Readers' Stuff Page 

Ever wanted to see your old-car story in print?  Too busy/lazy/broke to set up your own website?  Here's your chance to be famous.  Just e-mail me your article, and if I like it, I'll put it on the site.  If you have some photos (JPG format, no larger than 100KB), even better.  Sorry, no payment offered, as this site earns precisely £0.00 per month, so I can't afford for it to cost me any more than that.  I'm waiting for the major motor manufacturers to offer to buy me out to stop dangerous Bangernomics ideas from spreading through the population, but so far I haven't had any calls....

Click here for the latest batch of readers' contributions

Earlier articles below:

Bargain Polo (anon.)

Datsunomics! (by Darren Rungasamy)

Auction banger bargains (by Stefan Benfield)

Everlasting Peugeot 305 (by Peter Mason)

Adventures in Ireland (by Peter Haverty)

Volvo 340 to Audi 80 Quattro (by Richard Welfare)

Cavalier Estate - Mega Miler Story (by Rob Hod)

Bangers in New Zealand (by Alex Shepherd)

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.

Bargain Polo

I thought you may be interested in my brief story about the VW Polo...  I bought a 1982 VW polo 1.1 Formel E for £50 as an unseen MOT Failure, but I did have the Fail certificate.  I found and rectified the following common faults :-

The car had failed on all four shocks being shot, After carefully bouncing the whole car I found that only one of the back ones had gone, but the knock on effect had caused all four to appear dodgy, I replaced the rear two shocks with brand new Gas shocks from German and Swedish.  This cured the problem, however, I could have got away with one second hand shock from a breakers - Cost £50.  I thought it was worth spending a little money as the body work and chassis were in fantastic condition and a new clutch had been fitted just 2000 miles ago and it came with receipts for hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of servicing and repairs.

I also found the car had new brake drums and disks, but worn pads, I replaced these for about £15.  The car was belching out plumes of steam and emissions were high! and it was pinking - Solution, Replace head gasket, along with new water pump and cam belt - Total price £45 - German and Swedish.

Emissions were somewhat more of a problem, I found that the Formel E model will not run on Unleaded 95RON, so I did some research into carburettors, I realised the Formel E was an emissions conscious car and as such was putting in measly amounts of fuel, and the carb jets were a lot smaller than even the 1043 engine. I purchased a second hand MOT failed 1043 Polo from a friend for £20, this included a Brand new Halfords battery worth £35!  I replaced the carb on the 1100 with one from the 1043, this instantly brought emissions down and the car ran smoothly and no longer pinked - there was also a noticeable power increase and much smoother power delivery all across the rev range, but fuel consumption did not rise and it now runs on unleaded.  The car will actually do 115 miles an hour when pushed.

 I bought four new tyres for £60 from Quick-Fit on a special offer, and took all the parts that were good from the donor 1043 engine car, I made the 1100 look rather new, as I was able to replace any worn items from the donor.  The Polo passed its MOT first time and I drove this car to work for over two years and didn't spend another penny on it, apart from oil changes etc... and then I sold it for £250 with 12 months MOT on it to a student so the car was effectively free.

It may be worth noting that I also found a way round the troublesome points as well, I fitted electronic ignition which I made up myself from a 'VELMAN' Kit available in any Maplins electrical shop for £12.99 - This meant I didn't have to adjust the points again or replace them and it ran smoother, started easier and used less fuel! - Not bad for £12.99 I'd recommend it for your Locost project.  I did splash out a little at one point and had the car professionally tuned on a computer for £40 fixed charge, this I suspect paid for itself in the fuel saving alone.

I didn't do mega mileage, I worked five miles away, but I used the car regularly and clocked up only 10,000 miles but I enjoyed every moment of it and wasn't upset if somebody opened a door into it in the supermarket or anything. I was aware of the image thing, as I am a Software Engineer for a large company, and people who I worked with used to mock me for it, but I didn't care, because it wasn't costing me anything. - And it was low tax!



I thought I'd introduce your readers to a phenomenon that hasn't been witnessed in years - a Datsun bangernomics story. What more can anyone ask for? Reliable, different and rare. The styling is a matter of taste but I rather like the small scale American style lashing of chrome and over detailing.

I've had 5 in the last 3 years. I've had 3 100A Cherry's, and I've kept the last one for safe keeping - a '76 2 door - I might get round to a full restoration one day. I ran it for 8 months in 1999 before the MOT people said the subframe was too rotten for it to be legal. However I managed to get a free 100A with a 99% rust free subframe, rust free doors and loads of good bits. All I got to do is construct the bits together, weld the inner wings, inner sills and give the car a respray. The engine is as basic as an engine can be as its loosely based on the BL A series engine even down to the engine capacity.

Until recently I used a 1979 Datsun 160B Bluebird saloon. It was blue with a vinyl roof and handled like a barge. For such a big car it had the smaller 1600cc engine which is not desirable but bullet-proof and good for cruising at 80mph all day. I bought it off a girl who inherited it from her gran. I paid a princely sum of £150 for it, with half a talk of petrol and 10 months MOT. Its done a few journeys to Kent, Bath, London and back from Oxford (at least a 200 mile round journey) without much complaint asides from regular oil and water top ups. Its by no means perfect but it doesn't have too much visible rust (thank you Mr Filler!) which is a bonus on any 70's jap. Its a great example of budget motoring.

