, done that Etc.) For some reason I fancied a Fiesta, but they all seemed overpriced, sold, or both. The Skoda was for sale at the garage that had sold it new, for £495, with a full MOT. It had 99,500 on the clock, with the service book stamped up to 95,500 and a big wad of bills for servicing and new parts. There were a few scabs and bits of loose interior trim, but it turned out to be a half decent little car. I’ve fitted a new radiator, 2 new cheapo tyres (spare was shot and one front had a slow puncture) and new brake pads (O/S calliper seized on Christmas Eve) The one immobiliser key that worked ceased to do so (luckily when the car was at home), so I simply removed the immobiliser. I now rely on the badge as an anti-theft device. So far, so good.....

The Sceptre is my ‘ongoing project’. I bought it in September 2001, with a short MOT, for £375 from a work mate who had been using it every day. First jobs were weld up the drivers floor, O/S inner and N/S outer sills, overhaul the rear brake cylinders and fit new shoes, and replace the alloy wheels and bald tyres with the original steels and part-worn rubber. I also fitted a second-hand steering box to replace the cracked and leaking original, and replaced the diff with (slightly) less noisy one. After running it for a while I tidied up the body work, ‘shaved’ some of the chrome and sprayed it ‘rattle can’ satin black with metallic purple scallops. However the gearbox was shot, and being quoted silly prices for a recon unit I decided a engine/gearbox swap was in order. A mate had a smashed Nova GTE 1.6 lying around so that’s the engine I used, mated to a 5-speed Carlton gearbox. I also lowered it with 2" blocks on the back and cut down Superminx springs on the front. The body needs tidying again now, and I’ve got 2 new sills in the garage, so hopefully I’ll attack it again later this year.

I like to think, that over the years, I’ve reached a state of banger enlightenment, the sort of motoring Nirvana that can only be achieved by hours of meditation. Preferably while staring at the underside of a Cortina, wondering how to patch a rust hole with a bit of old washing machine.... So let me share with you some words of wisdom.

No car has EVER broken down as a result of having rusty wheel arches

When buying a car, the one thing you don’t check will be that particular model’s very expensive Achilles' heel.

The week after you sell a car for a bargain price, having tried to shift it for weeks, that model will be featured in the classic press and/or a TV ad, suddenly become trendy, and prices will rocket.

Work mates will sneer at your choice of transport, but suddenly become you best friend when they’ve left their lights on all day and need a jump start.

Before going to look at a car for sale, you will be determined to use you head and not your heart, however your steely resolve will crumble within seconds and you will end up begging the seller to let you buy it.

Conversely, when selling a car, your set-in-stone lowest price will go out of the window when someone shows the slightest interest, and you will practically give them the car, along with any limbs and/or internal organs they might want.

The only certain way to ensure that there will be no cars of a particular make or model advertised within a 100-mile radius is to think, no mater how fleetingly, that you might have a vague interest in buying an example of said make or model.


Mk2 Polos (Alan Dodridge Jr.)

I just found your site yesterday. Spot on!  My dad bought an '89 Polo C for £125 and got a few thousand miles out of it.  If he'd had the time he could have fixed it up fine, but it's dead now.  Someone took his coat out of the pub so he had to break in; after that he got a bit fed up.  Anyway no probs - someone just gave him a 1300 Escort!  (He's ok with cars - put a V8 Rover engine in an RX7 once).

I just started driving last October.  I too was given a car - a '91 Polo Coupe. It didn't need much work for MOT.  I got a new starter motor in, 'cos the old one was a bit lazy.  Then I fixed a load of odds and ends myself.  My first automotive victory was the three position heater switch.  Got a new resistor block for £2 from a local scrappers.  I put a decent stereo in (decent: one which plays on both sides of the car!)

A few months later I noticed a little black puddle at the back of the car - guess what that was!?  Yup: rusted-fuel-tank-filler-neck-joint.  A tip from a friend got me another Coupe for £50.  It's been bashed into a kerb at the front so would need a bit of work on the tracking rod end for MOT, but it had a brand new petrol tank!  I took that out myself (cheating at the sill) then gave it to my mechanic (Wesley, dad's friend) who put it in the good car.  I then put the rusted tank in the banger.  Since then I've been just keeping the banger ticking over but now it seems I'm gonna have to steal another part.  Nothing major - JUST THE GEARBOX!!  Mine's been whining quite a lot lately and it's starting to bug me.  Wesley had a spin in it yesterday and he reckons it's a gearbox bearing somewhere.  The clutch rattles like a bag of nails at tick over until you put the pedal in.  Then when driving it whines big time, most noticeably in lower gears.  Put the clutch in at speed and everything is silent.  I want silence!!  I'll probably get a new clutch while I'm at it.

I can't imagine ever selling the car, so considering the money I've spent on it I'll be looking at a couple more years in it at least.  I'd certainly rather drive a '91 Polo with a heater switch I fixed than a 2000 Polo with three years dealer service :>

Thanks for doing your Bangernomics site.  Here's hoping I have another second hand car victory as I take my first gear box out....


Mk2 Astras (Alun Rolph)

One snowy february night in 1994 I put my chevette sideways into a concrete streetlamp. Ouch! So one copy of North West Auto Trader later and I was on my way to Warrington to get a replacement. A 1980 'V' reg for £200. The brakes were f**ked but I had plenty of bits available from the one that lost the argument with Trafford Borough Council's street furniture.  It had a good set of alloys on it. As I worked in a dodgy part of Manchester I sold these to a pal for £150 (otherwise they'd be pinched) so this brought the price down to £50.

Not bad so far. But there's always a but. And that is the MOT (or rather lack of one). After extensive searches at the time of purchase no rot was found. As soon as I'd become lumbered with the old sod the rot became evident. Hidden under the carpet, battery, petrol tank etc... everywhere it could have rotted the dreaded tin worm had done it's worst. Luckily my brother was a bit of a wizard with the old welder. As I had another Chevette sat on the drive we had patch panels just waiting to be cut free. These improvised patch panels got it through the MOT (and the next two MOTs) and I got nearly three years of trouble free motoring off the old girl. It even warranted the affixation of a GB sticker on the back (a brave moment) although the ferry ticket cost more than the car did. It met it's maker when on the way to the ferry for a second foreign stint the gearbox went. It didn't just excuse itself quietly - it went with a bang. A f**king big bang. I think there are still bits being extracted from the M56 at Runcorn now. So I called it a day for the Chevette.

To replace it I went looking for a Mk. II Cavalier 1.6GL. They were all full of rot. Lots of it. If there was ever a Vauxhall prone to rust it was the Mk. II Cavalier. So by complete accident I took a 1987 'D' reg Astra 1.3 Merit for a test drive. It started. It went. It stopped. The radio worked. What more do you need in an average motor?

