End of year fleet review

2011 has been our first full year of living in Wales – and what a pleasure it has been! On paper, living so far from everywhere, with a fleet of underpowered classics that don’t like dampness is a recipe for disaster – and sure, some of the fleet are looking a bit crusty in places. However, there are no motorways nor even dual carriageways for miles around, so in fact our feeble fleet is about perfect.

2011 started with the 2CV and Mini. Here’s the 2CV undertaking a spot of green laning. The grille muff suggests it was quite early in the year and therefore cold. The fact that it’s on a green lane and has the roof rolled back suggest the balance of my mind is disturbed.

Citroen 2cv off-road in the sun

Elly basks on a Nant-y-Moch green lane, near home

Here’s the Mini sucking up some moisture to allow it to rot further.

Mini City E

Whatever the weather, the fleet gets out and about

Just before Christmas, I bought a dream car – a Land Rover 90 V8. It wasn’t quite the dream thanks to a remarkably flat V8 and a clunky transmission. Was good fun off road though and an outrageous bargain at £1600. Sold it in March for £2300. A rare profit!

Land Rover 90 V8 County Station Wagon

A rare profit turned in on this Land Rover V8

The other carry-over from 2010 was my trusty BX, but in March, this happened…

Swap time

BX goes to a new home, Scimitar joins the fleet

I sold the BX to a mate, and bought another dream car – a Reliant Scimitar GTE. With the BX gone, I decided I needed another wafty barge as I needed to be clocking up a LOT of miles over the summer. Enter the marvellous Saab.

Saab joins the fleet

A marvellous wafty barge courtesy of the now-defunct Saab

I thought the Saab was a large dose of VALUE at £595 with a brand new MOT, but attempts to sell it later in the year proved otherwise. It went for £450 though it did leave with its head held high. It had cost very little to run and was the perfect vehicle for what I needed. I also sold the Scimitar having quickly tired of the crap driving position, booming exhaust and constant dread of electrical failure/engine overheat.

There was only one way to get over the dread of electrical failure/engine overheat – yes, I bought a Range Rover with the VM diesel lump!

Rangie diesel

A potential disaster, but actually huge fun!

Had enormous fun in this thing. Incredible off-road and decent enough for tooling about in on the road. Came in useful for a spot of towing too…

Bringing home the new project

Range Rover earns its keep collecting a new project...

That was the BX on its way to mine. Still needs a LOT of work, but I’m still loving it. Bonkers. Not sure if that’s a reference to the car or to me for throwing so much money at it… (actually, I’ve spent about £250 on it so far I think, but much more wallet bashing to occur!)

Range Rover had to go as the non-working heater was becoming a bit of an issue. If I had actual money left after the BX, I might have fixed it, as I was beginning to really quite like it. Got offered a swap for this.

Rover 75

Not a typical Ian-motor, but it didn't last long... BX already being put to use carrying ladders!

Rover 75 CDT Tourer. Top spec, pretty good condition bar some clutch/gearbox issues. Again, the perfect vehicle for the moment and it clocked up 1000 miles in a matter of weeks. Money was getting very tight though and as it needed work, it had to go. The BX’s welding was not going to pay for itself. So, a little deal was arranged for Minimad5 to donate some cold, hard cash and a Peugeot 309 to tempt the Rover to the North West.

I’m a sucker for basic motoring, so obviously I agreed to the deal, waving goodbye to electric everything, heated leather seats and turbocharged performance.

Peugeot - almost a Talbot Arizona

Back to the simple life! For the better? Peugeot 309 fitted the bill

So, 2011 ends with the 2CV, Mini, a different BX diesel estate and a Peugeot 309. Place your bets for which one has been sold/traded by the end of January… (this because my New Year’s Resolution will be to calm down a bit on the whole car buying/selling thing, which will obviously be broken ASAP!)

2011 has certainly been a colourful and action packed year on the fleet front, and believe it or not (my wife certainly doesn’t believe it!) I’m hoping that the fleet will settle down in 2012. Changing cars all the time is fun on the one hand, but stressful on the other.

Anyway, I shall take this opportunity to wish you a healthy dose of festive merriment and wish you all the best for 2012.

The £2000 project

In 2010, I realised that I needed to try and stop wasting so much money on cars. I’d got into a bit of a cycle of buying crap cars, then spending loads of money on it before selling it for a pittance. An Alfa Romeo 164 V6 Lusso was a highlight – I only lost £75 on that one – but a Bond Equipe saved from the Scrappage scheme ended up losing me over £1000, while a Rover P6 stood me for a similar amount. I was doing it all wrong!

So, I saved up some cash – yes, me, doing actual saving stuff. Rare, I know. Eventually, I

raised just over £2000 and spent £2200 on a rather delicious 1955 Austin A90 Westminster.