I recently sold it for the princely sum of £300. Which isn't bad. With that cash I've got myself a nice semi Automatic 1978 1200cc Cherry FII for £250. This one is a particularly fetching shade of green-gold, but almost rust free and 60K on the clock. A respray and removal of the few dents is all it needs. Mechanically its perfect and the engine as ever is a dream to work on.

These cars aren't that fashionable and tend to still get ignored, but they do take some abuse. If the body rot can be held at bay then you have a car that can last forever with the most basic of maintenance. However for any of those wishing to buy a larger rear wheel drive Datsun or Toyota - Beware! There was a time that there were thousands on the road and nobody wanted them, so a lot of them were legitimately exported to Africa. These days the remaining numbers happen to be in the hundreds rather than tens of thousands, yet there is still demand. So many cars are stolen. There is almost no way of protecting them, as the thieves will literally pick up the car with a 'Hiab' Crane equipped vehicle. Anyone with a rear wheel drive pre 1982 Sunny, Violet, Bluebird or Laurel just be aware!


Auction banger bargains

Very interesting web page - Especially as older cars are something of a hobby for me, during the day I am an department manager for a large multi-national conglomerate, but two nights per week , from 6.30pm to 9.30pm Tues/Thurs I drive cars for a small local auction (and don't think we are talking BMA standard here, the auction I work for can justifiably be called the 'lowest of the low'.

The quality of the cars can be awful, but many times real gems can be found, for instance, for pre 1992 cars there is the 'alphabet row' - so called because of the identification sticker for the auction is in the window.  On these cars there is no reserve, so, if you bid £20 for the car and no-one bids against you, the car is yours, with no further fees to pay, I have managed to keep my younger brother on the road for nearly two years without spending more than £50 per car and never taking one for an m.o.t, he has had a J reg seat ibiza glx with full factory fitted bodykit, a citroen ax, and currently (his favourite so far) an f reg peugot 309. you can even find the odd mercedes, usually a BMW and always a granada or two, golfs, mazda 626, bluebirds, senators, carltons etc,etc in the line up for the alphabets - and if you get a runner for £60 with an m.o.t surely thats cheaper than buying the parts you may need from a supplier, and bear in mind, many of these are well maintained cars brought in from main dealers who just want rid of them so many come with quality stereo's and four good tyres etc.

There is also the better quality grid where there is typically 100 cars per night, expect to pay £200 - £300 for a clean J -k reg cavalier or sierra - or £800 typically for a K reg Audi 80 - private punters don't tend to come to this auction so it's the dealers who keep the price down.

Anyway, I'm babbling on so i'll sign off for now - I may drop you a line every so often to give you an amusing story and some of the best bargains that come through in the real world of car prices, and not the false one that dealers perpetuate and so many 'punters' believe (I so often drive a car through on a Tuesday, only to see it on a local forcourt 2 days later with £1000 stuck on the purchase price and no more preparation than a valet!).  Bargain of last week was an M reg Mitsubishi Galant 2.5 V6 with FSH and all the toys (158,000 on the clock mind you but you would never tell, damn those Galants are well screwed together!) - and the final sale price, a whisker over £800!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Everlasting Peugeot

I've had the Bangernomics bug for years, - although I must confess to having bought two cars brand new - Minivan for £320 inc. I years tax, in 1969, and a Renault 4 for £800 circa. 1975.

 My first car was a Morris 10 SeriesE, which cost £20, and lasted for 2 years before bending in the middle! Then the Minivan, followed by a Frogeye Sprite. The Sprite came with a Gold Seal engine and gearbox, and I did a straight swap with the Minivan,-a farmer friend (elderly, with wooden leg) wanted a more practical car. I drove the Sprite for 4 years, including an extended tour of France and Spain, until the acquisition of a wife and two small children forced a change to the only real lemon of all the cars I've owned, a Mk.II Cortina. Not bad for reliability except for the starter ring, which was evedently made of pewter, and wore smooth with annoying regularity. Sold it and bought the Renault 4, which was magic - smooth, comfortable, reliable and economical. I'd love to find an example that wasn't a heap of rust, I finally sold it with 135K on the clock and bought a low mileage Renault 12 Estate.

The 12 lasted me for some years, until one day when en route for Wales from Hampshire, it gave up the ghost(175K) just opposite a second-hand car dealership near Newbury. (Fate?) I went and inspected their wares, and after a long test drive, bought my present transport, a 1985 Peugeot 305 'S5' Estate. It had 32K on the clock, 2 years old.

To cut a very long story a bit shorter, 14 years on I'm still driving it, now with 291K on the clock. Bodywork still pretty good, -rust in a couple of places, mainly where I had replacement panels fitted, but it's passed the last two MOTs with nothing needing doing. The original engine lasted 228K miles before cracking a liner, and after serious thought I elected to have a factory rebuilt engine fitted (cost £1200) The engine was supplied by Vege, a Dutch company, I think. The only available engine was located in a Peugeot dealers in Tripoli, and was freighted to my local garage in 10 days at no extra cost. The mechanic fitted a replacement clutch whilst the emgine was out - he said the original was not very worn. The car has had one replacement set of front shockers(not actually needed, the noise was from a loose steering rack) and one set of rears. Apart from a cambelt failure at 198K (no engine damage) the car has never let me down.The rear suspension radius arm bush is wearing and I'm using shims to keep the wheel away from the inside of the wheel arch, but should last for another 10K!

