Thursday, 23 February 2012

MY MOTORS...

Most people remember their first car with memories both fond and foul.  I have driven back through my memory and compiled a list of the cars i have owned and thought it may be of interest (or not) to provide a description of them and the memory that sticks to each one.  Some of you who know me well will remember them too....Please note that the pictures are not of my cars but are the same colour at least!!

European Car of the Year 1984. The Fiat Uno 45. 1.0 litre 45bhp!
Mine was a 1987 vintage, with all the extras including a four-speed gearbox and manual choke.  It was the only Fiat i ever knew not to rust, and rarely let me down.  From what i do remember the biggest repairs made were an input shaft bearing on the gearbox and the head gasket and considering the abuse i gave it, it did me well.  Of course being in my very late teens/early twenties, i added the obligatory 4inch oval Wasp rear silencer, a pair of 6x9's in the parcel shelf and a Soundlab amp with Pro Plus sub in the boot. As the exhaust was straight through from downpipe to back box, you can imagine the Wasp silencer was anything but a silencer! After a few years i part exchanged it with a work collegue and upgraded to...
Ford Sierra Sapphire 1.8lx  89bhp (Bit more, not much quicker!)
Looked reasonable.  Again it had to be fitted with a Peco 4inch back box.  Again reliable, this time i had a rev counter ooohh! AND electric windows  aaahhh! Quite a heavy car...especially with NO POWER STEERING! How could this have been an option on a car this size? When i traded this in the garage used it as a courtesy car.  I know this because a customer of mine said his car was at said garage for some work to be done and they'd given him "This effing red Sierra Sapphire!" I asked him what the matter was to which he replied "Its gearbox exploded just up the road from the garage!" Fortunately that was their problem now as i had traded it in with them for...

Ford Sierra XR4X4  2.9v6 150bhp (Much better)
Now i was getting somewhere and much quicker! This car was fantastic. It was modified before i had it, so the work was done; Adjustable, lowered suspension, Peco exhaust system, twin k&n air filters. Lovely to drive with the permanent 4 wheel drive. I had a big cheesy grin every time i opened her up because of the noise the filters and the v6 engine made. In fact i grinned all the time i drove this apart from when i visited my home from home, the petrol station. It had air con too but i didn't even acknowledge the switch for that, let alone use it because it returned about 20mpg. Yes 20. Now, the hill coming out of Wellingborough didn't help on my drive home every night as it split into two lanes and well, you have to don't you? But still 20mpg? That's only a couple less than a Bentley Continental GT!  Anyway it was becoming a bit expensive and in a bit of a panic i made a terrible mistake and traded it for a....

Ford Onion, sorry Orion 1.6i (that "i" was an extra 18bhp you know) 108bhp
Mmmm. A huge step down from the Sierra. It was more economical. I was in my early twenties though! I didn't want economy, what was i thinking? AArrgh! It had a trip computer which just reminded me that i was being economical and didn't do much else.  However my relationship with this lasted for just one month.  Not through the cars choice, it was reliable. Not through my choice, it was doing as i expected. My girlfriend, now wife, very kindly offered to take my mates to the airport. Her car decided it wasn't going to play so i very kindly suggested she use mine. All went well until her return journey, during which she was running late and consequently i was going to be late for work, she approached a roundabout and stopped to give way to traffic from the right.  Unfortunately the idiot driver behind her didn't stop and attempted to park a 3 series BMW inside the boot of the Orion.  For some reason it didn't fit and that was that. A write off.  At least i got a good figure from the insurance company for the car and we also got a payout for the injuries which caused my wife to have a stiff one.  Neck.  We shared her Escort for a while until i said enough was enough.  I was a branch manager and as such i wanted a better car.  For the first time and not the last i was going into turbo territory, and it wasn't an oil burning diesel....
Rover 620ti  197bhp
Just under 200bhp this and i knew it. It was the best all round car to drive that i have ever owned. Honda build quality meant it was very smooth to drive. Quick to 60 and up to (according to tests officer) 147mph. When i bought this i made sure i had a good warranty on it as i knew the inevitable would happen.  You see although the engine put out a lot of power it was a Rover design and not one of the Honda engines fitted in the 618, 620 and 623 and as a consequence being a Rover engine by law the head gasket had to fail and it did. Ha Ha Mr Garage man, i have that warranty, so no big bills for me, just your warranty company! Fixed under warranty and all good apart from the drivers window occasionally falling into the door and the fact nothing would fit in the boot, a disease which plagues most saloon cars. I would have kept this for a long time until one day at work a friend and customer of mine rolled up and showed me his new toy.  Little did he know that shortly after, the car would be mine.  Oh yes.  It would be mine.  It was a return to Fords.  This too had forced-induction..
