My Car History
Posted on Sunday August 7, 2022
Since I started driving in 2007 I seem to have run through quite a few cars, and more than anything I wanted to get a little bit written on them in one place. I've had 14 cars over the years, 2 of which I still have. I tend to change them fairly often, but some I keep longer than others if I form a bit more of an affinity with them. Anyway, I thought a run through what I've had might be interesting for someone at the very least.
I realised most of the way through that this was getting a little long, so I've split the post into 3 - that way it's a little easier to digest.
1. 1994 Nissan Micra 1.3 LX (M743 GFT)
It's a shame but I can't find a picture of my first car, so here's a stock one:
Mine was the same colour and doors, with the black plastic bumpers. I seem to remember I got it in around 2005 once my Grandad had to stop driving - he'd looked after it pretty well and it was low mileage, so it was a good car to put aside for my first car for when I turned 17. It promptly sat around for a few months, crippling its battery and alarm system which was promptly ripped out.
I occasionally used it when learning but it wasn't the easiest - it had a temperamental clutch, no power steering and wasn't the most forgiving when I was used to driving something modern. That all changed once I passed my test in February 2007, and this was my new freedom ticket and the best thing I'd ever owned. I drove it all over and ferried friends around, being the first of our group who passed my test and got a car.
It didn't last long - after the months of sitting around, coupled with the abuse I gave it (I was 18 and pretty daft as most 18-year-old boys are), the petrol lines started to leak, the sills had already been welded and needed more, and the boot rusted through one day while packing my bag away at college.
By this point I was working at PC World and had some spare cash, so the Micra was unceremoniously sold to a man in the pub for £200 with a month's tax and MOT left on it so he could move to South Shields, and I'm pretty sure it was scrapped shortly afterwards.
2. 1999 Renault Clio 1.2 RN Grande (T296 SGR)
I wanted something a little more reliable and newer, so I found my little blue Clio. Back in those days standard options were a little different - you got remote audio controls and remote central locking, but manual windows? That never made any sense.
It wasn't that quick or fun to drive, and I certainly didn't have that much desire to do anything to it, so I drove it around for a few months with very little hassle. It was £1,250 well spent really back in June 2007. That's up until the CV boot decided to fall off on the slip road to the Metro Centre and dump grease all over the hot brakes, creating an acrid plume of smoke while waiting at the traffic lights.
I promptly joined the RAC, got it cable-tied on, took it to the garage and got it all fixed, but it left me feeling a little put off with the Clio - there was nothing wrong with it, it was just a bit boring and a bit humdrum.
So, I traded it for £1,100 after the winter for the next car...
3. 2000 Ford Puma 1.7 (X741 ABR)
My Dad takes the credit for spotting this in a garage in our town. I promptly ran off to the bank to get a loan and turned up in my Clio to give it a drive. It was never going to take much convincing, so for £3,995 minus the Clio's £1,100 trade-in value (I really didn't do badly here!) I was now the proud owner of a Ford Puma.
I went through a few periods of ownership here, gradually making changes in small amounts until some larger modifications started taking hold. I kept it original for almost a year, other than fitting a new USB stereo and getting some of the rust on the driver's side rear arch that you can see in this photo cut out and reworked. After this, I became a frequenter of Project Puma, a forum for enthusiasts and owners, and met a fellow Puma owner in my home town. This is where some of the changes to the car started.
I started driving the car off to a few meets up and down the country, including Ford Fair at Silverstone in August 2009, when the photo above was taken. By this point the headlight bulbs had been swapped, the side repeaters now clear and a K&N air filter installed. Some of the larger changes were the Focus ST170 17" wheels, which necessitated a set of spacers all around (and ruined the handling, don't fit bigger wheels when you don't need to, folks) and the obvious Milltek exhaust system, which was a full 4-2-1 manifold and cat too. That thing set me back around £1,000 fitted but did make the car pop and bang on the overrun, which was the most fun I'd had in that small car up until then.
It dud need a few fixes in it's time, I think I was onto the 4th heater control valve by the end of ownership, but it was by far the most fun I'd had in a car and nothing came close for a significant period of time. Selling it was a hot-headed moment brought on by some suspension components that needed renewing, a few rattling trim bits that were doing my head in, and an unnecessary desire for something that was a bit bigger and a bit more grown-up. I traded it in in February 2010 for £1,400, a huge loss, and bought the next car below.
