Tag Archives: rant

Who wants a new car anyway?

Mini One DI have been driving my Mini for about 18 months now and I have come to a few conclusions. The first is that BMW make a very good car and the second is that I don’t want a new one. A bit of a contradiction? Maybe, but my reasons are firmly fixed in my personality, let me explain a bit further. Continue reading


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Wow! It’s a Peugeot Focus 318i RS VXR!

I’m very rarely surprised these days, I seem to have contracted a  state of mind that has grown over my psyche, encompassing it in a hard shell of cynicism and grudging acceptance. Sex, violence and swearing on TV hardly raise an eyebrow, but I remember back in the 1980’s when Channel 4 tried to advise the viewer that their late night movie might contain a flash of breast or the odd profanity, by putting a little red triangle in the upper corner of the screen. You can imagine how the ratings soared when that little symbol flashed up. Continue reading

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You can’t fuel me!

I have said in the past that owning a car and then moaning about putting fuel into it to make it work is proof enough of the stupidity of some people. Its like buying a cat to keep you company and then being astonished that it needs feeding and taking to the vets once in a while. Since the dawn of time (well since I started driving) people have been moaning about the price of petrol. I remember when we all went nuts as it hit 50p a litre (yes I AM that old) and again when we all fainted as it tipped then infamous £1.00. Now its heading for £1.50 and I think all of us will just keel over and die. Continue reading

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Vive La France!

You need to prepare a little for this blog entry. A deep breath is a good idea and maybe a big pinch of salt. I need you to try and forget any prejudice you might have, loose any brand loyalty and  blot out what you consider beautiful. Done that? Got your pinch of salt? Tongue firmly in your cheek? Good because today we are going to talk about ‘France’ and ‘interesting’. I want to talk about what makes a car interesting and why.

I have been looking at a Citroen 2CV, and have to report this is one of the most interesting and clever cars I have come across. For years, like you I have seen them as a hilarious mode of transport for hippies and French peasants, laughed at their bicycle like tyres and tiny 600cc engine, but if you have the smallest interest in cars and how they work, and view your car as something other than a means to lug your subwoofer about you will take my advice and have a peek at this amazing little car. I will put some links at the end for further reading, I have neither the space or the authority to talk in detail but I have picked up some interesting titbits. Did you know there was a production model with twin engines and four wheel drive? The suspension has always been soft enough to drive over a ploughed field and not break the eggs but do you know how it does it? It has independent suspension to all four wheels but only uses two coil springs, the front and rear suspension are connected and work together. This gives a smooth ride and, despite its tiny tyres, decent handling. There are so many  clever things designed into this car, things that keep it simple and practical, the entire body shell can be lifted from the chassis if you fancy it, and the engine is so small it can be picked up with just the use of a few burly peasants. Its economical too, it will give you 60mpg and trot along at 50mph all day long, and when the sun shines its canvas roof rolls back to let the rays in.All of the above must seem like an advert for 2CV’s, but its not.

I am trying to draw attention to cars that you might have missed out on because it wont do 0-60 in under 4 seconds and wont make girls (or guys) swoon with envy as you swish by. I really believe  there are cars out there that don’t need to be fast and powerful to be interesting. Have a look at the Citroen DS, it was just slopping over with innovation, headlights that turn as you turn a corner? WOW! It only took Vauxhall a decade or two to copy it. Peugeot 504, Renault Alpine, Renault R8 are all examples of a long list that I’m sure you could add to. The thing you will notice is that there are no modern day cars that I have listed as interesting, this is a fault of mine and despite what I said at the beginning I cannot shake off the feeling that modern day cars are ‘white goods’ a bit like washing machines, useful and clever in their own way but oh so utilitarian in their conception. Its left up to the French again to save the new generation as they give us the 106 Rallye and the Megane loony machine for the speed freaks and  the oh so sexy Citroen C6 and the interestingly styled 406 Coupe from Peugeot.