This was the best car I have ever owned. OK it didn't have fuel injection, central locking or electric pack, but it was cheap, easy to maintain and for a 1.3 was as fast as f**k.  This was my everyday transport for a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to only live a few miles from work so no major stress was put upon the old girl. That was untuil I got married and had to move away from Manchester to find an affordable home. That launched my annual mileage from around 8,000 to about 18,000 per year. The old camshaft started rattling at an alarming rate, and I have since found out that the cams in the early 'J' series engines were less than useless. Before things got too bad I left the Astra with a mobile mechanic to sort the cam and give the whole lot a general spring clean. In the meantime I had to commute in the 1980 Mini Metro I had acquired for herself to learn in.

After a week the Astra was back. A new Cylinder head and clutch and it was ready for the traffic light GPs again. Too many traffic light GPs. I got through front tyres like there was no tomorrow. LESSON # 1. TYRES DO NOT GROW ON TREES.  It was fun, though. The engine was running really sweet and I could burn off most average cars half the Astra's age.

After having so much done on the top end, the bottom end after a while started to register it's annoyance. A bit of piston slap awoke the neighbours in the morning from time to time. However, ever so conveniently before I got around to fixing the bottom end a silly old fart pulled out in front of me on a roundabout in Knutsford and wrote off my car. Fortunately I had fully comprehensive insurance and a big fat cheque was mine within a couple of weeks.

So with £850 in my back pocket (it was 1998 now, not a bad payout for an 11 year old car) LESSON # 2 - ALWAYS KEEP YOUR CAR LOOKING NICE, EVEN IF IT IS A PILE OF NAILS and I had kept looking at the Auto Trader  for desperate old sods readvertising their cars week in, week out, dropping their price by £50 each week. And there it was. I was sick of the insurance company's hire car - an 'R' reg Honda Civic. The build quality was crap. The styling was crap. The knob on the handbrake looked like it came straight off a 1978 Datsun Sunny. So I picked up the 'phone and arranged to see this 1990 'G' reg Astra 1.6GL Belmont. It was only over in Congleton and had my name written all over it. LESSON # 3. DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH A CAR IN THE SMALL ADS. So it did have electric windows, central locking, RDS stereo and all that. But the carb was buggered, the tape in the RDS stereo wasn't quite OK and the passenger side electric window didn't work. Like an idiot (see lesson # 3) I purchased the old dog anyway. I thought it would be a cinch to fix the electric window. It's only a cog that's lost its teeth somewhere I thought. 5 minutes in a scrapyard and it'll all be hunky dory.


The electric window mechanism is completely different to that where you twist the knob. The only way to fix this is to go to Mr. Dick Turpin, er, I mean, Vauxhall Dealer and pay them £200 to fix it for you. (refer again to lesson # 3)

So to the buggered carb. Scrap yards full of mark II Cavaliers, I thought. All 1.6 jobbies with carbs on them waiting for me to buy them for a tenner, I thought.


The carb on the 1.6 Astra was different (at least on this one it was). Rare as rocking horse doings.

So to the tape player. Well Virgin 1215 was on air, so that didn't bother me. I just didn't play tapes.

Even with it's faults the second Astra fulfilled my needs until after the birth of my son and my wife went back to work. This released a wad of cash to get it sorted once and for all. Firstly in to Marsh & Jeffrey in Manchester for a twin choke Weber. The change was like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. With a Weber under the bonnett this b**tard flew. A bit later and I finally got the electric window fixed. In the meantime I had piled filler into the front where stones had hit it on the M6 and fixed the wiper linkage where it was broken by hitting a pigeon at 60 mph in the lanes the far side of Mobberley.

While all this was going on my Irish wife was starting to feel homesick and I was getting a bit pissed off with my job. So on to I went and got fixed up with a few interviews in Dublin. This turned into a job offer, starting on Jan 2nd, 2001. So we sold up.

8 days before we were due to move I was driving home from work, after picking up my son from my mum's, and my wife from her works when it happened. A young girl in a Golf pulled out right in front of me, hit me and forced me over a traffic island onto the other side of the road. I parked up and exchanged details. As both offside wheels were mashed by the traffic island I called the AA to get towed home. While waiting I got everyone out of the car. LESSON # 4 - NEVER WAIT IN A STRICKEN VEHICLE. I was on the phone to the AA asking them to be as swift as they could as my car was in a dangerous position when a woman in a Rover 400 drove into the back of it at 60. Rumour has it she was lighting a B&H at the time.

So that was that. A new Weber and electric window off to the crushers. LESSON # 5 - IT'S JUST NOT WORTH IT ON A CAR THAT'S WRITTEN OFF SO EASILY.  As we were moving abroad I had sold the house and had enough to buy a replacement car before the insurance paid out, and picked up a J reg Astra 1.4I LS. This was my first (if only temporary) journey outside Jalopydom.

So we arrived in Ireland to start our new life. The new Astra, even though it was 9 years old only had 28500 miles on the clock. As soon as we arrived I posted the tax disc back to Swansea to cash it in as we were outside the jurisdiction of the Garda Siocona (Irish Police), and continued to drive around on English plates until I got stopped several times at the same checkpoint by the same Gard and the penny dropped. So I had to swap my 'J' plates for a set of '91 MH' plates and put the old girl through the NCT (Irish version of the MOT). £50 of welding on the sills is all it took and we were rocking and rolling. Or so I thought. Now the NCT is due every two years, from the date of registration in the country of origin. So my car being a November 91 model should be due an NCT every other November. Well yes and no. Those pillocks at the NCT test centre buggered up their records and logged the date of registration in Ireland, not the country of origin. Now I registered my car in Ireland in February 2001, and put it through the test in April 2001. So February 2002 came and I phoned the NCT to get an appointment for a test. They said I couldn't have a test until November. 'But what about my NCT disc expiring in February' I asked. 'What about when I have to re tax my car' I asked. 'Phone the Tax office' they replied. So I phoned the tax office who said my NCT did not expire until April 2003 according to their records. So my disc runs out in February, I can't have my car tested until November and according to the tax office it doesn't run out until the following April. And the Irish wonder why they have a certain reputation.

And one lesson I have learned while living over here. While driving to work one morning the car in front stopped. I tried. Couldn't. Bang! LESSON # 6 - KEEP YOUR DISTANCE AT ALL TIMES, NO MATTER HOW SLOW THE OLD SOD IN FRONT IS GOING. Vauxhalls aren't sold here. They are badged as Opels. So I got a replacement grille and lights off an Opel Astra at the scrapyard and straightened out the bonnett and wings with a lump hammer, piece of timber and a pair of vicegrips. Surely the Opel bits will fit. No. The c**ts were a different shape. Out comes the superglue. That was 4 months ago. They haven't dropped off yet. My fingers are crossed.


