Sometimes you have to admire the method in one’s madness! That is to buy a non-roadworthy car, get it roadworthy, all while trying to deal with a restoration become more of a body conversion! But there was method to my madness for 2 key reasons. The first was I was now using the Chromie as temporary daily transport, after selling my then Peugeot 306 GTi-6 after deeming that too pricey to run; funny really! It also helped my motivation in tackling the massive project the Sebring had now become! Another reason? Thanks to seeing a complete car I now had a vague idea of where the fixings went, as opposed to being sent the ‘right’ screws, only to find out they were wrong, and seeing what the restorers had broken when I first got the car back; the bolts went back into boxes without any marking which really cut my work out!
The first thing to do with the Sebring was to refit the Britax sunroof. Because all of the screws were now just an assortment this made life tricky for reaffixing the canvas lid. I only had one screw left! After trying my local screws place they didn’t know either; the threads weren’t the best on this! Eventually, I got hold of a Britax roof specialist who saved me a lot of trouble by sending out the right nuts. Now I had a car that was closer to being watertight!
It was however never going to be watertight with the door I acquired years ago! Everyone said it was down to the wing fitment, despite the previous door fitting perfectly. In the end I would source another door as a result of much fettling with the poor door. With the original item bolted up and the reskinned item removed I now had a door that looked like it belonged to the Sebring! Except it was Pageant Blue!
I also took the opportunity to replace my shot bootlid for the much more solid item, and treated it to new seals all round. With the windscreen fitted in thanks to some parachute cord and helpful friends it was look great for the car! It was time to celebrate! This I did by buying a tired Moto-Lita steering wheel and polishing it until it looked sound once more. Fitted in the car it finally started to show more promise!
This would admittedly slow a little when I checked the brake pipe to Spax damper conversion clearance on full lock. Finding the supplied Spax damper brake pipes in my assortment would soon cure this issue, where I also took the opportunity to change the rear flexible hose to a braided item, so as to compliment the front end.
But all good things would soon come to a stop. Over a year after I started working on the Sebring again the upper arm decided the remains of the bolt would become at one with the arm! This really was a pain! I resorted to heat, whacking it with hammers and punches to no avail. My sister remembers the hammering sounds! Eventually it would take a lot of heat and a puller to remove the remains of the bolt! Hallelujah! Finally the car was on all 4 weeks again!
Another issue I had put off was the welding on the car. With my welding supplies from Halfords and an overly dark fixed darkness welding mask it didn’t start well at all! I could not get a consistent feed from the welder! Annoying! Thankfully, a retro rider by the name of Grunty would come down, condemn my welding equipment as rubbish, have me fix my old welding gear before he would begin! Suddenly the car became very solid!
Now I had other issues. The car wanted tuning up badly! The issue was the ignition advance was stuck at 10 degrees throughout the rev range! To add insult to injury it wasn’t moving freely in the engine either for adjustment or removal! With some brute force I soon had the dizzy removed. A short while later, and the car was running well once more. Or so I thought
It was then time to put the car through an MOT. Despite it randomly now puffing out blue smoke and not seeing an MOT for over 10 years how would it all go?
I would have thought that my tales of living with an M3 would have put a few people off! Did it? If not it is my duty to keep rambling on about how the first year of ownership with an E46 M3 can be!
However I can report that after the Evo Triangle trip April was actually going surprisingly well! The car was behaving and drive the best it ever had done under my ownership! The tramlining had completely gone, the car thanks to the Michelin tyres actually gripped in wet conditions very well and it was a joy to drive on back roads as much as it was on long motorway trips. But with a trip planned to Germany in the Eiffel region it was not a time to sit on my laurels.
Sure, the car had the Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP) reinforced with uprated bushes and new tyres all round and a general clean bill of health. But what about things like spare brake pads, oil and other consumables? It would be wise to take them, especially given how the car would be pushed to its limits! It was time to get ordering!
The first thing I would order and fit would be a power steering hose. I had a hose made up by a known face in the industry with it being a very similar design to what BMW sell. Suffice to say it did the job well and allowed me to change the PAS fluid at the same time. Compared to the old hose the new item was a great improvement.
