You know how the tale goes. You find the right person, they come recommended, and so you send it to them. Within a few months your car comes back. In some ways I wish I could tell you that! But we are all too wise to know that dealing with classic cars is like being in a fairy tale world.
I left the last blog on this car with me handing over the keys to a bloke in Coventry in 2002. Over the months my dad kept calling up the bloke . He would often say “yeah, the second coat of primer is on”. To cut a long story short this saga lasted a few years! Why? There were many things going on away from the car. In that time businesses were sold, people lost jobs, other classic cars were bought and sold, people got jobs again, other people went to university, we somehow got a sheddy MkII Astra as a courtesy car to drive around in while the MG was being repaired; yes really! Yes, it was a little convoluted at times.
The MGB GT being at the bodyshop for all that time sat like a beacon of hope even though we hadn’t seen the car for two years! In 2004 my nagging with my father had come to an end. He decided to call the garage who were the custodians of the MGB. We were simply told “Come on down to us”. It sounded ominous to say the least. After all, it’s not like I had been ridiculed for this car not being roadworthy and taking seemingly an eternity to fix.
When we went to the garage the owner appeared to have disappeared, with only the foreman left to run the place! I saw no MGB there either! And so off we went on a convoy to see the MGB. I was looking forward to seeing the car semi-complete. What I would see however would shock me to the core.
The car was not at all how I pictured it. Previously solid areas of the car that I knew were solid had been subject to a trigger happy shotblaster. Worse still it had patches in places that would really throw a spanner in the works. Inside patch welding on a floorpan anyone? Another patch slapped onto rust on a window aperture? The car looked like an abandoned shell without any running gear. Everything of the car was all in boxes. Not in any real order but it was just there. Would I even have all of the fixings there? I guess at least the good running gear was present right?
This unfortunately left us with a problem. Here we had an MGB that we had sunk roughly £2,000 into ; bear in mind a good rubber bumper MGB was around £3,000 back then. It looked like all we were left with was a running and rolling MGB shell ready for the scrap heap. What looked like an ideal father and son project was now looking like its future was bleak.
At that moment in time we didn’t know what to do. It couldn’t be driven in that state and it was clearly going to take alot to get it right again. It’s amazing how £600 cars start out isn’t it? Scrapping the entire car was something I suggested. My dad vehemently went against that idea; I was 18 at the time. I don’t think he truly estimated the scale of the work ahead of us. Maybe it would have been the wise idea ultimately despite the pain. But that is not the point of such projects.
We had some quality time in and on the car. And we hate to lose. It would also be a shame to have a project dissappear purely due to one person. Did I mention that I really hate losing?
Is there a moral to this story? Yes. Always check up on the progress on the car in the flesh. Yes the guy may appear trustworthy, and he may be saying all of the right things. But people lie, pinch things from cars and generally don’t care about you. I hope that no one else has the above happen to them.
With weeks to go for the car to be dropped off to us its fate would be decided.
With the end of the holiday coming up we knew the drill. Wake up, clean up, followed by your typical continental breakfast before starting on the final leg. Oh, and admiring the receptionist while you are at it. The routine will sound familiar to many of you. Of course, it would have been nice if this was the case. It would be a case of being so close but so far.
Before we left however, I did come across this rarity! You have to love the old Renaults:
But there was no time to waste. We had to get a move on! The train would not wait for us after all!
After travelling over 900 miles in the superb Citroen the stress of being dormant for so long was beginning to show. Yup, that clonking from the driveshafts off load was showing no signs of getting quieter. Although the car was actually fine at motorway speeds on the smooth French toll roads. If you ask me you wonder if the car didn’t want to leave France! After all, this example had been imported to the UK in 2012 with it now being back on home soil. However, it didn’t stop the car getting plenty of attention.
It certainly was getting a lot of attention in France! At petrol stations the car was a superstar. If people were not looking at it they were videoing the car! I was only hoping to go on a wine trip in an old French car, not to feel like some Z-list celebrity! However, one bloke did admire our car quite a bit. A Belgian. It’s fair to say that we admired his motor too. Seeing as it was a Jaguar Mk2 it’s not hard to see why. With some great modifications made including better brakes and larger wheels it was lovely to admire the car. With him speaking a little bit of English and us a little bit of French we somehow managed to chat for ages and ages. I guess old cars do that, they have their own language! It certainly was a great time!
