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…