1955 Austin Westminster
£2200 spent on this fabulous machine. Could Ian avoid a loss?

It remains the oldest car I’ve ever owned, eclipsing the 1968 Bond Equipe GT4S, and 1966 Rover P6 2000 money pit. I loved the thundering Big Healey soundtrack from the Westminster’s meaty six-cylinder engine, its fine looks and the wonderful two-tone leather upholstery. Apart from a quick service, which cost very little in parts and materials, I did nothing to it at all and enjoyed a summer of column gearchanges and ponderous handling.

My plan to try and raise a profit hit a snag when my wife and I decided to quit our jobs and move to Wales. We owned five vehicles at the time and the sheer logistics of moving them all 200 miles away was a problem. The Westy would have to go, and quickly! So, it found itself shoved into a sale at Anglia Car Auctions while we drove west. It sold for £2050, which at least meant that I hadn’t spent or lost hundreds of pounds for once! £150 (plus another £100 for servicing costs) didn’t seem bad outlay for a summer of enjoyable motoring.

With the house move completed, I managed to sit on my £2050 for a surprisingly long time. Well, two months. Then I splurged the cash on a Land Rover 90 V8 County Station Wagon as snow meant I felt we needed a 4×4. Well, it seemed like a good excuse to fulfill a childhood wish of a V8 Landy…

Land Rover 90 V8 County Station Wagon
A bit different to a Westminster! Ian’s Winter 4×4

Amazingly, I managed to pay only £1600 for it in the depths of winter. Somehow it avoided the usual seasonal force that ramps up 4×4 values in the middle of winter. I collected it on a snowy evening near Birmingham and my first drive back home was exciting to say the least! It was some miles before I dared to really try the brakes…

Again, I carried out a basic service but it didn’t need a lot else. I had good fun off-road in it then sold it on Ebay for £2350. That went a long way to making up for 15mpg! It went to a trader who asked £3995, proving just how undervalued it was when I bought it. A rare good purchase by me!

I got rather carried away at this stage I must admit. I’d bought a childhood dream car and not only enjoyed it, but managed to turn in a profit. I decided to grab another slice of boyhood dreamland in the form of a Reliant Scimitar GTE, after a lot of careful thought. I’d never driven a Scimitar before, but surely they’re actually good? I assumed so and bought an enthusiast-owned one for £1650.


The condition was first rate. How on earth was it that a sports car in such good condition, with such an incredible exhaust note could be bought so cheaply? Ok, so the quality wasn’t exactly superb, but it handled tidily and went very well, yet was also very relaxing on a long run thanks to tall gearing and an overdrive.

It wasn’t the dream machine for me though. I found the ride too hard, the electrics too flaky and the steering far too heavy thanks to wider-than-standard tyres. It soon found itself on the market once more and sold for £1700. That sounds like a profit, but I’d put six months of tax on it, so I was actually quids down. Frustratingly, it missed out on free road tax by only two years. Still, I’d managed to avoid yet another financial disaster. I was getting cocky now…

So it was that I bought a Range Rover with no MOT for £1000. Oh, and it had the ‘crap’ VM diesel engine too. Had I lost the plot?

Range Rover off-road

Surely this was a disaster waiting to happen?

Well, not entirely. I reasoned that the Scimitar sale left me with about £650 as a repair fund, and I reasoned that surely an MOT’d Rangie would get £1500? I reckoned it stood a good chance of getting a pass and, with a pair of tyres for a decent £150, it did so. Success! I’m getting good now!

Well, not entirely. You see, despite picking up on a heater blower issue when I test drove the car, I dismissed it as nothing much to worry about. Foolish mistake and after a full two days of painfully stripping out the dashboard, it became apparent that the wiring was a mess and the heater unit in need of replacement. Balls. Not a nice job.

While pondering what to do, I used the Range Rover to drag home my BX project, and also enjoyed its incredible off-road ability. If anything, I found it better and much nicer to drive off-road than the Land Rover. I will have to buy another one at some point because they are ace.

The problems kept coming though, and I managed to spend over £200 having new rear brake discs fitted and trying to get to the bottom of an ABS fault. I failed and the Range Rover was threatening to absorb too much of the ‘pot.’ With winter looming and problems developing, it was time to say goodbye.

And then I did something odd. I’d earmarked this £2000 pot for my ‘toy’ on the fleet. However, times had changed. I didn’t have a sensible car on the fleet any longer and while I absolutely love my Citroen 2CV, there are times when I do hanker for a bit of peace and quiet on the move. My Mk1 Citroen BX will hopefully take over the ‘sensible’ duties, but it needs a lot of work first. Some of the ‘project £2000’ cash will be taken up by the BX restoration. I needed a sensible car for the winter though and so I swapped the Range Rover for something sensible. Ish. That’s my Rover 75 which you can read about in my previous Blog. Yes, the Range Rover probably owed me getting on for £1500 but then I reckon there’s a fair chance of getting near that if I sold the 75 tomorrow. Which I don’t plan to do!

