I bought a car for £250.

Can you buy a £250 car
This car cost £250.

I bought a car for £250 from Auto Trader.
I wanted to know whether it was even possible to buy a car for that sort of price that would start and work (also, it fits the engine size requirements for the Mongol rally… or at least, it did before they revised them again. Fuck it, maybe I’ll drive the car to Mongolia without putting my name on an official list. ANARCHYYY!!!). It was being sold by a complete stranger. Getting a car for that price from a friend isn’t the same. Before I left home, I took out £30 insurance to cover 24 hours, ample time to get the car home, from where I could assess how bad this car was. Then I took a friend with me and we went on the bus (I don’t currently have a car) to inspect this car. There was literally one bus a day that went to where the car was for sale, so we took that one. If the car hadn’t been able to get us home again, we would have been in a pickle.

My friend helped me check that all the lights were working, then I took it for a test drive.
Reversing was almost impossible, because the steering was in serious disrepair, and it was worse at low speeds. The front door doesn’t close unless you reach around the door and push down the external handle while you close the door. It was too dark to really see any of the mechanical stuff so after verifying that it did, in fact, start and drive, I gave the former owners my £250 and took it off the premises.
The petrol light was on when I got the car, so my friend and I took it straight to the nearest petrol station and put £15 in the tank. I never fill the tank on a new car; I prefer to hedge my bets in case it breaks down halfway down the road (as happened a few years ago with a £399 car, which to date is the lowest amount of money I’d ever spent on a car, and it didn’t make it 10 miles away from the place I bought it before the oil pressure switch exploded).

Getting the car manouevred to the petrol pump was entertaining; some jackass had driven in through the exit and thought I in my crappy Seicento should get out of their way. Joke was on them because I was unwilling to reverse due to the steering issue. They literally waited, glaring at me, until I had fueled my car and I ended up driving around them to get my car out. Even with a steering issue, that Seicento had a very small turning circle; I was impressed. There were like five more cars behind me at that point and they were all facing the same direction as me, so jackass got boxed in by them pretty quickly. I circled the road around the petrol station to get to the air, as one of my tyres was virtually flat, but there was no way I could get to the air because of the angle and position of the air machine, so I gave up and went the 15 miles home without seeing to the tyre.

I dropped my friend off where she wanted to go, then I took my car home and parked it on the drive. I was so excited – I got my driveway re-designed in October and this is the first time I’ve gotten to park on it, as I haven’t had a car since June (the choice in October was fix the drive or buy a car). Then I slept and had a series of anxiety attacks as I’d run out of mental energy for anything. The next afternoon, in broad daylight, I decided to tackle the most urgent job: getting rid of the stickers that were obscuring the rear window. After ten minutes with a jug of boiling water, a scraping knife and a generous helping of Fairy liquid, I finished the stickers. The whole time I was doing that job, I could smell a very strong scent of petrol, so, after taking care of the flat tyre with my trusty footpump, I got down under the car.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the fuel tank (and the stickers on the back window), but I was too preoccupied trying to get the thing to a garage after I saw what was down there. The petrol tank was leaking like a sponge, and some genius previous owner had encased the tank in some sort of latex rubber. Everywhere that the latex had torn, the rust was fatal. This was a job for the professionals. I tried to stem the bleeding with some Leak Fix – that two-part putty that you mix together then cover over holes in the petrol tank after cleaning them up – to give me some temporary relief before I could get it to a garage, but there were too many holes.

I’ve tried to fix a petrol leak on a previous car, I got as far as removing the petrol tank from a donor car and discovering that the donor car’s tank was nearly as bad as the one on my car, before I had to admit defeat. I know the fuel system, how it works, etc, and I have never seen such a ridiculous kludge of a fix as the latex around the petrol tank of this £250 car. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea or why but I want to shake them, hard. And the previous owners must have known about that leak because I lost 1/8 of a tank of petrol overnight. The worst leak was right at the place where it goes into the fuel line (that carries petrol to the engine), so there’s no way you could miss that.
It’s been at a garage for over 24 hours now and I don’t have a quote on the petrol tank or steering repair yet.

I thought this could be an interesting project to keep everyone updated on: The car that cost less than my iPhone. And my iPhone was second hand. I’ll let you all know when I find out what’s happening with the car. Hey, if we can get it fixed up, maybe I’ll take it to Mongolia! Or something.

Review: Why you need to see The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime

I was left stunned after former Top Gear presenters, Clarkson Hammond and May’s new car show came out today. The first episode of their new show, called ‘The Grand Tour’ (I saw what you did with the title, Jeremy Clarkson), made its debut on Amazon Prime today. We took out a free trial of Prime (get yours here) to see how good it was.

Here’s the (spoiler free) as-it-happened review and commentary of my unfiltered but occasionally sarcastic thoughts on how this first episode of The Grand Tour went (and because I don’t work for a nameless TV show, I even mention the words ‘top’ and ‘gear’):

  • Couldn’t get Amazon Prime to work. Switched to Netflix and watched Luke Cage instead. Luke Cage is phenomenal. I think more people should be talking about Luke Cage, which I’m going to do in a future article once I’ve watched the whole season.
  • [An hour later] After dinner, my Dearest got Amazon Prime to work and put on The Grand Tour.
  • [Some minutes later] Intro was pretty low-key. Thought it could have done with some hot air balloons and kangaroos.
  • [Some minutes later] Not one iota of copyright infringement and still got more Top Gear than Top Gear.
  • [Some minutes later] Capitalizing on the online-only platform big time. Nice that they don’t have the same constraints that some other car show had on a TV network.
  • [Some minutes later] The lighting is fabulous.
  • [Some minutes later] The cars are at incredibly reasonable price-points. I don’t think you can get a higher-spec McLaren for that sort of money.
  • [Some minutes later] “This is a missionary position car…”
  • [Some minutes later] Captain Slow is driving a fast car.
  • [Some minutes later] …That was the weirdest drag race ever.
  • [Some minutes later] Loving the sheep by the racetrack. Good incentive not to veer off-course.
  • [Some minutes later] NotTheStig drove the car around a racetrack.
  • [Some minutes later] Maybe it wasn’t wise for three British blokes in a room full of Americans to say what they just said.
  • [Some minutes later] The star is not in a reasonably priced vehicle. This is highly irregular and further goes to show that this show is definitely not Top Gear.
  • [Maybe 30 seconds later] I think someone just died.
  • [Another minute at most] They seem to be having a spot of bother with their segment…
  • [Not long after] Oh good commentary on 2016! Nicely done.
  • [Some minutes later] The landscape shots…. oh wow they are to die for. The camerapeople have amazing camera skills. Visually everything about this show is stunning.
  • [Some minutes later] OhmyGod they just compared shoes…
  • [Some minutes later] Different NotTheStig drove cars. That was interesting.
  • [Some minutes later] “That was a sensible bet,” said nobody ever.
  • [After end credits] …That was bloody brilliant. Well worth spending the time on when I should have been writing two essays.
  • The time in question… Episode 1 was over an hour long. I believe it was 1 hour 11 minutes in total. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Final comments: I really liked The Grand Tour. I think this will be my new favourite car show. I particularly liked the presenters, the cars, the settings, the lighting, the humour, the international focus, the races and all the stunning visuals and incidental music. It’s better than any car show I have previously watched, and I have watched a lot of car shows because as you know, I am passionate about cars (I even owned one once or twice!!!!!).