Student with a Jag (Tom Smith)

I've spent my motoring life to date behind the wheel of bangers and it's great to see their virtues extolled.  My first car was an '86C Nova 1.2.  Okay, it was the unloved saloon variant, but with 12 months' ticket, 18k on the clock and a full set of Vauxhall stamps, I nearly took the old dear's arm off for £600.  That was followed 18 months later by a Series IIA Land Rover SWB 2.25 petrol ('Susie'), which I bought for £850 with a year's MoT on-board and a boot-full of spares.  I was even left with enough change from the £1,000 I sold the Nova for to buy a couple of rounds (well, I am still a student)!  And a couple of weeks ago I managed to pick up a Jaguar Sovereign 3.6, again with a year's ticket and full service history, for £500.  A mechanic friend of ours checked it out and proclaimed it to be one of the best he'd seen in a long while: even the electric aerial and the cruise control still works.  The snag is insurance - a 21-year old behind the wheel of a Jag is perceived (for some reason!) as a recipe for disaster.  So my dad's now smoking around like Arthur Daley in a seriously classy set of wheels. Admittedly there's a warm glow inside to be had from driving a shiny new car, but isn't it so much nicer knowing you're having more fun at a fraction of the price?!


Story of two Polos (John West)

I have twin daughters, who, having reached the age of 17, just had to acquire wheels, so what to do? At the time (1990), my wife had a 1987 Polo, and I was impressed with the way the bodywork was standing up. I have been an amateur mechanic for fifty years, and one rule has always held: as long as the body is good, the rest can be fixed. So, I acquired a 1984 1043 cc Polo hatchback with 76,000 miles on the clock and a year's MOT, for £900, vastly more than it was worth as it turned out, but at least the body was excellent. On test drive it seemed OK, and so off I went down the motorway from Manchester at around 50 mph. However, when I took my foot of the throttle, as is occasionally required on the motorway, a smoke screen which the navy would have been proud of obliterated all rear vision. My wife, who was following me, thought I had caught fire, but I made it home, feeling somewhat chastened. Then began the long litany of sorting out the various problems.

The low pressure oil buzzer, which operates at about 2000 rpm, kept sounding, but since the engine didn't sound too bad I shorted it out. Also, it became impossible to engage third or fourth gears. Neither of these faults had appeared during the test drive, but I now know why the vendor spent most of that drive biting his nails. His solution to the buzzer problem was a little less effective than mine: he just filled the engine way over full (hence the smokescreen on over-run), and I think the gearbox problem occurred only when the box had warmed up a bit. First, the engine problem; I noticed when setting the valve clearances that the camshaft lobes and bearings were worn, so I obtained a cam from the scrapyard for £10. The engine then started to clatter really badly, and the buzzer problem remained, so I replaced the original cam. It began to dawn on me that the actual mileage was probably 176,000, and that an engine rebuild was looming. The car still ran OK, well enough for my daughters to use once they had passed their tests, so I shelved this problem.

 A fair amount of oil was condensing in the air filter, and I fixed that temporarily, with apologies to the environment, by putting in a piece of pipe to drain it directly onto the road. On examination I found the gearbox 3rd/4th selector had a piece missing; sometimes it would work, sometimes not. Again, the scrapyard came to the rescue, but only with a box for the later model (1985/6 on). I fitted this, knowing that the clutch withdrawal lever was wrong, but it worked long enough to give me time to deal with the other problems. The only major mishap was when the locking nut on the rear gearbox mount failed to lock and fell off. The car made it to a local garage, third gear being the only one available owing to the strain on the remote gear change lever, and I was summoned at the dead of night to help. On the left hand side engine mount there are three nuts holding the bracket to the gear box, so I removed one of these, jacked up the rear of the engine and used said nut to hold it all together. All was then fine, and the car remained that way until the whole lot was hauled out, as now follows.

I soon discovered, when replacing the head gasket owing to a leak near the right front corner where the oil supply goes to the head, why the engine clattered when I put in an unworn cam: the pistons had been fitted back-to-front! The previous owner told me new rings had been fitted, in a somewhat fruitless attempt to cure the oil problem, and presumably that was when the error occurred. So, enough was enough; at 83,000 (ie more probably 183,000) miles out came the engine. At that time, (~1992), spare 1043 engines were rare in scrapyards - I guess the bodies in these cars were lasting too well - so I had it rebored, with very expensive new pistons at £45 each for the 1043 engine, and the crank ground with new main and big end bearings, at a total cost of £330. Of course that cured all the oil pressure and blow-by problems, I could now use the less worn cam, reconnect the warning buzzer and the engine has been fine ever since.

The car has now done 274,000 miles, with no oil problems of any kind since the rebuild. As for the gearbox, I knew I would have to deal with the fact that the clutch mechanism wasn't quite right. The later box has a bigger clutch and the withdrawal forks don't fit properly onto the earlier bearing. I got to it just in time, before the bearing disintegrated. I bought a much earlier box for £10, for a 1978 model, where the ratios are of course different but the case and clutch are the same, and put in the gears from the later box.Everything fitted fine and the problem was cured, despite dire warnings that amateurs should never mess with gearboxes. With care, and some simple tools that you can make up yourself, the job on this particular box is straightforward and can be done without the tools the Haynes manual specifies. Of course, it helped to have a spare box on which to practice and figure out how to do it.

Since then, only routine maintenance and the replacements you might expect on a car of this age have been necessary: wheel bearings both back and front, rear hydraulic brake cylinders, CV gaiters, all new shocks, radius arms, clutch, radiator, fuel tank (the well known nightmare), and the usual exhausts, brake pads and tyres. The body is still fine, and there have been no problems with the MOT, even on the emissions side. I have always managed to adjust the CO level satisfactorily using a Gunson's gas analyser. Throughout German and Swedish have been invaluable; always helpful and able to supply the right part at a fair price; also I have found the Haynes manual excellent.

Of course, by now my daughters wanted a car each. So we bought a 1985 1043 hatchback; this had done 45,000 miles, which, knowing what I do now about these cars, I believe was genuine. It's had its fair share of problems; the gearbox whined when we first had it, so out it came and I replaced the layshaft bearing, but not without bending one of the selector shafts on reassembly. I obviously hadn't learned too well from earlier efforts on the other car, but fortunately it responded to being straightened out and has given no problems since. There was then a weird mishap, with the electrode and part of the ceramic centre on the plug on No 3 cylinder breaking off and scoring up the bore. The oil problem, particularly blow-by, became horrendous, and at first I thought this was caused by blockage of the dreaded oil separator at the back of the block. As some of you have already found it is a nightmare to replace it, but after 2 hours of swearing and cursing I succeeded. Of course it made no difference, but fortunately I had by now acquired a spare engine and gearbox from the scrapyard. This had come out of a car which had caught fire; apparently the owner had drained the fuel into an open plastic bucket, removed the petrol tank and then proceeded to do some welding on the body work. A spark set fire to the petrol in a spectacular fashion, and the car and his garage were soon well ablaze, requiring the services of the fire brigade.