Regular readers will know of my love of Japanese cars, but the land of the rising sun has done nothing to peak our interest lately, with the exception of the R35 Skyline and the 350/370Z all from Nissan, owned by Renault.If you own a utilitarian car and are reading this, it must mean that you have some petrol slopping about in your blood somewhere otherwise you would be reading a DIY or worse a gardening blog, so do yourself a favour and get on Ebay and find something  interesting to play with over the winter. Take it to bits, marvel at how its made, annoy your spouse by dismantling the valve gear on the kitchen table while it belts down in rain outside. And next spring, when its all mended, take it for a drive but make sure you  listen to some Matt Monroe as you swoop through a sun speckled lane toward a secluded café for lunch, and leave the brown 4 wheeled box for the weekday grind

Further reading, all from Wikipedia I’m afraid, but  if there is a particular car that gets you interested, get Googling and find an owners club.

Citroen DS

Citroen 2CV (Check out the Safari one!)

Renault R8

Peugeot 504

Ugly as hell but don't you just want a Renault R8 Gordini?

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Hole lot of nothing

Driving throws up many questions, like why do rubbish lorries have a cuddly toy tied to the front of them, and why the hell do they leave it to get all dirty and disgusting? Another favorite is why do some people drive at 28 mph everywhere? And why do the people who drive at 28 wear straw hats?

My current question is why the hell do we pay road tax?

I have a nice new car (well it was new in 1989, but its new to me) and it has a nice set of firm springs and dampers to enable me to have a fun quick drive round some fun quick corners if the mood takes me, without the car lurching and wallowing like some drunken fishing trawler in rough seas. Every six months, regular as clockwork, the government send me a nice bit of paper reminding me that my car is not meant to be any fun, I should sell it and get a small soulless eurobox with a sewing machine engine, and stop killing the planet. They do this in the form of a road tax reminder/SORN.
The idea is a good one, we all pay a bit toward the upkeep of the roads, keeping them clean and smooth, free of dead things and building new ones when we get fed up with where the old ones go. We are all reminded that if we use the car on the road then we should pay for it and will be fined and frowned at by a policeman if we don’t. Actually we don’t even get the pleasure of a frowny policeman as these days a faceless silicone monster that lives in DVLA headquarters checks its calendar, complete with fluffy kitten picture, against your registration number and if you are a day out fires an automatic fine direct to your house.
Its worse if you DON’T have your car on the road! Heaven forbid you forget to tell the computer that your car is broken and is currently sulking in your garage. I committed this terrible crime and was hit for 65 of my pounds for not telling anyone my car wouldn’t move. So we pay up promptly, send bits of paper back and forward to Swansea keeping the bureaucracy and computers happy.

So why are we not sending them a million fines and bits of paper because they are failing to keep up their side of the bargain?

It snowed a bit in January, and this (I am told by a bloke who knows) speeds up the formation of potholes. Fair enough. Why then are there potholes in May? Why can I not drive my car without getting double vision? Why is it better to drive on the beach than the road? Who is going to pay for my shot suspension? But the best bit is Why the hell do we put up with it?
There are currently some three million unemployed in the UK, most of which would rather watch daytime TV than actually go outside, and a larger part couldn’t count their own legs, however I am sure with a weeks intensive training they could be taught how to stick a bag of tarmac into a hole an flatten it. I realise this is nowhere near what we should be expecting for our £200 or so a year, but its better than smashing your springs for the hundredth time in 10 yards as you painfully make your way along the dirt track they laughingly refer to as road.

My car is insured, MOTd, taxed and in good, safe working order. I don’t care how much petrol costs because I get what I pay for, petrol goes in, goes bang, moves me along. The roads, however, are a forgotten no mans land of craters, scars and forgotten weather. I paid my dues and play by their rules, the twits in the government just buy moats, porn and duckhouses.

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Let’s Scrap!

Junkers ready to be cans

I think its high time we talked about the scrappage scheme.