What did you think? Have you seen The Grand Tour yet? Are you going to? I am so excited to see more of this show, I can’t wait!

This was Blackadder Village.
My first car, a Corsa, from my article about the village of Blackadder. Because this article needs a picture that I can use without copyright/trademark infringement, and I don’t own a McLaren so we’re going for pseudo-irony because it’s more fun than trying too hard with a pic of one of my better cars. Technical details: I took this with a disposable camera, fixed focus 35mm, celluloid film.

Amazon Prime Day, Rainbows + Bestseller Lists,

So the book I can’t tell you about on here has now made it (quite a long way) into the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for a third week!! SQUEE I WROTE A GODDAMN BESTSELLER, BITCHES!! (…and my in-laws and assorted relatives still think I’m an unemployed layabout loser working occasional days as a substitute teacher. And I can’t tell them otherwise. They probably wouldn’t believe me if I did. It’s like being a superhero only my secret power is NSFW).

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the money doesn’t get good until you hit the top 5, so no, I’m still poor. This person had a #1 bestseller and still didn’t make anything. And I’m sure some sanctimonious middle class person will try to say “but that’s not why you should write” because you *should* write to be poor (which is fine if you’ve never had to choose between eating or paying rent I suppose), to be unappreciated (which is fine if you believe you’re Van Gogh or something), to be ignored (see prev. re: Van Gogh), because that’s the stereotype we imagine for writers and what we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that some people are spending 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week doing something they actually want to do (yes, I actually do, come hypomania or depression, I work very hard and some days I only write 50 words but it’s 50 more than I had the day before, other days what I write makes no sense, but that’s okay because it clears my brain out, it’s like scraping the gloop out of the sink so you can wash dishes in it, instead of letting that gloop touch your crockery). Like we imagine that all the pretty people are dumb and all ugly people have hidden depths, instead of seeing that some pretty people are clever and some ugly people are very shallow. I will never stop appreciating being able to write. So I will look forward to writing being my full time income one day but obviously, the money I’ll get in several months’ time (bookstores pay s-l-o-w-l-y) is a LOT better than nothing and while it isn’t going to pay all my bills that month, it at least goes a long way towards it and therefore validates my Goddamn life choices. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off this time.* 😛

*I am neither confirming nor denying having done this in the past although I do feel it’s high time my cat** wrote a guest post because it would make interesting reading.

**I don’t have a cat. That’s sort of the point.

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And apparently every year Amazon has some special deals that are only available to Prime subscribers. This year, that’s happening on July 12th. From today up to July 12th, Amazon has loads of special pre-prime day deals to get you in the mood (or something).

My personal opinion? Signing up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, including free shipping and loads of TV shows, makes a lot of sense if you want to do some bargainous shopping. This is a very good month to try Amazon Prime for free, just remember (if you don’t intend to keep it) to cancel before the month is up, and sit back and reap the rewards.

I had Amazon Prime for about a year but I cancelled it in favor of Netflix because they didn’t have such a good range of TV shows. I think I’d consider it again now that the Clarkson Hammond and May show (formerly Top Gear) is on there. Also did you hear about the BBC’s so-called “Top Gear” that they’ve been trying to flog as a replacement to the (not-quite-original but definitely best) Clarkson version? Chris Evans, the show’s main host, and seasoned TV presenting veteran, has just quit. They’re flogging a dead horse, and I’ve been saying since Clarkson got sacked, that nobody in their right mind would sign up to take the place of Clarkson Hammond and May, the audience for that show is too pre-prejudiced against change. They’d have been better off doing a total re-format, since Clarkson invented most of the stuff they did on there anyway. Those of you who know me in person know how much I appreciate Jeremy Clarkson’s contributions to journalism (oh God, the way he can get you from the opening sentence, I wish I could do that), he literally invented new ways to write/talk about cars, and no-one can really replace that. But you can watch Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond messing around in cars IN OCTOBER on Amazon Prime with the 30 day trial in the UK; the BBC was really shitty about copyrights on all the stuff Clarkson came up with while he worked for them, so Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have renamed their new car show “Grand Tour.” I wish I was eligible for another free trial of Amazon Prime now 😦

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Also, this rainbow wig is legit gorgeous I wish I could afford it, its so beautiful, and I wanted to show you all, but WordPress doesn’t allow image links from Amazon. Last time I accidentally pasted the wrong link onto a WordPress post, WordPress actually shut this blog down within seconds, not giving me a chance to fix the problem, and I had to email them 5 or 6 times over 2 days to get them to understand that it was an honest mistake. I totally don’t get the weird and wonderful policies that various blogging sites have regarding their smallprint. I think now I have my own domain I’m allowed to do more advertising, but I look at some of the sites that have come up in reader over the past few months, wall-to-wall advertising, and I simply want to vomit in disgust. The whole marketing model is messed up if they make money from that shit. It’s like those trees falling in the woods and concussing bears who are trying to take a dump.

Review: We Buy Any Car (why I chose to sell privately despite being out of time)

This is a review of We Buy Any Car, discussing why I sold one car privately and scrapped the other car after trying to use We Buy Any Car.

I am writing this on my website because We Buy Any Car has fiddled it so that you have to post an invoice number to review them on Trustpilot (the allegedly trustworthy review site). Of course the problem with that is that only the people who will actually agree that the service was OK enough for them to sell their car are people who will get an invoice number.

I absolutely wouldn’t mind them valuing cars at well below market value if they STARTED with the price they actually intend to pay you for your car when they quoted you online, and you had a clear and transparent decision to take or leave that price, but that’s not what they do, and that’s what I have an issue with.

Basically, We Buy Any Car is a car-buying website with aggressive advertising and tactics which claims to to buy your car regardless of the condition it is in. Obviously we all know they’re going to give you a price below market value, this review isn’t so much concerned with that as HOW they arrive at it and the lack of transparency, coupled with the fact they’re fiddling their reviews to make themselves look good. I tried to use them in 2014 and again last summer and both times I found their whole set-up to be absolutely shocking.

