Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Triumph Herald

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm

One of my son’s old school friends got married yesterday. I always liked her as she was a genuine sort of girl, always smiling, and always working.  She’s training to be a Doctor, but despite being very bright she still has her feet on the ground.

In an era when stretched limos, and flash BMWs get to whisk away the bride I was impressed that “Tree” took a totally different approach.

I find an open top British Classic rather classy. Triumphs used to be the sporty choice for the British motorists, long before the Japanese and European car invasion.

Most Triumphs were comfortable, beautiful, quick, and featured gorgeous interiors.

The Herald was poor man’s Vitesse, and was equipped with 4 cylinder engines in various states of tune, with the 13/60 being the quickest. It may have lacked two cylinders, but it also lacked that extra weight and could still serve up an exciting drive.

The leaf sprung rear end could load up and make the rear end hop, especially when provoked by rapid cornering and a sharp yank at the helm.  Many people will have one stand out memory of the Herald.  It had an extraordinarily tight turning circle. Where most cars would need a three point turn these things seemed to turn on a sixpence.

Autotrader list  a few at ext to nothing. Maybe I should get one!





Golf “quite good” shock

In Hyundai on July 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm

The world over people have bought into the myth that Volkswagen are reliable.

Maybe they once were, but my experience has been far less favourable, so to that end I’ve ignored the brand for the last 17 years.

My first VW was a brand new pale blue 2 litre twin carb 1979 Transporter.  It went like stink, but so did the clutch cable.  Constantly snapping due to a manufacturing fault which the local dealer would not fix under warranty.

The second was a well used ’82 Polo “C” in burgundy. We assumed we were just unlucky, and that non starting in the winter was just our bad luck. My wife liked it, but I didn’t particularly rate the 1043 cc machine because quite frankly I prefer a car that will start at the end of a hard day’s work. We once carried 900kg of bricks in ours, and that didn’t do the shocks any good.

What I do remember is it sold quite quickly when advertised, and ever gluttons we bought a newer ’85 CL with a monstrous 1272cc lump up front, and trendy wheel trims.  In fact the check interior and extra lamps at the front turned this into an attractive hatch.

BUT it lost all coolant shortly after we’d bought it and needed a new engine at less than 3 years old. Darn it, we already broke from buying it and then got hit with a huge bill.  My other abiding memory was woefully vague steering, how anybody kept the hot G40 on the road is beyond me.

I must be stupid because I also bought an 8 owner Scirrocco MkII GTi, hoping to combine performance with practicality.  Mine had a very tired gearbox, a dodgy re-spray that started peeling the moment after I handed over £800, and a tendency to not start in the winter. On a good day I could drive to Norfolk at an average of 60 mph, and get 40 mpg. The engine was so torquey I seldom needed to changed down to overtake.

The boot was huge, and it did seat 4, but we found the front wing and A pillar no match for a milk float. My wife totalled the Scirocco when temporarily blinded by a low sun. At least it forced us to forget VW and try something cute, a Nissan Micra Shape.

But back to 2012, and a basic Golf Estate with the 105 bhp 5 speed oil burner combo.  I’ve just done 850 odd miles in one over the course of two days.

I hired it to make a delivery for our business, as the Sonata simply didn’t have enough room.  I brought my prejudice to this review, and was happy to reveal VWs are still rubbish, but maybe they aren’t.

First impressions.  Nasty plastic steering wheel, and gear knob. Especially unpleasant on a hot and clammy day.

Second impression, a driver’s seat which wasn’t comfortable in town use.  Sitting in it was fine, but once I had to work the clutch it seemed to lack support for my lower back.

Third impression. No torque, no go, not your average diesel engine.

By now I’d driven about 800 yards.  It was a “joy” to be proved right, VWs simply aren’t that good.

Then there was the small matter of a 565 mile trip on a mixture of windy “A” roads, and a considerable part of the M5, M6, motorways. It was quite clear this machine is not designed for overtaking.

BUT, what about the rest of the package?

Load space? Excellent!

Radio? Very good, but no steering wheel controls.

Instruments? Clear and with easy menus operated by the right hand wiper control.

Cruise Control? Yes, even on a boggo VW this “must have” feature was fitted and worked well.

Looks? Five out of 5.  Nicer than the hatch.

Road noise? Not much once top and running, a great cruiser.

Handling? Superb.

Ride?  First rate!

Economy? Unbelievable.

At the end of a 2 day run my heavy right foot returned an average speed of 40mph, and 52.6 mpg.  When I jumped back in the Sonata the readout said 22.6mpg.  Look at how much fuel and money I saved.  In effect the £105 hire charge was a snip as the same journey in the V6 Sonata would have cost me around £70 more in fuel.

