BMW Searching Part 2

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. –
Looks lovely eh?  Looks can be deceiving

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!

Hearsall 3
The number plate screws may be rusty but that is only half of the story

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.

Hearsall car
Why not take a shot of the good corner?

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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

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…

  • 2003 Mystic Blue & Grey Nappa Leather SMG Coupe.  122,000 miles, Private seller

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.

Finally part of the club!  But would I be smiling later on?

Still at Genesis

I left the last blog by leaving a few ideas in my head.  A great idea was to upgrade parts of the car but to keep it looking original.  While this was a project between my dad and I he had tinkered with cars previously.  Forgive me if this tale sounds familiar!

Like any retro this MGB was not without its faults.  The car may as well have been a boat for the video of the Hues Corperation “Rock the Boat” with the amount it swayed from side to side on the motorway.  Is that the “charm” of a classic car that many talk about or just bad design?  The other issue?  The overdrive would not stop slipping once the clutch was disengaged.  And what would a classic car be if there was no welding required on a sub £1000 purchase, even back in 2002?

Like all great intentions, thing seemed to go well.  I went away and ordered the following:

-Spax Rear Damper kit
-Falcon Single Exhaust ‘Box system
-Replacement Overdrive from an Ex-Laycock fitter.

From being a foldout chair mechanic (that is part way between someone who has a vague clue of what they are doing, and someone who simply watches a car restoration show and thinks he can do it all)  I went away and read some manuals on the procedure.  It was clear that the exhaust would have to come out to change the overdrive.  With that in mind I figured the overdrive may as well be changed as those jobs could be combined into one. So began the search for a suitable mechanic to do the job.  After all, I didn’t even really have a trolley jack back then!  I was silly enough to depend on car jacks.  Yes, I know.  Fortune favours the brave, I think

Like any wannabe mechanic I rang around for the cheapest price, considering many avenues.  It’s fair to say that the prices varied.  The garages quoted us around £300 back in 2002, even with specialists being around that ballpark.  Out of the blue a specialist on my doorstep quoted me £200. What?  Was this real?  I’m biting his hand off!  With that price it was not worth quibbling!

So off I went to go and took the car to him. After which I ended up fitting the damper kit!


Finally?  I had a car that drove spot on and actually did what it was meant to do!  Be driven!  The fact that the car came with new springs also helped alot.

But as always there is always a sting in the tail.  On further inspection the steering rack was found to have excessive play.  Not a problem we thought.  Just get another one fitted!  To be fair it had a bit of play in it after fitting the rear dampers and seeing how things were!  What we did not bank on was the bill.   We were quoted £120.  Not for long it wasn’t.

Almost every car owner comes across this.  This ended up becoming £220.  The issue?  The bolts had become seized in the rack.  Thus he ended up cutting the steering rack apart just to change it.  It was either that or the crossmember according to him.  He also said it was one of the worst steering racks he had ever taken off a car.  It is fair to say that the conversation was not a pleasant one!  But at least the car drove well once more eh?

With the car kitty looking battered and not much bodywork required it should have been rosy right?  We shall see.

Coventry & Cars? It can’t be – A review of Coventry MotoFest 2016

Coventry.  Thinking about Coventry hardly gets your juices going.  Neither is it a destination that you think of being related to the automotive industry for well over 5 decades.  For those who are not aware of Coventry links to motoring however, it seems that the Coventry MotoFest set out to address that.  From its humble beginnings back in 2014 it has continued to grow and flourish as the years go on.  This year did not dissapoint either.

With well over 200 classic cars in attendance there was certainly plenty of retro material for the locals of Coventry as well as the enthusiasts to enjoy.

Replica or not, I fancy a D Type:

It seemed that the Coventry spirit was present with a couple of cars suffering the usual niggles:


As a matter of fact there were three area in which to view the cars at the MotoFest, including outside the Transport museum:

It was not just old cars however.  Right by the Coventry Train station was a showcase of a variety of cars, both new and old.  These included Jaguar Heritage:

Aston Martin, where there would be another treat for us later:


But this was no arcetypical “Look, but don’t touch” car festival.  Oh no ; there was more in store than that.  That started with the Stock cars doing the rounds on the Moat Street Car park, right by the Skydome:


But, this show gave a little more than that.  Enter Stage Left:

Yes, the drifting boys were in town:

OK, so there was a small active display, big deal I hear some of you say?  Who said anything about small?  Right on the Ring Road of Coventry were a variety of cars driven the best way they could be, with plenty of stick!:

There is something lovely about seeing a Palmer driven at pace:

That said, the icing on the cake had to be the Aston Martin Vulcan,  which made its premier public debut right on the Ring Road of Coventry with all of us able to revel in the howl of that angry V12.  Who was saying the Supercars of old were dead?

All in, it was a great show and with something for everyone, espeically given that the event is free!

It was a sterling performance put on by the MotoFest crew, with @ringweekends certainly managing the track very well.  However, the lucky bloke did manage to get a go in something more unique than the Vulcan.  This would be Rover’s BRM jet engined car.

And on that note, bring on Coventry MotoFest 2017 and whatever surprises are in store for us

Making a Retro a More Attractive Daily Proposition in 5 Steps


In almost most circle of friends or someone the pub you will hear someone say “Classics are terrible to run as a daily ; they rust, they don’t start, they only take special fuel and I just like to drive my car.  They are just all worn out wrecks”.  If I got a pound for everytime an Top Gear watching armchair enthusiast said the above I would be a very wealthy bloke long before now!