Firstly there’s the fact they claim they guarantee to honour the price they quoted, if the car is in the condition you say it is. Of course, when the guy actually inspects your car, he makes up a bunch of crap that’s allegedly wrong with your car that is untrue, so you can either accept a vastly lowered price (after being promised a quick and easy sale) or have to advertise your car privately.

My 2006 VW Golf was originally valued by We Buy Any Car at £1850. In late 2014, £1850 was about 60% of the market value of my car, but I wanted a quick sale so thought I’d take that. Despite being female I’m not an idiot when it comes to cars, and I knew full well that my car was worth over £2000 so £1850 was pretty much as low as I was prepared to go but I was lured in by their promises of a quick easy hassle free sale (all lies). When it came to it, We Buy Any Car weren’t actually worth the time of day because, despite claiming they won’t haggle over the price, they really, really were doing and it wasted half a day of my life plus the time online in the first place and the fact I had to wait a week to even get that far because they were fully booked. That’s a week I could have been selling my car. If I hadn’t been 100% confident in my self-defence abilities, I could easily have felt intimidated enough by the way they were treating me to accept their offer (they were being very intimidating with the way they spoke to me and were trying to make me feel like I didn’t know my own car).

An example of the things they found “wrong” with my VW Golf:

1. The man was sitting in my car on a blazing hot summer’s day, running my engine and wasting my petrol, so he could sit in front of my air conditioning for over 40 minutes and cover my driver seat in disgusting sweat, while someone on the phone was telling me that my car didn’t have air conditioning.

2. They found scratches and dents on the car that didn’t exist. For example, on the driver door they claimed there was a scratch when it was actually a smudge from the man’s own dirty fingers.

3. The “it’s time for a service” light was on. I had disclosed this. They said this meant the car had an imminent engine failure. It actually means that the car needed its annual service. The picture of the engine, of course, being the “engine failure” light, not the picture of the spanner. Despite the fact I had disclosed this, they decided to further reduce the price because of it.

4. They said my car hadn’t had a cam-belt change, despite the fact I was waving the receipt for it in their faces the entire time and it was also written into the service book for 80,000 miles (which is early on a Golf), having just hit 100,000 miles (hence the picture of the spanner).

5. They said I hadn’t disclosed the one piece of damage to the car, despite the fact that I’d printed out the form I’d filled in and could clearly prove that I had, in fact, disclosed that dent. Then they said that the dent meant the car needed a total respray and used it to further reduce the price.

They amended their quote to £1050, but because I stood my ground and argued with them for over half an hour, I got it up to £1675, proving how little confidence they really had in the “issues” they found with my car. I walked away from that “deal” and sold my car privately, so I don’t have an invoice number for We Buy Any Car, so I can’t add my review to Trustpilot. While measures like this are intended to prevent spammers and fake reviews, all it’s doing in the case of We Buy Any Car is skewing the reviews so that nobody gets to hear the bad stuff. I just reviewed my car insurance on Trustpilot and they didn’t want an invoice number (or other proof) for that. In the end, I got £2000 for my VW Golf from a private buyer via Gumtree, which produced a lot of time wasters but did get my car sold quickly. If I’d held out for full market value, I think I would have got it but I was in a hurry to get the car off my driveway so I could park my new one.

The second time I dealt with We Buy Any Car, they actually refused to buy my 2004 Citroen Xsara Picasso just before Christmas, no reason given. It didn’t start, didn’t work, but had a very clean interior and no damage to the outside. I got the £20 scrappage instead. So “We Buy Any Car” is also false advertising, and I now have 2 bad experiences with a company and no invoice number to write a review on Trustpilot.

The fact of the matter is, We Buy Any Car are misusing spam measures on online review sites to try and improve their poor image. Most of the customer experience takes place BEFORE you accept their offer to buy your car. I would bet that 50%, possibly more, of the customers of this company don’t actually complete the sale due to their shocking tactics. The beauty of this scam, then, is that you can either be ripped off for hundreds of pounds so you can write a review on an “independent” review site, and tell other people about your experience (not to mention giving We Buy Any Car more money when they resell your car to a dealer at profit) or, technically, you’re not a verifiable customer, because no money has changed hands.

The fact that Trust Pilot is complicit in enabling We Buy Any Car to mute legitimate reviewers casts doubt on the trustworthiness of its other reviews. Are they really representative of the customer experience?  Having an invoice number is no guarantee of legitimacy anyway – you can’t prove that companies are not just taking customers’ invoice numbers themselves and getting their staff to write glowing reviews, so requesting an invoice number is no guarantee of authentic reviews.

So the real questions are: Is Trust Pilot really that trustworthy as a review site? and, why does Trading Standards only intervene if you’ve bought something that’s not fit for purpose? They wouldn’t get involved even if you take the obviously dodgy deal being offered by companies such as We Buy Any Car? because you accepted the money after being browbeaten into it by their staff, to avoid having to start the whole car selling process again from scratch.

I think Trust Pilot need to make it harder for companies like this one to falsely skew their results when the rest of the internet will tell you how crap We Buy Any Car is, and I think the law needs to change so that companies like this have to operate in a more transparent way.

 

The Creative Blogger Award

Wow so it’s awards season and I’ve been nominated for The Creative Blogger Award by Brandie at TheStripedCoyote.  Thank you so much I am delighted!

creative blogger award
Image source: https://fawksteretworld.wordpress.com/ I didn’t design this beautiful picture!

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share five facts about yourself.
  • Nominate some bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post.

5 Facts About Me (some of which I probably shouldn’t tell you but I’m going to anyway):

  1. I share life with five rabbits called Fifer, Poppy, Timmy, Cleo and Sebastien.  Two of them (Cleo and Timmy) are houserabbits and the other three live outdoors in a purpose-designed bunny village in my back garden.  This was possible because…
  2. I own my own house.  I bought a house with my future-husband-to-be when I was 26.  This was such an achievement since I was homeless at 18, but at the same time it has come with a few downsides, but the best part is not having to deal with/be dependent on any more shitty landlords.

    independent-women1
    All the women, who independent, throw your hands up at me!
  3. I love cars (but ironically I get car sick).  I love working on my car, I love driving my car, I love travelling to awesome places in my car, I love dreaming about which cars I could buy if I had any money at all…  cars cars cars.  I wish they were more environmentally friendly though.
  4. I am married.  My first wedding anniversary was in June.  I never planned to be married but I’m not complaining!  I was determined not to just disappear into the life-role, but I wanted to be my own person… but married.  Just like my childhood role model, Emma Peel from The Avengers (TV series, nothing to do with Marvel).  I get annoyed that TV (and well-meaning older relatives, and actually, society in general) leads us to believe that once a woman is married her sense of personhood dissolves into the household.  It doesn’t have to be that way!!  I am still an independent lady with my own mind, I still travel solo when I want to, I just happen to share life with someone else while I choose to do so.  People make out it’s such a big deal, but it’s basically like having a boyfriend only if one of us dies the other one has less paperwork.
  5. I have an obsession with soya sauce.  If it’s not on my rice/noodles, I don’t want to know!  Well… unless I’m not eating Oriental food.

