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.

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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.