Category Archives: Cars

Vans

I was considering some new wheels recently and started to look at the space requirements. For example I need to carry quite a bulky mobility scooter occasionally along with some other stuff such as overnight bags or supplies. I also prefer 4 wheel drive cars. I view 4wd as a safety feature.

I looked at a few cars and got quite concerned about boot space even with vehicles such as the Peugeot Rifter and Ford Tourneo Connect. The Rifter is my favourite choice here and I do like the look of the GT premium model. Peugeot don’t do a 4wd but they do have grip control, which is close and has some rave reviews.

I decided to start looking at vans. Now I don’t need a full size Transit, Transporter or Vivaro. A much smaller van will do. This where I started tearing my hair out. Big thing I want the cab or cabin to be as comfortable as a good car. You know, heated seats, a must for my medical conditions and a few other treats.

This where it started to unravel. You see with all the options I needed the van started to turn out as very expensive and in some cases very difficult to configure using the manufacturer’s configuration tool on their website. Peugeot are a good example. I still cannot work out how to configure a normal length Peugeot Partner with the 130 bhp engine and grip control.

The next thing is that I cannot get close to getting all the treats I would either expect or want to add as options in the van.

Maybe I am in a limited market in wanting a small luxury van and I would not be at all surprised if this is the case. But, there must an easier way to specify vans as I found some configuration tools for vans more confusing than configuring a car!

The other thing I find strange is not being able to specify 4wd with these smaller vans. I cannot really go up to price levels of a Land Rover Defender or Discovery Van (Basic £36,000 ex VAT – which I will have to pay) and I think I would hit the same issue of not being able to specify some of the nicer Land Rover treats to enhance my driving experience. The only thing that would not be in Doubt with the Discovery or Defender are its 4wd credentials.

Then we get to the next option. Customisation. There are so many after market customisation options available that it seems that a whole industry has grown up around van customisation.

Again, very confusing.

So its back to the drawing board.

With best regards

Confused of Warwickshire.

Ford Mondeo Gone! Give Me Five Minutes!

So news reaches that the Ford Mondeo is to be axed. What? A sales rep’s motor? Errr, no!

See the Mondeo is actually an alright car. Sure it wears a Ford badge. Sometimes not a good thing. I have driven hundreds of these from early launch edition mark 1’s to the current version.

The amount of times I have picked up a Mondeo from the car hire desk at some god forsaken shitty airport is the stuff of legend. On this basis, I have driven at least 1000 different Mondeo’s. For years they were the go to order for a hire car. I have also had two as company cars, both of them MK3’s, a 1.8 and a 2.0. I even sold one or two when I worked in a Ford showroom for a short time.

Since the first version they have done a few things rather well.

Firstly they have kept this driver rather safe when driving. One of my more serious crashes happened in Ireland in a 1.8, which was my company car when I was almost full time in Dublin. I walked away from that crash which a few cuts on my face from the airbag deployment. It could have been a lot more serious. The car was a write off but, hey better the car written off than the driver. This was replaced with an Opel Vectra which was not as nice but was a bit faster in a straight line.

Secondly these cars are not bad to drive even disregarding the higher specification and performance models and they can dispatch 200-300 mile motorway stints with ease and keep the driver fresh and ready to business at the end destination. I have problems with car seats and getting comfy behind the wheel. Having enough support in the back is essential owing to a long standing issue following a bike crash in the early 90’s. The Mondeo seats are not amazingly good, you need a Saab or Mercedes for that but they are good and supportive and do help with the aforementioned 200 mile motorway jaunts. It means no pain at the end of the run and no stupidity like having to drive with a rolled up jumper between me and the seat back! BMW take note here, your seats are so bad! The Ford seat heating and heated windscreen also deserve a mention here. They are very good.

 

So why so many of them? They were the “default” hire car for one reason. Familiarity. I never needed to familiarise myself with these cars. I would always order the Mondeo for that reason. It works well at say Paris, Charles De Gaulle at 09:00 when you need to get in the car and go and also have to deal with questionable road craft from the locals. Same goes especially for Madrid and any Milan Airport! It’s a hack but its a good one! I no longer use hire cars like they were going out of fashion and these days rarely partake.

As for the company cars they were good cars for the sector. With the demise of the executive sector in the late 90’s with the axe of the Omega and others, unless I wanted to drive Mercedes or BMW there was little choice but to go to the repmobile class for some cars. Mercedes and BMW for out for a number of image issues for a while. The opposition was really limited to Vectra, Peugeot 406, Renault Laguna and a few others. The Mondeo was the class leader and deservedly so. As mentioned earlier one was crashed and the other one reached its mileage limit. This car saw the visitor car parking area at some of the UK’s biggest companies more than once!