Ford Escort RS Turbo 1.6 132bhp(standard, this one wasn't!)
I explained to my friend that you see in his line of work, an employment agency, he would need to shuttle some people about and well, you need a four door saloon for that, not a small three door hatchback. It was simple, i would give him some crisp notes, four door practicality and an extra 65bhp (when standard heh! heh!) in exchange for a 15 year old Escort...He agreed, and i began to rub my hands and emit a maniacal evil laugh...Mwahaha.ha...hah..uh?  On the day we exchanged (the day before new years eve) it broke. The alternator had failed. Bum. Cue taking the car to every garage on New Years eve, with every alternator listed asking, no begging them to fix it. While i was getting in the neck from my wife and feeling physically sick, wondering what had i done, i was keeping a close eye on the glowing red battery light on the dash, hoping it would last until it was fixed. A very helpful garage called Chaplins http://www.chaplinsmotorservices.co.uk/index.php
worked out which alternator it was, fitted it while we waited and got me out of a big hole. They were paid and thanked and had their shoes licked and..i was grateful you understand.  All done and running well.  It had a few modifications (just about every rst had i think!) Lowered suspension, stainless steel full exhaust system, k and n air filter, oil separator, dump (he! he!) valve, oh and a chipped ecu which raised the turbo boost pressure to 14psi which all in all meant a nice 185bhp.  Compared to the Rover it was an animal. Where the Rover would ease its power in throughout acceleration, the Escort would do nothing except emit a whistling as the turbo spooled up and then at about 3,000 rpm all hell broke loose. You would sort of pull yourself off the seat using the steering wheel (which was about the size of a cd) in an effort to stop the car going left or right but never straight on.  This would happen in first and second gear in the dry and you could include third in the wet. Brilliant! It was much more involving but unreliable. I started to have trouble with the fuel pump.  It became very temperamental, taking it upon itself to decide if i would be allowed to drive my own car. You would turn the key to ignition and wait for the buzz of the fuel pump.  And wait, and wait and...no.  Your'e not going to drive me just yet.  I know where Basil Fawlty was coming from when he thrashed his car in that episode on Farty Towels, sorry, Fawlty Towers.  It came to a head when i drove it to a dentist appointment i had. I parked it up, went to see the dentist and returned to the car.  Immobiliser off, key in, turn to ignition...nothing. Sure it had done it before but this time i wasn't at home on the drive or at work i was in the FAR CORNER of THE TOP FLOOR of THE MULTI-STOREY CAR PARKon top of THE NEWLANDS CENTRE!!!!!!!!! Never mind seeing someone else do it, i had to be towed from the top floor, all the way down the winding ramp and off to the garage.  I was sat in the tow truck as we went down and round and round and down et.c and hid my face using the drivers Hi-Vis jacket so no-one could see me.  It was the most embarrassing moment of my...no, that's Morrison's the other day, another story, another day.  Cosworth fuel pump fitted and all good for quite a while until our first child was on his way. We needed a more practical car and my wife was driving a Metro which i will tell you about soon. The Escort stayed for now and we became a three car family for a short time with the arrival of the car that was supposed to be one of the most reliable in the world...
Toyota Carina E Charisma Plus 1.6 103bhp
Ha! Charisma plus?  More like charisma minus.  Never before has a car failed so badly to match its spec. description. Excellent reliability write-ups guided me towards this purchase as a reliable, large family hatchback that would go on forever and ever.  Well i'll agree the boot was huge.  In fact i think it may have challenged a blue whale in the "How much can you get in in one go" competition. It wallowed everywhere and you slid about in the seats. It was very quiet. You had to check the speedo to tell you were moving as the rev counter went round the numbers and there was a slight murmur from the engine but you didn't seem to get anywhere.  However, this wasn't what many Toyota's were about. As the advert said "The car in front is a Toyota." Not this one. This would be behind most things. No, Toyota's were and so i am led to believe, still are all about reliability.  Tosh. This car had an excellent service history, didn't leak oil or water, or use any of them.  What it did do though, whilst my very pregnant wife was driving herself and her sister (and newborn) on the A6 towards Finedon was decide that it didn't need its water pump to be productive and this promptly seized, caused the car to overheat badly, pouring smoke from the bonnet and in turn blowing the head gasket. Ahh, my old nemesis, whom is rearing his ugly head currently, Mr Head Gasket Failure. Not a small repair on any car and certainly not on a Toyota as a friend can also confirm.  When i had regained consciousness following the quote the garage had told me i explained that i couldn't write those sort of numbers, let alone have anything near them in monetary value, i asked if he had something i could part-exchange it for, forgoing also the costs of the diagnosis work the garage had done.  You wont believe what he suggested and you most certainly wont believe that we took him up on his recommendation...But before that, a small interlude describing the story of my wife's Metro.....