So, the project continues and – touch wood – I seem to be maintaining my £2000 fairly well. That’s impressive given that a complete lifestyle change has seen my wife and I cut our incomings by about two thirds in the past year. Outgoings have had to be cut too, and without the £2000 I earmarked back in 2010, I simply couldn’t afford to ‘play’ cars as much as I have. It’s been an interesting experiment into classic car ownership. After all, classics don’t depreciate so if you buy well, it should be simple to buy and sell your way through the classic car market with no great loss, or maybe even making an actual profit (I don’t pretend I can manage that!). Like any financial transaction though, there’s always an element of danger! But then, that’s what makes it exciting. So much better than savings sitting in a bank…



Fickle ol’ me – Rangie gets the chop

So much for the stay of execution! The Range is in for the chop. I have to face facts and I just can’t sort out its minor issues when I’ve got several other automotive projects and a house that needs work too.

I will certainly miss it. Range Rovers are worthy of a lot more respect than they get. This is a vehicle that turned the world of off-roaders on its head. In 1970, Solihull ended up producing a vehicle that while comfortable on the road, could beat a Land Rover in the rough stuff. Worryingly, I reckon that unless I can get another one fairly soon, prices will accelerate out of my price range too. At least I can say I owned one though, and it’s opened up some new avenues from a writing point of view as well – look forward to two very different features on the Range Rover appearing in 4×4 Magazine and the occasional Land Rover World spin-off Range Rover World.

I’m pleased that on a rare day of sunshine, I managed to get some lovely photos of it too. This one really will be a reluctant sale.

A stay of execution?

A week ago, I was quite prepared to wave goodbye to the Range Rover.  It’s appalling interior quality, electrical faults and non-working heater made it seem like a vehicle perfect to get rid of.

Range Rover off road

The Strata Florida bombhole provides plenty of entertainment

Now, I’m not so sure. After a hugely enjoyable day off-roading with a friend from the West Wales Laningclub, the Rangie is definitely back in the good books.

After all, the Range Rover is one of the most iconic vehicles ever built, with astonishing off-road ability and entirely acceptable road manners. It is practical, hardy (interior plastics aside) and thanks to the ‘dreadful’ Italian diesel engine, not too bad on fuel.

Yes, it has its faults, but then so do every one of the other cars on the fleet. So, it may be that the Range Rover stays around a bit longer. Well, unless I get tempted by the higher prices paid for 4x4s as winter approaches…

Goodbye to sensible motoring

Today, I have waved goodbye to the most sensible car I’ve ever bought.

My Saab 9000i 16v was bought to do a job, and it did it admirably. On one crazy weekend, we clocked up 700 miles driving to various family functions in the UK, including driving from home in West Wales to the curious landscape of Norfolk. For  that journey, the car made perfect sense. Rarely for one of my motors, it was supremely quiet, quick and entirely reliable.

Saab 9000 i 16v rear

Bye Bye Saab. Thanks for all of the efficiency

It then ended up on another 500 mile weekend trip to Devon and back, before proving to be the ideal vehicle for a wedding in Wiltshire. The enormous boot was useful as we were helping to organise the event while the rear seat offers luxurious comfort to those asked to sit there.

Then there was all the ‘convenience’ features. Heated seats, heated mirrors and electric everything. The economy wasn’t bad either – averaging 32-34mpg. Not bad for a 150bhp 2.3 four-pot. It started every time it was asked to and ran like clockwork. Everything worked all of the time – from the headlamp wipers to the seatbelt buckles that light up in the dark.

The price for all this efficiency was a complete and total lack of character. It wasn’t a car to excite. In fact, when it came to dealing with Welsh roads, it was a car that failed to satisfy at all. Typical of multi-valve engines, there’s no grunt unless you extend the revs and the steering was about as accurate as a monthly weather forecast. Mix in a frustratingly jiggly ride and a clunky gearchange and it was obvious that with its job done, the Saab would have to go.

As often said at the end of a doomed relationship though, the problem wasn’t with anything she had done, it was with me. The grumblings in no way got close to matching the number of plus points and  the Saab is certainly no worse than many other modern cars in those regards. Romance just didn’t blossom.

I really am the problem. The Saab has gone, yet I still own a semi-functioning Range Rover, which I’m starting to like a great deal. Why on earth do I rate a ropey, battered off-roader ahead of a super-efficient Swedish luxo-barge? The list of non-working toys on the Range Rover is almost as long as the list of cars I have owned. Ever. The clutch feels funny. The steering is all wobbly. The heater blower doesn’t work at all – handy for Winter – and the interior is built with the sort of plastics you’d complain about if you found them as part of a toy in a Christmas cracker. Kinder surpise is aeons ahead.