Any plastic or rubber on the engine had of course disappeared, and the rest of the car, like the owner,was gutted, but because the engine still had water in it it did not heat up too much. Also, it had obviously been recently overhauled, so after checking it over and cleaning it up it was pressed into service and has been fine ever since. It turned out the damage to the spark plug was precipitated by water seeping into the combustion chamber through a crack in the head, which must have caused it to weaken through corrosion, though it is not clear to me exactly how this caused the internal ceramic to fracture. The only other incident has been through sheer carelessness on my part; for some unaccountable reason, I had failed to replace the cam belt. I believe it was the original in there, and after 17 years it stripped its teeth. Apparently there were no nasty noises when it happened, and we got away with replacing a couple of bent valves. Other than that, there have been the usual routine replacements, though rather fewer of them compared to the other car, given its much lower mileage (now 101,000).

In summary, although it hasn't been a dirt cheap operation and extensive effort has been necessary at times, I feel we have had a reasonable return for the relatively small amount of money invested by modern standards. We have been rewarded with good reliability and very little trouble with the MOT over the last eleven years. I patch up the paintwork occasionally, but the bodies are still very sound and have never required any welding work.They are ideal for local transport and seem happy to cruise at 80 mph on the motorway, though somewhat uneconomical at that speed. Over the last 11 years I have built up a fair amount of experience with them, and will be happy to help any one else with a repair problem if I can, via e-mail. John West


Yet another Polo... (Robert Evans)

I am currently at university (and hence ona very tight budget), but have always had an avidinterest in cars.  I am 19, and now on my second banger, but thought I'd write an article on my first banger, to see if you wanted to include it.  

Make: Volkswagen Model: Polo C CC: 1050 Year of Manufacture: 1984, (A) Acquired: May 2000 Sold: August 2001

It was the day after I had passed my driving test whenI had my first encounter with the motor trade, andwhat was to be my very first banger.  Strolling past alocal garage, a gleaming Polo (as described above) ina rather tasteless 80's beige caught my eye.  I walkedover and took a closer look.  The paintwork was magnificent for a 15 year old car, and there was verylittle rust - nothing serious, just the odd stone chip and some bubbling around the arches.  The rear wiper was missing, and the rear tyres were just above the legal limit, but the car just stood so well that it begged for closer inspection. The interior was of good condition.  There was some fraying on the driver's seat, begging the question as to whether the indicated 68,000 miles was correct, and there was no service history.  It was, however, clean, and there was no trim missing.  All in all it showed just how well these cars were put together.

Under the bonnet was remarkably clean.  A new carb had been fitted, and it had received a full service, so there was clean oil and new filters and plugs.  Firing it up instilled less confidence: the battery was on avery low charge, and the typical 'whizz' noise of the 1 litre version was emitted.  I took it for a test drive and soon learnt just what a difference servo assistance made on modern cars!!  The brakes were as good as they could be, though, it had a decent pick up for the size of engine, the clutch engaged nice and early, and it didn't pull to one side.  As an inexperienced teenager, I bought it.  I probably paid too much (£600), but that included 2 new tyres, 7 months MOT, 1 month tax, and Polos of this ilk were still fetching good prices back in 2000.

The obvious question you're now asking is how reliable did it prove?  I ran it for 15 months and all in all it was extremely reliable.  There was never a hint of mechanical trouble, and no major components were replaced.  I covered 5000 miles in it, which isn't a huge amount, but enough to give it a good test.  It wasn't fault free, but what more can you expect at this age.  A new battery was called for the day after taking delivery of it, the handbrake cable snapped, various bulbs went and a new camshaft seal was fitted. To get it through the MOT required 2 new rear brakeshoes (only £11 each), and some adjustment to the carb, but nothing else.  The car never refused to start in a morning - and it wasn't garaged - and never let me down on the move. Once warmed it drove beautifully, and easily held its own at 60-65mph.  The pick up from the lower gears was nothing short of amazing (mainly due to the low gearing), but the pay-off was that it was noisy above 50mph.  The car travelled long distances with 4 passengers on occasions, and back seat passengers remarked that it was the most comfortable car they had ever sat in.  I could get 230 miles off £20 pound of petrol, which I thought was perfectly acceptable for a car of this age.

What was the car's fate?  August 2001, after a 10 mile drive I noticed that the petrol tank was leaking very badly.  The car could not be used, and I certainly wasn't paying for a new tank.  I think I was lucky to get £50 from the trade for it, as by this stage it was in real need of a service and new petrol tanks don't come cheap.  The silencer was in need of replacement by this stage, too. It just shows how bangernomics can work.  I was notexperienced in cars when I bought it, but knew the basics to check it out.  Who can complain at 15 months of use and no major repairs or expenditures being needed?  True testimony to how well put together these early Polos were. Currently I'm driving a 1987 (D) Toyota Starlet which I got for £210, with some history, a genuine 95,000miles and the all important 12 months MOT.  Let's hope it's as good as the Polo was!


Bluebird, Audi Coupe, and a Mk2 Golf (Rob Bashford)

Firstly may I congratulate you on an absolutely fantastic site. Its something Ive thought of doing for sometime, but as I work in IT I really cant motivate myself to do it in my spare time as well!. I found your site whilst looking around for stuff to do with MK2 Golfs, and hit a page that detailed cars such as Audi Coupes, Nissan Bluebird and of course the perennial Golf. What struck me was that aside from owning all of these cars at some  point, your principles are the same as Ive been operating since I had my first car. Anyway, I thought I'd rattle on a bit about the cars Ive owned if youre interested.

Ok, about 7 years ago now I was car-less after my MK2 cavalier finally giving up the ghost ( rear subframe disintegrated ). I didn't have a lot of money (then again I never have), and by chance I was talking to my neighbour about my predicament. He said his friend had an old Nissan Bluebird on the C plate that he wanted 450 quid for. Deeply sceptical, I had his friend bring the car round. Amazing bodywork, tired interior, and the starter motor was on its way out , and with about 130k on the clock. I was pretty desperate at the time, so I thought I'd take a chance - I'd expected about 6 months out of it. Dropped him to £ 400. Bought a new starter motor, and that was practically it in 2 years of ownership. Never let me down, great car to drive. Sold it for £200 with 168k on the clock 2 years later - it needed a couple of CV joints so I thought Id cut my losses, but I really liked that car.

