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.

Advertisements

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

International Window Tinting Laws for Cars Driving Around the World

Tinted Windows In Europe and Around the World (updated Feb 2016)

So you’ve worked out how to get petrol when you’re abroad.  Next on your list of vehicle considerations is how to stop light getting into where you’re sleeping.  If you’re thinking of doing a longer term driving expedition, you need to know about the worldwide laws surrounding tinted windows. It’s probably occurred to you that it would be a Very Good Thing if you could sleep in your camper conversion without having passers-by staring into your lovely portable home while you sleep. Other people like the UV protection, and women drivers say they like being able to avoid unwanted attention of men in countries like UAE or Iran.  However, while the EU has passed a decisive law on the matter, individual EU member states have still made their own laws about it. One country has completely outlawed any tint. And then there’s the rest of the world; beyond the EU, in Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine, for example, it’s very difficult to find out what the legalities are for tinted windows. The other complication is that, for the most part, these laws only apply to citizens of the country which made the law, so if you’re passing through, you’ll probably (but not necessarily) be able to get away with it in a UK registered car. Once you’ve stayed in the same country for more than 180 days, it becomes a legal requirement to follow their car maintenance and tax laws, and remember that your car will still have to be fully road-legal for the UK before you drive onto that ferry home, as well.

Here’s a breakdown of the tint laws, ranked by percentage tint.

100% Black tint on all windows – not legal, anywhere. In Britain it was outlawed for front side windows in 2003. It reduces the distance of your visibility and has been shown to increase the chance of an accident (although this could be something to do with the fact that drug dealers etc tend to have tinted windows, and they don’t exactly drive carefully, so perhaps they should be cracking down on drug dealers, not tinted windows).

Rear Windows:

100% black tint on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B post) – UK, Germany (must have a manufacturing approval number at least once on each window, and you must carry a document explaining who did the tint and with the same approval number on it), Spain (same paperwork as for Germany), Belgium (but must be certified by the Glass Institute and if you’re putting any tint on rear window, you must have two wing mirrors), France (providing it doesn’t deform or reduce visibility, and has been certified), Czech Republic (but must be certified), Italy (must be certified), Russia, Spain (but film must be approved for use in Spain and certified), Poland (same as for Spain).  From people’s experience, lots of travellers found it impossible to get tinting film that was approved for either Spain or Poland, because they haven’t actually approved any that are reasonably available to buy at the time of writing.

80% tint or 20% VLT (visible light transmission) on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Austria (and 20% tint (80% VLT) on front windows),

65% tint or 35% VLT – Australia (all windows)

60% tint or 40% VLT on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Denmark.

30% tint or 70% VLT on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Finland, Hungary.

Front Windows:

25% tint – 75% VLT – on front windows and front windscreen: UK, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Russia,

30% tint – 70% VLT – on front windows and front windscreen: Belgium, Malta, United Arab Emirates,

No tint whatsoever on front windows or front side windows forward of B-pillar: Italy, France (you’re allowed a low tint on sides but nothing on front), Spain,

65% tint – 35% VLT – Australia (all windows).

Total Tint Ban:

0% Tint – all windows must be 100% transparent – Portugal, Belarus, Libya, Kuwait, Bolivia, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan. Almost all of these are recent law changes and are due to violence and the ongoing threat of terrorism. Except Portugal. They’re just being silly for such a hot country. Egypt and Cyprus – unless it’s the actual glass rather than a tinted film. Tinted glass appears to be fine at any transparency in Cyprus and Egypt, but tinted film is totally banned.

Unusual Exceptions:

Greece – they state that all passengers and driver must be visible at all times, so some tint is probably OK but dark tints would not be. I would be a bit concerned about taking a tinted vehicle to Greece because they’re not very specific.

Tunisia – they say tints are allowed but should not be so heavily tinted that it is not possible to see into the car from outside, but they don’t specify a percentage.

Tajikistan – no tinting at all unless you buy a tinting “licence” to own tinted windows – at about $500 per vehicle.

India – total tint ban for film, but if it’s come from the manufacturer, it can be 30% tinted – so 70% VLT – in front and rear windows, and 50% tinted on the side windows.

America – state vs federal law in the USA, and a similar thing in Canada, appears to over-complicate the tinting requirements depending on which state you are in. This helpful article explains it all (near the bottom): http://www.ritrama.com/ritrama/userfiles/file/prodotti/Car_Window_Tinting_Laws.pdf

Turkmenistan – Window tints are totally illegal, but Turkmenistan deserved a separate entry because the following are also illegal: 2 door cars, engines over 3 litres, cars older than 5 years of age, black coloured cars are also banned and so are any kind of sports cars.  Source here (about halfway down the article): https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-strange-things-banned-in-countries

Notable lack of information:

There was no information despite hours of detailed searches for the following countries: Romania, Morocco, Mongolia, Iran, China – apparently some tints are illegal in China, but there’s no specifics (see the only reference I could find)

Tanzania – taxis and buses should not have tinted windows but there’s a distinct lack of information regarding the legality of private vehicles.

Got any inside info on countries I could add to this article?  Let me know in the comments!

References:

France: http://www.connexionfrance.com/Tinted-car-windows-ban-Pechenard-90kph-80kph-15171-view-article.html

Bolivia: http://www.carthrottle.com/post/the-10-most-awesome-cop-stories-youve-lived-through/

Kenya: http://allafrica.com/stories/201405161523.html

UAE: http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/transport/drivers-face-fines-and-seeing-their-cars-impounded-but-they-still-want-tints

Egypt: http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/namru3/Staff/Documents/WELCOME%20ABOARD%20BROCHURE%20Update%20AUG%2012.pdf

Libya: http://www.tripolipost.com/articledetail.asp?c=1&i=7778

Tunisia: http://www.ediplomat.com/np/post_reports/pr_tn.htm

Sudan: http://catholicradionetwork.org/?q=node/7211

Tajikistan: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/63670

China: http://www.scmp.com/article/376926/tinted-window-law-not-tough-enough

India: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/From-Friday-any-tinted-film-on-car-windows-will-be-illegal/articleshow/12956949.cms

Pakistan: http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/03/28/feature-01

Any other countries mentioned: http://www.ritrama.com/ritrama/userfiles/file/prodotti/Car_Window_Tinting_Laws.pdf