Personally I think it’s a great idea, I have said before that new cars are so much better than old ones in almost every way. It gives the car industry a big shot in the arm as car sales for July 2009 rose by some 3%. All those old wrecks with ageing braking systems 100000 mile, soggy suspension and pedestrian unfriendly zones are heading for the crusher to become cans, photocopiers and the like. Once a car is doomed to the scheme, it can never legally be used on the road again, unlike some insurance write-offs that I have seen pootling about, once the paper is signed thats it.
I have an ancient Civic that id love to chop in to my local dealer and drive away in something new, so being brave and doing some creative maths to see if I could actually afford the monthly payments I duly went to my local dealership. I looked at a very nice Jazz, it’s the darling of the over 60’s but it’s not the cars fault! It’s a great car, zippy and packed with technology but this entry is not a car review, Ill do that later. Anyway, I make interesting noises and start matching carpet to paint and over comes Mr Salesman with a smile and a spring in his step. We go through a few features on the Jazz and talk about test drives and insurance and all other technical car selling stuff, I ask him about finance, out comes the Honda branded calculator and a few punched keys later we have a figure, which my maths say I can stretch to (if I sell a few stories or get a paid regular column, come on editors! all this talent is going to waste!)

And here lies the problem that I think will face most people who the scrappage scheme should really help. The reason I drive a 1994 Civic is because thats all I can afford right now. The reason people drive 1995 Escorts is not because they want too, it’s all they could afford. When something breaks its cheap to replace and Halfords have most of the bits in stock. These people, MY people can’t afford a new or nearly new car for whatever reason, mostly because they trip up at the finance stage either because of their low-income, crappy credit rating because they had to choose food over paying the credit card one month back in 1989. My credit fail was probably a combination of these and other factors, as soon as the big no-no flashed on the screen, Mr Salesman couldnt get me out of the showroom fast enough and back into my rusty Civic.

So us normal everyday people will continue to drive around in ancient cars until it fails the MOT for the final time and we are forced to find another to replace it. But here is the problem. All the cars we used to be able to get hold of for a couple of hundred quid are now all saving the planet as recycled tin cans, their former owners whizzing about in a nice shiny new car safe in the knowledge that they have done their bit. And good luck to them! Heck I would if i could, but I am part of the proletariat and must continue to strive for my toehold on the ladder.
Like I said earlier I still think the scheme is a good thing, but could be improved on. Its my cynical view that the scheme was put in place to show the government actually doing something, reacting to the ‘crisis’ (I have my own thoughts on the financial ‘crisis’ that we were ‘gripped’ by, I think it’s all industrial-strength crapola, dished out to make the rich richer but thats not for here…) The taxes and income recouped by the treasury will re fill the coffers nicely. An improvement could be a government backed purchase scheme, still scrapping the old cars but financially helping the rest of the populus that just can’t make it happen.

There is another criticism I have heard people discuss, and this seems to be circulating a lot on some of the ‘classic’ owners clubs. People are up in arms saying that Mk2 Jags, Sunbeams, Healys and the like will be chopped in and chopped up in favor of a nice new Vauxhall Zafira. Now this I think is stupid thinking, a classic car enthusiast is not going to watch his pride and joy get smashed to bits in favor of a clever Vauxhall. There is an interesting thread on the ZXOC, an owners club that caters to 1980s performance Nissans, Silvia, Bluebird Turbos and the like and the guys there are purple with rage over a 1.6 Bluebird that is due to be scrapped but is in superb condition and I can sympathise, but to the normal everyday man in the street a Nissan Bluebird is either a Minicab or a Banger racer, and no more worth saving than an old Nova, but then mention that to the Nova owners club and they will go bananas. Its unlikely that enthusiasts will scrap their cars, and will probably do their very best to save any they come across.

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, and only some of the people some of the time but it would be nice to change the people who get the break once in a while. Maybe when the election comes things might change…

Wait, the Tories look like winning? oh Bugger…


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Geeked out on speed

Last week I kind of geeked out.

Writing this blog is teaching me a lot, and getting your point across in 1000 or so words is something I am learning is not easy to do. The point was to show how driving games can help in the real world, to show how different parts effect the car, how different lines give different results and what’s good and not so good about tuning. So there you have it, last weeks blog, that I agonized trying to get under 1000 words, condensed into a few lines. This points out a big weakness in my writing, I tend to go on a bit.