Bought an Audi GT5 coupe after that, what a car, unfortunately only had it for about 5 months when it fell victim to an engine fire. Great engine, very well engineered, and very stylish I thought. After this, I purchased another Bluebird, this time a G plate 1.6 premium, the same colour and saloon style as my C reg one. Owned this for a year, then bought a 1986 VW Golf 1.6 CL. It was up for a grand at a friend's garage with 2 owners from new and 115k on the clock. Offered him £800 for it which he accepted, and this has been my day to day transport since. Its now got 171k on the clock, and is as good(??!) as the day I bought it with 115k on it!

The only thing that has given me trouble has been the Pierburg 2E2 carb. The carb was quite badly worn, so I purchased one from a breakers from a G plate Jetta. Put the carb on, but unfortunately the waxstat was shot. You can imagine the look on my face when I was forced to part with 25 sheets at German & Swedish for a car part about an inch long! Anyway, since doing this, its behaved impeccably. There is very little rust on the car, and it drives extremely well. My daily commute is just over 50 miles, and despite its mileage still cruises at 80-90 all day long. Fuel economy is good at around 33mpg. I want to see the Golf get to 180k , but then again Ive been saying that kind of thing ever since I wanted to see 130k!

If the Golf ever does go, I will seek out another MK2 1.6 or 1.8 . I agree with your comments about the 1.3 being a bit lightweight,  I haven't seen many accrue the mega miles mine has.  They are easy to work on, pretty much bullet proof inside/outside, and over engineered mechanically - they were built to last. Im amazed that everything on the car lasts so well! Parts are cheap ( German & Swedish) and readily available. Cannot recommend a MK2 Golf highly enough.


Assorted tips ('Silvery')

Having read the tips page, I'd just like to say that turning wiper blades round 180 degrees probably helps because of the loads they are under. One side will become deformed and wear, so turning them round will effectively give you a much "newer" leading edge, that will also be formed into a more efficient shape. Or at least that's my take on it :)

Also, I've blown a Jetta 1300 engine quite comprehensively - I got the car for next to nothing off a friend (£25, I seem to recall). He thought the rattling from the engine was the points that kept falling apart, but after a rod went through the block 50 metres from the breakers we were taking it to,the blue metal on the bits of rod we found would suggest a shed bearing. Still, between us it lasted a couple of thousand miles, and we got back what we paid for it at the breakers, so it wasn't too bad. On top of that was the fact that it ran far smoother on three cylinders in that last few yards than it ever had on four!

One thing I would recommend people do is keep their eyes out for "classic" bangers. I recently paid £35 for a Dolomite 1300. It's MOT'd till September,and runs quite nicely. I've got 2 1500TCs as well which are being rebuilt,so I've been able to borrow bits off those to keep it going, but so far all I've actually used is the twin carbs off one for  bit more power, and a dizzy cap and leads when I wanted to go out at midnight, when there's no motor factors open. The clutch is a bit tricky, as someone in the past has replaced the two pivots in the system with bolts, one of which isn't the right fit, the other has caused wear to the pedal. But the total cost of new parts to rectify this would be less than twenty quid, and a day's work at most. I'll be spending some money on the car just because I want it to last when I sell it, as I have a soft spot for them, but to run as a banger it's been very good so far - 500 miles on the clock of me driving it, and not missed a beat :) Also it qualifies for classic insurance, which is another major saving in my opinion.


Some stories from Mark Wilson:



In 1984, aged 18, I ended up, to cut an even longer story a little shorter, starting a project building one car from two MOT failed Mk 3 Spitfires. As an impoverished engineering student, progress was slow. A couple of summers later, just 5 days after passing its MOT first time, I was driving off the ferry in Calais with the top down and my girlfriend at my side. And a pretty good feeling that was. Needless to say, we had a few breakdowns in the following month, mostly fixed in a couple of hours but a new prop UJ was required in Salzburg. Over the next 5 years and 50,000 miles the Spitfire was my main transport. Having a shed-full of spares I spent less than a hundred quid a year on maintenance and repairs. I have many stories but a real classic follows:

One time I broke down with a broken fan belt in the Spitfire, in Banbury, on my way back to Solihull, at midnight on a winter's Sunday night. It was a flat bit of road (so I couldn't push start it myself), nobody else around and the engine wouldn't turn over because the battery, which probably was not in its prime of life, had been flattened. I fitted another belt I had floating around in the back, jacked up a rear wheel, put the car in gear and placed my toolbox on the accelerator (as you need to give it a half throttle to start it when it is hot). I then wound an old length of seatbelt-type webbing I had as a tow strap round the circumference of the tyre and pulled it like a lawnmower, being VERY careful not to pull the whole car off the jack. (Images of the thing driving down the road without me - heavy toolbox keeping the throttle open nicely.) After a few over-cautious attempts, the engine started and within half an hour of breaking down I was on the road again with a huge grin of relief and self-satisfaction. I still have the car.

Other stories:

Austin J4 van


Meanwhile (in the late 80's) my younger brother got his first set of wheels: a 1973 Austin J4 caravanette which I bought for him at auction complete with red and white pop-up roof. This was a professional conversion fitted with twin gas burner and grill, sink with push action pump, bench seats transforming into a double bed and two “junior” bunks, curtains, the lot. This was one of the last J4s before the Sherpa came out and it was as rare as hen's teeth even in the late 80's and deservedly so. It was a nasty little motor. One front wheel bearing was duff when we bought it – got 20 quid back from auction house under the “one hour’s warranty scheme”.

We took it round France during that summer, something I like to do in all my recently acquired bangers, and climbed the three highest roads in the French Alps; steadily in second gear with the heater on full blast (it seemed to do the trick). Great view out of the large vertical front windscreen.

The van was very handy on all-season caving and diving expeditions round Britain as it provided private, standing room to struggle in and out of wetsuits and endless hot brews afterwards. Plus when everyone else was retiring to their sodden tents after an evening session in the local pub, it was the height of luxury to slam shut the door and stretch out on a thick (dry) foam mattress.

The Austin Cambridge single carb 1600cc “O” series petrol engine mounted between the two front seats made an awful din and was so underpowered it couldn’t pull the skin off a custard. Maximum cruising speed = 60 MPH. Comfortable cruising speed = 50 MPH. We rebuilt the engine several times, once out of sheer frustration to try to eke out a few more tired horses.

