Ask your friends and family to pluck a favourite car from their motoring past and 90% or so will undoubtedly select a steed from early in their motoring lives. Why so? You can only assume that access to freedom and coming-of-age plays a part in linking positive thoughts with crap cars. It was the same for me, having learnt to drive in a hand-me-down Honda Prelude, passed on thanks to my Dad’s company car insurance policy offering blanket policies to all staff, their partners and offspring. Lucky me then at age 17, in a wonderful car of its era, and my clear favourite of all time.
Spring forward a decade and a bit to my first house purchase. I faced a mud bath ear-marked for driveway development and a Nissan 200SX with baggy shocks, a perforated fuel tank and a quote for repairs to make a Samaritan weep.
Ebay Motors, mated to a dab of subtle truth-bending did me a favour there, the house was completed and my second favourite of all time, gone.
Armed with the mantra of James Ruppert’s excellent ‘Bangernomics’ theorem, our search for cheap wheels ended during a chance meeting with a friend’s acquaintance, leading to the purchase of a Peugeot 106 Diesel, of alarming vintage. And colour.
You see, the seller had a bizarre car collection consisting of a new Range Rover, Ferrari 360 and the 106, which he’d ‘customised’ with the obligatory blanked off radiator grille, and a ‘flip’ paint job so odd it could only be described as a mix of metallic rust and burnt brown. He claimed he had toyed with the idea of bolting Saxo rear panels on to create a weird PSA hybrid, before wagging his outstretched finger at it and proclaiming, “it’s part of me that is”. Then he left, with his £500, visibly upset.
The following couple of years saw the most unexpected motoring pleasure obtained from the wee 106. Not only did it handle like nothing else on the road, it returned such stunning fuel economy from its 1.5 that long weekends away could be achieved for a total fuel cost of around £15 – £20. You could get another quarter of a tank in the neck alone, keeping the needle jammed at full until a hundred miles had past.
Regular trips through Snowdonia followed a trend: powerful German saloons appeared rapidly in the mirrors on the straights, then vanished as the Pug maintained any speed you fancied through the twisty sections, only to steam up again on the next straight, drivers confused and probably ashamed when they heard the vocal diesel lump idling at the next junction. The ride was sublime, and clearly from an era when Peugeot had a clue about dynamics, therefore rendering long journeys a delight.
It also developed a metallic whistle through the perforated exhaust as the revs climbed, mercifully heightening the sensation of acceleration. Momentum driving was therefore the order of every journey, a real skill that focused the mind and raised concentration levels.
You could leave it anywhere you wanted without a care, open doors onto walls, stack boxes on it and most important of all, service it yourself with a simple manual. My girlfriend even (belatedly) learned to drive in it, ramming into the front of the local Spar whilst attempting to park. There followed hysterical laughter, a second-hand headlight, twenty minutes with a lump hammer, and life was sweet again.
Inevitable downsides included a poverty-spec interior with a broken tape player, poor radio reception (thanks to a pointless conversion to a 6 inch welded-in bee-sting aerial), a lack of power steering mated to the heavy 1.5, and of course, the ignominy of driving around in a Chav-special.
The obvious time to sell arrived when it began dripping oil from numerous areas, the tax and MOT expired and bits began falling off. I parked it outside the house with no preparation, with a cardboard sign in the windscreen begging for £265. Ten minutes later as I turned the shower on, the phone rang, “How much will yer take for the car mate”?
Twenty minutes after that, the doorbell rang and an excited young lad and his Dad took it, there and then, with a generous £15 knocked off.
“Take care of it mate”, I shouted after him, “it’s part of me that it is”.