After extensive research and previous experience with brake pads I decided to go with the expensive but great Pagid RS29 fast road brake pads for the front. A Renault Clio 220 Trophy from Rent-A-Race-Car had these on when I went to the Nurburgring in October where they performed well! With the front pads sorted it was time to look to the rear brakes ; stock items were ordered from Euro Car Parts. The issue? They were from a 330i after looking up the part numbers more closely ; they would fit but the compound would be wrong. Had I known this earlier I would not have purchased these from ECP. However, with limited time I needed a backup if my rear brake pads died. As I learned previously at Silverstone the M3 if the DSC is left on can be very hard on the rear pads ; I managed to have them smoking there!). With a bottle of Super DOT 4 brake fluid thrown into the boot the car was ready on the parts side. Oh, and some Brexit number plates to make the car more Euro friendly when abroad:
Before this I had the alignment checked by BT Tyres in Rugby. Ross has treated me well in the past and I knew the car would be in good hands.
All that was left to do was to clean the car, check the levels and the pressures, pack some tools just in case and then sort out myself. OK, may there was more to sort than I realised! A friend of mine in a Clio 172 cup also prepared in a similar fashion, but a chap in a Clio 220 Trophy? He just sat back, and seemed to think that we were fretting for his own pleasure! Or so it seemed.
Then came the Monday morning. With no sleep at all and a 3am start we set out towards Folkstone. Much to my surprise the car went there without a hitch, despite me enjoying the derestricted Autobahns along the way! It was then time to sort out accommodation. My friends stayed at the superb Blaue Eke in Adenau found at this website while I was at a great appartment within Adenau called Haus Sonja ; it had plenty of facilities and was great value. While my car was fine, Dev’s would require some attention. This would only be changing the wheels over. While three of them were relatively simple one was a nightmare! Even a 2 foot breaker bar struggled to break the nuts off! But we got there! Mechanics. You have to love them. With the wheels now tightened up with a torque wrench at least they would no longer be such a chore to remove.
After a meal later on that night it would be time to hit the Green Hell. So, to put it another way, I am in a car with north of 300BHP, with a Marmite gearbox, and forecasted rain. How bad could it be?
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!
So, here is to the next trip!
Don’t you just love people who claim you can own an object of desire for a pittance? That the world is wrong and they just don’t know where to look? This certainly seemed to be the case for me and my search of a car I have wanted for quite some time ; the BMW E46 M3.
With its individual throttle bodies, great looks and lovely handling it had me written over it. Sure there is the question of image but who cares when you are having so much fun?
So, the budget. What would it be? If eBay is to be believed and other people down the pub this should have been dead easy Oh, and the internet is always right, right?. After all, back in 2014 M3s had dropped to an all time low in value! So off I went in my search in May 2016, with a budget of £9,000 but hoping to stay around the £6,000. After all I don’t mind getting my hands too dirty but I also hate a money pit! We all know have a £6,000 car can quickly become an £11,000+ car, still with its faults. But we all cannot resist a bargain:
I don’t think that I was too picky with my specification. I wanted the following if I could help it:
Any car except Titan Silver
Preferably a manual
Evidence of good maintenance over the years, be it specialists or simply receipts to show what work the car has had done
Good service history from when it was new
New Discs ; I was wise enough to check the price of these!
New but good Tyres ; I was also wise enough to check the price up!
A half decent drive
With the latter two my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw the prices of them
With me previously owning a Clio 172 and a Mondeo V6 with 250,000 miles I thought the above should have been easy.
I had a few contenders to go and see. These included the following:
- A Titan Silver Car with a black leather interior. It was a manual coupe with 128,000 miles on the clock. Oddly it was the only one I saw being sold by a trader and also it was the cheapest. £6750 to be exact.
- A Mystic Blue with Grey Leather SMG model. This would be the first SMG coupe car I saw. It had 112,000 miles on the clock, a new clutch and only 2 owners. This car? £8,100
- A Laguna Seca Blue and black leather M3. Also a manual this had 111,000 miles. It did have many new parts including discs and an exhaust put on. This was on for £8,000. It was however in Northern Ireland
- A Phoenix Yellow and black leather Cabrio. As another manual this had 75,000 miles on the clock and was owned by a retired BMW technician. The price? £9,000.