Three of us went to Berlin in it for a few days over Xmas 1989 and New Year a few weeks after the wall had come down. (Now that was a party I will remember for a long time - you can just about make us out standing on top of the wall in the photo featuring on the front page of the DT, new year's day 1990). We camped in the J4 for the duration within spitting distance of the Brandenburg gate. On the way there we burnt out two valves on that asthmatic bastard of an engine and so were reduced to a top speed of 40 mph for the return. We were driving along, sitting in our sleeping bags, scraping the ice off the inside of the windscreen, watching all the other drivers scream past us as we chuffed up the autobahn.



The Spitfire was retired to week-end pottering when I bought a 3500 SD1 complete with spare-car-in-bits for 150 quid. In it I went to watch the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race with my best friend and only on the way back did we discover the odometer was recording intermittently. We totally mis-calculated the time we should have allowed on the way back to catch our ferry across the Channel. This resulted in prolonged amounts of 100+ MPH cruising on the French autoroutes. At a certain point, a UK-registered Porsche 911 came past at 120 MPH and we stuck on his tail for the last half an hour all the way onto the ferry, the doors of which closed behind us as we boarded.


Production Car Trialling in Imp (1994-1996),


Decided we would have a go at Production Car Trialling in the West Country and bought a 1973 Imp for 500 quid that had been partially prepared with rear-exit exhaust, twin spare tyre mounts on the boot lid, racing seat and shirt-button steering wheel. The all important underside protection plate was fabricated from a heavy piece of “tread-grip” steel plate but the chap who had built it put the tread-grip facing down which had the effect of stopping us dead whenever it touched soft ground, which it did often as we drove up farmer’s dirt tracks on our standard 12 inch wheels (as required by the regulations). Also it made a splendid loud, ringing sound as we clanged over rocks, a sound which you could hear from over the other side of the valley. However, this skid plate undoubtedly saved our engine and gearbox from countless terminal smashings as we thrashed it up steep dirt tracks never leaving first gear and slipping the clutch as the engine started to bog down.

Other classy mods were front-mounted radiator using Skoda pipes and big valve head. To check the aerodynamics of the many hot air extraction vents we put in the top of the bonnet, we taped short lengths of knitting wool all over the area, just like tell-tales on a sail. This was handy as we could monitor the airflow as we drove along. (The neighbours stopped speaking to us from then on). The beautifully designed, all alloy 875 cc Coventry Climax engine would rev happily to 7000+ rpm (as far as we could tell by listening to it). Managed to give the car a few inches extra ride height (back to standard) by stuffing a couple of 4x2 off-cuts into the rear spring wells.

Problems we had were many – Blown head gaskets (at least one of them caused by poor head tightening procedure), Destroyed clutches (caused by repeated slipping the clutch under full power), 3 broken diffs (repeated full throttle attempts to drive up steep dirt slopes), Erratic fuel supply (unknown cause, but I do not recommend pressurising the fuel tank by blowing as hard as you can into the fuel tank to try to clear the perceived blockage),

The most frustrating problems were the rubber “doughnut” couplings in the rear axle. These would suddenly snap; once within 10 metres of the start line, early on one miserable cold Sunday morning in February when we had to set off at 6 a.m. for an event deep in Cornwall, 200 miles from home. It took 20 minutes of grovelling in the mud (to no avail) and physically lifting/ sliding the damn thing to move it so other competitors could have a go at this impossibly steep and slippery hill with no run up. Very few, if any, made it and some came very close to rolling over as they slid back down. That was certainly a low point especially as we had worked the whole Saturday in the freezing cold preparing it, including the fitment of wooden spacers, cut from a handy piece of 4x2, in the rear coil spring wells to try and give it some ground clearance. Cured by fitting high tensile coupling bolts in place of regular old Rootes/ Chrysler stock.

We were probably the least successful of all the regular PCT entrants in the South West. However this was most certainly made up for when we won the Novice Cup for Navigation events (Nav. Scatters) using my company 620Ti. But that is another story! I recall finishing only one event in the two years or so we were competing – the Exeter Clouds Classic – the certificate still hangs on my wall as a testament to our sheer determination (and good luck).

The RAC threatened to blacklist us as we became on first name terms with a couple of their local recovery operators. Apart from the Imp, in all my motoring years and all the many breakdowns endured, I have never called out the AA or used a taxi to complete a journey (definitely too stingy and also perhaps too proud).

A cheap and tough car (comments above not withstanding) with glorious rear-engined, rear wheel drive handling (just like an old Porsche 911). Provided many side-splittingly hilarious moments (watching a fellow competitor deliberately bounce his car off a huge tree in order to make an impossibly tight turn without stopping) as well as a greater number of miserable ones, stuck in the mud, in the pouring rain up a hillside track that a Land Rover would struggle to get to. As standard, Imps are a bit fragile, low slung and underpowered for trialling, but if you move the radiator to the front, jack up the suspension a little, replace the diff with a stronger unit, the drive couplings with CV joints, tune carefully for torque, use wills rings and/ or competition head gaskets, heavily baffle the sump, bounce around in your seat like a demented raver (for added traction) and pray hard, it can be an excellent and competitive machine.


Range Rover rally car - Bangernomics racing team???


I bought a 16-year old Range Rover for £630 with a tired but original engine showing 235,000 kms on the clock. A couple of months ago we got it registered and started work. We stripped out the interior to fit the FIA T-class ("Cross-country vehicles") roll cage (hand built from scratch using seamless tubing), seats and seat belts.  We removed the engine to replace the totally worn out camshaft, skimmed the cylinder head, had a quick look at the carbs, changed the leaking fuel tank, the slipping clutch and the duff battery. The only NEW replacement part used in the whole preparation was a gasket kit (apart from the required safety equipment). All the other parts we used were second-hand.

We borrowed 2 hand-held fire extinguishers (as required), a first aid kit and warning triangle and set off for scrutineering. Twice the car broke down on the way to scrutineering with a problem in the fuel pump circuit (which I fixed temporarily in a matter of minutes). With scrutineering passed, the car was returned to the workshop for some last minute additional work especially on the fuel pump circuit.

The car had a "blow out" on the hill just before "parc ferme" at the start ramp. Assuming the flat ground of the car park that was parc ferme would be the best place to change the wheel, Matt drove straight in, only to be told that, according to the regulations, no work can be carried out on the vehicle, and once entering parc ferme one cannot leave prior to the start.

Lobbying from one of the ladies teams changed the mind of the chief marshal who allowed the car to leave parc ferme to change the tyre on the steeply sloping main road but to be sure to return within the 8 minute closing time of the parc ferme. However, the car kept rolling off the bottle jack (borrowed) and with mounting frustration Matt and Stefan had to return, still on the flat tyre, to parc ferme to await their start time of 10:33. Driving once again out of the start on the punctured tyre, a flat area was found within a hundred metres with a large kerb to keep the jacked-up car in place and a few minutes later they were on their way at speed with our one and only spare tyre in shreds in the back of the car, (our order of Pirelli Scorpions having been delayed in Italy.)

