The recent sale of the Honda dogwagon (see earlier 'Gits' posting) left me with just the Merc for nipping down the shops, driving Jock for dogwalks and general get-abouting. As this fine example of German engineering isn't really suitable as a runaround, and as I don't really want to rack up the miles in a relatively low-mileage classic car, a replacement for the Honda was called for. Gave myself a budget of around 2000 euros (£1750?) and began searching for a good, low mileage, runaround dogwagon on the 'Leboncoin' site (much more popular than Ebay in France for buying and selling everything from houses to budgie seed). Pretty soon it became apparent that my budget wouldn't buy much more than a knackered old rustbucket, so, almost inevitably, I raised the bar to 3000 euros. Then 4000. Then 5000. When I found myself looking at ten grand Porsche 944's I realised I'd completely lost the plot, so I returned to my 2000 limit.
Interestingly, small, economical runarounds are extremely popular in France now that the cost of petrol has doubled over the last five or six years. And small diesel cars are even more highly sought after because of their higher mpg (or should that be kpl?). Trouble is, because France is such a big place and people have to travel further to get to the shops or work, these small cars soon rack up high kilometrages. Consequently, a ten year old Renault Twingo in good nick, for example, with 120,000 kms on the clock, will set you back about three grand. Meanwhile, a lower kilometrage bigger car of the same year (perceived as a gas-guzzler - for example my Mercedes 190e) can be bought for half that price. Hence the popularity of the Twingo, Peugeot 109 and 107, Citroen C1, VW Polo and Fox, and all sorts of other boring little roller-skates.
Just as I was about to give up and grudgingly plump for a 3500 euro limit, I spotted a gem. A 1995 Citroen ZX 1.4i with just 39,000 kms (26,000 miles?) for just 1800 euros. I emailed the vendor immediately and arranged to view the following day. Drove 100 miles west to Rochechouart and discovered the car had been inherited by the vendor's elderly wife following the recent death of her father. As they already had three cars, they didn't need another so it was up for sale. Apparently her father hardly ever used the car, had owned it from new, and kept it mollycoddled in his garage. Hence its low mileage and excellent condition. Came as no surprise when the vendor said the phone had hardly stopped ringing since he placed the ad, but, as I was the first person to respond, it was mine if I wanted it. Immediately paid a deposit and said I'd pick it up in a few days once I'd arranged insurance.
The following Friday I caught the 6.50am (that's 5.50am in Angleterre - very dark at that ridiculous time of day) bus from Felletin to Limoges, then faced a four hour wait for a train to near Rochechouart. As I didn't want to leave Jock on his own at home for any longer than absolutely necessary, I asked a cabbie what he'd charge for the 25 mile journey. He estmated about 60 euros. Fine by me. Arrived at the vendor's at around 10am, earlier than expected. Paperwork done and dosh delivered, I set off for home feeling a little bit nervous about driving a car which last had its oil and filter change ten years ago, albeit 2000 kilometres ago. Luckily, the car ran fine and I arrived home by mid-afternoon where Jock was ecstatic to see me.
Have now had an oil and filter change, replacement of the courroie de distribution (timing belt) and had a towbar fitted. Am extremely chuffed with this latest bargain acquisition and am looking forward to adding to its ridiculously low kilometrage. Have dug out a few old tapes from a dusty box in the attic to play in the vintage (and probably unused) radio/cassette player that's in the car. Am now thinking that the Citroen has rendered the Merc an unnecessary indulgence so, perish the thought, I'm considering selling and just having one car. However, the Merc's limited value, excellent engineering and provision of relaxed, driving pleasure, may convince me to keep the thing. Or maybe not. Anyways, a couple of shots of the Citroen...
4 days ago