Tag Archives: cars

If there was one car I could own

If you have an interesting looking car, people come up and talk to you about it. My Citroën SM is now entering my 21st year or ownership so, over the years, I’ve got reasonably used to this, though my social grace occasionally lets me down. Sometimes the speaker is highly informed and might tell you something you don’t know. Sometimes they are like-minded enthusiasts who just want to make a pleasant comment or know a bit more. Sometimes they just want to ask the same pointless questions – constantly re-occurring are “is that the one that goes up and down / the headlamps turn / has a Maserati engine / Burt Reynolds drove off the dock in The Mean Machine?”. These questions all get a polite but terse ‘Yes’, but the two questions I find it more difficult to answer are “‘Is that a classic then?” and “How much is it worth?”

Ever since I was quite tiny I’ve had a crush on the Citroën SM. There is something about the shape that I just love. This excellent post at Driven To Write is an extended long term test drive (aka ownership and everyday driving) of the futuristic 1970s Citroën, and simply makes me want one even more than ever.

Has it been a year‽ 

Wow! Doesn’t time fly? I can’t believe it’s been a year since we waved goodbye to l’Atomo and said hello to his replacement.

In the past twelve months we’ve travelled a lot further than we dared to in the little red Fiat. Obviously, a bigger car makes life a bit more comfortable, and the automatic gearbox makes a huge difference, too—especially in traffic. The year has also been pretty uneventful, in a motoring sense at least. No major panics, no worries about mechanical issues, no huge repair bills. I think it was a good decision to go for the Škoda.

We haven’t come up with a sensible name for the Roomster yet. It doesn’t have any really outstanding quirks to pick on, aside from its looks. It’s funny how I was never aware of these cars before, but there must be at least a half dozen of them in the neighbourhood. Once you know the shape, they pop out at you. 

The thing that both Best Beloved and I like about the Roomster is the storage. There are cubbyholes and pockets everywhere. The rear seats not only fold up, but can be removed completely, giving some useful carrying capacity if we need it, though we haven’t yet. I’ve been deputed as taxi for our neighbours, who enjoy regular coach trips and need to get to the pickup points. The car swallows them and their luggage with ease. 

The only thing I haven’t liked has been the gap between the rear seats and the luggage space cover. Because the seats can be moved for comfort, the gap is useful, but even at the furthest point back the gap still lets the nosey peer into the luggage space. I had thought to get tinted rear windows, but when I was investigating getting replacements for things like luggage nets and bag hooks I found Škoda also made a gap cover. 

I didn’t need to think twice.

It arrived is morning, and I had it fitted in a matter of seconds. It’s flexible, so it moves with the seats and luggage cover, and simply clips to the rear seat head restraints and the cover front lip. 

The instructions are straightforward, with happy and sad faces to show correct and incorrect fitting.

I am not sure about the disembodied hands, though. 


I’m not usually one to gush about aftermarket accessories, but this one has made me happy. So has owning a Škoda. 

What does this switch do?


The saga of our car woes has drawn to a close, with l’Atomo being somewhat ignominiously hauled away on the back of a breaker’s lorry. A new adventure begins, as our newly-adopted car insinuates itself into our lives. It still has to exhibit some personality traits before it receives a proper name, though. Right now, it’s just called “Car”.

I have never been able to afford a brand new car. I have been custodian of a brand new car, but that was leased by someone else and I had the use of it, so it’s not quite the same. I very nearly got a new car about a decade ago, but sadly or luckily, depending on your point of view, the deal fell through about the time the job I was in fell through.

So, while I have had the fun of specifying a new car, I’ve never had the fun of owning one. The “new” car we now own is six years old, and I suppose we paid about a quarter of its original purchase price to acquire it. It is the newest used car we’ve ever owned! It still has most of its original paperwork, including the all-important user manual.

Many knobs and dials in cars are self-explanatory. They form a standard part of our world, so you know what the symbol, and hence the function of the switch, means right away. I’m old enough and experienced enough to jump into the drivers’ seat and drive off without having to read the instructions first. There are some controls, though, which are new because it’s a new car—to me, at least.

Now, reading through the manual, you discover all kinds of fun toys. Then you discover your car doesn’t have some of those toys, because they are options decided before purchase. For example, we have air conditioning but not climate control. We have front and rear fog lights, but we don’t have the daylight running light option. We have an instrument panel display, but not the very clever one. We have a radio, but not the steering wheel controls. The radio, also, doesn’t connect with my phone by Bluetooth.