It's now three years on, the engine's done 80K and running beautifully, starts first time, every time even in very cold/damp weather. I intend to keep the car until the next large bill, (hopefully it will see me right until I retire in 7 months time - my retirement lump sum should then allow the purchase of an Accord Aerodeck 2.0i)

Sorry to have rambled on - hope it's of some interest. Keep up the good work.


Adventures in Ireland

I get a lot of slagging at work about the succession of bangers I drove. My first car was a Renault 4 F4 ex-post office van. This was bought privately for £100 albeit with a blown engine. As I was just 21 with my first low-paying job and Irish insurance companies had a very poor opinion of young drivers, it was all I could afford. A lucky break resulted in a secondhand engine for £25 - the seller wanted it out of his way. After spending £40 on brake linings, plugs, oil, etc, I was on the road. I was proud as punch to have my first car, despite the fact that I could see the road under my feet and the footwells filled with water during rainstorms. In true early Renault fashion, the van was dissolving rapidly and copious quantities of David's Isopon applied with a trowel (the stuff was actually getting hot while hardening, there was so much of it there).

Mechanically it was reliable, it even managed to get me the 55 miles home one night, only the reluctance to pass 30 mph indicated that the entire bottom end of the distributor has been ground to a mush, thanks to the centrifugal advance weights making a bid for freedom. Fixing it cost nothing, just took the distributor off the original engine and cleaned it up. 3 months later, and the van was going very well. So well, in fact that it did not want to stop, so an investment in wheel cylinders and front brake linings (drums on all 4 wheels!) was made, approx £30. During the year I had the van, I put up 15,000 trouble free miles and I even added a pair of spotlights for the 'sporty' look!

However, the engine was starting to get incontinent in its old age - the front oil seal (clutch end - engine is backwards in the R4) leaked badly, causing the clutch to judder and left a signature on the driveway every morning. I got tired checking the oil using the dipstick and used the oil pressure light on the dash instead as an oil level indicator (once the flashing exceeded a certain frequency, it was time to add more recycled oil from the large container in my parents garage which held the old oil from servicing their cars. I had to do it every weekend I went home.

By the summer of 1988, my dad (probably fed up with the 12" diameter oil stain on the driveway) informed me that the local post office was auctioning off some vans. I bid £200 for a 5 year old van which had some corrosion due to its previous life in the west coast by the sea. After getting the van, I found that the phrase 'some corrosion' basically meant another round of filling and sanding. I scrapped my first van and literally built a new van out of the two: - the brakes/hubs, bonnet, windscreen, battery, driveshafts were all moved to the new van and a coat of 'Zetor Red' applied with one of those horrible Wagner electric spray guns which left a 50Hz. drone buzzing through my head all night. The paint finish would rival the best fruit that Outspan or Jaffa ever produced, but at least the flies loved it, so much so that they launched Kamikaze style missions on smelling the sweet cellulose and ended up a permanent feature of the finish.

I got the 'new' van on the road literally minutes before the insurance transferred off the old one and got 3 mechanically trouble free years despite the fact that there was now over 170,000 on the clock. I sold the engine/gearbox of the old van for £20 despite the oil leak and the old starter for £15, the old alternator ended up on my dad's Renault 18! In fact, I sold so much stuff off the old van that I made £50 profit! The new van saw me enter college as a mature student where it provided transport to exams, a party taxi, a beer trolley and even an ambulance after one party got out of hand! Sadly, near the end of college the main chassis cracked and it was time to go. Since I had got my first good kiss inside it, there was a bit of sentiment attached.

My next banger was a 1977 Triumph Dolomite 1300 complete with classic British Leyland build quality. There was only 77,000 miles on the clock, but the suspension was shot, however after another £150, and some hard labour, the suspension and exhaust were fixed. A year later, I decoked the engine and ground in the valves, the petrol economy was superb, nearly 40 MPG.  I got 2.5 years from this car including a trip to France when I finished college but the BL demons finally caught up and the classic Triumph 3 bearing engine problem (jettisioning of the centre thrust washers) along with the car's resemblence to Alka-Seltzer when in the presence of water plus the persistent annoying vibration at 50 - 60 MPH  despite all attempts to cure it (why do British classics of this period have such WICKED suspension systems compared to the simple Mc Pherson and live axle cart springs of the Mk 1 & 2 Escort) I wonder.

I got brave and bought a 10 year old Opel Corsa, a horrible little car, it had the roadholding of a pram, the fuel gauge kept quitting and water kept getting in. I got rid of it and got an Opel Kadett Estate a few months later. Mechanically it had a great engine/suspension and trips to the Isle Of Man, Birmingham, Coventry and Stratford on Avon from Limerick, Ireland were handled with ease, it was a great workhorse for towing despite its 1.2 pushrod engine. I spent very little on this car, mainly servicing and brakes and the clock had 185,000 on it when I changed it - what prompted the change was again rust and horrible electrics - AC Delco electrical items seem designed to self destruct, and the rest of the electrical system dies in sympathy. I remember getting slagged when bringing a group of friends to the city centre - no lights, radio, wipers, heater blower. As an electrical technician by trade, it was still a fulltime job keeping it right.

The next purchase was the most ridiculous - a LADA RIVA! - all the way from London by some returned exile. Despite all the jokes, I put up 30,000 on top of the car's 80,000 miles with just a set of tyres and regular services, plus a distributor cap (which had broken, stranding me on a busy junction a week before Christmas in 1995). Sadly the steering box died and I scrapped the car as I could not get any parts. We even pushed it for a charity and made £400 from it - there are bed-pushes, why not a Lada-push, we said.

I then went completely out of character and bought a Volvo 940 as I was doing a lot of motoring - despite the fact that the car was only 6 years old, I found it less reliable than some of the heaps I had so far, however once the teething troubles were fixed, it was a fine car. But I felt out of place, like a casual dresser who must wear a suit - I pined for my banger days again and then the excuse came: I got married and bought a house - why not sell the Volvo and trade down to make some badly needed cash? - my current car and best to date, a 1987 Nissan Micra K10 was acquired. It was tatty and rattly and had 119,000 on the clock when I got it, but I got a full year out of it with only a set of tyres needed. The car had a towing bracket fitted and coped admirably with the abuse it got while I was renovating the house, pulling trailers of building materials and rubbish, carrying pipes, ladders etc on its roof. It never stood up.

That coming Christmas of 1999, with the imminent arrival of the Irish National Car Test, I decided to keep my calm while the raging Celtic Tiger was giving thousands of Irish people the daft idea of scrapping their perfectly serviceable cars (some of the scrapped cars were less than 9 years old at the time) and rushing to the finance houses and the dealers like lemmings in the rush for '00' number plates. I replaced the shocks and the brake linings and the 2 tarnished headlamps and the Nissan passed the test in January 2000 with 137,000 miles on the clock. The car had a tough year in 2000, with more towing and building work then long journeys home the weekends, but wanted nothing at all except regular servicing - I was servicing it every 4 months due to the high mileage, replacing the plugs every 12,000 miles. The points were left as they are due to a CDI ignition module I had fitted, which stopped the points carrying the heavy coil current and pitting.

Approaching Christmas 2000, the clutch was changed as the original clutch, now with 156,000 miles on it was slipping slightly. A new CV joint and front wheel bearing was fitted as they were starting to grumble. The timing belt was also replaced.  In February this year I overhauled the alternator myself as it had packed in from sheer wear. £16 bought me new brushes and bearings and I got a good as new alternator for my efforts. In April this year, I replaced the original Nissan shocks at the back with Monroes as the Nissan items had failed after only 30,000 miles, but our 3rd world Irish roads have to blame as well. I was going to France by car so I replaced the radiator hoses and engine coolant and set the tappets before catching the ferry to Brittany. The car carried us, our baggage and 60 bottles of French cider and wine faultlessly for 1000 miles in 1 week across Brittany, via Mont St Michel, Normandy via Lisieux, Caen, the D-Day Beaches and Bayeux  then via St Malo back to Roscoff, much to the sceptics who thought an old banger would never make it.

I am still driving the car - it has 173,000 miles on the clock on its original engine and uses approx 1 pint of oil every 2,000 miles - again confounding the critics of the aluminium K10 engine which was supposed to have a reputation of lasting only approx 80,000 miles and being oil-thirsty. The MPG is a very respectable 45 - 50 MPG. depending on conditions. I have just replaced the tyres and battery, I will be putting it in for its second national car test in January 2002 so wish me well!

In my opinion, the reliability graph which was rising over the last few years is now reversing - there is far too much electronics and gimmickry on cars today which will cause grief when today's cars reach 5  - 6 years old. I would feel more confident taking the Nissan to the Continent again this summer than I would be in a 1997 Fiat Punto! The Japanese cars from 1984-1992 seem to be the best for reliability and rust just before wholesale electrickery arrived in 1993 courtesy of the European Union. The Nissan still impresses me with the reliability of the electrics: all the ancillaries still work (rear window heater/wiper/washer etc  - these quit on Opels in their 5th year) the starter motor was never taken out, the heater and wiper motors are perfect. Engine is dry and has no signs of any leakage even now, and repairs are simple.

Hope this story gives some encouragement to other banger drivers - old bangers may be even more reliable if serviced and repaired properly, it is also more environmentally friendly than scrapping and buying new despite the car manufacturers' waffle to the contrary - it is far more energy intensive and generates more pollution to recycle an old car and make a new one than to keep the old one roadworthy in the first place.


From a Volvo 340 to an Audi 80 Quattro

Like most car-mad lads I learned to drive at 17 and proceeded to give my mum's car (Rover Metro) a good thrashing whenever possible. However she seemed to think this was unacceptable and such my chances to use the car were restricted to life-or-death journeys. Hence, at the age of 19, I decided to look for my own banger. Five years and seven cars later, I'm still enjoying it. The first car I bought was a 1984 Volvo 340DL. Up at £1,150 in the local paper it seemed overpriced but a visit showed the car was a peach, with just 36,000 on the clock and one owner who was giving up driving because his eyesight was failing. Despite the fact that the car was a urine-like beige colour, I bought it for £1,050 and racked up 18,000 relatively trouble-free miles in the next 18 months going to and from university before my ex-girlfriend (unintentionally) wrapped it round a lamp-post.