And I’m nominating:

Laura at Laura Living Life

Ellen at Travelling the World Solo

POSH at Look at Her Hair

Megan at Megan’s Beauty Blog

HighHeelsAndABackpack at HighHeelsAndABackpack

I look forward to finding out more about you all!

From the ashes… The Rover 75

So today, despite being barely able to stand, I had planned to go to the nearby Big City and look at cars at 2 used car lots. Then we saw a totally inappropriate vehicle that was being sold at the car place nearest my house, that was nothing like what we’d wanted, that nevertheless was £20 less than the cheapest ones we’d got lined up at Big City and not only that, we could save the train fare, making this car £50 less than the others in real terms (and £150 less than the ones we’d been most likely to actually buy).
My car budget was in the region of £500.
I really wanted a Land Rover but I couldn’t afford a whole one, so I could only pay for half, which would get me … a Rover.
I saw this Monster for £575. The Rover 75:
Rover 75 light blue

Here’s a rear view:
Rover4
Did I mention that because many of these cars were sold to elitist fascist dictators high ranking members of the government, it’s not uncommon for them to be reinforced to be bullet and bomb proof. Which of course improves the Kerbweight which means you can tow a larger caravan with it.
Because that’s how towing laws work.
Seriously, I test drove this, then I test drove a Vauxhall (Opel) Corsa for comparison (because I know where I am with a Corsa, I’ve owned 3 and had a 4th on long term lease while my VW Golf needed repairs), then I thought about the two cars for several long minutes.
The Corsa had a smaller engine at 1.2 litres, therefore tax would be at least half and I’d look forward to a refund on this year’s insurance premium. The Corsa had all the usual things a Corsa should have, everything was in decent nick, it had done 31,000 fewer miles than the Rover. The Corsa was previously owned by the sister of a mechanic. The Rover apparently had “a couple of receipts” for its service history.
The Corsa’s boot wasn’t wet and filled with sand residue, which strongly implied someone had perhaps committed suicide in the Rover, since the back seats were also soaking despite a dearth of rust, implying an acute watering rather than chronic leakage.
The Corsa was fresh in today, the Rover’s been sitting on the lot for a while.
The Corsa was a manual and was easy to drive, it doesn’t need a Cam belt change because it has a Cam Chain which means (in theory) it never needs changing.
Vauxhall Corsas are bountiful in the UK as are their parts, their manufacturer is based in Luton and parts are easily substituted without damaging the vehicle, I can do most repair work on a Corsa by myself. The (also British) manufacturers of the Rover went bust.
The Corsa had manual transmission but the Rover was an automatic, we all know if the transmission fails on an automatic, you can’t tow it and the car can quickly become scrap.
The Rover’s door mirrors weren’t working, the Corsa’s worked fine. The Rover had a tape player where the Corsa had a CD player.

So of course I bought the Rover.
I believe there’s a Banana Republic Dictator somewhere waiting to get his car back. It’s stupidly, inappropriately large, it’s basically a rebadged Jaguar and when I’ve seen these on the road, I actually thought they were Jaguars.
It looks like the horn should play something stately, perhaps the Liberty Bell March (popularized by Monty Python’s Flying Circus for irony, but that probably doesn’t stop particular people getting their flags out when they hear it). It should be leading a ticker tape parade.
Instead it’s currently parked outside my 3 bedroom semi on a council/ex-council estate where the people over the road recently sold their L-reg Nissan for £100 as a “good runner” (well the people that bought it agreed once they’d push started it) and they used the profits to buy 16 more hours of weed (and an electric card to play loud music for the duration).
At least it’ll keep next door’s BMW company, you know, the sort of BMW that screams “I’m A Respectable Businessman Who’s At Home A Lot During The Day, Not A Drug Dealer, Nope, That Smell And All Those People Coming And Going Are Businessmen Too.”
The thing about this Rover, is that it had soul, where the Corsa felt like driving a cheap mass produced transport method, the Rover felt like I was experiencing a brief and now-extinguished piece of British motoring history.
I can’t explain it, I certainly couldn’t justify the extra £130 that my insurance company hit me with, and when I fill ‘er up my credit card will cry tears of blood because, five miles down the road, I’ll be filling ‘er up again as all the carefree Corsas overtake me on their way to wherever people drive them to.
Comparing the Rover to the Corsa is like trying to compare a fine steak dinner at Claridge’s to a Big Mac. There’s nothing wrong with a Big Mac per se and they’re certainly more popular, as shown by the number of Corsa drivers queueing at any British drive thru, but if the Rover driver took the fast food option, you know they’d have a jar of English Mustard ready in the cup holder to give their meat patty some refinement and taste.
The Rover has gravitas, it has pomp, it has style and panache. I don’t know why this car manufacturer died a death and I think it’s a tragedy to the British motor industry, but this car looks, feels, drives and has the optional extras of a Jaguar from the same year.
I understand why they’re so cheap now – Rover went bust in 2005, one of the first pre-recession victims, and horror stories about availability of parts, poor build quality, unreliability and, of course, worst of all (and they whisper this one in case there’s any of *them* around), the people who made it spoke with a Brummie accent.
As someone who pronounces “cook, book and look” as “cuuuk” “buuuk” and “luuuk” (a la Scottish and Staffordshire people) under stress, I must say that’s shocking. Everyone who makes cars should speak with a Home Counties accent. Hell, everyone per se should speak with that fake British accent that American actors feel so compelled to put on, the one that sounds like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, which is to say, no British person ever spoke like that.
The car should have little flags on the bonnet and I would like a chauffer uniform so I can transport my passenger. I’d love to dress one of the rabbits up in a shirtcollar and tie and get them to wave out of the window.
The back of the front seats appear to have plastic tray-like compartments in them. I think that’s where the Ferrero Rocher’s supposed to go.
I can see why government officials had them.
The automatic transmission is beautiful and far more comfortable than the Peugueot 605 which was officially my first ownership of a car (I was 15, but my mother had to do some tax avoidance; I drove it once, on private land), but which used to jump forward every time it changed up or down the ratios. Since the Picasso’s cause of death was a total gearbox failure on a dangerous junction at rush hour, necessitating me to force the car to continue to safety at the expense of the engine which was too damaged by what I forced the drive shaft to do, I no longer believe that there’s any advantage to a cheap old manual car over a good, newer automatic at the same price now but which retailed for a lot more brand new, because in EITHER type, it’s bloody expensive to repair anything to do with the transmission so why not go automatic? And with a top speed of 121mph compared to 96mph, the Rover might actually get taken to the Nurburgring when it thaws out next year, if the car still works by then, to have a go at setting a time.
The steering is stately and glorious, despite this being the longest car I’ve ever driven, and having never driven a car with an arse longer than the back window (I’ve had hatchbacks and my Picasso, which is really a big hatchback), the parking was actually smooth like a good glass of Port, and it didn’t hit my house or the neighbours car despite them having blocked my drive. The steering is divine, compared to the Picasso which handled like a drunk sailor, seeming to perpetually stagger side to side whilst actually travelling forwards.
You could get the Rover 75 with a V6 or V8 engine. One day, I’d love a V8 (although I’d probably never get anything done again, because I’d just have the bonnet up and be staring at it in rapt adoration whilst asking someone to rev it for me over and over). In the meantime, I won’t be surprised if Augusto Pinochet decides to drop by for tea. I still wouldn’t let him in the house. I’ve just vacuumed those carpets. Actually even if I hadn’t, it’s the principle of the thing.
I’ve applied to join the owners club as their buyers guide was invaluable and their site is a wealth of information.
So at least something good has happened this week, although I am afraid to jinx it and will need to drive the car some more before I’m happy that it’s going to be a reliable motor. It’s put to rest a stress I’ve been carrying about vehicular failure for the past 6 months. I *knew* I should have got rid of the Picasso before I went to Aberdeen. Now I just need a job to pay off the car I just put on my credit card, and to pick a master’s course to apply for. And people wonder why I did some of the jobs I did in the past. I’ve been considering it again. But I swore I’d got out. That I’d make something of myself. That I’d go straight. Then I phoned an agency yesterday and booked for an interview next week.
I swore I’d left it behind me.
I just don’t want to teach high school science again.
I leave you with the following public service announcement from Alexei Sayle:

