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.

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.