One last PLUS on the Golf, it has a super comfy central armrest, nearly as squishy as the one on our old Renault 16TX. 

So the obvious thing would be to trade in the Hyundai and get a Golf? 

Er no.

It ain’t that good!

Deal or no deal?

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I’ve been buying new or nearly new cars for the last 11 years.

Sometimes I find that with a little research, and help from within the trade it’s possible to get a good deal.

Our Civic Type “S” arrived at Speedwell Honda covered in plastic, one of the last to be made.  I’d been out in what was then the new shape version, which featured the split screen back end, and futuristic dashboard.  I drove three just too make sure I was getting the right  model.

A few days later I turned up at the dealership with my wife ready to sign on the dotted line, and be one of the first to own the snazzy new hatchback. As you do I asked for one last drive (just to be sure) and also to make sure Roz was happy with my decision.  We’d only done a few miles and Roz was adamant we shouldn’t buy one.

The hard ride was playing havoc with her back, and it was even affecting her speech.  I was gutted, but there no way I was going to be buying a car we couldn’t travel in together.

So I thought I’d see if there were and Sat Nav edition “old spec” Civics left in the country.  Rather conveniently Speedwell had a Nighthhawk Black demonstrator which seemed just perfect, except it already had 7000 on the clock, and I fancied something brand new.

The South african salesman was a thoroughly nice bloke so we reluctantly agreed to take it anyway, but then I had a phone call from a chap at Trident Honda Weybridge saying he could source a brand new one for way less money.  Back at Speedwell they “miraculously” also found the car on the Honda UK stock List and agreed to the sale at a lower price.

Bingo.  A deal was (eventually) done.

After the plush V70 with a diesel engine the Honda felt completely different.  Firstly there was no low down power, but a rev-tastic 2.0 litre, firm ride and manual box to snick up and down.  The car wasn’t a paragon of Honda reliability however.  The service department couldn’t get my Sony Erikkson mobile to pair with the Honda aftermarket blue tooth, which was real nuisance.

But on a good “B” road the compact hatch was great fun, I’d often cane it between Crediton and Tiverton, and it always felt safe and communicative.  Pushed to limit downhill on a suitable road !!! mph would show on the speedo, but beyond three figures it was nowhere near as hushed as the big Volvo.

Mine had a hard life as a rep mobile cum delivery van, and the interior was scuffed up pretty badly within a few months (if we’d had the newer Civic the magic seats would have accommodated loads so much better.  One last memory.  The Sat Nav wasn’t much good, the database was well out of date, and inputting an address was rather fiddly.

If you weren’t bothered by toys, or carrying junk this Civic would make a fine used buy.

Return of an old friend

In Volvo on July 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Six years ago I was forced to say goodbye to an old friend.  A french friend.  My wife said I had to lose my old Renault 10 if I was going to buy a big Volvo V70.  I’d lusted after a D5 V70 for a little while and heard fantastic stories about the powerful engine.

Yes it might have only 163 bhp, but at any one time and in any gear there always seemed to be ample power.

Mine was bought at Tollbar Volvo in Coventry (I think they’re trading under a different name now.  I used the internet to source this car, as Kastners never seem to get well specified used vehicles into stock.

I really wanted a light ant interior, the fancy alloys, Geartronic (auto) and a proper Sat Nav.  A week after signing the paperwork I was back.  Not only had my Volvo got SatNav, but it also had a TV built in as well.

Back in 2005 our terrestrial TV struggled to get 4 stations, and reception on BBC2 was woeful.  The Volvo would tune into all 5 channels, and I remember watching the Simpsons on one sunny day whilst stuck in traffic on the Dartford Crossing.  It was uncanny.

Another time I watched 5th Gear, a channel I couldn’t get at home, and at Budleigh we regularly tuned in to the Channel Islands TV broadcasts.  In Wales I listened and watched The ashes whilst Roz sunbathed  few yards away on the beach.

When Charles married Camilla we were on Dartmoor.  You guessed it, we watched it live.

Charles Kennedy then Lib Dem leader at wedding

The biggest feature though wasn’t the TV, it was the sheer comfort.  The car was so cosy it used to virtually send me to sleep.  On long journeys I took to whirring the seat up sand down, and backwards and forwards using the buttons on the side.  Then their was the numb steering, it partially communicated what was happening at the front end.

