Civic reception

The brilliant thing about having my own blog is I can prattle on about all sorts of crap cars that magazine editors would tell me are ‘not suitable.’ A case in point is the 1991 Honda Civic I owned a few years ago. It was a 1.4GL and despite being built by the Japanese in the early 1990s, still had a manual choke and twin carburettors.

Honda Civic and 2cv friend

A much-loved Honda Civic (right) alongside a much-loved 2CV

Yet it was astonishing. For all the world, the engine felt like it was fuel injected. I loved it. In typical Honda fashion, it was a revvy little thing, not really waking up until 4000rpm. Insane fun yet I was also rewarded with 40+mpg. Now that’s my kind of car.

I bought it locally when we lived in Cambs, for all of £195. It needed new CV joints, as they clacked like a footballer’s rattle on sharp turns, and had rather serious rot in the left-hand rear wheelarch. I wasn’t going to complain at the price and I clocked up a good few thousand miles in it before flogging it while it still had MOT.

What I really liked about the Civic was that you could still feel the soul of Soichiro Honda in the very design of the thing. It was light, you sat low and the engine screamed like a starving baby. The bonnet was so low that you felt you could use it to stop a trailer rolling away on a hill – you wouldn’t sit on it because it seemed as low as the ground. Wonderful engineering shone out of every pore – from those achingly efficient carburettors to the fresh air vent on the driver’s side of the dashboard – rare to have a fresh air feed on such a modern design, but really rather good.

Naturally, the electric windows and sunroof worked perfectly and the only negative point about the driving experience was over-light, feel-less power steering. Once I fitted budget tyres, this lack of feel became quite an issue on wet roundabouts. It had all the directional stability of a shopping trolley full of bricks. Lesson learnt – don’t buy cheap rubber!

It all went a bit downhill from here for Honda. The Civic gained weight until it became the monstrosity that wears the badge today – relying on quirky looks rather than clever engineering, and a form-before-function mentality that poor Soichiro would never have been able to relate to.

PS – before you ask – yes, I did put the bonnet stripes on it. Me and my wife were the only people in the world (apart from the chav who bought it from me) who thought it looked cool. And don’t ask why I have a picture of it in a car park in Peterborough alongside my 2CV. I’m still struggling to recall exactly how I took two cars to work that day.

Addicted to dreadful motoring

Yeah, I might as well admit it. I LOVE crap cars.

Skoda Estelle and  Rapid

Hmmm. A sight to make our ClassicHub journo go weak at the knees

I realised that I had a problem when a ten-year old me was reading a copy of Auto Express in 1988. I still have the copy now. In it is a budget car group test between the Citroën 2CV, Fiat Panda 750, Yugo 55 and Skoda Estelle. So far, I’ve owned two of the four and deeply want to own the Fiat and Yugo that I haven’t yet sampled.

In a way, I find it frustrating that the Citroën 2CV now has an established classic car following. I think I preferred it when everyone derided them. That was one reason I got into them in the first place. I’ve never paid much heed to the opinions of others – I always have to try things for myself.

And I have too. In fact, my first Skoda really was quite crap. The starter ring gear was worn, so I’d often have to bump start it. In fact, I had to do that having handed over my £150 to buy the thing. The ignition timing was so retarded that sparks would come out of the exhaust at motorway speeds. Exciting! As I wasn’t much of a mechanic at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay for the labour involved in replacing the ring gear, I scrapped it. I still wish I hadn’t. Not only because I only got £30 back for it. I will own another.

I realised that I still had a problem when someone on the Autoshite forum saved an FSO Polonez from being scrapped. Most people would ask “why” but I thought this was brilliant. I’d love to try an FSO Polonez. Were they really so awful? Yes, they probably were but I still want one anyway.

So, why do I like shite? Well, cost is a large part of it. People’s snobby attitudes cost them a lot of money. I rarely if ever pay more than £2000 for a car, and most often, quite a bit less than £1000.  There are a lot of really quite good cars available for less than a grand, and some awful ones too. It doesn’t matter, they’re all an experience.

This is why I need to sell my Land Rover. It’s getting in the way of me continuing to own shite cars. Wonder what I’ll end up with next…

 

Best sounding classic?

No, not which one has the best sounding engine – I’d argue strongly for the Triumph Stag there – but which one has the best name?

Is this the best sounding classic? Or is he blogging about something different?

Triumph Stag is certainly a contender – a successful and aggressive beast is what the name suggests. Much better than Maserati Bora for sure. Some are a bit more functional – the Bond Minicar was just that, the Triumph Roadster likewise. Not very exciting though eh?

I recently drove a Bentley Brooklands Turbo R Mulliner, but that’s all a bit of an unnecessary mouthful. It’s like they were trying to chuck in every English thing they could think of. They might as well have called it the Bentley Royal Family Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I’m quite pleased they didn’t though…

The Gordon-Keeble GK1 starts well, but they clearly ran out of inspiration. Others just lie. The Morris Minor 1000 ended up with 1098cc, the Citroën 2CV actually had 3CV by the 1970s. Mercedes-Benz on the other hand just confuse. A 220SE has 2.2-litres, a 300SE has 3-litres. But you can also get a 300SE with a monstrous 6.3-litre V8! They called this the 300SE 6.3. Obviously.

The French were never much into names. Renaults were generally numbers after the Fregate/Dauphine/Caravelle era, Peugeots stick with the number-0-number and Citroën at most pulled a few letters together. The Traction Avant merely started life as 7A and only the Ami, Mehari and Dyane broke theme right up to the Xantia of 1993. That’s the French out for a refusal.

I guess it’s hard to decide, so I’m going to pick two Rovers with identical engines – something that gave the Solihull fellows a few sleepless nights. I therefore crown the winners of this non-competition the Rover Three-Point-Five and Rover Three Thousand Five.

This is a Rover Three Point Five...

...whereas this is a Rover Three Thousand Five. Very different (in engineering if not name!)

Classic winter motoring

Using a classic through the winter requires courage!

 

As we move into 2011, it’s time to look forward to digging out your classic and preparing to hit the road.

Or maybe, like me, your classics have been in regular use throughout the winter. If so, then congratulations on your bravery! A recent clean of my Citroën 2CV revealed that the poor thing is rather rusty in places – to the state that I’m considering hand-painting it to keep on top of the corrosion. Keeping a classic in first rate order at this time of the year is certainly a challenge.

But I find a lot of joy in driving classics at this time of year. Sure, it can be cold and it does create issues such as the rust-chasing, but journeys gain an epic sense of adventure – especially the 700 miles I clocked up over Christmas in the Tin Snail. There’s other bonuses too. When grip is at a premium, as it has been here in the wilderness of West Wales, I’d much rather be in a car  that lacks power assistance of its controls, allowing me to feel when grip is there and when it is not.

Sometimes, it really is not  there, which is where my 1988 Land Rover 90 County Station Wagon V8 comes in. At 15mpg however, I tend to rather hope that we don’t get too much snow! Sitting somewhere in between the two is my Citroën BX TGD estate, though as 12-hour mission to get from Cardiff (two-hours away) to home revealed that there’s no substitute for four-wheel drive when things get really slippy. A journey I’d rather forget. The BX also disgraced itself by freezing its heater matrix at one point.

It’s a battle to keep all three vehicles in sound condition with so much salt on the roads. I think I’d better get out there with the hose once more…