The car was then sold to my mechanic for £200 who rebuilt the front end and sold it on to another village local who still has it. I had just graduated and due to starting a job that September I needed transport pretty quick. As insurance was still costing me a packet a Nissan Bluebird seemed a good choice as I could get an 1800cc engine and lots of toys for insurance group 6. A 1989 1.8GS hatchback in black was found in the local FreeAds paper and purchased for £1,600 with 82,000 on the clock, "almost full" history, and electric everything.  I was dead chuffed until two weeks later while climbing a hill on the M3 out of Winchester the car began losing power and sounding like a 2CV. Two exhaust valves had burned out...on perusal of the service history only oil/filter changes and MOTs appeared to have been done over the past two or three years. You live and learn...once the garage had fixed it, it ran well and transported me around the country in my auditing job, clocking up 18,000 miles in 10 months.

By this stage (March '99) with 100,000 approaching I decided it was time for a change and sold the Bluebird in the FreeAds for £1,325. Interestingly of all the cars I have owned only one has sold through the Auto Trader...and CarData are a waste of time and money. You have been warned!  I quite fancied something sporty at this stage and was quite taken with the reliability and high goodie count of Japanese makes. After a flirtation with a 1985 Mazda 626 Coupe (nice car, but dreadful condition, despite being described as "immaculate") I bought a 1984 Honda Prelude, up at £1,000 but knocked down to £925 on the basis that the owner had replaced it with a Bentley. Yes, really. He had bought the Honda as a runaround from a friend while he was between luxobarges.  The Prelude had the all-important full history (a four-inch thick stack of receipts from various main dealers, a fully-stamped service book and a hilarious Japanese-English owner's manual), 93k on the clock, pop-up lights (which never failed - eat that, TR7 owners) and a ripped driver's seat being the only fault that someone had helpfully repaired with gaffer tape. My mum subsequently did a grand repair job with some spare material, but it was never quite right.

Despite the fact there was nothing wrong with the Prelude (except the rear seat was a joke, which meant I missed out on lots of lucrative driving jobs at work) I tried, unsuccessfully, to replace it, not once, but twice. In both cases, selling the Prelude was the sticking point. These cars are not popular and, as such, a bugger to shift. Especially with over 100k on the clock. First replacement into the breach (May 2000) was a 1990 Volvo 440GL, up in the FreeAds (again) for £950 with 95,000 on the clock. A straight car, with none of the usual vices of this model - rust in the seams, collapsing interiors, overheating or gearbox problems. As I was becoming a banger veteran, I quickly found things to haggle over, such as the need for a service (Volvo FSH from day one, though), a rusty door bottom, and a knackered stereo. However, I still missed the leaky electric sunroof and shot tailgate struts. I bid £900 and this was accepted. After a month of fruitlessly trying to sell the Prelude, I sold the 440 to my brother at cost, and he still has it, now with 113k on the clock.

The second replacement, in September 2000, was a textbook bad buy. Firstly, it came from a friend, secondly, he was emigrating (cliche city!), and thirdly the service history was patchy. However, the car - a 1992 Rover 214 3-door, with 92,000 miles - was cheap at £750. Not so cheap was a broken cambelt 20 miles after taking delivery. All 16 valves were bent, with two of them becoming embedded in the cylinder head. So, after two weeks and another £750, I had the sweetest K-series engine ever. Nice.

By this stage I had passed enough accountancy exams to be earning a good wage, and the Rover incident (plus the fact I couldn't sell the Prelude for love nor money) soured my affection for the bargain banger. So suddenly I found myself at the local Honda dealer signing an HP agreement for a two-year Civic. The Rover was sold for £1,000, again through the FreeAds, to someone who didn't seem to mind (or notice) it only had three doors, but the Prelude was traded in for £300. At this stage it had 125k on the clock, the exhaust was blowing, and rust was creeping up through the rear wheelarches to around the sunroof. All the same, I was surprised the garage didn't put it on the forecourt as "Car Of The Week". It's probably in a landfill site now, poor thing.

Fast forward a year to September 2001. The reliability of the Civic was soporific. I had to get back to my banger roots. I did this, in a similar manner to your Project Polo, via an Internet auction. A 1984 Audi 80 Quattro, with one owner and 51,000 miles only (okay, so not that much of a banger) was up for £300. £300? Hmm. An e-mail full of questions to the vendor did nothing to change my viewpoint that this car was too good to be true. What was too good to be true was that I won the auction. At £300. I took a trip to Banbury the next day to view the car - heck, there was probably still time to bail out if the car was a dog. But it wasn't. You quite rightly point out that the Audi 80 and Coupe are Superbangers in your guide and it's not wrong. The car even had tax until January, an MOT to August 2002 and a full VAG service history. But I disagree the cars are loaded with kit - only if lots of options are ticked in the showroom. Despite being top of the range in 1984 (at £11,882), there was no radio, no alloys, no sunroof. Just electric windows in the front and central locking. Which doesn't work. Luckily, the quattro 4-wheel drive transmission does. I've not driven another, front-wheel drive 5-cylinder Audi, but I'd imagine it would be faster and more economical than mine.

