Let’s off road!

I’ve already had the opportunity to put my Land Rover, only purchased just before Christmas, through its paces.

Testing my bog-standard Land Rover 90 V8

Testing my bog-standard Land Rover 90 V8

The Bala Off Road Centre proved an ideal place to test the limits of my 90 V8 County Station Wagon, even though it has no modifications and sits on pretty standard Mud and Snow tyres rather than chunky, off road rubber. It was good too! We only had to resort to locking the centre differential on a few occasions and while better tyres would certainly have been beneficial, we never once got irretrievably stuck. While some sections required one or two attempts, we clambered up rocks and through muddy forests with aplomb.

It was great fun and I’m looking forward to a green lane session in February now.

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

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…