But we were not foolish. With the car begging not to be coasted the return journey was going to be interesting. Somehow we managed to make the boat back to the UK. Hurrah, we could relax.
Upon leaving Felixstowe and heading onto the M20 all was looking well. We could keep the speed up to motorway speeds and the traffic was minimal. Unsurprisingly this would all change as soon as we hit the M25, heading towards the Dartford tunnel. The traffic went from being minimal to being surrounded by slow cars everywhere! It’s not an ideal situation in a car that you can’t coast in. With the car knocking more than Katie Price’s assets on a binge fuelled night it was getting tense. We attempted to coast the car but as we failed more and more to do it in the traffic the knocking simply got worse and worse. Eventually we were driving so erratically that motorists behind us must have hated us.
Despite stopping at two services the traffic showed no signs of slowing down. The car decided it would protest even more. Pulling into South Mimms we heard a metallic banging sound followed by the wheel trim overtaking us. As soon as it hit the kerb we heard a gong! While the car was trying to humour us we were far from impressed. The car was having enough, we were having enough and at this point an RAC truck was not yet an option ; with the traffic we would have been waiting hours for the truck to arrive. Not what you want after a drive from Cambrai.
As the knocking got worse I soon had visions of us ending up in the Herts Tribune, with imagery of the wheel falling off and us going under a truck. Going past Daventry things got worse on the A-roads. The interior of the car got very hot, ideal in a car without a temperature gauge. What’s more, it looked like the Chinese Voltage regulator was having enough with the voltage slow dropping closer and closer to 12V.
By some miracle we arrived back home. A feeling of relief, joy and accomplishment all culminated into banter towards the car, towards us and towards future trips with such brilliant planning. When we got back we soon had an idea of why the car was getting so hot. The answer stared us in the face when we opened the bonnet:
Yup, those belts were destroyed! But let’s be honest, the breakdown was part of the trip! It made it different, it made it tense. Dare I say it the trip was possibly a bit more fun! It’s something to talk about down the pub after all!
You have to love a bit of a cliffhanger eh? There are you folk eagerly awaiting the presence of wine and wine fields! What have I been delivering? Pictures of drunk folk in France as well as a questionable Citroen! But I guess as they say “Whatever floats your boat” But wait no more. There is some wine involved I am glad to say. Vinyards too!
For the final leg of the trip we made it to Beaune, Burgundy. In this quiet French town we had an Ace up our sleeve ; to book a wine tasting session on a bike! Were we initially aprehensive? You bet! OK. Most of us were. I was secretly looking forward to it. After all I love biking and I like the odd tipple now and again ;).
And so we hit the bikes, provided as part of the wine tour. This shot is of one of the wine enclosures in the region of Burgundy. With a relaxed and banter loving French wine tour guide we lapped up the information he gave us. I never thought I would know so much about wine! The trick to getting a good bottle of wine besides looking at the punt of the bottle? See if it originates from a town or an enclosure. But most of all, use your taste.
It was joyous going around the vinyards. So lovely that a friend of mine soon forgot he was a Brit and started acting like a Frenchman!
Although it must be said at least he was cheerier than me! I was pleased to be there, despite my facial expressions!
Before we knew it we had cycled quite a few miles, looked at quite a few vine stalks and crossed over some busy roads! It was then time to relax. What better scenery to relax in Burgundy other than the sacred wine fields?
With the rest period in place it was finally time to cheer to some lovely white wine and to simply lap up the fantastic surroundings.
It’s fair to say that I choose my place to drink carefully, even with inquisitive Americans about the shop. But I must say they were great company for the wine tour! But where was my glass. And my comrades glasses? Fear not, we all have a glass eventually!
But there was no time like the present. After a quick taste of some OKish “Application” wine we went on and hit the road. Or rather the cycle path. The next bit I did not get any photos of. What the next path entailed was stopping at a winery. My God the wine was good there and cheap! Why can’t we get that stuff at similar prices over here? If I knew I’d probably have started selling the stuff over here! So good was the stuff that we all ended up bringing back a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir and a ‘Ville’ wine ; A Pommard for those wondering what bottle of Red I returned from France with.
