My life with cars (Part 7) – Two Jags and the seductress

I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. This is part 7, the final part.

Jaguar XFS

My first ever Jaguar was the chosen replacement and a shiny new 3.0XFS in metallic black was duly purchased. This was an oil burner (diesel) buy boy could it shift and it returned 40+ MPG on a run. Not many stories to share about the Jag XFS really. It’s a stunning car and has been voted European car of the year for the past 3 or 4 years, knocking the Germans off the coveted title that they held for the previous decade. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the driver’s seat, i.e. it was a high-sided sports seat that I found uncomfortable on my right leg. I suppose it could have been something to do with the width of my backside, but that’s nit picking an otherwise excellent car.

Jaguar XK

However, after only 18 months into Jaguar ownership and all of the good things I’ve said about the XFS, I’ve just swapped it for a Jaguar XK in liquid silver. Since its launch I’ve admired the XK but I’ve talked myself out of owning one on the rational that packing a 5.0L engine and with only 2 very small back seats it might not be entirely practical.

I don’t know whether it was the fact that I’m having a longer mid life crisis than most or that I’m just a petrol head who will never change that allowed me to be seduced by the XK. I have to say that its one of the most stunning cars I’ve ever owned it’s absolutely beautiful and its mechanically excellent. I’ve only had it for a week, but it’s already rekindled the feelings I had when I owned the TVR only the driving experience is significantly better.

So there you have it 18 cars spanning 35 years and all with their own memories and story to tell. Some people have asked me if I had names for the cars. Whilst I called them a few names that can’t be repeated here on numerous occasions, I have to admit I wasn’t one for giving my cars names.

  • Austin 1100
  • Vauxhall Viva
  • Ford Cortina (almost)
  • Ford Consul
  • Ford Capri
  • Opel Ascona
  • Vauxhall Astra
  • Vauxhall Cavalier
  • Ford Sierra
  • Vauxhall Carlton
  • Citroen ZX
  • BMW 520
  • Audi A4
  • Audi A4 Avant
  • VW Touareg
  • TVR Chimaera
  • Jaguar XFS
  • Jaguar XK

In terms of takeaways, cars have certainly come a long way in 35 years, the rust worm is a pretty much a thing of the past, self servicing is a thing of the past due to complex electronics and thankfully it’s much more difficult to steal cars these days. In terms of cost my first car depreciated at £1 per month, whereas the last but one depreciated at £1000 per month, ouch!

I’m not sure if that’s progress or not!

Thanks for reading.

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars

My life with cars (Part 6) – A story of love at first sight

I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. This is part 6.

TVR Chimaera

One day I stumbled across a very nice TVR Chimaera. I’d heard of the TVR brand, more from a poor reliability perspective, but I’d never really seen one up close and I’d never driven one before. It was sitting in the sun when I arrived, it was deep metallic red with a camel leather interior and it looked fabulous. When the guy fired up the 4.0L Rover V8 engine it sounded even better than it looked and I knew there and then I had to have it.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of driving a TVR it’s like nothing else I’d driven before or since. So much power and torque and so little weight means that when you press the loud pedal it takes off like a rocket and you just hold on with a huge grin on your face. Yes it was a bit eccentric, but that just added to the appeal.

To this day, my TVR (Red V8) got more love and attention than any car I’ve ever owned. To say it was pampered would be an understatement. It was kept in a heated garage, it was washed and polished whether it was dirty or not, it only drank Shell Vpower, and it never went out in the rain or when there was salt on the road.

I joined the TVR car club and enjoyed some excellent Sunday outings with 30 or so other TVR owners in the country roads of Northumberland and Yorkshire. These were planned with military precision and the routes were a closely guarded secret, as it had been known for the boys in blue to have mobile speed traps out waiting for us. Not that we ever exceeded the speed limit I hasten to add (cough).

It didn’t live up to the billing of me getting the tools out again though. Yes I did some cosmetic jobs and I even reconditioned the chassis but I had the main dealer, before TVR went out of business, service it. My first service cost me something like £1200 and every year after that the annual service cost me the thick end of £1000, just as well I loved it then.