It now looks like the repmobile sector is going the same way as the executive sector did in the late 90’s now with the demise of the Mondeo. I have to admit that as I look for a new motor I am drawn like many others to the SUV sector. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most notable one is that I now have difficulty getting into and out of one of these types of cars. Apparently Ford only 2,400 Mondeo’s in the UK in 2020 and this is a shame as they are good cars. There are few cars left in this sector now

As for the some that I sold, I remember one that was grey, a 1.8 GLX. The gentleman who bought the grey one has been on English television quite a lot in the past year or so. I won’t say anymore. The red one I remember was sold to a delightful family with 2 large dogs who brought them all in to the showroom on handover, the dogs were barking loudly as I was handing over! Another I remember, a green one, a 2.0 Ghia I think from memory was paid for in cash and I had to count all these used fiver’s out to the tune of £16,000 and they all stank!

I have lost track of the total mileage I have driven in these cars but it is very indeed. Well over 100,000 miles. With the exception of one hire car that went pop 5 minutes away from Glasgow Airport, they have never let me down either!

So farewell Mondeo and thank you!

20 Years Since The Rover 75 Launch

Wow! A personal blog from me after a long break!

As always I am grateful to the team at aronline.co.uk for this one!

Many readers here will know the rough story of Rover cars. Their real heyday in my opinion was the mid 80’s to mid 90’s. They made some cracking cars then such as the 200, 600 and my personal favourite the 800. Sold by British Aerospace to BMW and then sold by BMW to a management team comprising a number of people with strong links to the firm which then folded in 2005 and thus was really no more. The DTI published a big report (just over 800 pages)  which was fairly damming.

So lets move swiftly on. The Rover 75 was designed to replace two very excellent cars, the Rover 600 and the Rover 800 and was launched under BMW ownership. See this where I think it went wrong. You see the Rover 600 and the Rover 800 were good enough to challenge the BMW 3 Series and the BMW 5 series. Thus were a serious contender and competitor to the respective BMW’s if you were a person who a) wanted to be let out of side roads and b) uses indicators!

I believe that BMW were scared of this fact and perhaps didn’t allow Rover to develop the car to its full potential and thus kept a potential competitor at bay.

I remember about 2001/2002 taking a test drive in a Rover 75 (actually an MG ZT) as my company Ford was up for renewal. I remember a nice comfortable, competent car. I do not remember an amazing car. A car I would be happy having parked in my drive or in my company parking space. Indeed a car that would have more than coped with some of my 1,000 mile plus a week capers to visit clients and partners up and down the country. To be fair the real reason I didn’t plump for the Rover was my local dealer of the time. I didn’t trust them! Anyway I bought a competitor vehicle instead.

I had moved house by the time of the MG Rover collapse in 2005 and I had a bit of spare cash then. I was hoping that there would be a bit of a “fire sale” but this never materialised. I wish that at some point I was able to have completed a purchase.

There are dwindling numbers of these left on the roads now which is a shame.

To me this was always a good car, it was never an amazing car in the same way that the Rover 800 was.  I have so many fond memories of the Rover 800 and I have written about these cars here.

To think what could have been though. I remain convinced that the Rover 75/MG ZT could have been amazing, a few tweaks here, a few tweaks there, these could have turned  a good car into a great car. Would it have outpaced the Rover 800 in my affections? Maybe, Maybe Not. We will never know! Would a tweaked car have kept the wolf from the door of the collapse of MG Rover. Difficult one. I doubt it alone would have saved them but it might have helped slow things down or possibly be a part of a turnaround.

So there we have it.

 

 

The Modern Classics Debate

I am of course talking about my love affair with modern 1980’s, 1990’s cars and Jaguar motor cars of any age.

Catawiki’s modern classics auctions have regularly been a case of lose the credit card before visiting. They mainly have left hand drive stuff but there is some really great stuff in their auctions.

A quick look at eBay reveals from very nice cars that I could quite happily purchase. A beautiful Daimler is here. A Ford Sierra Cosworth is here. These are fanstastic cars. Definitely one that got away!

The things that these cars have in common is that these cars are rising in value so fast. Yes very good examples are so hard to find and this is reflected in pricing and values which is related to supply and demand.

My fear here is that these cars will end up being mothballed a bit too much. You see this is not just about the car being in mint condition and winning rosettes at a car show but about the occasion of the drive. You see with modern tastes and safety regulations. Cars that are as special as these will never be manufactured again with the same magic. This is what makes the drive such an occasion, not only is it an occasion but its fun too, as these cars drive differently and on a challenging road can also cause the driver some excitement.