Well, I intend to continue going on a bit this week, because I think its high time for a good old fashioned rant.

If you have a puncture and are forced to use one of those skinny space saver wheels, if you have just had your front brake pads fall out or if you are just taking  your pet goldfish for a spin in the car and don’t want to spill his water, then its perfectly acceptable to drive through a 60mph speed limit at 28. I bet that one of the above doesn’t happen very often. Unfortunately, there are people out there who drive at 28mph no matter what the limit is, and this happens very often, normally when I have just found a nice stretch of smooth and twisty tarmac and the car is running well. For the life of me I cant think why they do it unless one of the reasons above or they are scared stiff of third gear.

When I become King it will be punishable by firing squad to drive slower than 5mph off the limit, people under this speed will have their cars crushed and be forced to use the bus. I simply cannot understand it  unless there is a darker reason. They get off on it. They get a sexual thrill of having the knowledge that they are holding people up, they have, for a little while in their tiny mean screwed up little minds power over all the people behind them.915 Caravanners have a similar mentality, but they get punished enough by having to spend two weeks in a field, living in a tin box and pooping in a bucket, oh and yes while Im on the subject, this goes out to the bloke who tried to smugly tell me through the medium of the bumper sticker that ‘I may be slow, but I have more holidays than you’, listen mate, I would rather never go on holiday again if I had to spend five minutes either towing a caravan or sitting in a field in one.
Now don’t get the wrong idea, I think speed limits are important and to be honest on the whole sensible, with the exception of motorways, but Ill get on to them in a minute. 30mph in town is  a good idea, 40 out of town is not too bad and 60 through the lanes is a right laugh, unless you meet a train of cars in the wake of a caravan or buffoon in a Bee Em doing 30, or even worse, a horse. What is the damn problem with horse owners? for god sake ride the bloody thing in a field! “The horse was here before the car” they wail and glare at us dissaprovingly as we trundle by, well its not the poor horses fault that some middle class moron wants to wear stupid trousers and try to relive Imperial England, yes and we used to think the earth was flat, but technology proved it wasn’t, progress happens, get off the road and ride that walking Pritt Stick in the woods! But watch out for Land Rovers with big v8s ‘greenlane-ing’…

Maximum speed is good but when was the last time you saw minimum speed? I looked it up, its in the Highway Code, its a round blue sign with a number in it, normally a very low number like 5 or 10, and in all my driving life I have only seen it once, on the Dartford Tunnel, and as that hardly moves its just doesn’t count. No in my Britain there would be fines that made your pee blood if you di300px-Speed_Limit_65_Minimum_55_sign.svgdn’t go fast enough. The thing is, they already do it in America, America for goodness sake!
All of this makes me sound like a speed hungry, reckless hooligan, but honestly I just like driving, even if its just to work I cant get enough, the best bit about working (apart from the pay packet) is the fact I have to drive home. Now look there are some of you out there who will work in the city and whinge and moan and go on about how awful it is sitting in a jam waiting to get through Blackwall then sitting again waiting all along Commercial Street. Look chaps think of this, yes you are sitting still but look where you are, you are comfortable, dry, warm and entertained (if you think a bit ahead and you know you are going to be stuck, why not bring along some favorite cds? or for as little as £10 you can get a celebrity to read a story to you on one of those audio books) but the best bit is you are in your own space, you can stretch out, pick your nose, talk to yourself and no one cares. 2 hours in a car or 1 hour standing crushed under someones armpit in a train? no contest! It annoys me so much when on the way home, I have taken a detour along a really nice bit of road, with some swoopy bends and great tarmac I get stuck behind some guy doing 28 and the limit is 60. Im not asking for everyone to drive like I do (ie badly) but come on, look in your mirror, if there is a huge train of cars behind you and nothing in front, surely that tells you something? It should tell you to drive faster, move over or take the bus.

Oh and the subject of motorways is simple up the limit to 80, as everyone does 80 anyway, there are no bends and everyone is going the same way so its a safe number, but boring as hell to drive along. When it rains or is foggy, drop the limit, now where do they do this already?


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