On the economy front I used to get up to 42 mpg, whilst my friend who bought it off me in 2006 now gets up to 50 on the felt roads in Sweden.  The big boot was splendid, and the rear pillar vents great for passengers on a long run.  The car proved so comfortable that a friend in Belgium badgered his employer again and again until he was allowed to buy the uglier current shape version.

Personally my favourite V70 was the 2005 model year with silver inserts on the bumpers, but this machine was way better than the 180 bhp C30 we bought in 2007.  Incredibly the slower, heavier v70 was way more economical.

Nothing went wrong in the time I had it, but I remember getting a service and a few updates in Hull.  The cost £970, in 2006.  It’s  a good job we used to enjoy deep pockets.

Oh, before I forget, I must mention the worst feature.  The turning circle was atrocious.  But like I said it has turned around after being overseas for a year, and now sits on our drive whilst our friends watch the rain pour down in St.Ives.

Here’s the V70 on the day I stumped up £24000 to drive it away.


My Korean Ferrari

In Hyundai on July 8, 2012 at 8:59 am

Meet one of the prettiest cars I ever owned.

A Hyundai Coupe V6 auto.

I bought this after racking up thousands of miles in a Civic Type S.

Back in 2006 “Evo” magazine had been running a manual coupe and giving it praise a plenty, so as far as I was concerned it came with good credentials.

Then there was the other significant factor.

The price.  Back then Joe Public didn’t seem to have an appetite for big engines, and most of the Coupes being sold had a pretty decent 2.0 litre 4 cylinder unit which knocked out 40 mpg when driven sensibly.

At this time the official importer had various V6s knocking about collecting dust, and a few dealers were gamely trying to flog them at the list price £19,995.  Just one was taking a different approach, and had one on Autotrader at £13,000.

Armed with this information I strolled into Renwicks Hyundai in Exeter (now long gone) and asked if they could price match.  The sales girl scurried into the manager’s office.

The answer was yes, and what’s more I had a choice of colour, and gearbox and all this for a new unregistered machine.

In red this 4 seater Hyundai looked a million dollars, and that’s what I ordered.

The car that arrived and it never ceased to give me that “feel good factor” when I looked at it from my bedroom window.

Here are the good bits;

Handled flat, with no ungainly roll to spoil my cornering.

Those looks.

A good old fashioned multi-dial dash.

Sun Roof.

Roomy when carrying my work paraphernalia.

It only lost £4,000 in 40,000 miles motoring.

Bad Bits;

Cheap interior finish, naff leather and rock hard seats.

Naff plastics.

Not really that quick.

Rear headroom, passengers had to duck if you shut the tailgate or risk being banged on the head.

Gearchange shudder at random times from 2nd to 3rd on light throttle settings, which in turn lead to a new box being fitted under warranty (which didn’t cure the problem).

Renwicks were incompetent, and eventually went bust.

Nissan Cute?

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

If you could look at our last Nissan without seeing the 2005 plate you’d think this cute little car was just entering production.  It looks just as fresh now as it did when we bought the local demonstrator rather than wait 2 months for a new one.

Actually it has been replaced by a far uglier version which lost all the fabulous bakelite switch gear and in one fell swoop alienated this model’s key attraction.  Desirability.  The new model offers low emissions, and even Sat Nav.

But if I look back to 2005 just what did we get for or money?  I think we paid out about £9,000 – £10,000.  I return we had a super colour scheme, flash alloys, and pretty nifty acceleration from the 100 bhp engine.  Roz was the main driver, and to start with she really liked this, which had become our third Micra.

What let the car down was the poor service at JFE in Exeter, they couldn’t seem to tackle more than one warranty issue at a time and kept failing to sort out a rattle from the rear end.  I’m not sure if it was a wiper housing or something in the spare wheel well, but it sure did irritate us.

The top speed was 108mph, but I’m not sure we ever got anywhere near that figure as the engine was oh so noisy, and desperately needed a 6th gear and better sound proofing.  At 50-60 mph I would often reach for another gear, only to realise I was already in top.  friends had the 1.4, which was jet as bad. I can’t imagine how noisy the 1.2 must have been.

The suspension was very hard, but worse than that were the seats.  On short runs you’d hardly notice it, but on anything over 30 minutes you’d really start to get back ache.  That was why we finally ditched in favour of the Volvo C30, it was really playing havoc with my wife’s back.

I recently had a go in a 1.6 CC Micra, as I thought our son might like one.  I did about 800 yards in it and thought, “No thanks” and returned it to the dealer.

Our better runs gave us 40 mpg, which was OK for a warm hatch, but nothing special.

Why the 160Sr name?  Apparently it denoted a 1600 unit production run per annum.  Or was that the salesman talking cod’s wallop?