And I can confirm that there’s life in Peckham, but reports are mixed as to whether it’s intelligent or not.

Nine of the Best Dream Cars

It’s Anything Can Happen Thursday, and I want to show you my favourite cars.  These are all cars that, for me, defined an era.  Cars that make me go all wobbly inside and reach for my purse to check for loose change when I see them on Auto Trader.

First up is the iconic Jaguar E type, a beautiful vehicle that was a triumph of design:

As a child, I had a model one of these.  Mine was a lot cheaper.
As a child, I had a model one of these. Mine was a lot cheaper.  Source: Yorkshire Car Centre Website

Then there was this:

This car has serious m. appeal.
This car has serious m. appeal.

The Lotus Elan was an instant hit, thanks to it’s role as one of the two cars on The Avengers (nothing to do with the superhero characters, these were kick ass detectives) during the golden age of that show – Diana Rigg and Patrick MacNee (ok, Honor Blackman fans, I’m ready for your hatemail, because I firmly believe Emma was cooler than Cathy).  If anyone has one of these and doesn’t want it, I will gladly take it off your hands, this is at the very, very top of my list of dream cars, but sadly I can’t afford it.

lotus elan original sprint yellow classic car

Then Austin made a car that could be parked outside tiny 2 up 2 down terraced houses.  It also featured in a rather daring film, where some cockney gentlemen (such as Michael Caine) proved that you could park several of these in a lorry, in The Italian Job and then everyone wanted one.  Presumably lots of people had parking spaces in haulage vehicles:

This was the Austin Mini.
This was the Austin Mini.

When Rover took over and re-badged it in the 1990s, it didn’t look any different, but the badge means a lot to car collectors.  And clowns.  This is the mini that you could be amused watching clowns get out of, because there’s not much space:

Rover Mini old mini original car classic

Let’s take it back to the ’70’s and look at a triumph of car design:  It was named after a well known airplane used by the British Royal Air Force during the second world war – and it’s body design resembles a plane chassis.  Put some wings on this baby and the Triumph Spitfire would be airborne:

triumph spitfire yellow

And here’s what’s under the hood, from the days when you could actually feel a thrill by looking under the bonnet of a car:

under the bonnet of the Triumph Spitfire to see engine

But if you want a sports car for an eighties action TV series featuring someone resembling a young David Hasselhoff, you need something a bit more ridiculous.  Undersized, underpowered, under warranty … these are not words that describe our next car, the Lotus Esprit, which looks not unlike the DeLorien because pointy angular cars were a bit of a thing for a while:

This was the 1984 version.
This was the 1984 version.

By 1989, however, it had had a remake and looked even more stunning than before:

Did someone turn Pierce Brosnan into a car??
Did someone turn Pierce Brosnan into a car??

Around the same time, this unassuming, more mainstream car was on the road:

Ford Escort Cabriolet White 1990

What a stunner, the Ford Escort Cabriolet has it all.  A year later, it got a facelift:

ford escort cabriolet white 1990 2

While all things must come to an end, these cars don’t have to yet – they’re all for sale on Auto Trader (which is where I got all of today’s photos, unless otherwise stated) although they’ll obviously set you back a fair bit – that Jaguar E type is going for £89,000, the Mini is £2,500 and everything else is somewhere in between!!!  I think they’ve all got a fair bit of mileage in them yet, although I think I need something more practical and spacious for my next car camper conversion.  Or something with more than four seats. This VW Devon looked like it fitted the bill:

volkswagen devon

But it appears to be missing something:

volkswagen devon chassis damage rust

I wanted something that wasn’t lacking large chunks of the chassis, so I’m probably going to go for something like this Toyota Lucida (but this one is now sold):

toyota lucida

Which one is your favourite?  Let me know in the comments.

How I converted a Citroen Xsara Picasso into a Campervan

Travel Tuesday:  How I Converted A Citroen Xsara Picasso into A People Carrier Campervan Conversion

Today I want to talk about ROADHOUSE (my car camper)

Have you ever dreamed of owning a car that fits comfortably into a parking bay and STILL lets you sleep in it, stretched out, comfy and flat? That was the plan when I sold my £7500 Golf to buy a £600 Citroen Xsara Picasso (it was a category C write off, and had just been repaired when I bought it).

I reviewed the Citroen Xsara Picasso in a previous article, to tell you all of its good and bad points. In a future article, I’ll talk about WHY I swapped my VW Golf for a Picasso. Here I wanted to talk about how I converted the Picasso, and what we actually do when we’re on the road and we want to use our car as a camper.

There were some big problems I needed to overcome in order to “convert” my car. Here are the things I did, in order (click to go straight to that section or scroll to read the lot):

Took back seats out – NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.

