Tag Archive | "old cars"

Automotive Facts You Probably Don’t Know


If you love cars then you probably know a fair bit about them, one way or another. Even so, the car had been with us for well over a century now and there are many facts associated with it that have disappeared into the mists of time. A mystery history, you might say.

Did you know, for example, that the first car accident occurred in 1769. Now, I know what you’re thinking and you would be right, because it was not a car as we know it but it very much was an auto-mobile.

A Frenchman, one Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot by name, was an inventor and he is known (although it is disputed) to have built the first working self-propelled mechanical vehicle – the world’s first automobile in fact. He took a big cart called a fardier and successfully built and fitted a device that converted the reciprocating motion of a steam piston into rotary motion by means of a ratchet arrangement. A small version of his three-wheeled ‘steam dray’ ran in 1769. The second one crashed into the wall of the Paris Arsenal. It is not known if he got a ticket. Amazingly, that cart still exists in a Paris museum.

The facts keep on coming: There’s nothing new about hybrid cars; Porsche built one in 1902. It was called, cunningly, the ‘Mixte’. Do you see what they did there? Also, and unbelievably when you consider how long CDs have been with us, the last car to come with a cassette player was the Ford Crown Victoria in the USA, which offered the option up until 2011. You can buy this as a used car now. Still time to dig out those old Carpenters’ tapes!

And – to paraphrase a famous actor – not a lot of people know that the world’s first speeding ticket was issued in 1902. Presumably the issuer wrote it out whilst walking alongside the offending motor. Additionally, there is no point in blaming foreigners when you get stuck on a red light because the first traffic lights were launched in 1927 in Wolverhampton, so we‘ve only got ourselves to blame.

The Chinese have invented a solution to traffic jams. If you contact the right people they will send along a motorbike to take you to your destination whilst the arriving pillion passenger gets in your car and waits it out until he can ferry the motor to your destination. Now that’s enterprise.

There is reckon to be around a billion cars on the planet now so it’s just as well that the car is the most recycled product on earth.

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Thoughts On A Reconditioned Engine


Although new cars continue to be sold, the car market is still having a tough time. These days potential buyers are looking for bargain used cars or, indeed, are more likely to hang onto the one they’ve got.

And why not? Cars are well made, remain relatively rust free and can last a long time. Anyone who buys and keeps a car for ten years is getting good value and it doesn’t necessarily end there.

At the heart of the car is the engine. These days some very high mileages can be reached – provided of course that it has been correctly serviced and maintained – before the motor becomes troublesome. At this point the owner has a decision to make. An old car with a failed engine is worthless. Take it to a dealer for repair and he’ll tell you it is not worth it. Time for that last trip to the great breaker’s yard in the sky. Or, if reluctant to give up without a fight, you could try for a reconditioned engine.

A reconditioned engine will always be a lot cheaper than a replacement new one but there’s a snag; the world of the recon motor can sometimes be a mysterious and murky place. Is the engine that you buy fully rebuilt or has it just been removed from a written-off vehicle and given a blow-down with compressed air? Herein lies the worry. Some recon jobs may have just had the broken bits replaced which means that new has been fitted to old. This is never a good combination.

A trustworthy recon has been rebuilt from scratch. This means a total strip-down, a total rebuild and a thorough test that meets real car manufacturers standards. In other words it should effectively be new; it just hasn’t been newly made in a factory. Thus the first thing a buyer needs to watch is that it comes with a full warranty for parts and labour for a decent period of time. There is in a fact a Federation of Engine Remanufacturers. Check with this organisation to make sure your engine is coming from a bone fide paid up member.

This is a market that covers the whole gamut of The Good, The Bad and The Seriously Ugly. The trick, if there is one, is to ask around. If your usual garage is sympathetic they may well have trade contacts or a least a good tip. If you do go down this road make sure that you are getting everything you need. Make sure, for example, that the engine comes with all the ancillary parts needed. Finally, there’s the big question – Who is going to fit it?

A good home mechanic with an owned or rented engine hoist can probably do it. Your above mentioned friendly garage may do it but they will charge you or, of course, if the re-conditioner is handy, he should do the whole job for you. Note that these are shark infested waters. If in doubt don’t but if you can do and then your beloved old car should make it further down the road of life. Or you could just buy another cheap car. Fair warning.

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Saying Goodbye To Your Car


There was recently a sad story about the owner of a forty five year old classic car. Circumstances dictated that the venerable vehicle must be sold. There was no going back. As the faithful old retainer was driven away to a new life the owner was left standing in the street like a bereft lover, quietly weeping. Selling a favourite car, especially one that has given sterling service, can pull at the heartstrings but, in this callous world, that is how it has to be if you want a new car.

Once a vehicle has been driven off the dealer’s lot it becomes a used car. That doesn’t matter to the happy driver until such time as change dictates. So, is there a good time to sell a car? Does there come a time in the life of your vehicle when depreciation meets additional unavoidable expense?

Cars lose value very quickly in the first year and fairly quickly in the second and third years. After that depreciation slows down and a reliable well maintained motor could hold some value – more or less – for a short while until the first problems start to appear and costs begin to rise.

It’s a thorny problem. Some people wait until the warranty runs out. That means they are selling a car that has, almost certainly, been properly maintained and can often be a good buy. Although most people are disappointed in the perceived value of their beloved car this may well be the best moment to sell.

Private buyers will be keen on a used car that has a full service history and relatively low mileage. Cars aged three or less are the most popular with dealers because they still have a decent retail value. Anything older and they may well not be interested.