Thing is, for all its faults – and there are many – the Range Rover puts a smile on my face. It’s hard to argue with that basic fact.

BX – assessing the cost

A quick trip to my ‘local’ garage saw the somewhat iffy exhaust downpipe replaced on the BX. How pleasant it is to have  car which sounds so very different! £78 well spent, especially as replacing it was a fiddly pain in the backside – how nice it was to pay for someone else to struggle with it! In fact,  I was very glad I hadn’t had a go at the job myself – if it was this much of a struggle for two people with it on a ramp, I wouldn’t have fancied my chances with it sitting on axle stands and me lying on my back underneath. A good decision!

BX and Range Rover

New BX project causes some sacrifice on the fleet

A restoration can be a costly business and indeed, I reckon the total expenditure on the BX (including taxing it and collecting it from Bristol) is somewhere around £700. This is why I’m so glad to have sold the Saab – this project needs funding! The Saab isn’t the only casualty on the fleet though – the Range Rover is also going to have to depart. At least I got in while values are still low. Give it another few years and I doubt there will be such thing as a cheap Range Rover Classic…

To get the BX back to nice condition is going to cost a lot more though, which makes for some tricky decisions. This is one of the rarest cars in the UK, yet I don’t expect that putting it on the market would result in a flurry of interest from people with lots of cash. I reckon that just getting it straight and rust free could take my expenditure up to £1500, but it’ll really need a complete stripdown and rebuild to look anyway decent. That could get very expensive indeed, especially when you consider that a BX topping a grand is rare indeed.

There’s also the small matter of not having endless stocks of cash. My wife and I have chosen a low-income lifestyle and cars do seem a very expensive hobby! It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.


Saving the unloved – Citroen BX Mk1

I have always found great joy in the cars that the wider public consider rubbish. I’ve been into Citroen 2CVs since long before they were accepted into the classic car world, and ‘desirable’ is a label that rarely attaches itself to one of my fleet. The reasons are simple – if people don’t like it, then it’ll be cheap. Best of all, a bit of bravery often leads you to discover that these ‘shite’ cars are often far better than anyone ever gives them credit for!

This is how I tried to justify my latest project –  a Citroen BX Mk1 estate, with 65bhp of throbbing diesel power. The cream on the cake of shiteness was the condition. There’s barely a straight panel on it and it had been languishing in a Bristol basement garage for over three years.

Citroen BX Mk1 estate project

You see a pile of scrap, Ian sees potential

First glance was certainly not promising. The paint is shambolic, the tyres were flat and cobwebs and dust abounded. However, it seemed solid in all the right places – if not all over – and had been in regular use prior to being parked up. That can make all the difference. Three years wasn’t too long to leave it.

A plan was hatched to collect it, using my Range Rover as a tow vehicle and a hired trailer. My biggest concern was about whether the BX would be prepared to start. Thankfully, the owner had stored the car on blocks – which meant we could get a jack under it if it refused to start. Trying to move a hydraulic Citroen with a dead engine can be a real challenge!

The owner’s Citroen Xantia was used to coax some electricity into the BX, and miraculously, it actually started! It took a few attempts, and it ran on three cylinders for quite a while, but nonetheless, the ran and the suspension began to pump up.

Getting the BX out of the garage proved a tight squeeze and once it was on the trailer, life didn’t get much easier. It really was a tight little street!

Range Rover in tight spot

Bristol proves a tight squeeze

Somehow we escaped, and the three hour journey home proved undramatic. The Range Rover proved itself an ideal tow vehicle – it’s Italian diesel engine slogging away quite happily without having to be revved hard. Agricultural but torquey!

Getting the BX off the trailer proved a surprisingly entertaining side show for the villagers where I live. The LHM level was a bit low, and the back end of the BX was failing to rise adequately. We overcame this by unhitching the trailer and raising the nose on the jockey wheel. Off she came! I then got to drive my new purchase for the first time, if only down the driveway.

The exhaust was blowing very badly – that much was obvious – but it seemed to go well enough. The brakes even worked – not bad after so long in storage! With the car in the garage, I was able to get the wheels off and check the brakes. Yup, a little rusty but working fine. I cleaned them up a bit and left it at that.

The radiator was clearly a right mess though, so a new one was ordered and fitted. I still think the fan switch also needs replacing, and the water pump has now also proved itself leaky. New items are on order, along with a timing belt kit.

With the new rad fitted though, I could focus on getting the BX road ready. I reckoned it was close to passing an MOT, so with a replacement driver’s door mirror fitted – thanks to Tim Leech of the BX Club, and a few replacement light bulbs, it was time to take her in. Would she pass?!

To be continued…

BX - it lives!

The BX lives!