Made window blocking panels.

Bought a memory foam mattress and stuffed it in.

Added a ceiling luggage storage.

Removed it again after Europe.

Scrapped window panels after Europe.

Put curtains in.

Added a shoe holder for storage.

Fitted the memory foam mattress.

Draped a blanket over the two front headrests.

Here we go then:

 

Took back seats out

 

– NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.

They were pretty easy to take out. They have a lever at the back, then you tilt the seat forward, and jiggle it with brute force and ignorance until it comes out. Swearing at it is optional. Why did I say easy? They were VERY easy when compared to a lot of other cars I’ve looked at, and they are designed to be removable so it wasn’t anything like trying to get the seat pad of the VW Golf out. My husband custom-built a storage unit in one of our spare bedrooms to keep the seats when we don’t want them in the car. This also makes the car more fuel efficient because they’re slightly heavy at around 15kg (which is the same weight as a cardboard fry box full of frozen McDonald’s fries).

 

Made window blocking panels.

I bought some silver coated insulating bubble wrap, at £7.99 a roll from Homebase. One window at a time, I held the insulation up against the car window and drew the shape of each window on separate areas of the bubble wrap, cutting each out before moving on to the next window. I was going to attach it with stickyback velcro, but when we set off for Europe I realised I’d left it behind, so I ended up using gaffer tape (duct tape, duck tape, same diff) and that was an okay fix although the condensation in the car caused the tape on the back window to unstick a lot and the stickiness of the tape damaged the panels so we couldn’t use the same ones again.

 

Bought a memory foam mattress and stuffed it in.

I bought mine off Ebay, I literally went for a 3 inch thick “memory foam” mattress. I had investigated a lot of options including cot mattresses, inflatables and roll mats, and decided this £17.99 memory foam mattress would be the cheapest. They had a two inch option at £14.99 as well but we thought that was sacrificing comfort. We just folded the lower end so that it would fit in the car, and after we got back from Europe we took it out of the car and put it on our bed to make it warm and cosy over winter. Update: We had to chuck it out after 15 months because it started to stink. It was still pretty cheap but I’m looking into other ways to do the same thing. To be honest you don’t really need it in summer even in the Highlands, but in the Alps, or in winter, something like this is essential.

 

Added a ceiling luggage storage.

I got some of that fabric that net curtains are made out of, and sewed it over some elastic at either end, then tied the elastic together and attached this to the handles above the rear doors. If there had been somewhere to attach it front centre this would have been a great storage idea, but as it happens it was mostly in the way and didn’t fit an awful lot in because it didn’t stay on the ceiling at all.

 

Removed it again after Europe.

I scrapped that idea for now, so storage is still an issue.

 

Scrapped window panels after Europe.

I decided that storing them in the car when you’re on a long journey is far too much hassle (you can’t legally have them in the windows when you’re driving which means you need to put them somewhere), so I looked at other options.

 

Put curtains in.

Basically I was SO squeamish about permanently damaging the car, because there were NO tutorials for how to put curtains into your car, so I used the thinnest drill bit available and drilled very thin holes into the plastic either side of the back windows, then screwed some eye hooks into the holes. I tied string to the eye hooks and sewed some curtains out of cheapass satin material that I had hanging around after I made a dress. I also used some nice ribbons as curtain ties to keep them out of the way as they tend to blow around the car if either of the front windows are open and you’re driving. I keep the bottoms of the curtains attached to the windows during sleep times by using the sticky back velcro that we forgot to take to Europe. It doesn’t stand up to a lot of force but if you open and close the velcro pieces carefully they’re a great solution to this problem.

how to put curtains into camper conversion

how to put curtains into camper conversion

 

Added a shoe holder for storing smaller items:

I dangled it down the back of the driver seat. It’s basically a fabric thing with loads of pockets, so we keep gloves, deodorant, binoculars etc in the little pockets, helping us to stay organised in a small space.

storage car campervan

(the Citroen Xsara Picasso car campervan tragically died due to a gearbox failure on a busy set of traffic lights – I was very ill at the time and had to force the car through the traffic lights so the damn engine seized up.  We are currently driving the hilariously inappropriate Rover 75, where I have installed the behind-the-seat storage just as it was in the Picasso, and the picture above is a photo of the back of the driver seat in the Rover 75).

Fitted the memory foam mattress

 

.

For Scotland, I had to change the shape of the mattress because we had to fit a kayak in there as well as our usual luggage. So I cut some of the length and width off the mattress so it also didn’t need to be folded at the foot end, giving us more foot room and making it more manoeuvrable if we needed it out of the way for any reason.

How to make a bed to convert a people carrier into a campervan camper car

How to make a bed to convert a people carrier into a campervan camper car

 

Draped a blanket over the two front headrests.

When we went to Europe we used one of those silver reflective panels in the front windscreen but it kept falling down and then people could see into the back of the car where I often needed to get dressed (I’m a chick. Sleeping in underwire gets uncomfortable after a couple of days. I also physically cannot sleep in socks). On our Scotland trip I realised that a fleece blanket or a microfibre towel does the job just fine. They can be easily removed when we want to pass through to the front of the vehicle or for when I’m driving so I still have full visibility.

This was when we were sleeping in it in Scotland.  That's an extra large microfibre towel from a camping shop.
This was when we were sleeping in it in Scotland. That’s an extra large microfibre towel from a camping shop.

Future plans for our camper:

1. Proper ceiling storage. I’m still not sure what to go for here, having exhausted every search term to try and find some inspiration, but once I work it out I’ll do an article on it.

2. Ventilation. I want to drill wall vents into the side of the car (on the non-petrol side) but since I drove the car through a wall on the petrol side a couple of months ago, I’m not sure if it still has the structural integrity to withstand more damage to the body.

3. Other storage. I need more storage solutions, although we fitted all our luggage and a kayak in with us when we went to Scotland a few weeks ago, it could still be better organized.

4. Rear window curtain – I was most recently using that silver sunshield gaffer taped to the back window because I haven’t made curtains for the rear yet.

Inside car camper van conversion roadhouse sleeping in vehicle wild camping campervan

You might also like:
International Window Tinting Laws for Cars Driving Around the World
Driving in Europe: The basics

Car Camper Review: The Citroen Xsara Picasso

Reviewed: The Citroen Xsara Picasso Camper Conversion

I saw three people walking their dogs in the park last week; there was a sturdy man with a labrador, a young lady with a Jack Russell and a mum with a sausage dog and a pushchair. It struck me how similar dogs and cars can be.

I bought a Citroen Xsara Picasso to convert into a campervan. It has probably never won any of those car industry awards. Words like sporty, hot hatchback, sexy, and muscle car, have probably never before occurred in the same sentence as Citroen Xsara Picasso.

