Wednesday, August 31, 2005


One of the problems with classic cars is they invariably aren't very practical for day to day life. It wouldn't be fair to say this is true of all classics, but it is certainly true of ours. The Lotus is a pig to start on a cold morning and daily running would almost certainly sky-rocket the amount of time it spent in "the shop" and consequently the amount of currency I parted with to a local mechanic. The Fiat, though reliable and cheap, has an average speed of about 30mph (it took us 5 hours to go from North London to Nottingham, about 130 miles, last time we tried) and as such is clearly impractical for anything other than dodging about in town ... on nice days (they rust quicker than an Austin Maestro).

And so one is required to purchase what might be refered to as a "runabout". This would be a car upon which you can rely, about which you don't much care and with which you would happily do anything. As such, when choosing a "runabout" (as I did last week) I tend to adhere to the philosophies of "Bangernomics". A good banger precisely fulfills the criteria.

You don't care about it because it only cost about £250, so whether you're transporting horse poo for the garden or picking up an elderly relative from the airport (best not to do the two activities in that order) it makes no difference. If well maintained and approximately 10-12 years old it should start first time, every time (for a year or so at least) unless you're unlucky. If you get one with a years' MOT on it already (always one of my criteria) then you also know it's safe enough and you shouldn't need to spend any real money on it for 12 months, unless you're unlucky. You can park it on the street, safe in the knowledge that no one will steal a car that's pitied by your neighbours and mocked by passing teenagers, unless of course you're unlucky. And if you're unlucky, who cares? It only cost £250! Scrap it! Sell it as a rolling wreck for £50!

And so I went off to Edmonton to some dodgy "you nick it, we'll sell it" style second hand car dealer and bought a 1992 Citroen AX Echo 1.1 for £250. (Sorry - the detail in the year and type of vehicle thing is a classic car anorak habit of mine. Consider yourselves lucky I didn't add 3-door, Petrol, Manual.) It's battered to hell and back, rumbles, is filthy, welded and smells of tobacco but it does start first time and has that precious 12 months MOT meaning no expensive welding jobs required for a good long while. And I care about it so little I even forget to close the sunroof. Which is great because I accidentally get rid of the smell of horse poo and reinstate the faint whiff of tobacco.

Runabouts are great!


Fiat 500 and Lotus Elan +2S together.Approximately a year after starting this blogspot space I've finally thought of something to do with it. The problem with blogging is you either have a focus for your literary efforts, such as they are, or you end up posting a bunch of mindless drivel about commuting and filling the space with "funny" emails people have sent you. This is what I've done with my MSN blog space (which now seems to have decended in to a virtual soap box where I rant about the various corporations and businesses who've pissed me off over the years, but that's by the by). But not this. This will be different. This will be focused. This is about a shared hobby I have with my girlfriend. One that we can ill afford but find ourselves tied to regardless of the consequences.

Classic motoring. The wind in your hair, the slight smell of fresh petrol, the squeaky brakes, the restriction to sunny days, the scarce parts, the large repair bills, we love it!

Between us we run two money pits. A 1974 Lotus Elan +2S 130/5 (mine, of course) and a 1971 Fiat 500 Berlina F. I've had the Lotus for two and a half years now and we bought the Fiat at Christmas in Milan, Italy. Both are a constant source of joy and pain, all of which I intend to document here. Hopefully it will be enjoyable and useful to other classic owners or would-be classic owners. Otherwise it only serves to give me something to do of an evening! Either way, what ho! Watch out blogging, here I come!