I’ve owned nearly 140 cars, but below is a selection of what has come and gone. Many of them pre-date digital cameras, but EVERY car tells a story…
I’m like a magpie. I’ve got a thing about old tat with chrome. It probably stems from growing up around obsolete cars, as my Dad couldn’t afford a new car. Well, he bought one new in 1976 and kept it until just prior to the Millennium. This, and the fact that I’m fortunate enough to test-drive brand new machines for my job, means in my spare time I hunt down and breathe new life into old decrepit stuff.
Nothing beats a car-buying stakeout. It’s that instant thrill of the chase. It used to be crackling open a virgin copy of the yellow classifieds paper, but now it’s all online or ‘for sale’ cards in the corner shop window. I used to buy a lot of bargains simply to pay the rent, but now it’s more to taste history and experience cars of a by-gone era. Flogging it for a profit admittedly helps pay for the ‘keepers’.
I appear to be on a mission to own anything remotely automotively intriguing.
1973 VW Transporter – bought as my first second car on the most frayed of shoe strings. Broke down daily, mostly when I was wearing a white chenille jumper (they were cool in the mid ‘90s).
1972 VW 412LS – ex-Mexican deli delivery car from Leeds. Was made into a van. 3-spoke alloys and weeping master cylinder.
1974 VW Beetle 1303 – £150 with very short MoT and misfire.
1974 Ford Granada Consul 2.0 – My first lowrider. Pimp spec daily driver for 3 years with dancing hydraulic suspension, faux fur interior and metalflake paint.
1987 Vauxhall Astra 1.3 Merit – Bought when the Mk1 Granny needed a month’s worth of welding repair. £50 with MoT and shuddering clutch. Sold for £110 to a bouncer.
1976 Ford Granada 3.0 GL – Proper Sweeney motor. Roman Bronze, lush draylon interior. Should have been a keeper but swapped it for a bubble car.
1958 Heinkel Kabin Cruiser bubble car – sold it to Michael Barrymore through the Loot. Seriously.
1967 Renault Caravelle – factory RHD. Bloke I bought it off wouldn’t stop talking.
1964 Chevrolet Impala sport sedan – Loved it to bits. It fell to bits. Rare factory Right Hand Drive Canadian import. Tragedy.
1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham 8.1-litre (500 cubic inch) – Not an advised engine capacity when living in London.
1983 Alfa Romeo Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf 1.5 – bought unseen for £100 and it wasn’t rusty. Shock horror. Electric windows and Ansa exhaust. Class.
1987 VW Polo saloon 1.0 – The only time I’ve bought a car from a car boot sale. Looked abysmal but made me a bit of profit.
1987 VW Passat sedan 2.0 – The best £50 ever spent. Bought under £10 syndication with 5 mates during a big weekend in Bristol. It ended up being a reliable hack for my best bud Dan for over 2 years (despite writing itself off with failing handbrake on a Bristolian knoll).
1973 Australian Ford Fairlane 351 (5.8 V8) – Rare beast I tracked down from Tooting. Looked like a big Cortina Mk3 with a Mustang engine and marshmallow tan vinyl seats. Broken exhaust introduced fumes into the cabin.
1974 Opel Rekord 1900 – free gift from landlord with a flat. Had to unearth it from a garage that hadn’t been opened since 1981. Came complete with mummified dog. Long (and slightly freaky) story…
1973 Commer campervan – hand painted it on the M5 motorway enroute to Cornwall on holiday. My then girlfriend got pissed and beat me up in it using her shoes.
1988 VW Polo Coupe 1.05L – daily driver for a few years. 1000mpg with 5-spd box. No hubcaps, just black steelies. Loved it. Apart from its heart-stoppingly bad brakes.
1973 Fiat 500L – Tried to ‘tidy the wiring’ and accidentally singed the whole loom. Had to replace entire brakes and wiring. Sold when I fled London.
1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass ‘S’ 260 (4.3 V8) – Daily driver one summer. Ugly but cool, like Columbo. The back brakes used to lock up before the fronts. When the windscreen cracked I knew it was time to move the vinyl-upholstered palace on.