I was waiting in the service park when Matt and Stefan arrived after Leg 1 to take the shredded tyre out of the car so I could attempt to buy a replacement in the nearest town, Madaba (I had to get special permission for this from the chief scrutineer). A quick check of tyre pressures and oil and water levels and then over to the fuel refilling area for a 20 litre jerry can of super. Then off down to the bottom of the rift valley to repeat the route two more times.  I called a friend who hails from Madaba and he was decidedly pessimistic regarding the possibility we would find a tyre of this size, be it new or second-hand. 15 minutes later he called back to say that his Range Rover owning relation had a couple of used tyres we could borrow.

The route took Matt and Stefan down to the Dead Sea at 435 m below sea level. From there Special Stage 1 (Ma'in) climbs 1000 meters in 16.5 kilometers. Special Stage 2 (Libb) has more climbing with a precipitous drop on the left-hand side along a narrow ribbon of asphalt with a tremendous variation in grip - from newly poured but covered with fine slippery sand to clean tarmac. Special Stage 3 (Madaba) was held at the speed test circuit - 2.3 kms. Service park was at the car park of Moses Memorial Church on Mount Nebo. All except 100m of the route was on varying grades of asphalt.  As you might imagine, all that climbing on narrow, twisty "farmer's roads" put us at a disadvantage with a heavy car, a high centre of gravity and an engine that had already done 235,000 kms.

A finish of 6th place is very rewarding thanks to solid preparation by Akram Soubani and his brother Anwar, a smooth drive by Matt, careful recce'ing by Stefan and me and a HUGE dose of beginner's luck.  What will be really interesting is to see how we get on with the flat, fast, rough desert rallies that remain in the rest of the calendar!


Mainly Fords (Pete Murray)

As long as I can remember I've been a fan of cars, too much of a fan to be honest. For years every penny I had went on keeping some car or other from it's rightful place in the scrapyard. My first car was an Austin Healey Sprite, purchased from my driving instructor for the princely sum of £350. No mot, hadn't been on the road for about 5 years, 1961 model and it wasn't running. After towing it home I decided to have a proper look at what I'd bought.. a rusty 26 year old Austin. Not a good start. New hood, new carpets, retrimmed seats and not much else. I checked the compression, wired up a battery, and tried to coax it to life. Not much, had fuel, and a spark, turned over nicely but that was it. I'd bought my first immobile garage ornament. That's how it stayed for 6 months, in the garage, with a battery on trickle. I decided it was time to buy something else, something I could use. An 18yr old lad with a dead Austin Healey is still using the bus for journeys.

After a couple of hours looking around I discovered one of my mates had a Mk1 Escort 1600 for sale, yellow, 1970, with rostyle wheels and a pair of oh so sporty bucket seats. £60. Mot'd as well. Needed the traditional inner wing welding, so I paid a friends dad £40 to do that and weld the exhaust up. He did this happily, excellent job as well. Then I drove it into the garage wall, wrecked the front end. Ah well, you live and learn, sold it for £60. I was already learning the fine art of bangers and how to lose money.

Luckily, just after I shortened the Escort, a friends dad decided he wanted to give me £650 for a dead Healey. So I accepted the deal and decided to drag it out of the garage. After half an hour of head scratching, I decided to have one last go at getting the thing running, took the tops off the SU's and discovered they'd been stuck solid. A bit of tlc, some wd40 and it started, ran like a dream as well. I was gutted. I had the £650 in my pocket. So I let him tow it away. At least I made back the money I wasted on the Escort.

Still without a car though. I decided to see what was about. A few hours later I found a Mk4 Cortina 1.6 with the full Ghia interior for £200. Mot'd and taxed for about 6 months as well. Great engine (due to the crack in the sump meaning it had new oil every week), nice comfy interior, and a new exhaust. Tyres were knackered, but a quick trip to the local Ford freak got me a set of 4 wheels with legal tyres on for £20. As always the void bushes were knackered and the brakes weren't the best, but it'd do, and I happily drove about in it for a month or so. Then I swapped it for a Mk2 Escort, which I killed in less than 5 minutes. I swapped that for a door mirror and a set of Capri alloys.

this was how my motoring life went on for about 4 years, buying cheap Fords or Mini's and swapping them with anyone who had a car that looked like it was more fun than my present heap. The most I spent was £800 on a Mk2 Escort RS2000, but I got sick to death of killing engines in it. I was only 20 and an RS2000 was a northern males right of passage. I'd already owned more Capri's than was perhaps fashionable. So the RS2000 got thrashed mercilessly down beaches and through forests because I thought I was Ari Vatenen. This just meant that I was a regular at the local scrapyard buying 2.0 Ford engines at £30 a shot, bolting them in and hoping for the best. If it was a slow one, the exhaust at least made it sound quick. Buying an air filter would have perhaps been a wiser move.

I then spent a few years driving nice cars, and looking after them properly, during this time I had a concourse Mk2 RS2000, a Mk5 RS2000, a Range Rover Vogue SE, a Sapphire Cosworth, a 24v Carlton GSi3000 and two Lancia Delta Integrales. It wasn't to last. After a moment of excess speed, combined with a roundabout and inept driving skill I wrote off the Integrale. Bangers were beckoning.

After getting a lift home in the tow truck that collected the Integrale, I went looking for Mk2 Granadas. I was sick of paying £300 a month to buy and insure a car when £300 would buy me a complete one. I borrowed a car from work and went to look at a Mk2 2.8 Ghia X Granada, private plate, black, leather, all the bits, £550. After a hasty inspection I offered the guy £200 and drove it home. 4 New tyres, a full leather interior, had to be worth £200. It wasn't, by the time I was close to home the autobox was dying, and it had become very tappety. I parked it on the path and went looking for something else.

That something else was another Mk2 Granada, a 2.8injection one, Manual, Red, unmarked Recaro seats, 4 new tyres and the nicest V6 Ford engine I've ever heard. No MOT, but clean and tidy. I bought it, £300. I spent another £100 on welding and a steering rack and used it for driving to see my then girlfriend in Suffolk most weekends. It cost me £40 to do the 430 mile round trip at a steady 75-80, so I was happy. So happy I decided to take it off the road and restore it... which meant I needed another car.

I looked in the loot, Mercedes 280TE 1985, MOT'd, good condition, new tyres, been standing, £400. Rang the guy, went to see it, it was very very clean, but he wouldn't haggle. In the end I decided £400 wasn't so bad, so I took it anyway. Word of advice, Mercedes W123 front springs, when they snap, are A: Scary, B: Expensive and a right pain to fix. I somehow managed to sort that out, but the gearbox wasn't happy at the mileage I was doing, so I sold it before it went pop. £550.