Our trusty Citroen Xsara Picasso after we spent our first night in it, in central Germany.
Our trusty Citroen Xsara Picasso after we spent our first night in it, in central Germany.

Let’s face it: It’s a mum car. It’s a car for a busy mum to pile half a nurseryload of kids into, while they scream, fight with each other, eat things they really shouldn’t and generally spread their sticky contagion onto everything they touch. And some things they don’t.

The Citroen Xsara Picasso is not associated with adventure, excitement, road trips (except to see Nanna), or campervan conversions. Historically, that life prospect has always gone to the rather more upmarket middle class MPV people carriers – the seven seater Ford Galaxy, Seat Alhambra, and Volkswagen Sharan trinity, as well as the Delica, Previa, Lucida and Emina. As one step down from the stunningly expensive “VW Anything with the letter T in the name,” the adventure potential of seven seaters first became a phenomenon in Australia and New Zealand, where car camping is quite common and popular, and has since spread to Europe, as people carriers have now been around long enough to occupy a more reasonable price point than, say, ten years ago.

After much serious consideration of all the vehicles listed in the previous paragraph, and one that wasn’t (the Mazda Bongo/Ford Freda badge bouncer), I decided the ones within my price range were all crap, old, probably dangerous, possibly ex-taxis (due to the extreme mileage) and definitely not worth a second glance. I halved my budget and bought a Citroen Xsara Picasso for £695. Now all of my friends laugh at me when I visit them. But that’s fine because I’ve got an awesome car campervan and they don’t. They all wonder why I sold my VW Golf. They just don’t understand the economics of the shit car, a minefield I’m far more comfortable with than all that car finance nonsense that I had with the Golf.

The pedals and driving position are more like driving a Transit van than any car I’ve ever driven, this is added to by the gear stick and handbrake placing. The engine sounds van-like when you start it as well. The acceleration is poorer than the VW Golf, but if you over-rev and pull off the clutch quickly you can still outrun most things at the traffic lights. The clutch’s bite is quite high and it corners like a drunk sailor – I’ve never had to take a corner so slowly in any car ever. The top speed (as tested on the German Autobahn where there’s no upper limit) was 148kph (approximately 92 mph – I converted the speedo so I didn’t get any speeding tickets whilst abroad), after that, the vehicle starts to feel very out of control and I got the distinct impression that the metal panels would bend out of shape and parts might start flying off if I went any faster. Aside from that, the noise from the engine got ridiculously loud, which is usually a bad sign, so I slowed it down. A good motorway cruising speed in Europe was 126kph (78mph), and the car seemed to like to sit at this speed, so it’s certainly twice the acceleration and speed than most of the campervans I get stuck behind on the roads in the Peak District National Park when I go home to see my aunts. I would have preferred to take my VW Golf, whose statistical top speed was 136mph (about 250kph), as I’ve always wanted to go to the Nurburgring but there was no point in the Citroen Xsara Picasso. However, I sacrificed mechanical perfection for accommodation space which I still believe is a bit of a priority in a campervan. It’s just a shame that with all our motor vehicle technology, it still has to be a trade off.

I only put the simplest conversions in when we went to Europe – there was blackout blinds for the windows and a bed. No storage, no bathroom facilities and no kitchen.

I did the windows with silver insulating bubble wrap, which is £7.99 from Homebase or more expensive from other DIY places. I basically cut out the shape of each window and attached the window shades using gaffer tape. I’d bought velcro to do them better but didn’t get a chance to put it in before we left. The pros of this method was that it was cheap, easy, and the silver reflected the sun. The cons were that the gaffer tape made one or other shade fall off a window every night due to condensation, and the shades stopped adequate ventilation even when the windows were open. Since we returned from Europe, I’ve put real curtains into the ‘van instead.

I bought a cheap memory foam mattress topper from Ebay for £17.99 to put in the back to sleep on. It was cheaper and comfier than getting a bunch of roll mats, and was cheaper than a double air bed (and more convenient). My partner is 6 foot 2 inches so it certainly has sleeping leg room. I liked how cosy it was, but it did mean we had no storage, something I’m working on before I go to Morocco. I would say one of these mattresses on a wooden bed frame with underbed storage is the best plan.

We stored all our stuff by moving it onto the front seats at night. I’m still amazed that we didn’t get robbed since we usually camped in motorway service stations or the occasional German Parkplatz. Some of our stuff stayed in the back footwells, and towards the end of the trip it was hard to stretch out to sleep because we’d acquired stuff on our journey and storage was woefully inadequate. I’ve bought some shoe holders that I’m going to cut up to make back-of-seat storage for smaller items, and combining this with a storage-friendly bed frame will make our camper more suited for longer travel trips.

As an additional bonus, after being told by one garage that it was almost a write-off, allegedly needing more repairs than the sum of its car parts, our Citroen Xsara Picasso car camper recently passed its MoT (road safety test) which means it’s going to be able to go on exciting adventures for another entire year!! The moral of the story? Cheap cars are great. And never trust the first opinion if they tell you it’s going to cost over £1000 to fix your car. It actually cost us £250, which is less than we could buy another old banger for. Yay for campervan bangernomics!

Since passing its MoT, we took it to the Lake District to Scafell Pike to see whether it was also going to be any good as a day van for outdoor activities. With two rear seats removed, there was plenty of room for all our waterproofs, crampons, walking boots and gaiters to dry out while we drove home, and the rear hatchback style boot door was perfect to shelter us from the torrential rain as we undressed out of our outer layers when we got back from our abortive mountaineering. After giving up on Scafell Pike (the footpath was washed away, heavy mist was closing in on us, the map got wet through and disintegrated, the GPS signal was lost, and it was too rainy for me to get my phone out to take pictures) and turning around when we were halfway up, the Picasso gave us a nice space to warm up, dry out, and find a route to somewhere that served decent and cheap food, then it gently propelled us home again.

Even the car park was soggy.
Even the car park was soggy.  And that’s our road here, in the centre, middle distance.  It was also waterlogged.
It was raining so much that I couldn't get my phone out to take pictures once we were out of the car!
It was raining so much that I couldn’t get my phone out to take pictures once we were out of the car!

As a side note, despite what all those “respect the mountain” websites say, you don’t need crampons and an ice axe to tackle Scafell Pike in February, you need galoshes or a snorkel and wetsuit.

If we’d done all that in a normal car, it would have still been drying out a week later, but the Citroen Xsara Picasso has enough room inside that it takes a lot of water to make it get damp, and when it does, it dries out easily if you drive round with the windows open. Even after an overnight sleep with two adults in the back it is relatively easy to de-mist, and the damp never seems to linger, unlike in my VW Golf, where the seatbelt used to get mouldy from the damp – and we only ever slept in it the once.