All these things I thought we might have, because the manual said so. I was aware the manual also appended an asterisk beside many features, which I worked out marked them as options. We have some options, but not others. On balance, I think the options we do have are the sensible ones, though I would appreciate the reversing sensors! Part of the fun of acquiring a “pre-enjoyed” vehicle is the journey of discovery as you work out what the original purchaser ticked on the specification list!

Now, all we need is to find “Car” a sensible name…

L’Atomo lives!

Well, nearly.


We had a man out to rummage under the bonnet today. He seems to think the breakdown isn’t terminal. This is encouraging.

I don’t plan on having the car repaired, though. I have actually posted it as “for sale” on a fan club site. If that doesn’t attract anyone, then I guess one of those online sales sites will see it go. I’d hate to see him scrapped, but if no-one wants to take him on that’s what will happen, I guess.

Meanwhile, l’Atomo’s replacement arrived today.


Shiny black. I think I need to start a competition to find a name for it.

L’Atomo di Forza, ė morte


It had to happen eventually. There have been some reliability issues surrounding my little red motor car of late. Despite a faultless journey from Kent to Somerset and back via Dorset the other week, a day out to a model railway get-together in Buckinghamshire proved too much.

Essentially, despite precautions, l’Atomo did a boiling kettle impression on the M25 near Godstone. He had to be hauled home rather ignominiously on the back of a lorry. Currently, he sits, looking rather forlorn, on our drive. I don’t want to try and drive him again, for fear of repeating the damage that cost me so much a few years back, so I will have to call a mechanic who can visit here—hopefully to give an honest opinion about the likelihood of repairs.

Ironically, we had planned a replacement car purchase later in the year. Whether l’Atomo can be fixed or not, he’s due for retirement. The latest escapade has kind of forced our hand, so today I have been trawling the various sales sites for likely vehicles. In an odd kind of way, I quite enjoy car shopping. Let’s just hope we can find a good, reliable, comfortable successor to My First Fiat™.

Everything seems a bit shit these days

Tools and clutter

I’m not sure where I’m heading with this blog post, so please bear with me. I’m struggling to find ways to put into words what I am feeling at the moment. The following may get a bit sweary.

I guess we could call it entropy. Despite scientific and technological advances over the years, the steady decline of everything seems to be gathering pace. Be it failing services, failing commercial businesses, failing economies, failing schools, everything just seems to be a bit shit these days.

The last couple of posts I’ve made here just add to the general malaise. Who is this government that it runs roughshod over the poor, elderly, and disabled? Why don’t they listen to the collective roar of anguish and anger that’s growing every day in this country? How can we stop them making this country more shitty every day?

I’ve been having some issues with my car this past few months, as happens with older vehicles. The fuel tank developed a leak due to corrosion. I sourced a new tank, it was fitted, but for some reason it still leaked. It wasn’t a big leak, just an annoying one that gave a whiff of petrol fumes when you cornered and meant you couldn’t put more than half a tank full of fuel in. Our mechanic, who is a friend as well as car mender and who fitted the tank, has tried all sorts to remedy the situation, so far unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, he was incapacitated by a knee injury, so his efforts were curtailed somewhat. Meanwhile, the exhaust fell off. I know, it never rains…

Anyway, we decided to book the car in to the bigger garage my friend uses when he can’t manage, to fix the exhaust. While it was on the ramp, it was suggested the tank should be looked at, and fixed if possible. Two birds with one stone and all that. We eventually got the message all was fixed, all was fine and dandy, please come and collect your car and pay the bill.

Driving home, I still got the whiff of petrol when cornering. When I stopped on my drive, I looked underneath, and sure enough the fuel was leaking just as much as before. Suffice it to say, I’ve booked the car back in tomorrow, and I won’t be paying any more for it to be fixed, that’s for sure. It’s a nice shiny exhaust pipe, though.

This has all left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. As I waited for the washing-up water to drain slowly away down our badly-fitted kitchen sink outfall, I was overcome by a nagging feeling of annoyance that I don’t seem to have nice things any more, and those few nice things I do have never seem to last very long.

Nearly twenty years ago, I had a problem with a car. I was recommended to a garage, and I took the machine along to be looked at. The mechanic, also the proprietor, was a proper one in a boiler suit so ingrained with engine oil it would stand up on its own. You knew the dirt on his hands would never wash out. He was a proper car mechanic, who knew his trade inside and out. Cars came, cars went, and he worked on nine of them for us over the years.