The Touareg was reaching its third birthday and the TVR was being polished more and more but being driven less and less so I decided to sell both of them and buy something which had great performance but was more practical than the TVR.

Thanks for reading, read part 7 here

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars

My life with cars (Part 5) – Snotty salesmen, regrets, and the monster

I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. This is part 5.

Audi A4

I’m 40 and as a treat to myself I decide to buy my first brand new car. I had been really happy with the beemer so I tootled along to my local BMW dealer intent on buying a new car there and then. What happened next put me off BMW and to this day I’ve never had another. Upon arriving at the dealership I was looking around the cars and found it difficult to attract the attention of a salesperson. When I finally found someone to talk to, I found the chap to be arrogant and snotty and disinterested. Yes I may have been wearing scruffy jeans and a T shirt and may not have looked like your stereotypical BMW owner but I didn’t expect to be dressed for a wedding to buy a car and I didn’t appreciate his arrogance. I don’t buy from people like that so I went to the dealer over the road and bought a brand new Audi A4 instead. Who knows how much this one person cost BMW as I may still be driving a BMW today if it had not been for him.

The Audi A4 was a 1.8 saloon in silver, and it was very smart. However, when I was buying it I really had a hankering for the estate, but I bottled it at the last minute on the reckoning that an estate was an old mans car. A few months later I was regretting not going for the estate following a conversation with some of my work colleagues from Germany who told me that estate cars are the first choice of the young in Germany as they are perfect for lugging around surf boards, sports gear, camping gear and what not.

Audi A4 Avant

I lived with this regret for 3 years until I finally replaced the A4 saloon with an A4 Avant (sounds much better than estate). It was a spanking new 2.4 V6 Sport Model in dolphin gray and it was absolutely fantastic. The only issue I had during 3 years of ownership was when I cracked the front windscreen carrying a piece of decking back from B&Q. It was just too long to fit into the car with one end against the front window and the other end against the back window, so I had to bow it slightly. This worked until I drove into our street and the first speed bump I went over sent a crack right across the windscreen. I phoned up my insurance and a chap came and put me in a new one. He had to complete the paperwork and ask me how it happened for insurance purposes and being an honest soul I felt obliged to tell him my embarrassing story. He replied with “the insurance won’t cover that so lets call it a stone chip shall we”… there are some nice people in the world after all.

Volkswagen Touareg

Mid life crisis is biting hard and I’m thinking what would I like to own that I’d not had before. I decided I needed a 4×4 and I started to look at what options were available. I’ll probably upset a few people by saying this but I really don’t like Range Rovers, too old fashioned and country gentleman for my tastes and I ruled them out early on. I ended up buying another German machine a VW Touareg 3.0 TDI SE in pearlescent black. I say German but I later found out that these are made in Bratislava at the Skoda factory.

That aside it was an excellent piece of machinery. I had the good fortune to go on an off road and racing circuit driving experience and the car was phenomenal. Being a speed junkie I was really looking forward to the track experience, but I came back having enjoyed the off road experience better. For such a big car it was fantastic on the track, which may be down to the fact it shared its heritage, technology and chassis design with the Porsche Cayenne, but off road it was unstoppable, the terrain we covered and the hills it got up and down were simply unbelievable. The car defied the laws of physics, and gravity in some cases, and to this day I still can’t believe how it did this. The Touareg would pull anything and I still think it holds the world record for the heaviest weight towed in the shape of a Jumbo Jet. I kept the Touareg for 3 years and despite being heavy on fuel at 24MPG, it never ever let me down.

I have to admit thought that it didn’t solve the mid life crisis and I decided I also needed and open top sports car. I used to live next to a guy who owned an MGB and another guy who owned and Triumph TR6. I’d always wanted one but could never rationalise owning one for the 4 sunny days we get each year up north. I started searching for something interesting with the idea that I’d get the tools out again, get my hands dirty and treat it as a hobby.

Thanks for reading, read part 6 here

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars

My life with cars (Part 4) – One of my best, one of my worst, and a poltergeist

I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. This is part 4.

