Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brum, brum.

Nice sunrise this morning.

Anyway, more importantly, bikes'n'cars...

Bikes first...

My current steed is a BMW R100GS. It's 22 years old, very comfy, done only 25,000 miles, is powered by a twin-cylinder 980cc engine that was originally designed in pre-war days, has a reputation for typically Teutonic reliability, is motorcycling's equivalent of a Land Rover and stirs the soul in much the same way - i.e. hardly at all. Bereft of more recent BMW technological innovations such as oil cooling, fuel injection and four-valve cylinder heads, it can justifiably be considered a relic from a bygone age. I, however, prefer to use the descriptor 'classic'.

Although the bike does everything I ask of a motorcycle (start, go, stop), I am becoming increasingly aware of two important factors: anno domini and diminishing finances. It's suddenly dawned on me that this could be my last ever motorcycle. This realisation set me thinking. Maybe now's the time to sell this antiquated heap of metal and re-invest in one last hurrah. Maybe a Honda Blackbird (nah, it's a licence loser). Or maybe a pristine Ducati 916 (nah, too temperamental and ridiculously uncomfy - especially for Georgie 'the pillion'). Or maybe one of these new 6-cylinder BMWs (nah, way too pricey - 16 grand? - and 'flash').

So what would I go for? Well, having given this question due and in-depth consideration over the last few weeks or so, there's only one answer: a Honda VFR750, preferably '95 to '97, with extremely low mileage and just one careful (and preferably rich and geriatric) owner. Spotted one on eBay a couple of weeks ago - '97, 2500 miles, with panniers and top box, one owner, 2500 quid. Would have bought it immediately but it was all a bit rushed and I hadn't consulted 'er indoors. Looked again about five minutes later and it was sold. Damn. That's how quick you have to be. Decided there and then to put my BMW up for sale so I could be better prepared should such an opportunity arise again.

Took some photos of the bike and placed an ad on various biking websites including eBay. Was then inundated by heaps of questions from nutters, dreamers and punters in the UK. For example: Do you know the proceedure for registering a French bike in the UK? Are you willing to trailer the bike to a channel port for inspection? Will you deliver to (e.g.) Basingstoke or Middle Wallop? Why has a White Power rear suspension unit been fitted? Would you accept an offer of half your asking price? What did the previous owner eat for breakfast? An absolute nightmare. Needless to say, the bike didn't sell. Having said that, I've just received another enquiry this morning from another punter. Emailed him hi-res photos. Am anticipating more tricky and daft questions. Maybe I'll just keep her.

And now cars...

I own three: the dogwagon (a beat-up Citroen 1.4 ZX estate that only a dog or a bohemian hermit recluse would be seen dead in), the camper (an elderly, low mileage, VW T25 1.6 Transporter that barely gets used and spends its life garaged in Aubusson at a rent of 120 quid a quarter) and the Golf (a dysfunctional yet incredibly sporty mark2 GTi 16 valver that needs a few bob thrown at it).

The Citroen was bought as a runaround and fulfils its task admirably. The camper was a sort of spur of the moment purchase. Thought it would be ideal for spending week-ends doing up 'the barn'. However, as the barn project has been put on hold, it currently serves no specific purpose. The Golf was bought because I once held up a long line of traffic climbing a steep hill out of Tulle in the Citroen loaded down with three passengers, two dogs and various gardening implements. I vowed at that moment to buy a sporty car that would zoom up hills at the speed of light while pinning occupants against seat backs and sinking eyeballs deep into sockets.

Clearly, I don't need three cars. One would probably do. As the Citroen's unsellable without a massive defumigation programme and a substantial cosmetic overhaul, it inevitably makes financial sense to keep the damned thing and run it into the ground (so far, it appears to be indestructable). So, inspired by my BMW advertising venture, I knocked up a quick ad for the Golf (it's kept outside and with winter snows approaching it makes sense to unload it first - then the camper). Realised then that I needed photos. But the car required cleaning first, both inside and out. Discovered a bit of rust along the bottom of the passenger door. Spent a week-end scraping, sanding and painting with a rust-preventer. Wouldn't win a beauty prize but was considerably cheaper than the 380 euros I was quoted for a proper door removal and re-spray job. Then set about cleaning the interior (amazing how dog hairs, mud and breadcrumbs get into even the darkest recesses - discovered four Biros, some old French francs and a 1994 Easter egg wrapper under the back seat). Realising that I was never going to succeed with just a dustpan and brush, I then headed for the local carwash and its super-duper Hoover thingy. Eventually (after a scary moment when my right leg was almost sucked into oblivion up the Hoover tube) got the car looking fab so took some snaps and placed an ad. which appeared last Wednesday in a French classic car mag.