It was fair to say that the car was doing great! Not so fast! The next day we drove from Beaune to Cambrai. Even with no AC we were loving sitting in the old Citroen with the engine lapping up the miles with ease and the suspension absorbing every little bump. Even a whiff of petrol now and again could not break that illusion! That would all change when we came off the motorway when we decided to visit Laon, where the superb Laon Historique event is held (http://www.circuit-historique-laon.com/en/). It seemed the car however was not too keen to go to Laon, or should I say to not leave France again.
Yup, as soon as I pulled off the motorway I heard clunk clunk clunk coming from the offside wheel while coasting. Going slower and thus coasting more seemed to make it worse! Bad enough for me to consider left foot braking while I wasn’t on the accelerator! With the noise and feeling of it getting no there was nothing for it except to pull over.
With this in mind we let the car rest for a bit and gingerly pushed onto Cambrai. It was time for a well earned beer but also to see how we would make it back to the UK.
A few of you have been wondering where all of the vinyards have been. It has to be said that considering this was meant to be a wine tour there were not many vinyards until we hit Burgundy. Then we were surrounded by them for as far as the eye could see. But something else would also come to surround us for a few hours.
It would be the wonderful Chateau de Sauvigny-Les Beaune ; more can be found out above this place from their website (https://www.chateau-savigny.com). Upon first going through the gates it looked like an old and slightly collapsing Chateau with a few statues around the place. This perception would soon go as we went towards the back of the place.
Yup, there were planes about. Quite admiral things too. However, there were more than just a few out. The plane section was almost like a plane graveyard! There were so many old planes to see!
Sure, a few of them, well, many of them needed a like of paint but it was great to see so many about! But truth be told we could have spent all day admiring the aircraft. It was time to see the meat and potatoes of this place ; the cars. You could see any car than you liked, as long as it was a Fiat.
Yup, there were a few archetypal Fiat 500s present. But it was not just about the smaller stuff. A lot more Italian metal was present with quite a few cars having some racing heritage about them. Some of the Italian cars I did not know even existed!
Will you just look at that carpet? Sure it was worn, well used and looking a little threadbare. But I really wanted to take a piece of that back! I mean, that would look superb in your house! But it was not to be. As always it was great to see some engines in the mix. In this case unsurprisingly the well renowned Fiat Twin-Cam amongst some of the more specialist exhibits:
However, there was another element to which it seemed the Chateau’s owner was drawn to; Motorbikes. How many? Loads! If you thought you saw enough planes the number of bikes overshadowed both of them!
I will be honest, I have not been the biggest biker fan but I can appreciate decent bits of machinery. And wow, it’s great see the development of the motorbike as time went on by.
But in the searing heat I had spent more than enough time in this outbuilding. Or rather my friends had in the 30+ degrees Celsius temperatures. With than in mind it was time to head over to the dilapidated, but charming Chateau itself. What a picture. What a masterpiece:
But then it was time to venture into the castle. There were a few rooms downstairs showing where the maids were and where people wined and dined. It was great to see all of this, and to imagine what life might have been like back all those years ago:
However, it was then time to look elsewhere. As great as the brickwork was it was time to head upstairs to many more bikes and and to several modern aeroplanes. The very same you would see in the airports for promoting the airlines:
One of the bikes which caught my attention was this Wankel engined marvel. In many ways you think a Wankel engine would have been the right combination for a bike. After all, they are lightweight and have a high specific output if you go with the weight figure. It’s fair to say that this idea did not take off
That said it was enjoyable walking around the place. Not all of the stuff was gleaming either. Amongst the abundance of shiny metal there was plenty of metal requiring a bit of love. But the tired old stuff did also have a tale of its own. A tale of what it was subjected. It had history embedded into bodywork. It had take the worst of what France could throw and it and still just about live to tell the tale. You have to love patina.
Yup, I was smitten with this place! But there was no time like the present. As great as the scenery was we were best to follow the title of Queen “This Show Must Go On”. So in the wonderful DS we left this wonderful place.
Well, I say wonderful DS, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It did after all have a way of making itself known by smell. How? By spitting fuel out of the breather. So what if you brimmed the tank to the top? A splash came out of the vent pipe. But surely it would be fine if you took a right hand corner? You wish! The smell of choice what would be L’eau de Sans-Plomb, of the 98 octane flavour. Somehow despite this the old girl still managed to get 24MPG. Yes. A 70s car with troublesome injection system and leaking all over the shop still managed 24MPG. You can’t really complain eh?