This is the key point to me.  cars like these should be fun and exciting and these days should be not only an occasion but an event. They should be driven and enjoyed!

I still hanker after a Jaguar XJS convertible, in mint condition, preferably painted in British Racing Green, however prices are slipping that too far away from the grasp of my wallet! I do make one promise though. If I do manage to get my paws and accelerator foot on a Jaguar XJS not only will it be meticulously well maintained but it will be enjoyed and well driven!

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PSA Et Opel? Pourquoi?????

I was sat my desk earlier catching up on the day’s business news of which there has been quite a bit today. Some oof it exciting and some of it not so.

The big one that caught my eye, was that PSA are in talks with General Motors to acquire Opel. Opel is General Motors’ European brand, in the UK they sell under the Vauxhall Name. PSA are known for Peugeot, Citroen and DS

This struck me as very odd and when I thought about this some more it concerned me even more. You see I have owned a few vauxhalls and driven the odd Citroen and quite a few Peugeot Hire cars. I usually seem to get saddled with Puegeot’s when Hertz or Avis run out of Fords or Vauxhall/Opel. In my opinion Peugeot have never got their mojo back since the 80’s. Am I the only one who remembers the 106 GTI, the 205 GTI and the bonkers 405 Mi16. In my opinion all very good and very capable cars that were very fast and a hoot to drive. Citroen? Well I have never really been a fan of these cars. A bit to far to the left field for my liking.

Vauxhall’s and Opel’s on the other hand I have some history with. A company Omega I had for a while was a look alike for an unmarked police car and could go as fast as one! The dealers back in those days however were very much the brands achilies heel. The dealership was a horrid place to spend anytime unless you take pleasure from being treated like a third class citizen. Vauxhall and Opel have had their share of the doldrums as well. The Vectra motor car? The Less said about that  automotive mistake the better! Harking back to days gone by I have fond memories also of the Astra GTE and was a big fan of both their rallying an touring car endeavours. I have also driven  a large number of Vauxhall and Opel hire cars. In fairness to my earlier comment about the dealers I had a cause to visit my local dealer just over a month ago to take a look at two of their models that interest me as my current motor is up for renewal shortly. My, how things have changed an awful lot for the better!

This is where things get tricky. The Largest Car Manufacturer in the world I believe is Volkwagen. This includes Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche. Now this works because the group build a platform and then other models are built around it. So 1 platform will build cars for all oor some of the brands and maybe involved in more than one car per brand. For example: The A series platform is used for the following cars: Audi A3, Audi Q3, Audi TT, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Eos, VW Tiguan, VW Touran, VW Scirocco, SEAT León, SEAT Toledo, SEAT Altea, Škoda Octavia. Yes that’s right one platform for some of the most popular cars certainly in Europe! This where Volkswagen can derive economies of scale and tap in to markets, whre for example on the basis of price one brand may sell more than another. You only have to look at the list above to see how this can work given the number of “family” cars in that list.

This technique is where I can see this merger falling down. I cannot see things that are ripe for sharing between the two manufacturers to make things cost effective. My mind is wondering as to how a new supermini with a shared platform between Opel and PSA might turn out. Remember Opel have had some in my opinion bad history with platform sharing. Readers who are petrol heads of my generation will remember when Opel shoved the Vectra platform underneath Saab motor vehicles. I’m sorry in my opinion with wasn’t Opel’s finest hour either.

So really I am left with some head scratching as to how this all might pan out if the plan for PSA buy Opel comes to pass. I really do not know if it will work out for the best or how it will work. I am still considering Vauxhall for my pending vehicle replacement and they have a good chance of getting the gig at the moment.

I am happy to “park” this here and wait to see what happens.

Though on a final note I do have to say that I do feel for the thousands of Vauxhall workers in this country at the moment who are probably worried and waiting to see what this development holds for them and their jobs. That cannot be fun for them.

More bottle than United Dairies!

As a self confessed petrol head I do like hear of quality drives and missions involving cars, especially when they seem like doomed ideas and they come good. Those of my generation can certainly consider “The Liver Run” as a shining example (Google it if you haven’t heard about it. Its an amazing feat of driving. Another amazing feat of driving was passed to me this morning by the Aronline website. My thanks to Keith Adams as always for writing these excellent nuggets of content that I enjoy reading and sometime blogging about.
Anyway over 20 years ago, a journalist buys a Morris Marina for £190 in Loot (anyone remember Loot?)  and drives to Bosnia. What he did in Bosnia and how get got out of it is one amazing story against all the odds. I won’t spoil the story so please click on the link below to read it all.
LINK
I think you will agree once you have read the article that both man and machine had “more bottle than United Dairies”!