1977 VW Derby – saved from the scrap yard. One owner from new. Oddly, it now lives in California with a VW nutter called Erik Wyman. A happy ending indeed.
1965 VW Beetle 1200 deluxe – Mostly restored, ragtop sunroof, 1500 gearbox fitted.
1982 VW Golf GL Convertible – Brilliant daily car, even in winter. Everyone should buy one. 4-speed gearbox a bit bloody wheezy on the motorway.
1977 Golf – yellow 3-door, chrome bumpers, bought from Dawlish from a blind person. They had driven it with failing sight. The chrome bumpers got hurt.
1978 Golf – black 5-door diesel, possibly the slowest and slackest car I’ve parted money for. Saying that, it was £60. White smoke billowing above 50mph.
1997 Golf Mk3 GTi 8v – Drove it 3 miles. Bought purely for profit. Metallic green. Looked purposeful but was frankly disappointing.
1987 Nissan Laurel 2.4 SGX – Only bought it to get home from Nottingham where I’d dropped off my lowrider Jaguar to have an Xbox fitted. The train fare was obscene so I got the Laurel. 2 owners, both of whom clearly wiped their spaniels on the upholstery. Rare 5-speed. It used to shout at me in Arabic if I left the lights on.
1977 Mercedes 230C coupe – A real Charlie Hungerford from Bergerac car, this one. Pale lemon paint with avocado green interior. Pillarless with electric sunroof. Slightly pikey carb model (not CE) but it made me feel wealthy for a while.
1973 VW Beetle 1302S – A guy at work who rebuilt guitar amps on the side wanted shot of it. The brakes were seized solid. I eBayed it and she ended up as a shop display prop in Norwich.
1990 Jaguar Sovereign 4.0 – My project car from max Power magazine. It sat on bespoke 20s with hydraulics, snakeskin interior, xBox in the dash and a large quantity of ICE. An XJ40 never looked more ghetto. Originally bought for £100. Spent over £8k on it.
1991 Jaguar Sovereign 4.0 – donor car for the above project. It was actually in much better nick than the car above. Cream leather thrones = local cricket club spec.
1983 Citroen CX Pallas – a low mileage superb slice of surviving French lux. The most padded seats in any car in the world.
1987 Nissan Silvia S12 Turbo – bought as a pre-built track car. Looked great. I could never get it start. Got bored and sold it. Me and J-tin don’t seem to mix.
1983 Mk1 Golf GTI rolling shell – A local farmer’s son called Nice Eddie made me have it for £20. More rotten than licking road kill.
1977 Mk1 Golf LS – It took me over 3 years to pursuade the guy to sell this car. Notes under the wiper galore. I’d moved out of London by the time he caved in and sold this chrome bumper 3-door automatic beauty to me.
1967 VW split screen microbus – Californian import so devoid of rot. Suspension on the deck with polished Rader replica rims. Some kids nicked the dice valve caps. Little twats. Sold the bus to get on the housing ladder.
1966 Pontiac Parisienne convertible – Factory RHD land yacht that I came away with for £1000 on the way home from the Longbridge liquidation sale. Sold to my mate who’s restoring it and tracing the previous owners (which includes the BBC)
1994 VW Golf Mk3 1.6 5-door – rubbish, boring, tired. Sold for profit. Always buy a Mk2 Golf over a Mk3.
1993 Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8 CD – I went to visit my uncle and he gave me beer and made me give him £40 for his old company car. No starter motor and a ruined heater matrix. The local banger racers adored it (unless uncle Martin is reading this in which case I have restored her and donated it to the Haynes Motor Museum).
1992 BMW 318i estate – Bought for £40 and owned for 10 days. Sold for £60.
1987 Mercedes W124 250D saloon – The Fifth Gear car that drank chip fat for over two years. It still runs, but leaves a lot of black on the drive.
1968 Chevrolet Impala SS 396 convertible – Rare as hell car that had been in a dodgy Dartford lock-up for years. Intended to get it roadworthy but had to move house…
1973 Ford Taunus Coupe GXL – revvy 2.0 ‘Cologne’ V6 manual LHD German import that everyone thought was a Capri or Cortina, but was neither. Daytona yellow with black vinyl roof. Larverly.