As a bonus, I also had an unexpected opportunity to buy this back years later when it appeared on eBay, and somehow messed around enough that I completely missed it. I seem to remember we had a 3 car garage at that point, but realistically that was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the poor Puma has since been sent off to the scrapper.
4. 2002 Hyundai Coupé 2.7 (YR52 ZZN)
This was at the time a solid purchase, I thought. The 2.7 versions of the Hyundai were quite rare, and I'd managed to get one in black too so was pretty happy. Here was a car that had leather seats, a nice growl and a 6-speed gearbox - and it was cheap! But there were some telling signs that the ownership would be fraught and potentially a little short.
Firstly, the LCD showing the miles and computer info was beginning to break down and only show partial information, which was annoying. More pressing was the obvious need for a new clutch since it was starting to slip going up hills. Lastly was the battery, which was clearly on its way out as the car had stranded me a couple of times before long trips - once before I was due to head over to Blackpool with some friends.
The killer was the clutch, and I sent it off to a chain garage in Gateshead to get the clutch and the dual mass flywheel replaced, since they needed doing at the same time. What happened was that the garage somehow managed to explode the gearbox (we think it was mistakenly shifted into 1st at around 50mph) and then looked to blame me for it. It drove in, and it didn't drive back out.
I refused to take the car back and ended up writing to the head office of the company (now out of business, surprisingly) - what I got back was a reconditioned gearbox together with the new clutch. I was never convinced they did the best of jobs putting it back together since it wasn't in their interest to do so, and looked to offload the car shortly after this, all-in-all I'd owned it for just over 6 months. I borrowed by brother's 1.4 Puma for a bit while he couldn't drive it and waited to find something a little more interesting.
5. 2004 Mazda RX-8 (SW53 KWP)
It may not come as a surprise by this point that I'm not the greatest at sensible decisions when it comes to cars, and for my 22nd birthday I found a Mazda RX-8 - a car that was notoriously unreliable and finicky owing to the rotary engine that was the only car in production using it at the time.
I'd originally test driven a black RX-8 PZ while owning the Puma and was tempted to buy it at the time, however it was a bit more than I wanted to spend. The red example I ended up with was one of the very early versions with under 50,000 miles, and was only £4,295 I seem to remember when I bought it. Quite a lot of car for the money.
This was a mostly happy ownership: as usual I'd picked the best version (the 231bhp) and absolutely loved driving it. The power delivery in a RX-8 is very unlike anything else as its very linear with a very high red line ar over 9,000 rpm, which is hits with an unmistakable smooth noise. The only problem I remember was trying to fit a new radio at one point that was fully connected to the heater system, and mucking it up to a degree that I ended up calling out an auto-electrician to sort it out for me.
I had, however, managed to buy this at the time that the north-east of England had its worst winter for some years starting in late November, hitting temperatures of -12°C and with snow and ice surrounding the place. At the time, my Dad's car needed a new coil pack and we needed to drive over to the next city to get a new part - on the way it started snowing heavily and we only just made it to a nearby petrol station after sliding sideways up a hill - RWD cars are not fun in all conditions. The car had packed in with every warning light going. We managed to get it back home but it was parked up for the season with the issues persisting.
In a complete stroke of fortune, not a common occurrence in my motoring lifetime, by the time I'd started the car again the battery had needed to be recharged, and this seemed to clear all the ABS/TCS and other issues, and the car was back to behaving normally. I drove it for another few months happily until I started to get a bit sick of the 16 mpg I was getting going to and from work every day. It was time to get something sensible.
By this time I'd worked at LINGsCARS for a few years and was ready to lease something brand new, so I put the Mazda up for sale and offloaded it for £3,100 or so. Then I had to wait patiently for my new car to land, which should have been in a couple of months.
It wasn't. It took 7 months for the new car to land, and in that time I had to borrow and drive a few cars to get around.
I drove a promotion London Taxi we had at work for a few weeks, a very traditional 1996 Carbodies version with the Nissan 2.7 diesel engine. That was something a little different, but the insurance on it was absolutely extortionate as I could only get temporary 2-eek insurance at a time, which cost around £200 a week.
Next I took a trip to London to pick up a Fabia VRS that had a few months left on its lease, and agreed to take it on since it's original lessee was moving abroad. I drove it back up from London and had it for around 4 months.
After this the car still wasn't ready, so I ended up with a couple of dealer-provided cars to keep me happy until the new car finally landed.
Check out part 2 for more...