The trick – if there is one – is to perhaps keep yourself informed by keeping tabs on the trade. Let’s say your car is a Ford Focus. The company sells many of these into the fleet market and at some point after they have been working for a year they may well appear all at once on the open market and create a bit of glut of similar cars. The trade price will drop accordingly and so will the value of your car.

This is something that private users have no control over; but does it seem like a good idea to study the market regularly as part of ownership just to see if there is a rise and fall in the value of cars like yours at age two or three to verify if there’s a good time of year to sell? It’s a thought.

Or is it just the case that for private owners there is never a good time to sell? Cars that are over five years old or with 60k plus on the clock are deemed to likely be unreliable. This may not apply to your car but that is how it will be seen. Does this then suggest that the best thing to do is keep it and ring every last drop of value out of it until, one day, a person comes along with a few quid and an optimistic attitude and leaves you standing in the road in tears? Such is the nature of car ownership.

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The Cheap End Of The Market


It has been written, at least once, that man cannot live by a small collection of treasured boxed sets alone; sometimes you have to watch some old tripe on TV. So it is with cars. Life has its highs and lows. Sometimes you can afford some decent wheels and sometimes you have to scratch around at the bargain basement end of the car market for something that moves.

If you find yourself in that position, what can you buy for under £750 that won’t insult your intelligence or destroy your credibility, like, for ever? Immediately you will be saying: “Yeah, yeah, Citroen Saxo, Peugeot 205, blah, blah…”, but you will be wrong. There are, in fact, cars out there that are decent drivers yet can still be found for at or below that magic number.

Remember, galvanising has been around for a while now so rust isn’t the killer it once was so a reasonably well cared for used car could still do you a favour. Rust was once the scourge of older cars as any former Alfa Romeo owner will tell you between sobs; which brings us neatly and conveniently onto the first offering, the Alfa 156.

Alfa’s have a bit of a reputation for breaking down. This might be a little bit true to be frank, but that shouldn’t put you off. Life is all about positive thinking. The 156 is a good looking car and there are a fair few out there. A found example is a 2001 blue 1.7L Lusso model with MOT, 73,000 miles and full leather for just £650. If it does you for a year at that money it is still a bargain.

They (just exactly who are they?) say that the Japanese were responsible for bringing cars to our shores that had an accessory called reliability and so it has proved. So if you’d like to go back to the ‘90s for something that looks a bit sporty then why not try the Mazda MX3 2+2 coupé ? This is a car that was generally under-rated by the public but loved by its owners. At the time of writing there was a lovely clean 1998(R) model with the slightly under-powered 1.6L motor for £695. There’s a V6 (pictured) as well but watch out for foreign imports being sold as British registered cars.

For a big family, the cash-strapped buyer could do worse than the SEAT Alhambra. The found example is a ‘99(T) in good condition and with a year’s MOT – which means it has just been checked over to pass current regulations – for a penny-pinching £650.

Let’s be clear. Older cars will be less fuel efficient and some will have hidden problems but that doesn’t make them all bad. Many owners care for their cars in later life. Shopping around will eventually turn up a motor  that has a long or new test certificate and a nice clean body – including the underside. Do the usual tests. You want a clean start and no peculiar noises or vibrations at the kerb or out on the road. Take one or more knowledgeable friends if you’re unsure and hang onto that cash until the right car comes along. Lack of funds need not mean lack of wheels.

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How Long Does A Car Last?


Cars these days are very well made. Galvanising, automotive technology and robot assembly have all seen to that. Nevertheless, there will come a point when your pride and joy may well gasp its last. It is entirely possible that a modern properly serviced engine will provide 150,000 miles of trouble free motoring before it begins to really show signs of wear and tear. There are many documented examples of well and correctly maintained cars that have achieved much larger figures than that.

Most of us like to change our cars but usually it’s a decision based on over-familiarity. We get a bit bored with the same wheels and fancy a new car or at least something different from the used car market place. In a way, that’s wrong thinking. Any product that lasts repays its purchase price through longevity. There are people out there that are still using fifty year old toasters. Now that’s value. If a car costs today £15,000 and lasts for twenty years that equates to just £750 per annum for all that motoring pleasure. The additional costs of motoring are a constant anyway so don’t really count in this equation.

So let’s say your car has done almost 200k and there are signs of, for example, loss of compression and an increase in emissions due to worn or burned valves. You can have the valves replaced, which is fine, but you are putting new parts with old and may well discover other nasties once the rocker cover and the cylinder head are off. Additionally, refurbishing an engine only really has merit if the rest of the car is in top notch order. After all, all the parts have done the same mileage as the engine.

An alternative is to completely replace the engine with another one. This is expensive but is a complete solution. Suitable engines from written off cars can be sourced from breakers yards but it won‘t be reconditioned. This is possibly the cheapest method but unless there’s some definite proof of the mileage, it’s a bit chancy. You need to know what you are doing.

A brand new engine from a dealer will be prohibitively expensive, especially taking into account the trade value of an old car and is out of the question; but there are companies who sell guaranteed refurbished engines that are worth considering. Prices fluctuate wildly so it is necessary to closely examine the reputation of the supplier. Don’t forget fitting costs if you can’t do the job yourself.

It comes down to a personal choice. It is likely that all drivers have at some point owned a car that they regret the passing of. The fact is that most of us are unlikely to stay the whole life course of any one vehicle, except maybe collectors. It is possible though, for that special motor. The thought of looking out of the window at a faithful old automotive friend that you’ve grown up with – like that old teddy you’ve kept from your childhood – is quite endearing. Sorry, I’ll have to stop here, I’m misting up….

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