This meant I was without car again, the Granada was dead in the garage, one of the front wings was rusty, so I'd hacked it off thinking stupidly I could get another one easily enough. They're not easy to get nowadays, the owners club thought of them as a licence to print money, and I couldn't justify giving them £80 just for a Mk2 Granada wing. so I bought another Mk2 Granada. 2.8i Ghia X this time, for £100. It had a knackered auto box and was tappety as well, so I gave up on Mk2 Granadas and sold the pair to the local banger racer for £250. Which was handy...

This meant I could buy my present steed. A Mk2 Golf GTi. 1985, B reg, and left hand drive. 230000 miles up and sweet as a nut. So far it's had 4 wheel bearings, a cam belt, and a waterpump in the last 13000 miles, the 1.8 engine is a cracker, it's reliable, it's stupidly economical, it's quick, and it handles really well. With being imported from Sweden in 1991 it's spent the first part of it's life avoiding salty roads, and from then until I bought it it was owned by a succession of rally drivers. Sounds bad doesn't it? In truth it seems to have done the car good, it's been serviced on the dot from what I can gather, and it's had a few tweaks done here and there, bilstein shockers, and x-drilled discs are a sign it's been driven hard, but I'd rather own a car that's been driven by professionals than one that's been driven by a multitude of car park racers. Besides, from the rules of bangernomics and my own experience, a 242000 mile Golf GTi is the best banger money can buy, it doesn't rattle, it doesn't burn oil and all the bits I can find on it seem to be original VW parts. It's never had any bodywork and even the soundproofing under the bonnet still has the plastic sheet on it from new. Left hand drive isn't an issue either, in my experience if you own a left hand drive car, the chances are you own it because you like the car, not because it's cheap. People will sometimes sneer at it because it's LHD, but it's them who've got the problem, not me. In fact, I'd recommend to anyone who's planning on doing some cheap motoring to buy LHD, just check the steering rack is ok, nothing else will cost you any more than RHD, and it deters the joyriders. Insurance costs are the same as for RHD.

Have fun with bangernomics, anyone who buys new is clearly insane!


A Toyota fan writes... (Bryan Harries)

I really enjoyed browsing your site. It appealed to my philosophy of mend-not-spend, and stirred happy memories growing up in a family with a dad who sounded a bit like yours. We always had old cars that my dad had bought cheaply and fixed up, such as a Ford Prefect 100E, ex-police Austin Allegro ! Hillman Avenger, and very appropriately a 1982 VW Polo, so I was pleased to see it starring in your special feature. I inherited the Polo from my parents when it had done a mere 96,000 miles, and I ran it up to 167,000 miles and still sold it to my next-door neighbour for a couple of hundred quid. ( fortunately I moved house soon after...). My dad and I did swap the original 1050 motor for a 1300 ( whoo-hoo feel the power ! ) after I blew the original one up spectacularly at 119,000, it never did rust though, your article is spot-on. 

Well, I eventually did have to graduate onto slightly newer more reliable vehicles due to high mileage demands with my job. Now I live in the States, and have one 5 year old Toyota Avalon ( not quite the banger )  and one 10 year old Mazda MX6 ( more like it ! ). I also own a 1962 TR4 which I'm restoring from the ground up, but that hardly counts as a bargain banger, more of a "money-pit" I'd say - though I went in to it with my eyes open.  

I was a little surprised to find no mention of the Toyota Camry in the Bargain Barges section. These cars seem to be a paradoxical well kept secret in the UK. They were never very successful sellers when new in the UK, which is surprising as they are firm best-sellers in the US and Australia ? Hard to say exactly why, but I think they were priced a little too high for the "family" car niche, and considered in the "executive" niche, they were ignored by all the saddos who wanted a "badge" to park on the drive. ( how ironic that those very same people who ignored the Camry will now drool so enthusitaically over basically the same car, now that it comes with a Lexus badge ). anyway, I digress...... Being an almost-luxury car, and because they had no fashionable "image" to attract up-market buyers, they plummet in re-sale value once they are few years old. Combined with that, the fact that they have typical Toyota build quality and reliability, and that they are very pleasant ( if not "exciting" ) cars to drive, and they do seem like a real bargain second-hand. 

I bought a 1992 2.2 auto in 2000, 61,000 miles, full Toyota service history, and a genuine one-owner car, for 2,500 pounds. ( admittedly that is over your 1000 pound threshold, but I know you can pick them up for peanuts these days ). I ran that car up to 113,000. I did have it serviced by a Toyota garage, and they did do the routine cam-belt replacement at 80,000 as a precaution, but the most serious problem I ever had with it in those 52,000 miles was a blown light bulb. They really are fabulously well built, and I know here in the States owners often run them up to 200,000 or 300,000 miles. They have excellent leg-room in both the front and back, they are amazingly quiet and refined, and have a smooth ride.        

The funny thing about them is that you can't give them away second-hand. Which makes them a great buy, but a bad thing to sell. When I was looking to buy one, I checked them out in "Which?". Which? said very tellingly - that people who owned them - loved them. I always take that as a very good sign. I certainly loved mine, for it's comfort and dependability. When my brother tried to sell mine in Auto-Trader when I emigrated, at 113,000 miles but still with no known faults and a full service history, we had no takers. We ended up selling to a colleague of my brother, for 1000 pounds. Unsurprisingly, the new owner and his wife absolutely love it, and are already planning to upgrade to one of the 3.0 V6 Camrys when this one finally gets too old. So Toyota couldn't persuade the car buying public to take a look at them as a new car, but anyone who actually tries one out, is  generally chuffed to bits with them ? strange but true. I can't think of many cars that you can genuinely buy with say 80 - 100,000 miles on ( as long as it has a proper service history ) and then confidently expect to double that - with a few honourable exceptions likes Mercs maybe ?  - and you won't buy one of those for £1,000.         

Another thing about these cars which makes them good second-hand buys, is that the few buyers who did take them as new cars, tend to fit a certain profile. They were usually middle-aged, middle income types. This is not a bad thing, because they were rarely owned by boy-racers, and the people that could afford to choose a Camry new, generally would commit to having them serviced properly too. Whilst there are a few cars out there for sale by now which have been passed around a few uncaring owners, when I was looking I found that a high proportion were selling with the full service history and many were first or second owners.     

Well, there you are. just wanted to share that with you. Maybe you get quite a bit of feedback from people moaning that you've overlooked a certain car.... so I'm sure you'll feel free to take this e-mail any way you like. Compliments again on a good web-site, both entertaining and practically helpful to those who want to follow that mantra !


Got any more stories like this?  Email me and if I like them, I'll publish them (no payment I'm afraid)


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