That is not to say that the above is entirely false however.  Yes, a number of classics do rust badly without car, and admittedly many have been bodged through interesting ways throughout the years to make life interesting both behind the wheel and to work on!

With the above said however the old motors do somehow get under your skin; there is a character, a smell, the noises, the querks and simply a charm about them which leaves you yearning to drive your retro more when things are going great with the car!  Indeed, for years I have been attempted to not have a retro.  However, it seems that I have failed as the below pic of most of my previous cars shows:

Birthday Portrait

OK, not quite all of those are classics but they still make up more than half of the cars I have owned over the years.  Many of the older cars however were daily drivers, giving me differing degrees of reliability and patience testing!

However, I am not here to ramble on about which cars were reliable or not.  What I want to talk about is how you can make your own car reliable and easier to live with in 5 simple steps.  And here we are:

1. Electronic Ignition

“I’ve heard this one before” I have heard many people say now.  “If points have been fine for years leave ’em” is something else I hear.  Years ago you would have been right.  However, with the appalling rubbish that retailers sell as spares this is no longer the case.  Failing plastic heels and shorting condensers result in new parts that make your car even more unreliable!  How is this possible?  How can you get around this?

This part is dead simple.  Change the points (or contact breaker ignition system) for an electronic ignition kit.  It is not like they are expensive either.  From a number of specialists like M&M 4×4, PowerSpark and H&H Ignition to name a few you can get an ignition kit that takes no more than 30 minutes to fit and tune to your car.  The results?  Better starting on those cold damp mornings, more accurate timing and improved dwell angle consistency (that’s the coil charging time for those wondering).  And of course it is one less thing to adjust on the car since there are no moving parts present.  A win win surely, especially when kits are out there for less than £50 for most cars!


2. New Tyres

It never ceases to amaze me how people are willing to spend over £50 on cleaning products on cars yet are happy to roll around on tyres that are older than Noah’s Ark, and have more cracks in them than a poor road in a developing country.

Ok, it is great that your car has low mileage and your 20 year old tyres prove the point, but why?  Besides a safety aspect of having perished tyres hiding behind a plethora of tyre shine the grip levels are much reduced, especially in wet conditions where the car will have a mind of its own.

Indeed on my own classic car where I changed the tyres from 10 year old 1500 mile old Toyos to something new the difference in handling was staggering!  This was from driving the car away from a wet junction to a marked improvement in braking response ; the previous owner of the car was shocked at the improvement in all round handling when I took him out in his old car!

Let’s look at this another way ; would you be glad that you saved £200 on not buying tyres if you went into someone due to not being able to stop or by simply having a car driving all over the place due to a lack of grip?


3. Electronic Flasher Relays

This point is more for the cars still running bimetallic flasher units like the ones shown below:

Often failing after a year of use and generally leaving you to think about indicating long before you even reach the junction due to their slow response time.  That is before I get to them not working well when the engine is turned off.  Not great when you park up somewhere briefly when you pop into a shop for your bread or worse still are broken down in your classic car, where your hazards may not be working in the best state.

What if I told you that you could have your indicators and flashers working at a constant rate, and working from the moment you flicked the indicator stalk and with a clear clicking noise?  Furthermore let’s say that your flashers would no longer be affected by small voltage changes in the electrical if say, your headlamps were put on?  Am I lying?  Not at all.

The fix is simple.  Get a set of Electronic flasher relays.  With an earth wire required to be added to them they are generally speaking a simple item to fit to all classic cars.  Most specialists now sell these items through their websites or eBay but they are simple to get hold of.

4.  Electric Fuel Pump

This again is optional ; a number of classics did come with these.

Why spend an age cranking your engine on a cold morning when it can be avoided?  I am not referring to dousing the engine in Easy Start either in an attempt to fire it up!  What I am talikng about is converting the car to use an electronic fuel pump.  As soon as the ignition is turned on the car will begin to prime the fuel system, and within a few seconds will allow your car to fire up near enough on the first turn of the key ; I know my MGBs and my MG Midget on an electronic fuel pump certainly did.

My favourite is the good old SU pump, but I can appreciate that it is not for everyone.  There are again a number of good fuel pumps out there, but some may require the use of a fuel regulator depending on your carburettor setup.


5. Buy Good Quality Parts and keep the car maintained

This is a tricky one I would say, and almost certainly a case of easier said than done.  With most specialists not necessarily selling the best quality parts as a result of customer demand or what the customer is willing to pay it can leave the classic car owner in a pickle.

Indeed, many have told me that Triumph Stag brakes are appalling.  When I came to look for brake pads from specialists it was easy to see why ; almost nothing of a decent quality was available!  In the end I tracked some pads down through my long suffering motor factor.  Most people who have driven my now sold Stag commented on the effectiveness of the brakes.  The same goes for suspension parts and other miscellaneous items, where is seems quantity is being put in front of quality by many suppliers.  Rubber components being scrap after a year anyone?

No one likes spending a fortune including me, but you have to ask yourself the question? Would you rather be driving the car more or fixing it more?  I know what my answer would be.

The same can be said for maintenance.  A good service, and brake fluid change does wonders for your classic, both in terms of car longevity and responsiveness and safety of the car.


Final Word

It can be said that the above is obvious but it still surprises me that it is not to many or not all are aware of such modifications that can be undertaken to older cars.  Certainly for me the above went a long way in improving the enjoyment of my classic car experience.  I can only hope that it does the same for you guys out there.