Remember those dogs I was talking about in the first paragraph? Our car was the mechanical equivalent of a sausage dog – smaller, easier to park but with wider cornering and less living space than a real campervan, and without the yappy bite or the hardcore acceleration of a higher performance car. But it did the job and it was cheap, and now we know what to work on before we go away again, and just how simple a campervan trip can be. Certainly if you only want a weekender, the Citroen Xsara Picasso is underrated and has a lot of potential, and I’d choose it over a tent in a heartbeat.  The only thing I’d change?  The annoying internal lights.  And a working CD player.  But we bought a boom box to workaround that.

[travel] Pimp my ride? How ’bout M.O.T. my Ride…

In the UK, there’s this pesky thing called an MoT (short for Ministry of Transport, as in, inspection on behalf of the Ministry of Transport) which means you can’t have a car on the road that doesn’t meet some specific criteria.  It was actually a pretty good system, if a little annoying once a year, until the EU intervened 18 months ago.  Basically, they changed the rules and added a bunch of things that were aimed at high-end car users, but which us ordinary people with cheap cars can easily fall foul of.  My car is 10 years old, it cost £600 last summer, and it has taken us all over Europe last summer.  I was rather hoping it would do the same this summer, and get us to Morocco.

1. Light alignment – this was because of all those cray cray bright headlights on expensive cars (you know, the ones that are always dazzling you when they pass, even though they don’t have their brights on).  Instead of saying “these headlights are stupid, and cause accidents by dazzling oncoming traffic” they decided “these lights reduce accidents because drivers can see better.”  Y’know, totally failing to see that most drivers don’t actually have these headlights (they’re even brighter than Xenon) and just get dazzled.  So they decided that they might *might* be a problem if headlight alignment was slightly incorrect and decided to make that an MoT fail (regardless of type or brightness of lights).  This, of course, means that anyone with a car that’s been accident repaired (like mine) now has an MoT fail on their hands.  In my case, the headlight is literally millimetres out of alignment but the first garage I took it to deemed it an MoT fail.

2. LED anything – any LED in your lighting system has to work.  It’s because of the propensity for these LED brakelights on fancy new cars.  What this means is that if any one LED in any part of your car gets blown, you get an MoT fail now instead of an advisory.  It used to be a common sense line, where as long as the lights were fit for purpose (i.e. lighting up your registration plate etc) they were good to go, but now, if one single bulb has blown, you have an MoT fail, because they didn’t know how else to draw the line so brake lights were 100% functional on all cars.  This carries over to any LED so my car failed on a registration plate bulb.

3. Bush damage – any cover that is covering a part of the car has to be totally 100% ok.  Previously, it could be damaged as long as it was preventing the ingress of dirt,  Now, if it is damaged at all then it’s an MoT fail.  BUT… if you have a fancy car with an under-car tray such as a lot of Volvo estates have, they can’t actually remove it to check the components so your car is exempt from being checked for this and a raft of other, potentially dangerous damage to components.  How messed up is that??

It cost me just under £300 (plus a £40 MoT) to get my car fixed.  A well known garage chain who advocate a rapid fitting service quoted me over £500 then refused to do the work because they said my car was dangerous (but they knew someone who could fix it) due to the accident damage under the front bumper.  Thing is, my car is a category C accident damage.

Here’s the categories of accident damage:

Category A – must be crushed, no part of the vehicle can be reused.
Category B – some parts can be used, car will never be allowed on the road again.
Category C – car is unsafe to drive and must PASS A SPECIAL TEST BY VOSA once it has been repaired before it’s allowed on the road.
Category D – the car is damaged and the damage was too expensive for the insurance company to fix, but you can buy it back and fix it yourself.

As you can see, it’s actually safer to buy a Category C than a Category D, because the Cat C car must pass a special safety test whereas the Cat D can just be put straight back on the road no questions asked.  My car was a Category C, so the repairs made to the car might not have been picture perfect, but they were certainly sufficient for VOSA to certify it as safe to go back on the road.  Not only that, but its accident happened in 2008, six years before I bought it, and it’s been passing MoTs since then with no problem.  I had this worry that my car would have to be scrapped if no-one would do the work to fix it.  Luckily, I was worrying unnecessarily.  I left it until 21st January (my MoT runs out on 27th) then realised I should take it to another garage for a second opinion.  So I did.
For under £300, they fixed up the car so it could pass its MoT.
That should be the end of this story, but I have been left with a lot of questions about the garage industry.  For example, why can one garage say “this car is unsafe, but my friend round the corner can fix it up for you” while another garage can say “well if it’s been certified legal by VOSA we’ll just do the work no problems.”  I thought the whole point of an MoT was to make sure that cars all met the same standards, but instead it seems to be a reason for people to extract more money from you and fund their sidelines.  I wondered how many other people with Category C cars had been told the same as me, had accepted it and gone and paid hundreds of pounds to get the unnecessary work done.
Before I took my car to a second garage, I researched it thoroughly online.  Sites such as Pistonheads are really good (although they have a no badmouthing policy, but people get around this and if you’re vaguely intelligent you can work out what garages they’re talking about).  The discussion I found on Pistonheads narrowed my search down to three garages in my area.

I dismissed one before I even went to make enquiries, because I used to live on the same road as them and they’d been really unhelpful about four years ago, when my first car was being pronounced dead, such as quoting me £200 for a new petrol tank when I could buy one myself for £70, then, when I questioned them on it, they said “but that’s not one of our suppliers and we couldn’t guarantee the quality of a repair if we didn’t order the parts” which is funny because other places quoted £70 for a petrol tank.  Curiously I decided to fix the petrol tank myself, then found out the chassis was rusted through so badly that it was never going on the road again.  I remember crying as the scrap merchants took it away, and I knew I would feel the same way about my current car if I couldn’t get it fixed up and had to scrap it.

The second garage was round the corner from my current house, so I tried there first.  I went to talk to them, and the man I spoke to (who I think was the owner, I’ve seen him around) was less than helpful.  You know that specific type of individual who won’t actually talk to you about mechanics/plumbing/construction/types of paint because you’re female, and that means you’re a) Stupid and b) Lack the capacity to understand something as complicated as car repairs.  I’m sure that if you drive, you might have met someone like this.  I smiled and nodded and said I’d get back to him and he was very surprised and confused when I didn’t hand over my car keys.  I drove around the corner to garage number three and the woman behind the counter got it all arranged and calculated the price for me and booked it in for two days later.  I brought the car back on the allotted day, and they finished two hours before they expected to, having done exactly what they needed to get it through the MoT, with no hidden complications.  My car is on the road again for another year.  Which means I can finally start planning my drive to Morocco.