So what would be the next step? That’s easy. More vineyards! What do they say? Onwards and upwards.
I left the tale with my friends and I staying in Reims. Honestly? There is not alot to report. Out we went for a meal and a couple of glasses of wine. After a couple of glasses along with a few more and a few more beers the night became quite a long one! Somehow I do remember getting back to the hotel. The next morning however would prove to be interesting. While I was not too hungover for reasons unknown my friends were in a horrendous state! All I shall say is that it is the good job that the DS has bench seats up front!
That said I could not think of a comfier way to relax during midday in Reims! But there was no time for napping! After grabbing a few snacks and drinks it was time to venture into the rest of Reims. The first thing to mark off the list was a bit of cathedral spotting. Sad I know but somebody has to do it. It’s also a nice way to pass the time on by. However, like all cathedrals it was decorated with scaffolding. What on earth is it with the eternal scaffolding in place? Sure, I know they are larger buildings but could there not be one day when they are free of the dreaded poles and clamps?
That said, the reason we had come to Reims was not just because of a cathedral. Oh no. It was a place we picked as a break for the Citroen. The old girl would now have a chance to put its legs up after its longest journey in 3 years. While the car put its legs up we could check out the great Museé de Reims Automobile, a stone’s throw away from the city centre. However, we would need a rest in the museum as well ; it was like a greenhouse inside there. It did not however spoil us from looking at a few rare French fancies.
I for one never realised a sporty Citroen BX was made. OK, we all know about the GTI, but what about this 4×4? It’s certainly one way to add alot of appeal to an 80s Citroen!
With its quad lights, bonnet bulge and quad driving lights up front complimented by the CX Prestige wheels it is certainly one way to imagine what a BX would look like on steriods. That said, there was enough French metal there for everyone. A CX Prestige had us all going weak at the knees as did the much coveted Renault Alpine A110. It was a truly great place to wonder about in.
Before we knew it 5pm had arrived, and we had to press on to our next destination, Villeferry. This very quite town is situated just outside of Dijon and until driving into it I would not have given it a second look.
But with such stunning scenery surrounding us in addition to the great roads leading up to it just had us lapping up the scenery with ease. The Citroen itself also proved to be the perfect car for such a trip.
That however was not all. We all enjoyed a superb dinner with what must be one of the best bits of scenery I have ever enjoyed while eating in addition to a truly superb steak. It literally fell apart in your knife and fork. The Pistonklause in Nurburg? Take note.
But even in a place as picturesque and remote as this there was still some old tin to admire. I managed to stumble across what only looked like an old wrecker’s yard. Where cars were laid to rest, maybe to provide spares for other cars or to be revived one day in the distant future. That said, there was still some unfamiliar tin present there.
After a great night’s sleep we noticed that there was a distinct lack of vinyards about. But with all of the scenery as well as passing the Source of the River Seine we were simply soaking up the scenery like a sponge.
But eventually we could come to what we came looking for. Vinyards. Yup, we were finally in Burgundy.
Before we knew it D-Day had arrived. After giving the car a wash the night prior to the big drive we had a couple of beers placing bets as to whether the car would even would make it to Dover before we retired to our beds. Just to prepare us for the trip we took plenty of LHM (about 5 litres worth!), some engine and gearbox oil, many many tools as well as ourselves and our baggage, obviously.
With an early start during the next morning we were surprised that it managed to make it to Watford Gap! With such a great outcome we decided to grab some breakfast. After all, we had pretty big sights in store for a car that had covered less than a 100 miles in 3 years! It’s about the small steps at times!
It’s fair to say that it at least looked the part! OK, the wings looked a little off colour and showed every single ripple with the filler now gone. I call it the Cellulite look. But there was no time to hang around. With a coffee drank and breakfast consumed it was time to crack on.
On the road the car seemed to be performing fine. The engine pulled very well, the suspension as a passenger seemed very comfortable and even the Chinese voltage regulator in place of the original points based setup held a constant 14 Volts! Maybe we were worrying too much!
This would be until we hit passport control at the Channel Tunnel. The car died without any warning. It’s fair to say it was not an ideal place to break down! The car tried to cough back into life but eventually it was fine. It was traced back to a faulty connection to the fuel pump relay! The old girl was showing us some promise! Without further ado there was nothing left to do short of boarding the train, as Ocean Colour Scene once said. OK, it was something like that.
