My Car History - Part 2
Posted on Monday August 15, 2022
Continuing the last post, part 2 details some newer cars when I was having a little more of a "sensible" period, but that didn't last long...
If you missed part 1, I suggest reading that first.
6. 2011 Skoda Fabia VRS (BG61 ODL)
My first brand new car, the Skoda Fabia VRS was exactly what I needed. It was quick, it was new and it was much more economical than anything I'd driven in quite a while. It was also cheap enough, only costing me £205 a month at the time for a 2-year lease, not very bad at all.
I enjoyed this car, and it was my only car for a few months until I inevitably got bored and needed something else to keep me occupied. This was also the car I had at the time I met my wife and we move into our first house, so it holds a lot of happy memories.
It was a good drive - very quick and easy with its DSG gearbox, about the only thing I didn't get on with. It wasn't without its issues - a neighbour reversed into it when it was 2 weeks old and it carried those scratches on it for the remainder of the ownership, and I believe I accidentally went too far forward in a car park once into a wall at around 3 mph.
It eventually went and I leased its bigger brother below, but in-between I did have another car.
7. 1995 Volkswagen Vento 1.9 TDi (N665 OUL)
I became convinced around this time that you could get a decent, roadworthy and usable banger on the market for around £500, and set out to prove it. My wife was learning to drive and I thought that getting something she could practice in as a manual would be a good idea. I managed to find a few-owner VW Vento with just over 100k miles (the saloon version of the Mk3 Golf in the UK) for exactly £500 with some tax and a few months' MOT still on it - what a bargain.
Ventos were pretty rare back in 2013, when I had it, and one in this condition and for this level of price was (at the time I thought) the only time I'd ever see a bargain of this nature.
The diesel engine in it was rattly and economical and most of the car worked fine, apart from an electric window that broke and fell off its runners, getting promptly propped up with a piece of wood in the door to make sure it didn't slip down again.
At this point, I can't even remember what happened to drive me to get rid of it, other than the small issues were driving me up the wall and I was somehow determined that a £500 car should bring me some level of perfection that it was never going to be able to achieve. I did a truly horrible thing and sent it off to be scrapped after I'd had it for a few months. THis is another one of those tales I bitterly regret and I should not have abandoned that poor car in that state as it had a fair bit more to give.
8. 2014 Skoda Octavia VRS TDi (BJ14 KNX)
The second brand new car I owned was the Octavia VRS - the bigger brother of the Fabia. I decided to go for the diesel purely because I knew it would be a bit cheaper to run, and I didn't really think the extra 20-40 hp justified getting the petrol one, which was quite a bit more expensive from what I remember too.
The Octavia was quick and comfortable - it was a gigantic car considering what I'd had in the past, and I was very thankful for the reverse parking sensors. I'd ordered it upgraded with heated seats and cruise control, both of which came in handy and I'm completely unsure why they weren't standard.
There isn't much to tell - I drove it around for 3 years and it was a very good car. I typically ended up bored part way through and started finding excuses to get something a little more interesting one way or another. The only bad point was giving the Octavia back - it had diamond-cut alloy wheels, and needed a fair bit of refurbishing by the time I returned it - so much so that I needed to buy 3 brand new ones, not a very cheap endeavour.
Special Mention - 1989 Ford Fiesta 1.0 Popular (F655 TMO)
During the Octavia's ownership, my wife passed her driving test and needed a first car. Fresh from my confidence of the £500 Vento, we both decided something cheap, small and easy to maintain and drive would be the easiest thing. I didn't go looking specifically for something a little older, but thought since my first car had lacked power steering and a few comforts, it wouldn't do any harm for her to have the same experience - then things can only get better. In reality, the one I found ended up being so classic that it even had a manual choke!
The Fiesta was a very special find - clearly well looked after for its life, it had been bought for a 17-year-old boy who wouldn't be caught dead in a 25-year-old burgundy Fiesta. It needed a new wing mirror (sourced for £15) and had a tiny bit of rust as you'd expect, but was otherwise in good condition, reflecting its 23,000 miles. Yes - I originally thought this might've been around the clock once, but the MOT history confirmed it - this car had really only been driven less than 2,000 miles for each of its years. The engine was in fantastic condition and the whole car was a delight to have. I even drove it all the way up to Scotland one Bank Holiday weekend, completing most of the 500 mile NC500, where it didn't miss a beat.
We kept it for around 3 years, doing our best to look after it (new battery, alternator and the like) and keep it serviced. Unfortunately towards the end of its life, the tin worm was starting to take over a little bit as we didn't have a garage back then, so it was parked and used in all elements (as a proper car should be, some would say). Given it wasn't in perfect condition when we got it and it was never going to be a show car, I don't feel too bad about this - it was all repairable. By the end, we didn't want to funnel any more money into it though and we needed something a bit more modern before my wife was starting a job that involved commuting on the motorway. This wasn't the natural habitat of our 4-speed 1.0 Fiesta (top speed of around 65 mph realistically) and so we let the Fiesta go, reluctantly, when it failed an MOT. We still ended up getting around £300 for it and so I think overall this is one of the best purchases we ever made.
9. 1986 Trabant 601 (D208 SNF)
After travelling to Berlin on a holiday and seeing some Trabants still in the wild, I'd become slightly obsessed with them as a fantastic relic of East German simplistic transport from a forgotten era, where people used what they could as they had absolutely no other choice. These simple machines kept people on the roads during the 80s and I thought they were full of character and charm. Somehow, I had to have one.
Back then, I was running my own business and somehow convinced myself this would be the perfect promotion vehicle. I needed an excuse, and that was close enough. I scoured eBay and other locations for a while until I found a recently imported "Universal" model, originally from Hungary. It looked in decent condition but was over in Lancashire. Heart overrode head, and the car was summarily purchased unseen, with it arriving shortly on a low-loader.
It needed a fair bit to get it working well after I first received it, needing a full service and a tune to get it working reliably, but after that had very few problems other than those encountered every time I took it for an MOT. It took me a fair while to feel confident driving on the wrong side of the car with a completely unique column-shift gearbox coupled to a 2-stroke engine that you couldn't coast in, but once I was used to it, I have to say it's the most fun I've ever had behind the wheel. The sense of danger was always there (duraplast is not the material you want your car to be made of in a crash) but thankfully I owned it entirely without incident.
I could write up a post about the Trabant on its own, but suffice to say it was a fun and unique car that I took absolute joy in owning and using whenever I got the choice. I still miss it, and despite what my wife thinks, would have another one in a heartbeat.
The final part brings us nicely up to today.