The car's not perfect, but neither am I, so that's good. This one's a keeper - it's pretty good but has a few niggling faults which I can enjoy fixing myself, which is what it's all about. I could afford a decent new car, but where's the fun? That's what it's all about. Hope this is good enough for the site. Keep up the good work.You could put in a link to my site in it which has pictures of all the beasts described above: 


Vauxhall Cavalier Estate - Mega Miler Story

I bought the car (1986 Cavalier Estate, base model 1600) in October 1990 with 110k miles on the clock from a workmate who had being doing a 120 mile round trip commute every day for the last year or so in it. The car had definitely not been cossetted (before I ever thought of buying the car I used to talk to the previous owner who told me he cruised at between 90 and 95 mph on the trip up and down the M1!) but the price was right when I came to buying!  I have since come to realise that the MkII Cavalier is an incredibly tough and reliable beast.

At time of purchase the car was in good overall condition but the engine was in obvious need of a tune. Further investigation showed up an almost completely blocked air filter and spark plugs with literally 1/8th inch gaps. After a full service the car was transformed and with two new tyres the car went round to the next May without a hitch.  At this time a CV boot was replaced and the exhaust downpipe replaced. Soon after that the wheels were rebalanced and new brake pads fitted.

That October came the MoT where new front shocks and a new outer CV joint were all that were needed. However around that time I treated the car to another new tyre,a new headlight bulb, alternator belt, rear brake shoes, and that December a new rear exhaust box and battery.  That was it for the whole of the next year and I continued to enjoy totally reliable transport. In January 92 due to increasing oil consumption I had the engine apart and fitted new piston rings, big ends bearings, valve stem seals, plugs, oil, coolant and cam belt. This completely cured the oil consumption in spite of the fact that the pistons and bores were at the upper end of the tolerances allowable for a re-ring.

All was quiet (and smoke free) for the rest of '92 except for an alternator overhaul in july and wiper re-fills and a rear number plate bulb for the MOT. Also during the year some touch up painting was done. In December the overhauled alternator gave up again so was repleced by a proper recon unit.

1993 was similarly uneventfull - parts replaced were another CV boot, gearbox oil, an interior door handle, and for the MOT a lower front balljoint, two more tyres and the rear suspension mounts which I frankly thought were unneccesary but then I was at the mercy of the MOT man. At this point the car had clocked up about 30,000 miles in my hands and a grand total of around 140,000.

Incredibly 1994 was another years very cheap motoring. I had an unfortunate coming together on the M6 in October which resulted in a replaced front light and grille for a grand total of £25 secondhand but apart from that a centre exhaust section, MOT and inner tube completed the years expenditure. Seeing as this year included several months doing my own 120 mile commute I was very satisfied.

1995 was a year of more heavy commuting during which a front engine oil seal, another tyre,rear silencer, tailgate lock, rear wheel bearings, cam belt and front valance blanking plate were renewed. At this point I had covered around 65K miles and the total was up to 175,000. I remember marvelling at the fact that after hearing so many horror stories about premature camshaft failure mine was still fine, albeit it had by now developed a lazy tappet which took a couple of miles to silence on a cold morning.

1996 and many more miles came and went and so did a whole set of tyres. Other than that a new washer jet and oil and filters completed the year outlay. By now my mileage was up to 85K and the total stood at 195,000. I concluded that this car now owed me nothing and that any further miles I would treat as a welcome bonus.

In 1997 I treated it to another cam belt, another exhaust downpipe, a new clutch (very easy to fit on these cars) and more oil and filters. However some welding to the sills was needed.

Come the summer of 1998 I fitted a new inner driveshaft CV joint and decided to strip the engine (which was understandably using oil again) to see if it was saveable. To my amazement the pistons and bores were hardly any more worn than they were 6 years and some 90,000 miles earlier. If ever there were a testament to the wisdom of regular maintenance and long runs this was it. I fitted another set of rings and valve stem seals and cam belt and carried on running. The rest of the year a few more items were needed, - for the MOT three more tyres, a new brake pipe, some more welding and a new number plate, and in the winter time a new battery, ignition module and new rear hubs were fitted.

Incredibly 1999 was the best year yet involving only yet another rear exhaust box (average 1 every 4 years) and about an hour with the Mig welder for the MOT.

Which brings us to 2000, the original water pump finally gave up, I treated it to an unworn 2nd hand carb and a new exhaust centre section has been fitted, previous one fitted in 1994. I have done 115,000 miles in the car myself out of a grand total of 225,000. The car has never let me down although it was a close thing when the ignition module started to pack up.

What I find most amazing is to look at the parts you would expect to have failed by now but which are still original and going strong, e.g. Starter motor, fuel pump, radiator, rear shocks (perhaps being heavy duty estate spec has helped here), steering rack, front wheel bearings, engine mounts and so-on. The engine remains very perky (keeping up with many modern catalyst strangled cars) and is still on its original cam, but the bottom end is now beginning (understandably) to get a little noisy under heavy load/high revs . Interestingly the lazy tappet has got no worse in the last five years, it still takes about two miles to quieten on a cold morning but is silent all through the summer. Unfortunately rust is beginning to get a hold now and the drivers seat has more or less collapsed. The carpet is completely gone where I rest the heel of my right foot, the front shocks are on the way out again and I fear that the next MOT could see the end of a long association unless I am prepared to spend some serious time on the sills. I don't see how a newer and more complicated car can hope to be so economical to run or as sturdy but I live in hope.