Had about half a dozen phone enquiries from eager enthusiasts. Trouble was, they didn't speak English and I hardly speak French - certainly not enough to answer specific questions. No great problem though, couple of chaps said they'd come round this week-end to view. Asked me if I had some form from the local Prefecture (county hall) in order to complete the sale. Told 'em I didn't but I'd get one. Whizzed off to Gueret yesterday. Arrived at the Prefecture, fought my way through a load of flag and banner waving revolutionaries outside the front door (dunno what they were campaigning against - could have been something to do with Sarkozy's upping of the retirement age) and obtained said documentation. Then popped into the key shop opposite. Asked if he could knock up a duplicate of my massive (and I mean massive) front door key. Said he could but it'd take a couple of hours and cost 13 euros. Result! Been meaning to get a spare for ages.

Drove back home. Digital dashboard not working. Totally blank. Rats. Just my luck. Car won't sell in this condition. Reckoned it was underpriced anyway (2250 euros), which may explain why so many people were interested. Decided right there and then to keep the car, tell all punters it was sold, throw loads of dosh at it over the coming months and get it back into A1 condition (it is, after all, one of my favourite cars of all time).

But..., I've just spotted a 4.2 litre, V8 Audi estate (woohoo!) that's only done 90,000 kilometres. Up for grabs at just 9,000 euros.

Naughty, but nice. Just the job for driving to England and back. Trouble is..., just 22 miles per gallon (hah! who cares!). Ah well, maybe I'd better stick to the dogwagon and Golf.

Right, so, next..., change oil and filter on dogwagon, get estimate for Golf dashboard repair, then a new exhaust, maybe a new clutch, maybe a new set of hoses, maybe get that door properly resprayed and work out where the rain's getting in (it's a complete mystery), then photograph camper interior (already have excellent exterior shots) and knock up an ad, hope it sells and thus save just over a quid a day for garaging. Ooh, it's all go.


  1. Oh Tommo, you put a smile on my face when I read your blogs. Your sense of humour shines through, as do your stoical endeavours to keep going. Don't know much about cars. Have an VW camper, which we can't register here, so its ending its life being used as a pick-up truck and a shed. Shame, it was well looked after in the UK. And we are driving a Mercedes, not because we wanted to be upmarket but because we were urgently in need of a car, and this one was offered to us at a good price, and we had no choice but to purchase it. It is a dream of a car to drive, but has a long bonnet and a rear end. After the no bonnet and no rear end of the VW, driving the Merc is quiet hard, especially when in confined spaces. The bumpers are showing various colours of scrapings, including a long white stripe from the plant pot I recently backed into. Women drivers, heh! Good luck with your vehicles though, and hope you get them sorted out soon.

  2. Lovely photos (of sunsets).

    I probably don't have to say it but the Harleys do it for us. All that chrome to polish and t-shirts to buy (apparently for every £1 spent on bikes £50 is spent on clothing and other embellishments). (Thinking about it, that's probably the case in this household.)
    They're very comfy and make a great noise, too. And they can go pretty fast if you want to, which we don't very often, too busy admiring the beautiful countryside.

    Selling anything for more than a fiver on Ebay is a nightmare. We sold a bike on Ebay once and were inundated with questions from anoraks and other nerds. It's never the ones that ask all the questions that buy it.

    Nick had a 1996 VFR750. It was fabulous. He sold it because he found himself doing 130mph up the dual carriageway to work everyday when he thought he was only doing 80. At least on a Harley it feels like 80, if you can hang on hard enough !!

  3. Thanks all for comments.

    Vera - A Merc is a wise choice. I read somewhere that the pre-'89(?) models are extremely well-engineered. After that, I understand build quality suffered due to bean counters cutting costs.

    Diane - Thanks for reading. Er..., sunrise not sunset.

    Jean - I've always secretly fancied a Harley Fatboy. Bit too pricey pour moi though. Reassured to know that you approve of the VFR750. Er..., sunrise not sunset.