1981 Chevrolet Impala station wagon 8 seater – bought on eBay sans pix after cider. A mistake. Peach paint and wiring by Mr D.Blunkett.
1993 Rover 827 Si – £150 with history and MoT. Fab luxo barge which I only bought as a donor for its 2.7 V6 heart. Sadly she died but her motor lives on in my Allegro.
1993 Volvo T5 estate – A present for my Dad’s 60th birthday. It was the first car he has owned with a turbo, leather seats or air conditioning. A lot of car for £775.
1988 Golf Mk2 GTI 8v – This was my lady’s daily car. Genuine black original 80,000 miler with immaculate tartan interior and trip computer. She crashed it within 48 hours. I spent over 2 months rebuilding it. Now sold to someone who appreciates it.
1968 Audi 80 Variant – Factory right hand drive 2-door column shift manual estate Audi. Rare? Even Audi didn’t know they sold them in UK spec. I went to buy a Merc CE from a strange retired car dealer in the Fens only to return with this.
1981 Mercedes 230TE – ex Sultanate of Oman. 7-seater finished in pale yellow with avocado green vinyl interior. Full history and full of water (in the boot at least).
1983 Mercedes 200T – One of my fondest. Desperate times required a desperate daily driver. My brother bought it for 1 penny from a chicken farmer in Dorset. He steam cleaned the interior (chickens had lived in it) and serviced the brakes. A week later it was MoT and I drove it everywhere for 5 years. The multi-coloured panels came about when the binmen reversed into it and wrote it off. I bought it off the insurers and repaired with a myriad panels off other W123 Mercs. Rot eventually set in and I sold it during the recession to a dealer in Holland. Car dealer, that is.
1993 Mercedes W124 320TE Sportline 7-seat – A rare spec finished in metallic grey. Bought in South London and sold 2 years later to someone in North London. The 24v shifted well, but I suspected a head gasket was on the horizon.
1995 Mercedes W124 280TE 7-seat – Rear self levelling suspension was dead, so it bobbed about like a fishing rod float. It wasn’t bad for £275.
VW Caddy 1.6 diesel – mk1 Golf with a flat back. A project I never started. Not enough legroom for me.
Mk1 Golf ex-Deutche Post van – bought to give to a close mate of mine. LHD and very sluggish non turbo diesel, but what a rare groove. In its original yellow livery this van was used for commuting and European roadtrips with my mate Dan running it solely on home-brewed bio diesel.
2004 Nissan Cube Cubic – Our first family car. Rare 7 seat JDM import in powder blue launch colour. 1.4 engine with column shift auto. So many natty cube-shaped design details. Undoubtedly a future classic.
1983 Audi Coupe GT – The 2144cc five pot is a glorious engine with an even better gear change. Bought unseen from a grim part of north wales and ended up being one of the best cars I’ve owned. Despite being almost 30 years old I used this every day for several years. Now sold to a historic reliability rally enthusiast and being looked after. Will have another one day, hopefully Quattro.
2001 Honda Insight – most definitely a car before its time. Hand made on the same aluiminium production line as Honda’s iconic NSX, the Insight was the best hybrid driver’s car until BMW’s i8. I did a Fifth Gear buyer’s guide using this exact car and then agreed to buy it some 2 years later. Sold it to Honda UK’s heritage department with 310,000 miles on the digital odo.
VW Lupo TDI Sport – in yellow. One owner from new, beautiful condition. Sold it for £600 more than I paid after 3 months of enjoyment.
BIKES THAT I’VE OWNED.
I do have a bike licence but rarely road ride. Most of my bikes date back to the teen years, where field bikes and camp-site chicken chasers were always on the menu.
1979 Honda MT50
1969 BSA Bantam B175 trials
1973 Honda Monkey ST70 Lady Dax
1971 Honda Monkey ST70 Blue
1975 Honda C70 cub
1985 Honda C90 elec start
1987 Yamaha Jog 50cc
2004 Chinese no-name 49cc mini moto chopper