In theory, cheap, crap cars are great. People just don’t want them, and so don’t rate them in the slightest. This makes them cheap. Cheap is good. The knack to buying a good cheap car is to find one that’s been in a long ownership. Don’t buy one that’s already done the rounds amongst the tight-fisted or unbothered – those who want a car to be as cheap as possible and therefore won’t spend a penny on its upkeep.
However, you still need to be prepared for trouble to strike. Like my Saab. It hasn’t taken much work to get the cooling fan fixed but it was a day of my time (though I had to fit it around writing and actually earning some actual money). I don’t mind because that enforced tinkering helps me get familiar with my new steed. I now know it has a surprisingly good toolkit – immaculate and unused until yesterday. I know it now has fresh engine coolant and that when the temperature gauge goes up, the fan WILL cut in. I know where both fuseboxes are, and which relay is involved with cooling fan operation.
Tinkering is an absolutely essential part of older car ownership. It saves an absolute fortune for a start. I used to suffer from a severe dislike of tinkering, but I think that was due to poor facilities and not enough tools. That and my own uselessness. I have little patience with myself. But while you don’t need to be a certified mechanic, it really does pay to know your way around your steed.
Is that knocking noise something that can be ignored or is the engine about to breathe its last? I have no tools and precious little equipment with me, can I still effect a repair using only shoelaces and gaffer tape? Even the art of limping home in a poorly car is an art form which thankfully, I possess. Driving a Mini with a failing condenser is an interesting experience and I once naughtily drove to a 2CV specialist with the brake lights operated by the headlight switch after a fault developed on the fuse panel. Several times, I’ve driven through city streets with no clutch. That’s always fun.
But I love it. Cars are so much more than tools to get from A to B. Yes, they demand attention almost as much as the bloody cat (but thankfully catch and shred less mice) but they reward as well – in financial terms, but also in spirit.
Ok, maybe this is me trying to put a gloss on the fact that the Saab could do with a new timing chain, the 2CV needs cylinder head work and the Scimitar has wiring (no, really?!) and steering issues. Clearly I must be wicked.