Vauxhall Carlton

Next up is one of my most favorite cars a Vauxhall Carlton 2.0 in metallic brown. I bought it from the auction and took a risk on it as whilst it looked clean and the engine sounded good the front wheel bearing was seized solid so it couldn’t be driven. However, the risk paid off, as once I’d replaced the wheel bearings it was a wonderful car that was great to own and drive and fully loaded with gadgets. I ran it for a good few years until one night it exploded in a fireball right outside the Police station in Sunderland. Whilst I was driving along the road the engine cut out and so I pulled in. I turned the ignition key to try and restart. There was a loud bang and enormous flames shot out of the front wheel arches. As you would expect I made a swift exit from the car to see what was going on and the whole front of the car was ablaze. I went back opened the boot and saved my wedding photos that had only been delivered that day. I know this was stupid and I have no idea why I did it but it seemed like an important thing to do at the time. Anyway, by this time policemen were pouring out of the station only this time they weren’t asking “What’s a young lad like you doing in a big car like this and can you tell me the registration please?” they were closing off one of the major routes into the city. The fire station was just around the corner and the fire brigade arrived two minutes later, but it was two minutes too late as the car was a gonner. It turned out that the petrol pipe to the injectors was the wrong type and had perforated spraying a fine petrol mist onto the exhaust manifold that resulted in the explosion.

Citroen ZX

In need of another new car I went back to the car auction and I’m not really sure what possessed me to buy my first diesel car a Citroen ZX in black. Yes it was low mileage and I liked the colour, but a Citroen really??? Maybe I was still mourning the loss of my Carlton or maybe this was a period in my life where the car was a functional A to B thing and not an object of desire or pleasure, who knows?

By now I’m no longer servicing cars myself and on the first service the dealer tells me the cylinder head gasket need replacing (at considerable cost). I found this really odd, as I’d had cylinder head gaskets fail before and you get symptoms such as high temperature, coolant loss or sludge in the coolant. Anyway, being a cynic, I chose to ignore their advice and I was right to do so as the car was problem free and served me well until I sold it about two years later.

BMW 520

Next up was something with a bit more soul, one of Germanys finest, a BMW 520 in dark blue. Compared to the Citroen this was luxury (compared to the Citroen anything was luxury) and it may have been the car that rekindled my passion for cars. It was the first six-cylinder car that I’d owned and I remember how it always sounded like it was revving too high, when really it was just firing six times instead of four.  The beemer lasted me for a few years until it was possessed by a poltergeist. It would strike at the most inopportune time and manifest itself in all of the instruments just going dead for a few minutes whilst the car kept going. Not ideal when you’re driving through a speed camera infested zone and you have absolutely no idea how fast you’re going. I did consider exorcism but decided to sell up instead.

Thanks for reading, read part 5 here

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars

My life with cars (Part 3) – You can steal one of those with a lollipop stick.

I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. This is part 3.

Opel Ascona

Exit the Capri and welcome the Opel Ascona 1.9 Berlinetta in metallic green (the German equivalent of the Vauxhall Cavalier). Apart from having a persistent problem with condensation forming on the inside of the windows this was a nice car and very quick too for its time. I don’t really have much to say about this car as for the first time I didn’t have to spend every other weekend lying underneath it or hunched over it. That said, it was plagued with a carburetor problem in that it would just stop after driving around 150 miles, give it 10 minutes and it would go another 150 miles and pack in again. I eventually traced the problem to a sliver of metal that had come off one of the bolts inside the carburetor and would occasionally find its way into the jet. I can’t remember how we went our separate ways, I must have sold it I guess and moved onto the next chapter.

Vauxhall Astra Mk2

Next up was a Vauxhall Astra Mk2 in red. A very clean and tidy car that had perfect bodywork and was mechanically solid. It must have been much younger than any of my previous cars as I don’t think I ever had to do anything to it mechanically. However, it wasn’t a good car because it wasn’t reliable, i.e. I couldn’t rely on it being where I left it the night before. For some reason it attracted thieves like nobody’s business and it must have been stolen about four times before I finally got rid of it. A policeman once told me that he could get into an Astra with a lollipop stick, very reassuring. Bizarrely though, other than the door lock being punched into the door, it never suffered any real damage, but I needed something more reliable and so it had to go.

