Buying with plastic

Oh gawd. I’ve gone and bought a new car, BEFORE the Land Rover has sold. Well, I’ve left a deposit anyway. The balance needs to wait for a certain Land Rover to finish on Ebay – which it’s close to doing.

Scimitar SE5a rear

Another new purchase, will this Reliant Scimitar GTE prove reliable?

The new car? A 1975 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5a in a bright shade of red. It seems to be a good one and I’m waiting for it to have a fresh MOT before collection – which hopefully leaves enough time for the Land Rover to sell and for the new owner to hand me a load of cash.

I felt I had to move quickly on this Scimitar. The owner may have just been pushing me into a sale, but it sounded like others had spotted what a good buy it could be – it’s had an enthusiastic club owner for the past 14 years, and isn’t wanting for very much at all. Even better – everything seems to work as it should! That’s not always the case with Scimitars. As values are traditionally low, neglect is sadly very much something Scimitars become used to.

I will be paying very slightly more than I paid for the Land Rover – and the Scimitar feels like much better value for money. Don’t forget that the Land Rover may have covered half the miles (78k v 153k for the Reliant) but it has no service history with it, and is a touch scruffy in places. It should still do well though – scruffiness is after all a look that suits the Land Rover rather well!

Scimitars continue to offer excellent value though. With every parts bin raided, the beauty is that you can still get a huge amount of parts – the drivetrain is Ford, the brakes Rover, the front suspension Triumph TR. The bodywork is rust-free glassfibre while the steel chassis is fairly easily repaired should rust strike – as long as you get on top of it before it eats everything.

Are they cheap for a reason though? I guess I’m going to find out…

Datsun 240Z Quick Guide

DATSUN 240Z QUICK GUIDE

Japanese, but with a Big Brit Bruiser feel - Datsun 240Z

The first Japanese sportscar to score international success and a Japanese take on the Big Healey format. Great fun to drive with a lusty six-cylinder engine and values have really started to take off. Watch for rot and see what the fuss is all about. Production ran from 1969 to 1973.

WHY YOU WANT ONE:

  • Wonderful driving experience – bellowing straight-six
  • An improving Oriental car club scene
  • Reliable and great for regular use
  • Easy to work on
  • Still rising in value

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Corrosion wherever there is metalwork – some panels hard to find
  • Poor running – could hint at major problems
  • Market prefers genuine UK cars – check the history
  • Trim very hard to find
  • Noisy or crunchy gearboxes

RIVALS FOR YOUR AFFECTION

  • Austin-Healey 3000
  • MGC GT
  • Triumph TR6
  • Ford Capri

Lusty big-six sounds fabulous

Let the ol’ girl go?

Is it time to bid farewell to the BX?

You are looking at possibly the best car in the world. It has the ride comfort of a Rolls-Royce, the practicality of a small van, the quirkiness of a true Citroën, easy motorway cruising yet also 50+mpg. It was stupidly cheap to buy, and despite what people believe, really quite simple.

And I’ve decided that I no longer want it. The problem is, I do rather tend to get bored of cars, and am always seeking something better – or at least different. Hence why I find myself wanting to get rid of probably the best car I’ve ever owned.

I bought the BX in September 2009, primarily to take part in the BXagon Rally – a drive around the circumference of France  to raise money for Cancer Research UK (hence the tiger stripes – well, you’ve got to look the part). It covered the 3500 with aplomb and I liked it so much that the car remained on the fleet, clocking up 20,000 miles in my ownership this week. That’s a total of 162,500, but you wouldn’t really know it. These cars eat up miles.

In that time, I’ve used it on my daily commute, towed car trailers with it, filled it with stuff when moving house, collected a new oven and a new washing machine, driven it around Scotland, Wales and the South West of England – as well as through parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain on that epic trip around France.

It cost £266 to buy, and that included tax and MOT. I’ve since probably spent £1000 on upkeep – including a pair of brilliant Hankook tyres, a hydraulic flush, the odd pipe repair, a new rear axle arm bearing and basic servicing. That’s cheap motoring in anyone’s book.

So, it’s bloody good at everything, costs pennies to run and garners attention like nothing else. It is the curse of the car enthusiast with wide tastes that I now want to sell it. Yes, it’s good, but it’s not ‘something else’ anymore. £300 anyone? Then I’ll go and buy something completely impractical, that will cost a fortune to run. With a £300 budget. Should be fun!

Vauxhall PA Cresta Quick Guide

VAUXHALL PA CRESTA/VELOX QUICK GUIDE

British Americana in extremis with dog-leg windscreen and obligatory tail fins. Lusty engines ensure performance is not a disgrace and these models have developed quite a following. Finding a rust-free example may be tricky, but very rewarding if you do. Velox was lower spec, with a few less thrills.

WHY YOU WANT ONE:

  • Classic American looks, built in Luton
  • Lusty engines offer modern-era performance
  • Seating for six
  • You can work on it yourself
  • Rare and eye-catching

Rare Friary estate based on the Vauxhall PA Cresta

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Rust. Panels hard to find and they really do rot!
  • Perished window seals which hasten the above
  • Engines that knock or produce blue smoke
  • Worn transmissions
  • Bodywork bodgery

RIVALS FOR YOUR AFFECTION

  • Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2
  • Anything built in America in the Fifties
  • Humber Super Snipe
  • Austin Westminster

SPECIFICATION

  • Engine 2262cc 6-cylinder OHV
  • Power 78bhp
  • Top Speed 90mph
  • 0-60mph 18seconds
  • Economy 22-24mpg
  • Gearbox 3-speed manual

Mazda MX-5 Quick Guide

MAZDA MX-5 QUICK GUIDE

In 1989, the Japanese reminded us what a British sportscar should be all about. Huge fun to drive with a rorty exhaust note. Japanese reliability is a boon, but problems remain as with any classic choice. The Mk1 had a 1.6 or 1.8-litre engine and pop-up lamps. Softer Mk2 ran from 1998 to 2005 with fixed headlamps and a new glazed-window hood.

WHY YOU WANT ONE:

  • Classic driving experience with fewer downsides than some
  • Great for daily use – mileage no issue if cared for
  • Serious value at the moment – some creeping below £1000
  • Superb club and parts support already for this burgeoning classic
  • Not bad for DIY unlike many moderns

Mazda's MX5 of 1989 put the sports car firmly back on the agenda

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Corrosion, especially in the sill/rear wheelarch area
  • Accident damage – some have been thrashed
  • Seized rear brake calipers
  • Japanese-market Eunos not to be feared – check insurance first
  • Cheap tyres, lack of service history

RIVALS FOR YOUR AFFECTION

  • MGB
  • Fiat Barchetta
  • Toyota MR2
  • BMW Z3

SPECIFICATION

Engine 1.6 or 1.8 litre, four-cylinder, DOHC
Power 89bhp, 115bhp (1.6) 131bp, 133bhp (1.8). Second figure from 1996
Top Speed 130mph
0-60mph 7.7seconds
Economy 30-36mpg
Gearbox 5-speed manual