With the sun out, the temperature being firmly in the high 20s and low 30s there was nothing else left to do but to hit the road and settle down to a 120km/h cruise down to our first destination. With the car looking like it would be fine it’s fair to say that we were all fairly content with the situation!
With that in mind we pushed on to our first destination with me taking the keys behind the wheel. So, how was it? The steering is certainly strange. Maybe there is an issue with this car but the steering refused to self centre at all. Do a tight right hander and the steering will stay there! However, the car just glid down the autoroutes effortlessly at 120 and 130km/h without a problem. The column gear change is a strange one to use but soon becomes OK to use after a bit of practice. The body roll is comical but it’s forgiven with its frankly untouchable ride quality ; not much seems to ride like a Citroen DS! It certainly felt like the right car for the trip!
But where would I stop the car? That’s easy. The one and only Reims!
There may not be much left but there is something certainly quite special about this place! The spirit of the place is still very much there. May that be a local putting his foot down hard past the pit garages if it’s not a tourist. There never appears to be a moment when there is no one about anyway!
While we were progressing nicely there were reminders still present that our car was an old girl and with the risk associated with it! This gorgeous Maserati illustrated that point. Unfortunately his ride back home was on a low loader.
With that in mind it was time to go to the hotel to retire and to give the car and us a rest. It was now a test to see if we or the car would crack first. After all, this was a wine tour.
I left the blog last time with a few hints as to what the Citroen needed in order to get it ready. On paper at the start it looked easy. Very much like a political party’s manifesto. Back in 2014 it looked like all the car would need would be:
The handbrake sorting ; the springs were fitted incorrectly and the pads close to being fully worn
Suspension leaks sorting ; the car would lower itself quite quickly before and left a trail of LHM wherever it was parked!
Seatbelts fitting ; The static belts up front would go to make room for period themed inertia reel items. Furthermore rear seatbelts would be fitted
Change the tyres ; It had 15 year old Vredesteins all round ; it wanted the correct but expensive Michelin XVS tyres on it ; the tyres designed for the car by Michelin.
Sort out the chromework. In particular the interior door handles, and the Pallas spec boot hinges ; these were badly pitted with the former having zero chrome left on them.
It sounds easy eh? With a car that looks this good on the floor you would think it would be:
As the tinkerer and restorer of us know, even if the car does quite a few miles without the aforementioned issues life is not quite as easy as you think, especially when it is put into practice.
Remember the wonderful D-Jetronic system I mentioned? With things being moved around and wiring only the French have the ability of understanding after being left the keys to the wine celler it was a source of mant headaches. This ranged from the ECU (yes, it does have one!) not powering up or staying on the entire time!
Yup, for reasons unknown to man the French decided to colour the connectors and not the wires? Why? Maybe they ran out of the coloured wires. But maybe it is a hint to simply how cash strapped Citroen were during the development of the DS yet somehow keeping the dream of something out of the ordinary alive. Even getting a battery that did not short itself out on the battery clamp was a mission!
If only that had been the only issue. The suspension would require more work. Manydifferent spheres were fitted to the DS over its life. This car however seemed to have spheres from all sorts of Citroens on it! This would be yet more time and money put towards the correct parts. At least with a new steering rack, spheres, regulator and pipes fitted the car would stand a chance of performing well.
But this old Citroen had a bigger issue hiding beneath its skirt, or should I say the underseal. Rust.
Yup, beneath the carpets and underseal the car was not a pretty sight at all, despite being for the best part solid as the rear inner wing/chassis rail and rear panel shots show. Worse still, the front wings after soda blasting looked more like they belonged in the team rooms rather than the car. Some painstaking reconstructive surgery would soon have them being good once again along with a new panel and other metalwork carried out in 2017:
Oooh, look, a new rear panel!
In the words of a Magpie, SHINY!!!
With the Citroen slowly becoming less rotten it certainly looked like it was getting there. OK, maybe that is an exxageration but you have to look at the positives at times!
After a lick of paint once the suspension parts were replaced it was all beginning to come together:
With the wings back in place, the boot tidied up and the wings back from the paintshop all was beginning to look well for now. With the Michelins now on the car and the tinwork being correctly painted what could possibly stop this resto?
Even the lights were working well! The DS had its iconic eyes back. Eyes so wonderful that they have been the trademark of the DS. Not even them looking a little like Dame Edna’s glasses after she has had a hit of acid with the turning lights cannot shake their beauty.
However, not even the darkness could hide the shoddiness of the paintjob on the wings. And man they were bad. I guess when you are attempting to ready a car weeks before it hits a 1200 mile roadtrip compromises have to be made:
Before we knew it it was a day before the 1200 mile trip. How many road tests had the car had? A few. Up and down a dual carriageway nearby. What could possibly go wrong?
Now and again a number of ideas seem great when they are idly mentioned. Where a couple of beers are involved the ideas seemed to be freer flowing amongst friends. It was of little surprise in that case that the idea of touring a wine region of France seemed like a great idea. This would not be achieved by simply flying over either or driving whatever car for the trip. Oh no. A special trip would demand a special car. In this case it would be a friend’s recently acquired Citroen DS21 Pallas.
Yup, a friend of mine a few years ago decided to buy a rather lovely yet iconic Citroen. Initially you wonder what the fuss is about. This would all change after a ride in the car, where the serene ride quality won us over by the spades. Speed bump up ahead? Not a problem. Even the engine which has a reputation for being legarghic seemed acceptable. That was thanks to this being a rare ‘Injectione Electronique’ model with Bosch D-Jetronic injection.
That said all of us were aware of the car’s issues. It had a couple of leaks from the suspension system, and like any old car it was temperamental. This would prove to be the case as the owner tackled many parts of it with some bits baffling him as well as a classic car repairers. The steering rack for example was not like a normal item when it came to replacing it! It seemed to be buried deep within the car with its share of fixtures shearing and so on!
As we found out they seem to work best on the correct Michelin tyres ; this was shod on very old Vredesteins.
As time went on by the regions for visiting were also discussed. Burgundy seemed to fit the bill very nicely, with the reservations being put in place.
Towards 2016 things seemed to look up but the scale of what my friend was up against did start to dawn on us!
Even I ended up helping out. That was me pretending to be a drunk French mechanic on the job. As like anything French from that era everything was a little different. Most drums I have seen only require adjustment from one place. In the case of a DS that is 4 places per drum!
Fast forward to 2017 and the car was still not quite ready! The injection system was playing up as was the charging system. If that was not enough there was Chromework of the car with specialists awaiting refurbishment. All of a sudden the scale of what lay ahead seemed to dawn on us! With the wings still being in primer a month before we were due to leave it hardly filled us with confidence!
We even wondered if our backup car would be a Ropey DS that we spotted in Amsterdam! At least that was a runner!
Little did we know my friend’s DS would end up getting the wings fitted after being repaired in addition to even getting an MOT. Surely with a first time pass days before the trip all would be well?
I left the last post with me having spent a small fortune on parts to sort the MGB out yet being present with a large bill for a steering rack swap.
But what benefits did I feel? For starts the car felt like it was no longer required the force to be steered in any direction. The Spax dampers made a surprising difference to the handling of the car and the exhaust really sounded lovely!
But there was an elephant in the room. That would be any MGB’s Achilles Heel. The bodywork. To summarise:
-The front wings looked fine but they were bubbling beneath the swage lines at the front
-The front valance was in one piece but it did have alot of surface rust present
-Rear valance was not very different and was very thin in places.
-The driver’s side floor had a thin hole in place where it met the gearbox tunnel.
We originally planned to take it down to a painter who was said to be good. Upon initially meeting him this certainly seemed to be the case. He was a very down to earth guy. Unfortunately, fate would intervene. He was due to go in for an operation which would have him out of action for months on end. Cue painter two.
Alot was said about this painter and I had even seen a few cars he had done which looked to be half decent. Thus the stripdown began.
With this done the car was dropped off to him. Little did I know I would not see the car again for a good few years, with it not really resembling what I had dropped off to him.
There was me leaving you folks on a pleasant ending. I had around 7 cars to evaluate. If I had been told correctly this should have been a dead easy! After all the adverts are always truthful right?
Enter exhibit A:
2003 128,000 mile Manual in Silver/Black; £6750 being sold by a trader. –
Despite this car being at a local trader’s it was the cheapest car for sale. It was also the first car I saw. You know the drill here. Give the seller a call and see what they say. Sure enough I was told “it was in good condition for the year” and with no real rust to speak of. It did look nice in the photos too.
Upon going to see the car I knew it was a pup, even with it being one of the wettest days in May 2016! The shotblasted looking bumper that was going black complete with appalling front panel alignment, the rusty arches all round as well as the tatty and scratched interior all showed that! With the wheels being CSL replicas they looked great from a distance even they were kerbed a bit!
Surely inside it would be nicer. Not a chance! Besides having an interesting smell as well as a sticky floor the interior looked very tired inside. What’s more the plastics were scratched to Kingdom Come. Had a cat lived inside this car or had one too many adventures being happening inside it?
Mechanically I thought “Maybe it won’t be that bad”. I was in for a disappointment. Shot discs were present all round! It even had aftermarket ballast packs. That’s before I get to the dash bathing me with error lights present. All would be forgotten as soon as I turned the key.
Well, I say that, but it would take the assistance of a battery pack to fire up the old girl. My God it sounded lovely! All of the faults were forgotten! But you should never buy the first car you see, or the wise men tell you.
It did however have a nice stash of receipts to show the maintenance done.
However, stepping back into my clean Clio 172 which was a mint car in comparison had me asking myself “What the hell am I doing? Going from a good car to a wreck?”. This car however did sell within two weeks of being put for sale. I was not even going to offer him anything like £6k for the car!
It was time to move onto the second car. Maybe my luck would change.
NOTE: This car is either SORN’d since 2016 or scrapped going by the DVLA now.
2003 ’53’ reg Mystic Blue SMG, 111,000 miles £8500
This was the first car I saw for sale from a private seller. After seeing the silver shit hours beforehand it was easy for me to like this car! On first impressions it looked a lot better! It would also be the first time I drove an SMG ‘boxed car as well and see if the truth was as bad as people made out. It also had a sunroof which oddly enough I wanted!
In short, it didn’t disappoint. The car did not knock at at all from anywhere and it held the road very nicely! The gearbox wasn’t as bad as I thought either. It didn’t pull as well as I expect but maybe I was expecting too much ; after all they have a very high revving engine and I didn’t quite take it to the redline!
But closer inspection of the car soon began to reveal the flaws. While the rear of the interior looked immaculate the front didn’t.
Further flaws became apparent on closer inspection. Every panel had quite a bit of scratching on. Despite the car being advertised as damage free the front bumper didn’t suggest that. It clearly had a cheap blowover at some point (complete with concealed stone chips beneath the orange peel paint) as well a repair Stevie Wonder could have done better while drunk! The discs also were as bad as the silver car’s and an advisory to bootTo top it off there was no service history (it was lost) and only 1 key. All of a sudden this car didn’t look to be worth £1.2k more than the Silver manual.
But then I would come across what is said to be the daddy of all specs:
Laguna Seca Blue and Black Manual Coupe. 112,000 miles £7950.
I do wonder if I was harsh about this car or that maybe I was simply a timewaster!
On the face of it the car looked superb in the advert. It had clearly been detailed to the hilt. With new discs, backbox and subframe reinforcement it looked like the ticket!
A phonecall would change that. Despite being described as immaculate the owner spoke of rust on the front wings that you had to get onto your hands and knees to see, and that the interior was more tired than the photos made out on closer inspection. What’s more he had a couple of warning lights come on now and again due to the wrong profile tyres being on the front. Oh, they were Marangoni Zetas. Seeing that it failed an MOT on the boot floor cracking badly also put me off ; maybe it needed a complete floor in reality if it was bad enough to fail an MOT.
That and he was not open to any offers even before I raised the question. When he declined to send me further WhatsApp photos of the interior and exterior regarding the areas he mentioned I decided that the trip to Northern Ireland may not have been worth it after all to be disappointed.
It did however sell after a price drop to £7500. Funny, he was saying he wouldn’t lower his price. If he was willing to negotiate we may have talked a deal. NI is quite a way to go just in case the car is a pup. After all I had just seen two and was dissapointed!
3. Phoenix Yellow & Black Nappa Manual Cabriolet with 75,000 miles. £9,000.
To most people this should have been the car I should have bought. It had to most people the driver’s gearbox and sensible colours along with less miles by quite a way. I was going to view it but unaware at the time a friend bought it. it was owned by an ex-BMW mechanic and it had 4 good tyres and new discs. When I initially saw it I thought happy days! That impression would not last.
Firstly, the bodywork. It was not shiny at all, but that can be corrected easily. Despite having the least amount of miles the front seats had not worn as well as you would expect. Dare I say it, the seats in the 111k Blue/Grey SMG car were better bar a bolster being collapsed in a strange position (right at the top, as if someone was pushing on it)). While I know it’s a convertible the AC can be handy during the rain or winter, espeically in a convertible. It didn’t work. All you got was alarmingly loud hiss from inside the car. Then I came to drive it.
The way people speak of the manual is that it is amazing and not comparable to the SMG. They were not kidding on the last part! The manual has a long throw, is not the most precise thing and at times reluctant to go into gear. If you read online you’d think it’s as good as an MX-5 with gear changes. Are you feeling the love? Me neither!
It later turned out that his back box was held on with zip ties (I am not joking!) and that his engine had a few leaks all round from the rocker cover gasket, CPV and a couple of other areas. Sure it was not a bad car but it was not perfect and not for me! It was not for him either, seeing as it was sold 2 months after he bought it…
I also almost saw and bought the car below
2001 Silver & Black Manual Coupe. 88,000 miles, £8900 from a trader
On paper this car looked good. But the seller was surprisingly honest over the phone and even sent some shots over of the car to me. It was good to see this and I almost went for it!
He was honest enough to say that there was rust on the car but he had performed Smart repairs on them. After having rusty cars before I decided it was too big a risk to risk Smart repairs not rusting again. That and the interior was as tired as the higher milers as were the discs from his vague description and more than the car that I would buy. I was tempted but not at that price.
Picky I know but I’ve never had leather seats wear here even after 250k
This looks OK, ish.
Until you see this! Not bad but I’d expect better for the mileage
The others were fairly similar to the above. While I didn’t settle on the best car IMO it was a good one overall.
Other candidates included the following:
Carbon Black & Red SMG Cabrio, 101,000 miles £7200.
This was tidier than most of the cars but it wanted discs, tyres, mirrors repainting, rust sorting in various areas. It also had the the dreaded SMG cog light appear. Interior was surprisingly good, probably the best I saw out of all of the cars. The owner spent a fortune on servicing it, polybushing it as well as new arms, but he ran out of steam.
It seems I wasn’t alone in the struggle going by someone else’s search
Anyway, I digress. I started looking at the lower end of the market – after all it was meant to be a stop gap car, not something that I wanted permanently in my collection. Well, anything below £8k is an absolute dog – have seen 4 cars and all have rusty arches, tyres not fit to be drifted out, let alone be driven on, shagged and doddgy carbon fiber interiors, dubious mileage histories once the MOT history and service history was consulted. All had the subframes checked – funny, how it is not the subframe, but the boot floor which actually tears apart, and had SMG pumps giving “nice, long primes”….
One of the cars was actually a diamond in the rough, but I just could not bring myself to pay the full asking considering the amount of time needed to bring it up to scratch. Hence, unless you are prepared to DIY a lot, there are hardly any bargains left…
By this point I was getting ready to sack off my search. I came very close to throwing in the towel. Maybe my Clio was that good a car!
The advert seemed honest mind you. He said the car was good overrall but that the interior could use a clean. Furthermore, it had 4 newish Falken tyres and a full service history.
The owner of this M3 was a pain to contact. All of my voice messages went straight to his answerphone. After contacting him through WhatsApp Voice calling (no I am not joking here!) I finally had a chat with him. It sounded promising. He said the bodywork had scratches on it, the interior was grubby and that the brakes were all new with genuine BMW parts. It also had a full service done by Mobile Tune BMW in Birmingham. Furthermore the AC system had been checked over and regassed in addition to the gearbox being checked over from top to bottom regarding the sensors where the stuff was taken apart etc. I agreed to go and take a look.
It was refreshingly good in the flesh! The bodywork had a real honesty about it despite being tidy. Sure it had the odd touchup and and there but it was clean! The interior at the front could have been better but it was good overrall. The seats despite needing TLC were better than the other cars I saw bar possibly the 75k Phoenix Yellow car. It drove well too but it could pull harder. I noted that it wanted a replacement viscous coupling in addition to some next exhaust mounts. It did seem to have some wedge thrown at it mind you! The rear dampers were relatively new as were odd little bits around the car. After some talking a deal was struck
After a while we came to a deal. My fate was sealed. I was now the owner of an E46 M3! But had I chosen a good car? Time will tell.