Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Personal History of Cars

The whole reason I set up the DriveArchive site was to find out where my old motors had gone to.

A chronological list of the cars I've owned:


First car, obvious choice. I had no idea what I was doing when I bought it, no idea about mileages, no clue how to spot a dud. I was lucky, it was actually quite reliable.

I slowly trashed it. Bits fell off, I used and abused it, ultimately smashed it through a hedge, I bodged repairs, I bodged bodywork, oh dear oh dear.

What I'd give to have it back, just as it was back then.

MG Midget

Suddenly got an idea that sports cars would be fun. And this was.

If you see a Midget on the road today you'll know that they were named very appositely. They are so small, and as I am not myself, I wonder how I got in the thing.

Went everywhere in it, usually with the top down. Not fast, not quiet, but very reliable and a good laugh. Except in snow.

I really hope someone preserved it. I doubt they did.

0-60mph - 14.8 secs
95mph top speed
65 bhp

Mini Clubman Estate

What on earth I was thinking I don't know. I mean it wasn't a bad car. But why I went from sporty young blade in an MG to this shopping trolley I just cannot now recall.

I'd just about got the hang of the mechanicals of cars by now, so I didn't cause this car anywhere near as much damage as the previous two.

VW Beetle

My mate Roy sold me this for next to nothing. I ran around in it for a few months, while bodging over the rust and tarting it up for a quick sale.

An interesting driving experience, those girder like bumpers certainly commanded respect, and once you'd wound it up to speed, leaving your noise behind you, it was a relaxed motorway cruiser.

0-60mph - 20+ secs
78mph top speed
40 bhp

Triumph GT6

Aha. Now this is it a bit more like it. Almost a proper sports car. The GT6 was fast. Great big engine, and hardly anything to it. A mini E-type. Sort of.

I eventually stripped it out, replaced all the carpets, refurbished the mechanicals, rust-proofed it, and I hope that somewhere out there it still exists.

Sold to a guy in Stone, Staffs, called Stuart I think.

Bonkers rear suspension, though. And Overdrive! Huh?

0-60mph - 9.5 secs
112mph top speed
98 bhp

Triumph TR7

Hang on a minute, I'm filling up. Oh how I loved this car.

I know TR7s have a terrible reputation. I don't care. This car was just great. It looked great (to me). It went fast, it handled quite well. It was a full sized car, not like the Midget and the GT6.

I went all over in it, even slept in it once. I cannot recall it ever breaking down. I was mad to sell it. Please tell me it survived. Please.

0-60mph - 10.8 secs

108mph top speed

105 bhp

Suzuki SJ410Q

And another odd choice. There I was with the love-of-my-life-TR7, and I decided to buy the slowest car in the universe.

My first new car, it cost £4.5k, about the same as a Ford Fiesta at the time, but I thought it would be a lot more interesting.

It was, in a cold, slow, bumpy sort of way.

Good off-road, fun on beaches, nice on a summer day with the top down. Absolutely un-drivable on motorways. Top speed 60 with the wind behind you.

0-60mph - a long time
68mph top speed
45 bhp

Ford Fiesta XR2

Another favourite, perhaps the best car I've had.

It went like stink, really did. And, unlike previous cars I'd had, this one handled!

Oh it was a harsh ride. Front tyres wore out in 6k miles. But it was fun, fun, fun. Nice inside too. Sunroof.

Gosh I used to drive it fast. Never had a dodgy moment in it, though. Good brakes, good grip, just plain good all over.

0-60mph - 10.1 secs
106mph top speed
84 bhp

Opel Manta GT/E

This beauty cost me £7,500 back in 1984. At the time I hated Capris, and wanted something that did the same job, but was better. The Manta had a rallying pedigree, and looked just fabulous in white, I thought.

I never quite bonded with it, like with the XR2 above. It was faster, but it felt slower. It was a lovely car, until the day I over-did it in the wet and bashed it up a grass bank. The garage botched the repairs, and it was never right after that.

Its end was ignominious... it just rotted away. I waxoyled it when new, but blocked a chassis drain hole, leading to water just standing inside, which eventually rusted through. It only did 75,000 miles. What a waste.

0-60mph - 9.0 secs
122mph top speed
110 bhp
Triumph TR7

Now you'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but no, I bought another TR7. This one, theoretically, should have been better. It was a five speed, and not Speke made. But it was pretty ropey. And, it was rusty.

It had a very good sunroof, and did go quite well, but hadn't the charm of my earlier model.

0-60mph - 10 secs

110mph top speed

105 bhp
Ford Escort MkIV

When it was new, and owned by my then partner, this was a pretty good car. Unfortunately by the time I got it, it was somewhat tarnished.

It had had a minor bump, which had holed the radiator, but the car was driven on until the engine exploded. The engine was replaced. But somehow the car felt loose and rattly and a bit rough after that.

I should have kept it, with it's new engine, but for reasons which escape me now, I decided to trade it in for...

0-60mph - 11.7 secs
109mph top speed
90 bhp
Rover 414iS

I paid £12,000 for this car. Just before car prices started to fall. What a dummy. And the thing was nice, but it wasn't that much nicer than the Escort it replaced.

It had one huge problem, that the transmission was very jumpy. To start off and change up through the low gears smoothly was impossible. I came to hate the car because of this, and nobody could seem to fix it... maybe it was me... maybe my clutch foot is just rubbish. I dunno.

It had nice alloys, and it was quiet and comfortable and quite frugal. Once I'd sold it, I quite missed it.

0-60mph -  11 secs
111 mph top speed
103 bhp

There's a full story of this car in the Articles section of DriveArchive.
Astra 1.7 CDTI

The more powerful of the two diesel versions available, thankfully. Has been 'in the family' from new, and I've acquired it from the leasing company as it turns 4 years old, having done over 80,000 miles.

It's averaged over 53mpg so far, and has a fair turn of speed in the mid range, making it reasonably fun to drive. Slower speeds reveal a tractor-like engine noise, but the quicker you go, the less apparent that is.

Hate the colour, should have chosen red. Nice alloys. Terrific stereo.

Has been replaced by a leased Focus, with which it compares quite well, the Focus having a more sporty feel and more gizmos. However, it lacks the Astra's solidity, and surprisingly has an inferior sound system and interior trim feels less well put together. The Focus's engine (again a diesel) is much quieter and refined, though.

0-60mph - 11.3 secs
112mph top speed
100 bhp
Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor

Now this is a bit more like it!

Genuinely low mileage car, but it is 16 years old. So I am a little nervous about it, as if something major, or even minor, goes wrong it could be, um, awkward!

Not had so much fun driving a car for the odd decade or two. And watching the roof go up and down is a blast.

See here.

0-60mph - 7.3 secs
140mph top speed
193 bhp
Ford Focus TDCi

Somewhat predictably, I've ended up buying my missus's Focus as she has moved on (in a sense) to a newer Corsa. (Watch this space, but I'm rather hoping I don't end up with that particular car as a hand-me-down!)

This Focus is much documented in this blog, in several comparison articles where, frankly, it comes off second to my now departed Astra.

Having said that, it is a nice car, handles well, goes okay and consistently returns 54mpg on the school run.

0-60mph - 10.8 secs
117mph top speed
109 bhp

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