Rover Metro Kensington SE 1.1 60bhp
Bought this to replace a Nissan Micra.  Very comfy for two ONLY. Tiny boot. Quite nippy and economical.  It became surplus to requirements for us so it was advertised in the paper for sale at £300. A couple came to view, had a good look around it, took it for a drive and bought it for £300.  The next day on my way home my wife phoned and said "They've brought the car back.  They want their money back!" Immediately i thought, buyer beware pal.  No comebacks, it was as described in the advert and sold as such.  I asked what the problem was, to which he replied that a mechanic friend of his (funny how everyone knows the most qualified mechanic in the world when they want some money back) and he'd said the back suspension was shot. Now, i had previously had the suspension pumped up but was unaware of further problems.  He said "I want my money back." To which i replied "Sorry pal, its sold as seen, i'm not a trader or garage." I laid it on thick saying that he was telling me i have to give him his money back and leave my heavily pregnant wife to drive a dangerous vehicle et.c! In the end i said that i didn't want to make enemies over £300 so how about i give him £150?  He agreed, saying he knew could see i wasn't FULLY aware of the situation and accepted the money and went on his way.  Leaving me with £150...AND THE CAR! Yes, he left the car as well.  Beat that. I hadn't even had the chance to post the v5 log book to the DVLA so i tore it up and asked them for a replacement! In the end we gave the car to my brother-in-law, who WAS aware of the repairs needed!  Now, back to the replacement for the Toyota...it was a...
..nother Toyota Carina E 1.8 gli 103bhp (again!)
You must think we were mad.  Let down by the most reliable car name in the world, we bought another one.  At least this time the garage had already done the timing belt and water pump, so surely this would be much better.  It even had a slightly bigger engine, which i thought might give it a little more oomph.  No.  It didn't. The 1.8 was a lean burn engine, giving the same power output, with a fraction more torque. It had a better spec and did seem a little tighter to drive and all was well again in the Wooding car department.  Until.  My wife said it seemed to be spluttering a little.  I checked and it was misfiring, running surprisingly smoothly on three cylinders on regular occasions. I changed the ignition leads, the spark plugs (bloody expensive, even where i shop!), the distributor cap and rotor arm, result-no difference.  I changed the fuel filter.  No difference. I took it in to a garage and they said the injectors weren't running consistently, so we changed three injectors all with no result.  This is the part in my motoring life that i learned that Toyota's, Nissans et.c may be reliable (apart from mine) but when they do need fixing they aren't cheap at all.  It had got to the stage where if i replace another injector and we still had the fault would we be pouring money away when it could go to another replacement.  I said out loud one night, what i'd been thinking for some time that what we needed was for it to be written off.  One week later, my wife pulls out of the junction at the end of our street, drives along for about 10 feet when a woman in another car pulls out from her parking space into our passenger door!YYYYYYYEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!! Result. Car written off and reasonable payout accepted with thanks. What were the chances?  During this period the Rs Turbo had been sold as we were very kindly given another car from my mother, which had become surplus and they hadn't sold.  It proved to be the most reliable, indestructible workhorse i have ever owned....
Ovlov (Volvo) 440 1.6 li 83bhp
This car, together with the Uno, Astra and our current Punto proved to me that the most reliable cars are the base spec models with very few extras to go wrong.  It was bought by my step-father as an ex-demonstrator, almost brand new from Volvo Cars London. It was serviced regularly until i had it! It had no power steering (very heavy), no electric windows, no rev counter and even the clock was analogue.  It did have heated seats though as Volvo's are designed to be used in parts that are colder than deep space. I had it from just under 100,000 miles if i remember correctly until 163,000. It had one oil change, a set of leads, plugs, air filter and a couple of exhaust parts during that period. The only oil it did use was because of a small drip that came from the sump. It didn't use water. It just started every time(until its demise), without fail, never missing a beat. When you folded the seats down it could accommodate almost as much as the Carina's. It wasn't the fastest car i owned but it certainly wasn't the slowest.  It developed an intermittent starting fault after years of reliability which i felt was the beginning of the end. Towards the end i had on some occasions reverted to reverse bump starts!  The paint was shot (it was pink) and the rear wheel arches were mostly rust. It was time to move on and i sold it as scrap.  It was quite funny in that i passed it in the other direction on my way home the day it went, it was on the back of a flatbed truck, on its way to its own "Valhalla" to take its place alongside i guess many other Volvo's. I really think i would have another (but with power steering, i'd take my chance on the reliability issue!) As i said, i passed it coming home from work that day. I was in my new car....