A look at the figures show that i've spent £2300 on the car of which about £460 was on tyres alone and £250 on exhaust parts. It would have made sense to have a stainless system fitted from the start. The car is very easy to work on and electronic ignition and hydraulic tappets are great for high mileage use. My only moan is that both replacement exhaust centre sections (genuine parts) have needed tweaking exactly the same amount to fit properly- someone has got a jig wrong somewhere. I consider this car to have been fantastic value and have enjoyed giving it the chance to keep going for as long as it has.


Bangers in New Zealand

My first car I inherited from my father when he died. 1974 Fiat 128 SL coupe. I was 17, I wish I'd learned more about it all before, I didn't even have my license. Within a week of getting my license, I tried to get it going. Big fuelling problems, corroded-off ignition bits etc. A week later the ignition switch fell apart. While trying to find a replacement I would hot-wire my car much to the amusement of my friends.  Another week and I trundled back into a power pole (big kink in the bumper) while trying to blip the accelerator to keep the engine going. (Ever had a really, really temperamental twin-barrel Weber? The type where sometimes the idle is 0 and other times 1500RPM? Dad had been turning the wrong screw for ten years - the throttle stop, instead of the idle by-pass.)

The week after I reversed into a concrete planter at the theatre, at night, raining (of course, no rear wipers or reverse lights.)  And the week after that I approached a roundabout (80km/h) and a rear brake locked up. I slid to a halt in the middle of the roundabout, rush-hour traffic. When I eventually got the brake drum off I found that the self-adjusters (they had to be transferred between replacement shoes and were now over ten years old) had not worked, so the shoes had worn into tapered wedges. The rearmost one had worn paper-thin at one end, detached from the shoe carrier, and gone around with the drum to wedge between the drum and the other shoe. (No amount of pushing would free that off...)

I hurriedly put that car safely away, because I knew about the rust in the windscreen pillar (fortunately, nowhere else much.) I had just been *given* a free car by a female schoolfriend, and when you are 17 it is very hard to turn this down, even when it turns out to be a 197? Austin Princess 1800HL, and your father hated English cars with a vengeance.

The first thing that struck me about this was the way the engine started and ran smoothly after sitting for four years. To cut a long story short, the engine was knackered and the car was de-registered. Would cost $350 in paperwork, plus a lot of bodywork faking-up which I actually managed to do before...

...I spotted another one, a Princess 2. $200. This time, manual transmission, 2-litre. Body in perhaps above-average condition, supposedly 1982 but really made in 1980 and not sold for two years. The only real fault was the clutch - it didn't work. I clocked up over 1200km without a clutch, including a police checkpoint when I didn't have the correct license either. Oh how times have changed in three years. But the way that engine churned doggedly into life over and over, the way everything was so massively durable compared with the FIAT, and the way that a few cheap parts made all the difference to the engine performance.

Unfortunately, I decided to rebuild it.

After picking a new colour (British Racing Green) and deciding to change it to automatic, I set to work. I was actually given two more Princesses, so in the end I managed to take FOUR cars and somehow produce one. Furthermore, I managed to spend $1200 on second-hand stereo equipment, $1000 on auto transmission self-rebuild (and professional diagnosis, followed by $150 on working transmission because I had mistakenly thrown the others away. I still have the non-working $1000 transmission in my garage.) I fitted a load of very 'trick' parts, central locking, remote alarm, flourescent lights, extra fur (!) and carpet trim in delightful BROWN to match the Honda Accord seats... The engine bay looked mint once everything had been replaced/reconditioned. It took me many months, and over $5000... That's about 1800 pounds.

The end result - well, I guess you already know about the Hydragas and power steering virtues, the lazy 3-speed auto, the diesel-sounding engine (Perkins made a diesel out of the O-series, a wise move, as it sounded that way inclined, and with peak power at 4900RPM... Amazing for an OHC motor that on paper seemed to match the FIAT's.)  I tried so hard to make it smoother and quieter. I spent so much on soundproofing, tuning, and experiments. It had a top speed of 145km/h. Fuel consumption was 22mpg.

A year later, when the price of petrol soared I sold it, at a 'car fair'. A young couple that had three kids and a minivan bought it, for $1200. An exceptionally high price for a 1982 car; then again it did have a $1200 stereo complete with 12" sub that shook the car.  I then bought a Fiat 126 for $350. I have never seen another one since. It looked the antithesis of the Princess, tiny, economical, reliable (not that the Princess EVER let me down, since everything had got replaced.) The pudgy bodywork had been touched-up with a brush - it was painted with white epoxy primer. The flared wheelarches had concealed wide wheels and tyres but I didn't get those (yes, I bought a car without wheels.) It had lowered suspension with Konis (shook like hell) and with 650cc it struggled to get near the 100km/h limit, preferring to cruise noisily at 80. In fact the engine had an even lower specific output than the Princess, not surprising when you considered that it would run on 78 octane petrol. First gear didn't work at all.

The inside of the roof had not headlining but luminous stars stuck on the dark blue original paint by the previous owner. I complemented this with a colour-cycling fibre optic lamp fitted in where the radio was (I ripped it out, perhaps an interesting contrast with my previous ICE install.)