Vauxhall Cavalier

I replaced the Astra with a Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 in metallic blue. I think the Mk2 was voted car of the year when they were launched and rightly so in my opinion. A great car, stylish, good engine, good to drive and the hatchback meant you could lug all sorts around in the back. I have fond memories of this car and I enjoyed every minute of ownership. I sold it onto a good friend who kept it going for years afterwards.

Ford Sierra

I only parted company with the Cavalier because I changed jobs and got a company car as part of the new job. It was a Ford Sierra 1.8 in red and if I’m completely honest I found this a very bland and boring car after the Cavalier and as such I never really grew to like it. My displeasure with the Sierra didn’t last long though as after about a year I chose to leave the company and the car with it.

Thanks for reading, read part 4 here

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars

My life with cars (Part 2) – The Sweeny and every boys dream

This is the second part of my life with cars. I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. I’d love to think my kids read this story in 50 years time when all cars are made of plastic and powered by sherbet or some other wonder fuel.

Ford Consul

My next car was a Ford Consul (almost a Granada) in metallic brown NVK 375L. I’m not exactly sure why this is the only registration I can remember from my early cars but maybe it had something to do with the number of times I was stopped by the police that I remember it so well. “What’s a young lad like you doing in a big car like this and can you tell me the registration please?” was always their opening gambit. This car taught me my first big lesson… always clean your rear windscreen before reversing at speed on a cold and frosty night. If only I’d done that I wouldn’t have written off my mates Ford Capri that was parked 6 doors down the street, sorry Jim.  Anyway, the Consul was repaired and served me well until the rust worm also took over. I replaced both front wings with fiberglass after market parts and I resprayed the whole car red, which turned out like Heinz Tomato Ketchup with one of those £20 electric spray guns from Halfords. To say it lost its shine after that would be an understatement, as the best finish I could achieve resembled a matt orange peel effect. The other lessons I learned during Consul ownership were how to take engines out, how to change cylinder head gaskets, how to change clutches, and most importantly how to weld which would serve me well over the following years.

My Consul also provided my first experience of having a car stolen. I remember vividly the night I took my mum and girlfriend to the supermarket about 10 miles away for our weekly shopping. We emerged from the shop with two huge trolley loads of food and couldn’t find the car. It’s amazing, the last thing you expect is for it not to be there and you convince yourself you’ve left it somewhere else. When I realised it had been nicked, I phoned the police and we set about lugging all this shopping home on the bus. By the time we got home there was a phone call from the police saying they had found the car and the thieves had left it about 800 yards from where we lived in the next street. How kind of them!!

It was stolen once more after that, from outside my front door and rolled down to the bottom of the street and the radio nicked, and I often wondered if it was the same villains on both occasions?

My relationship with the Consul was reaching its natural conclusion and I sold it to a chap looking for something to tow a caravan. However, I hoped it was a small caravan as I never did get round to fixing the big end bearings that were knocking like mad before we finally parted company.

Ford Capri

Every boys dream car, the Ford Capri was my next car. I bought a 1600 Mk2 in white and set about customising it (well sort of) with a black vinyl roof, louvers on the back window, jazzed up wheels with bright chrome rims and air horns. I loved this car and utilizing those earlier welding skills and about a ton of fiberglass and body filler, I kept it running for a good few years. Having spent so much time and money on spare parts, by now I was also best mates with Kevin Stewart, the chap who owned the local motor factors. Mechanically it only let me down once when the oil pump packed in when coming over the pennines at Alston. My brother came to the rescue and towed me home where I took out the engine, replaced the big end bearings which had melted themselves to the crankshaft and repaired the oil pump by cutting down a 6mm Allen key. Running old cars also taught me how to improvise. When it got the stage that I could no longer keep the rain out of the car I decided it was time to say goodbye.

Thanks for reading, read part 3 here

Footnote: these pictures are for illustration only they are not of my cars