We developed a huge level of trust in Tony. We would roll up with a problem, he’d diagnose it and fix it, and let us know there might be something else starting to wear out but it could wait until the next service. There were one or two issues that cropped up due to silly errors, but they were soon straightened out. We could trust Tony to fix things properly.

Tony eventually retired, and his business was passed on to some of his other mechanics. His business had grown quite a bit down the years, and was pretty successful. We continued to use the garage, but they seemed to be more expensive, they would fail to fix faults we had pointed out, and sometimes make things worse. Eventually, we had to scrap a car because they had completely failed to fix it, and it was in danger of becoming a money pit.

They lost our trust. We don’t use them any more.

It’s a hard thing to find a reliable garage, and while I trust my mechanic friend with the dicky knee, I am not sure I trust those he has to rely on for some mechanical services. I want to trust the garage that hasn’t fixed my fuel tank, though. If they deal with my complaint and actually put it right, I might feel comfortable using them again. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I shall have to see what I can do about that kitchen sink, and draughty back door, and the myriad other things that are making my life ever so slightly shit at the moment.

Sport & GTs au Mans Classic – Sale N° 2138 – Lot N° 217 | Artcurial | Briest – Poulain – F. Tajan

Oh my. A prototype version of my favourite car of all time up for sale! I’ve had to screengrab because the embedded plugin won’t translate to the blog.

I recommend a visit to the actual site for more fabulous photos and a short video of this machine, the Citroën SM Espace prototype—one of two prototypes built in 1971. The auction site requires Flash, sadly.

I’ve been in love with the SM since childhood. The shape, the futuristic design, and the colour in this particular case… j’adore. I wish I could own one.

A “standard” model came up for sale in the UK recently. It was the same electric metallic blue, and was available for a cool £29,000. Truly a classic collector’s car, and out of my price bracket.

More information about the Citroën SM on Wikipedia.

Original link via Things Magazine.

Cars. Who’d ’ave ’em? Addendum

Well, we’ve retrieved the Vectra from the menders. It runs, badly. It needs to warm up before you go anywhere, otherwise it stalls when you put it in gear (it’s an auto).

We’re now left with what to do about it. It’s too expensive to repair. Should we spend money on investigative work in case there’s a case to be made? Or should we just let it rust away on the drive. Perhaps some kind scrap dealer will take pity on us and take it away leaving some cash in its place.

So, cars are definitely a raw nerve at the moment.


One of these would do the trick, I think. Just a bit of sanding and varnishing to do every now and then.

Cars. Who’d ’ave ’em?

We own two cars. My personal transport is Italian, red, and is made by a company whose name begins with F. It’s a Fiat Seicento Sporting. The other car is was screwed together by someone at Luton or Liverpool, and has a Vauxhall badge glued to it.

Now, I’ve been a Vauxhall fan for years. My first car was a Vauxhall – a 1978 Chevette, to be precise. Over the years, I’ve owned a Mk 2 Astra, and a succession of Carltons. Most have been reliable transport, all have been used when purchased, and all have been virtually driven to destruction by me.

That run of Vauxhall ownership has come to an abrupt end with a 1999 model Vectra estate. Oh, it’s comfy, has a good service history, one owner, fairly average mileage and so on. For such a nose-heavy car, it was pretty sprightly when you wanted it to be. We could live with the aircon being busted, and the fact we had to replace the radio unit because the keycode had been lost. Then the car began to dislike starting. Then the engine management light came on. In the past couple of months it’s spent more time being mended than on the road.

Today we learned the engine management chip had been fried. On investigation, I also learn this is a very common problem with this particular unit. It’s also a very expensive thing to fix.

So, I’ve fallen out of love with Vauxhalls. I don’t care that they had a bad patch around when our car was in production. I don’t care that the current cars are very good. I refuse to buy another Vauxhall.

Of course, we still have a crippled pile of junk we will have to try and get rid of. It’ll probably limp along for a while. Perhaps we can sell it, but more likely we’ll scrap it. It seems as if filling the tank with petrol doubles the car’s value.

All in all, 2010 has turned out to be an expensive year for cars in this household. The search is on for something that will potentially replace both cars, but I am very distrustful of any modern car, purely because they are so stuffed with electronics you have to rely on experts to fix them. Anything more than changing a lightbulb, and you need a computerised diagnostics system just to see what the car thinks is wrong.


Oh for the good old days when you could change the plugs and points on your drive on a Sunday morning. Oh for a simpler motoring experience.