I repainted the car in metallic blue. This first required the driver's door to be knitted back together with fibreglass mat and resin. There was no other choice, since only 40 were ever brought into New Zealand and most were long gone.  I actually changed the engine oil and the gearbox (a standard 20,000km service procedure for FIATs.) The replacement gearbox had to be removed at the side of the road, a two-hour drive away, and cost $200. The economy of the 126 over that drive was 24mpg, and it took a full twenty-five minutes longer than the Princess.

When I did get a first gear, I discovered it was so low and noisy it was unusable. I was quickly becoming very disillusioned with this car. I was really missing certain luxuries like a heater, a boot that didn't fill with water, and seats that weren't like something from the 1930's. Although the engine didn't have the incredible boom periods of BL's finest, it had an endless lawnmower churn which was infinitely more tiring. And it was extremely slow. The only plus point was the beautifully light steering. Pity the non-assisted drum brakes were the direct opposite.

Then my car-owning life changed.  I did a search for 'FIAT' on an online auction, looking for parts for my long-term 128 project. I turned up a Fiat Uno, rusty, smoky, no warrant or registration. (A warrant of fitness is the equivalent of an MOT, required every six months.) The current bid was $1. The reserve price had been met.  I thought about this for a while and 'borrowed' Mum's Uno from time to time.  I had done much work on this, even putting in the engine from a 128SL (a parts car bought for $300, which provided a crack-free dashboard and was thus worth the money.) Anyway, I really liked the Uno, or at least, I really liked the Uno compared with the 126.

With three minutes remaining I placed a bid from work. The value had gone 1 - 3 - 5 - 10 dollars. I picked $11, risking the fact the $10 may have been an auto-bid (where the value automatically increases to a chosen ceiling amount.) It wasn't. I got the car.

Arriving after the two-and-a-half hour drive in the 126 (I had a friend with me, +30 min) I found the Uno with that mildewed look of a dirty white car, rust dripping from the bottoms of the doors, a tatty base-spec interior but otherwise a surprisingly good appearance. Eleven dollars changed hands, plus the $9.20 fee at the post office for changing ownership. Turning the key, the engine fired up straight away (new battery) and sounded great.  Within five minutes, we were cruising at 120km/h on the motorway, or at least I was -  my friend was still figuring out where the starter lever was after he stalled the 126 in traffic. (It's next to the choke lever, by the handbrake.) Apparently he got the heater on instead and choked on the oil fumes. Anyway, I stopped to put some air in a front tyre (the Uno had driven straight for 30km with only 10psi in one tyre, 25 in the other.) My friend then drove the Uno the rest of the way home. Initially I got an excellent view of the blue/black smoke pouring out, then I suppose it just melted into the distance. It was going at 130km/h while I was at 80km/h.

That week, I sold the 126 to a previous owner, for $450. (It was in better condition than when they had sold it to the next owner for over $1000.)  The Uno also received a full repaint (making it my third effort), a modest Blaupunkt CD sound system, a new set of rings and head gasket, thermostat (this had originally caused the drastic overheating which ruined the rings), and a trim upgrade using bits from an Uno 70 and some DIY skills, this time with classy black matrix-cloth rather than brown fur. A set of blue and black seat covers and carpet mats, plus a cool red LED clock and the black bumper-paint coat on the cardboard headlining, complete the effect. You can see it at

The total cost of this car (even including some Monroe Sensa-trac struts for the front) was around the $800 mark (about 250 pounds), excluding the $600 stereo. Maybe this is similar to your Polo project. I consider this good value! I know the parts I've replaced are good, the car has had top-notch reliability, and I will soon be trying to sell it (after over a year) for $600.

I neglected to mention the worst features... the rust at the edge of the heavily dented and stretched roof (it had been pulled flat) and the sloppy third-fourth gear that occasionally won't engage fourth, despite the previous owner having all the gearchange bushes replaced. Of course, the rust in the bottoms of the doors needed one replacement door, one welded repair, and the others bodged up OK.

Meanwhile, the 128 coupe is also finished. That took me several years of parts-searching, a two-month paint job, and a great deal of error-and-trial in the way of suspension setups. It now has a 1500cc engine, five speed gearbox, twin Weber 40DCNFs, 14" Lancia wheels, and a similar total detailing to what I gave the Princess. It has probably cost almost as much - four thousand at least. It is not an especially nice car to drive, harsh ride, vague steering - around a race circuit, it is 1.5 seconds faster than the 1116cc Uno (which is greatly disappointing) and of course there is the knowledge that the unobtainium body panels are easily damaged. I'm leaving it in the garage for weeks at a time now.

I now plan to buy a FIAT Tipo, since I know these are bigger and more solid than the Uno. I also think that they are surely the cheapest galvanised car you can buy. Because it's European, nobody buys FIAT here - which means the price of a Tipo is half that of a Nissan Pulsar or Mazda Familia, neither of which is exactly exciting anyway. I'm aiming to spend around $2000 which is obviously ten times more than my most expensive purchase and one hundred times more than my current car, but after reading the above I expect you'll get the idea.

Anyway - a very nice site. Don't fall into the trap I did with

I left it for so long I forgot the log-in and never updated it. (It's still there, I think.)



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