Vauxhall Astra Expression 1.6 74bhp
Similar to the Volvo in terms of reliablity.  It had power steering, but still no rev counter of electric windows and was had soggy handling.  It wasn't bad in a straight line and returned reasonable mpg.  I may still have had this had we not been VERY fortunate yet again when my father and step-mother offered us my current car.  I had a choice this time; keep the Astra and sell the Rover, or vice-versa. On paper the Rover was the one to keep. One owner from new (my step-mum) 30 odd thousand on the clock and good service history. I put the Astra up for sale and still have the Rover..for now. On boxing day 2010, the phone rang and a man asked if the car was for sale still. He wanted to come and see it asap.  On Boxing Day. In the middle of a roast dinner with my family. Anyway he came and i went out to see him whilst my family chomped away on roast beef and i stood out there in the snow with him.  The Astra hadn't been used for a couple of weeks and was covered in snow. I didn't expect it to start, but it did, first time. He actually asked me if it had been started already that day!! It was covered in snow! It would have melted you fool!  He liked it and gave me the cash and drove it straight to London.  In the short time i had it i enjoyed it.  Again, nothing special, did what it said on the tin, a good honest motor. I almost forgot.  This was not the first Vauxhall we had purchased.  Following the death of the second Carina we went for something i had always fancied. It wouldn't be very economical, which i had anticipated but it also proved to to be unreliable...
Vauxhall Vectra 2.0 Sri 140  136bhp(140 was a lie)
Never ever again. It was heavy to drive despite having power steering.  It had a computer that told lies about failed bulbs.  Both front windows dropped out of their runners.  It was excessively thirsty, even for a two litre.  It wasn't even that quick.  Its gearbox spat its contents over The Headlands in Kettering without warning.  No whining, juddering, nothing. In fact i've given it to much space just writing this. I would even have another Carina over one of these.  Moving swiftly on and all that's left is the current fleet of two cars on the Wooding driveway... 
 Fiat Punto 1.2 60bhp
Brilliant.  Every bit as reliable as the Volvo and my first car and its spiritual predecessor the Fiat Uno.  The pre-requisite for this car was four doors and enough room to fit Rose's buggy in the boot.  That was it.  Nothing fancy.  We tried Fiesta's-not a big enough boot and Corsa's-ditto, even trying another Volvo, this time a 460-an even uglier saloon version of the 440, but it was cursed with the disease of the saloon.  My wife spotted this and it was on our budgetary limit. We went for it and never looked back. We have clocked   about 30-40,000 in it.  Going fully loaded with a roof box to Weymouth and Burnham-On-Sea, doing 70mph officer all the way. Not a problem.  Starts first time on the button.  Runs on air i reckon, using next to no fuel. It did have a lot of work on the head done before we had it and perhaps that's why its so good.  Daisy has modified the boot slightly, but she is quite happy in the boot. We are just waiting for her to fail as she's been so good for us, the only thing we'd change,or should i say my wife would change, would be to have remote central locking as it is manual.  Again, like the Volvo and the Astra this is probably part of the reason it has been so reliable, because of the absence of too many electric extras.  The engine design is over 20 years old now and is almost identical to the one i had in my Uno. It has the same rocker cover oil leak as well, but she does us proud.  Lastly we have the car that was very kindly given to us by my Dad and step-mum.  It cost us nothing for which we are very grateful. We've put some new discs and pads on and that is all...or is it...
Rover 25 1.4 84bhp
Very solid handling. Pulls well. Very tall gearing, will hit 38mph in first according to handbook. Ice cold air-con, power steering, 'leccy windows et.c  Very good car. Enjoyable to drive, i like it a lot.  It has the lower output 1.4 engine due to a smaller throttle body than the higher output 1.4 but this is barely noticeable on the road i suspect. Recently though it would appear my, and many other Rover owners nemesis may be approaching.  The notorious K-Series head gasket failure.  Not as easy to diagnose on these engines as many other manufacturers because of its reputation many automatically presume head gasket.  Coolant loss and a little mayo in the oil cap.  No overheating though, and no oil in the coolant.  I thought it had stopped using coolant for a week and a half, but only today i checked and it had used a little.  Only a little, but it is using it and the mayo is still there.  I am hoping it is something else like a manifold leak or something, but i do fear for the worst.  It wont be as expensive as the Toyota would have been but nonetheless i could part exchange it, together with the money for the repair for something more practical like an estate for our growing family (and Daisy).  Time will tell and i shall continue to monitor the situation until we have no choice but to decide on which road to take.  I hope you enjoy this blog and can relate to it with your own memories of your cars and the good and bad times you have had with them. My conclusion and recommendation is to buy an old Volvo which has been looked after by its previous owner or buy a base spec Fiat, i don't think you'll have to (F)ix (I)t (A)gain (T)omorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely stuff JB, I don't usually enjoy Joe Public blogs - call me arrogant if you will, but this had me smiling all the way through.

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