After my recent spat on the M8 I had to get a new car. All that thinking and talking about cars got me thinking about how many cars I’ve had since I started driving and some of the stories that went with them all.
Can you remember all the cars you ever owned?
warning: nostalgia and petrol-head terms in the following post…
The first car I had was a Mk1 Ford Escort. It was silver with a purple roof when I got it (nice eh?) but I painted it black, with a brush. As the time, I reckoned it looked great, there were no brush strokes, it looked like a professional job… for a while, until the oil based paint got scuffed and started peeling off in strips.
The car itself was held together with cataloy and gun-gum but it was a learning experience and allowed me to hone my skills on rust removal, filling and sanding, oh yes the sanding.
Eventually I peeled all the paint off and resprayed it, with proper primer and black paint this time – it was sauce. Eventually sold it, when it failed its MOT, for £20. Well, we are talking the early eighties here, twenty quid was over 40 pints in the union bar.
All in all, a great first car, I stripped the engine down completely to replace a tappet screw. In those days I was hardcore on the maintenance front. No pics of a black one anywhere that I can find, so this brown one will have to do.
Next up was a Hillman Imp, in lovely baby blue (picture courtesy of Tim Morgan). The Imp was a tiny car and believe it or not, these were used as police cars back in the day.
This one had a lot wrong with it. The starter motor jammed a lot, the handbrake was permanently seized-on, the entire gearstick came off in my hand once and the rear-mounted engine was easily accessible via a external handles, so the battery was once nicked.
The thief also stole the battery leads and clamp and, while I managed to get a battery and leads from the scrappy, I couldn’t get a clamp, so I wedged it in with a bit of wood. A few weeks later, while driving around, the wood dislodged, the battery moved and the resulting short caused the battery to explode into a million little pieces of white plastic. What a noise! Original cost: £30, sold a year later for £40 – result.
Then, when I was no longer a student, and had a real job, I got myself some proper wheels. Everyone who was anyone had one of these back in the day; a MkIV Cortina.
The profile of this beauty was, and still is, how every 4-year old draws a car; all big and square and boxy.
It was a great big hulking beast of a car, heavy and rear wheel drive, so great fun to drive in the snow. Mechanically however it was very guilty of eating points for breakfast, that engine must have been operating at about a million amps. Over the years I had this one, I must have spent hours and hours filing them down/re-spacing them and a fortune replacing them.
Then came a Vauxhall Cavalier, it was bit more orange than red, kinda rust coloured really. It was only after I bought it, I noticed it had a dent in the roof, not a big dent, just a dink, right in the middle – how do you get a dink in the roof?
A Lothian bus kindly ripped the side of this to shreds on a busy Saturday afternoon on Princes Street during the festival, I bent the stalk of my horn that day, trying to alert the oblivious driver to the carnage he was causing. I can’t remember much else about this car, it was quite uneventful, which compared to my earlier cars was probably quite a good thing.
Time for a step up in quality. This time I moved to a high-ish mileage ex-company car. The old-style BMW 320i is a design classic, still far nicer than the new ones.
A straight-six cylinder 2.0 petrol engine that was extremely quick. I had never before seen an engine compartment quite so full of engine. A really nice car to drive, with plenty of poke.
I ran this beauty for ages, up and down my favourite motorway. I don’t think this 3-Series design has been beaten since. Sold it to my mate still running sweetly with 107k miles on the clock.
My next car was a bit of a lemon; a Volvo 440. My excuse for this aberration of a vehicle is it was my first company car, and I didn’t get to choose it. I was allocated one from the ‘returns pool’ until the lease was up. The benefits of having a company car in those days outweighed the tax penalty, so I put up with the six months of purgatory.
I can confidently say this is the most uncomfortable car I have ever had the (dis)pleasure to drive. Despite having more methods of adjusting the seat than any car I’d had before, every 30 mile trip you did still felt more like like ten times that over cobblestones.
When I finally got to chose my own company car, I plumped for a Peugeot 406sri. I don’t know why, never had a French car before, but the list was limited, so toog a punt.
Despite the garish upholstery; light grey with red zigzags, it was a peach to drive, solid and really comfortable for long journeys.
With a 2.0l petrol turbo engine it zipped along nicely. Unfortunately the company policy was to replace the cars every 12 months and I had to give it up. How could that be economical? Devastated.
The company’s car policy had changed to Rover instead of Peugeot, so instead of my original grand plan of just getting another 406, I opted for a blue Rover 214 saloon. I didn’t fancy the hatchback equivalent, I have an irrational preference for a proper boot.
Nice tidy car but, like the Cavalier, generally quite unremarkable. Then again, only having to put up with it for a year meant it wasn’t such a bad deal.
Next, against my better judgment, I went for a hatchback. This time a Vauxhall Vectra, with serios danger of moving into sales-rep land.
It was a nice car, but was tainted a little when I was hit twice from begind on the M8. First time by a Metro, then again, a second or so later by the same Metro with a Transit Van attached to the back of it. The hatchback always rattled after the fix-up job.
Replacement time, and a promotion took me up a class, but still only Rover to choose from. This time a Rover 620i. A bigger lump of metal, but with a 2.0l turbo diesel in it this time.
Nice and comfy and built for distance, it was a good car, even if it did sound like a Massey Fergusson on a bad day. At replacement time, they switched the policy again, so Peugeot was back on the agenda, woot!
Without hesitation I plumped for the Peugeot 406sri again, this time in blue. A few things had been updated from the original, white one I had, but the upholstery was still as whacky as before. Just because it’s an SRI doesn’t mean I’m a boy-racer you know.
Another move of job meant I was moving out of company car land and back into personal ownership, so I bought the 406 off the leasing company at the end of the lease. Eventually, the age and mileage of the Pug meant that things were starting to go wrong with it, radiator, cooling fans etc and being a high spec, specialist parts = expensive to fix so, at 80k+ on the clock, it had to go.
Out of the blue I decided to try something new and went for a VW Passat this time, the Highline to be exact. It was also my first attempt at internet car buying. My experience with Virgin Cars was so bad, I was put off the idea and went for the dealer option.
The Highline was a 1.9 TDI and I opted for the 130psi, with a bit more poke than the ordinary. Great car, nice to drive, comfortable, relatively economical for the size. I would have kept it longer than the 75k miles it went before its aforementioned demise on the M8.