- A Carbon Black and red leather Cabrio. This was another SMG. It had a bit of work done to it including new lower arms etc. and so on. This was one of the cheaper cars for sale at £7,000.
- Another Titan Silver and Black manual entered the scene. This was an 84,000 mile car being sold by a dealer. It had 12 months MOT and was ready to go. This one was £8,900.
- This is almost like Deja vu! I found an almost identical car to the above! Another Mystic Blue car with Grey leather! It had more miles on at 122,000 miles and also had been owned for just over a year with plenty of MOT left.
All were claimed to be in great condition upon the first glance of the advert and the pictures. After all a picture can speak 1,000 words. So with that respect, surely 8 pictures can speak 8,000 words combined together?
While I did not expect perfection I wanted a clean and tidy car. I figured with my then 2003 Clio 172 being very tidy for its age this should have been a walk in the park. With plenty of tools at my disposal like My Car Buying Guide it should have given me an idea of what I was about to see! Surely they would pass the mark with flying colours.
Little did I know, I had no idea what I was about to let myself in for.
Buying a car is often the fun part of buying a car. There is excitement of discovery, as you go looking at the cars, the feeling of trying something else as well as generally trying something new, or at least new to you.
However, let’s be honest. If you need a car quickly be that it is your only means of viable transportation or that you simply are too impatient the buying process is also one of the biggest chores of car ownership. Taking time out to travel can be stressful, in some instances the discovery of a new car also can put a question mark on how good the car is, or whether it is the little gem the owner said it is cracked up to be, or worse, have finance owing on it or it simply not being the car it claims to be. Then if you buy the car you have to hope that you can actually get somewhere!
But in recent times I seem to be doing something right and in the instances I follow these rules it seems to work well. If it were me I would check any car on the following 5 things:
-MOT History Check
-Check Everything Works in the Car, Everything!
- MOT History Check
This example is where technology really can be used to your advantage. Best of all it is now free and easier to obtain!
The best part? All you need for this check is a registration number and make of the vehicle.
Now to the fun bit. Take a look through the previous MOTs and try to get a photo of what you are looking at. While a few minor advisories shouldn’t worry you, keep eye out on some that should. Likewise, see if the condition of the car reflects whether the car is worthy of zero advisories…
It has been rumoured that people have been removing from MOT paperwork, so this is a great way to see what the seller is hiding.
2) HPI Check
This is a tricky one for sure. Yes I know the checks are around £20 a go, but it could also save you a lot of grief. If you are that worried buy a few and sell a few to your friends; they will benefit from the discount also.
While I do not mind a written off CAT D car under certain conditions (mainly if it is old and where new parts with labour times would render repairing the car uneconomic to repair) I can appreciate that this is not for everyone. Some CAT D cars I have bought have been in better condition than unrecorded cars, so it can serve as a helpful tool as well. A number plate transfer shouldn’t also scare you either.
What would concern me more is a stolen register where the car had not been recovered in addition to outstanding finance ; this could leave you in trouble.
On another note, ensure the check comes only from HPI, Experian or the RAC ; there are reports of other mobile services either not giving the full information or in some cases outdated data.
- Check Number correlation between the V5 (Logbook) and the Car
If nothing else is taken away from this article I do hope that this is! It is a paramount that this point is considered. While engine numbers may not be a cause for concern if the Vehicle Identification No.) VIN of the car does not match the logbook then I’d walk away.
- Check everything electrical inside the car
This can be taken in many ways, but you would be surprised how many cars I have come across where it has been described as being in perfect working order, only for this not to be the case. Even if it is a hot summer’s day check that the heater works in every possible position ; failure to do so could cost you.
4) Drive the car
Now this can also be a tricky and for the purposes of the article I will state a couple of things
-Ensure you have insurance on the car
-Be prepared to put down cash for the cash – After all if you bend it you mend it.
To me it doesn’t matter who is trying to sell the car. I have had friends lie to me about how bad a car really is, as well as punters.
It really does surprise me just how many people fail to do this and go with faith that the car will be fine.
With all of these checks done hopefully this will build on the foundations of buying a good car and not look like this guy: