Friday, September 7, 2012


Had a bit of a car re-think a few months back. Decided to sell the Citroen dogwagon and VW camper, but keep the Merc 190e. The Citroen, amazingly, sailed through its CT test (French equivalent of an MoT) with just a few advisories. Immediately advertised it on the Leboncoin site (much more popular than eBay) and it sold quite quickly despite its cosmetically challenged bodywork. However, I thought the camper would prove to be much more difficult to sell because I was convinced it would fail its CT test due to corrosion on the underside (the top of the petrol tank is notorious for rusting) and I knew the exhaust was way past its best. But (surprise, surprise) it passed. Not exactly with flying colours (there were a few advisories, mostly about corrosion) but at least it got through, thus saving me considerable expense in rectifying any faults that I was convinced would be listed on its 'fail' sheet. So, still reeling from the shock of gaining a 'pass', I immediately ran an ad on Leboncoin. To cut a long story short, it eventually sold to a chap up north who whizzed off with a cheery wave, followed by his lady in their Skoda. Thought that was the end of it but, a couple of weeks later, I received a fine for speeding. Sent the paperwork back with a note of explanation that it weren't me guv, it was the new owner driving home after purchase. Haven't heard a dicky-oiseau since, so I think I'm in the clear.

Having unloaded a couple of jam-jars, I'm left with the Merc. It's a great car and widely regarded as the last of the properly engineered Mercs before the bean counters took over and replaced quality with cheap tacky naffness and bling. It's brilliant for gallops to (e.g.) Limoges airport and long runs, but not exactly parfait for nipping down the supermarch√© or off to the woods for dogwalks. And besides, a couple of muddy dogs can soon ruin the luxurious back seat of a classic Merc. So, a replacement for the old dogwagon was required. A cheap runaround, preferably an estate or a hatchback with fold-down rear seats to accommodate the mutts.

Gave myself a budget of about 2000 euros (about 1500 squids) and began my search. Seemed there were lots of cars out there that fitted the bill, but most of them had high mileages (kilometreages, rather) of around 100,000. Clearly, any cheap, high mileage car is soon going to need money thrown at it so it's a false economy. Very soon I was looking at cars of around the 4000 euro mark. Daft. Then spotted a local Citroen ZX hatchback that was up for grabs at 3000 euros that had only done 21,000kms (about 15,000 miles). Apparently it was owned from new by the seller's aunt who'd recently passed away. Only negative point was that it was an automatic. Went to see the car and offered 2500 euros. Seller turned me down. Offered 2600. Turned down again. Walked away.

Then, just as I was about to follow up an immaculate 1995 Honda Civic which had done just 110,000kms, I spotted a belter - a 1990 Renault 19 in fab nick with just 29,000kms for 2590 euros at a dealer in Limoges. Spotted it yesterday and was immediately on my bike to take a look. Offered the dealer 2000 euros. Turned me down. Said he might take 2300. Told him my best offer was 2100, take it or leave it. We shook hands on the deal, I left him 120 euros deposit and said I'd collect next week. Really chuffed. Not exactly the most desirable car in the world, but at least it'll do the job. And there's plenty of room for the mutts. Now I can clean up the inside of the Merc and make it a canine no-go area. Excellent.


Was supposed to collect the Renault a couple of days ago..., but didn't. Wasn't entirely convinced about it. Yes, it had a low mileage and looked in good shape, but..., I dunno, maybe it was the fact that it had an 'A' plate stuck on the back (French equivalent of an 'L' plate), or maybe it was the fact that the radio/CD player was missing, or maybe Renault engineering doesn't float my boat, or maybe I reckoned it was just too dull and boring..., anyways, for whatever reason, I changed my mind.

Searched the Lebobcoin site again and spotted a couple of mint, low mileage Renault 5 hatchbacks which would do the job. But, although they're economical and capable of carrying a couple of muddy terriers, they're still boring Renaults. Engineering-wise, that's a no-no.

Ideally, the perfect car would be the old Honda Civic Shuttle. Had one a few years back and it served us well. Trouble is, the few I've spotted for sale recently have been high-mileage rust buckets, so maybe there are no good 'uns left. Searched one last time. Bingeau! A two owner, 1.5 litre, 1985 model with just 73,000 kms (44,000 miles), looking in good nick at a small dealer's up near Tours. Drove up there the next day (yesterday), gave it a good going over and bought it on the spot (100 euros cheaper than the Renault). Hope to collect it next week-end if I can figure out how to get there. And..., it has a radio/iPlayer thingy, so I can plug in this iPoddy thingy that my sister gave me and which I still haven't quite mastered yet.