Driving Torque

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Toyota GT86 Automatic – Driven and Reviewed

Scion FRS

The Scion FR-S as seen at the 2011 New York Motorshow

Way back in 2011, Toyota created much hype at the New York Motorshow by displaying their all new model, the Scion FR-S. The strategy was simple, it was to be a rear-driven, 2+2 sports car whose sole mission was to bring fun, affordable driving back to the masses. Being a joint venture with Subaru, it was to be powered by a flat four, boxer engine to provide a low centre of gravity, similar to the one found in that proven provider of smiles – the Impreza. Unlike Subaru’s old favourite, however, the FR-S was to be sold sans turbo.

Toyota GT86 Three quarter view

The resulting model – Toyota’s GT86

The final result is the Toyota GT86 and Driving Torque recently spent some time in the company of one equipped with an automatic gearbox. Could it live up to its own hype? Is it really THAT good? Here’s what we thought.

First Impression

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, in the case of the GT86, this doesn’t provide too much of an issue. Whichever angle you look at it from, it’s visually startling. Some may say it’s not an especially pretty car but it’s virtually impossible to ignore. I took great pleasure in gauging reactions from all walks of society and 99% of them were dropped jaws. From the gangs of teenagers, unashamedly pointing and whooping, to the knowing nod of appreciation from a helmet-clad biker, people enjoy seeing this car – I’ll take that as a huge tick in the ‘plus’ box.

Toyota GT86 SilverIt’s a rarity in automotive terms for a car to make it through the many filters it encounters from concept to production without being watered down to the point of almost anonymity but I think the GT86 has got through pretty much unscathed. It’s laden with interesting little angles and features. From its jutting, angular jaw-line, equipped with aggressive, demonic teeth, to the bulges on the roof, cleverly highlighted by our test car’s optional stripes, to a boot spoiler which would be relatively subtle, were it not for the two skyward facing end sections, giving the impression of a forked-tail. Toyota have obviously shown resolute determination in their quest to produce an original piece of design and allow it to see the light of day. All credit to them for this.

Inside the GT86

Toyota GT86 Side viewThe focus on design stretches into the GT86’s cabin with some neat little touches such as the blood-red stitching adding to the impression of fun and mischievousness. The soft-touch plastics and general ergonomics of the cabin are a step up on most offerings from previous Toyotas although if one were to be completely unaware of the car’s origins, there is one little feature that spills the beans – the clock. Yet again, all that hard work that’s been put into making the GT86’s cabin a pleasurable environment with some clever visual treats is undone by that ubiquitous digital clock found in Asian cars. Surely it wouldn’t add too much to the car’s R+D budget to come up with a decent alternative, would it?

The occupants of the front seats in a GT86 are fairly well catered for with ample leg and head room and all controls are thoughtfully positioned and in easy reach. If it’s rear passenger or boot space you’re after though, the GT86 may represent too much of a compromise. This is a true 2+2, in every sense. Our test car had Isofix child seat anchors in the rear which are very helpful but anything larger than a child’s first car seat would struggle to be accommodated. Any adult under 6ft CAN squeeze in but, with the transmission tunnel adding to the issue, they would welcome their freedom after a short journey. After a small argument involving the boot and a standard Maclaren buggy, we proved that transport for any children onboard will just about fit in. Anything bulkier than a lightweight buggy may prove a bridge too far though.

Although quite low down as you’d imagine, visibility is generally very good. The humps atop the wheel arches provide a point of reference which is very reassuring with the GT86’s relatively long bonnet. The large C pillars do result in some slight guesswork when reverse-parking although Toyota have very kindly provided some slightly oversized door mirrors to try to alleviate any visibility issues.

6 Speed Automatic Gearbox

Toyota GT86 outside cat and fiddle

The GT86 outside the Cat and Fiddle pub on the infamous road of the same name

Our test car sported the 6 speed automatic gearbox, complete with paddle shifts and various driving modes to suit differing moods and conditions. Slip the ‘box into drive and it’s more than happy to effortlessly waft around with the minimum of driver input and hassle, seamlessly changing into the appropriate gear. There are sport and snow options available which will either allow the engine to rev all the way into the sweet 6-7k rev range before changing up or, in snow mode, will start off in second gear to avoid wheel spin.

For real driver involvement however, the gear lever should be slid across into manual mode, thus activating the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of paddle shifts, always preferring the smooth, predictable feeling of a ‘proper’ gear-stick. This GT86 felt different though. No matter whereabouts in the rev range I was or however hard I was accelerating, this ‘box changed between ratios seamlessly and smoothly, not once feeling jerky or forced. The ‘Nanny State‘ attitude that some sequential gearboxes can adopt, changing up or down against your will, wasn’t overly present in the GT86 either. There were literally a couple of occasions when the ‘box decided I was wrong and overruled me and, in hindsight, it was probably a good job.

Just next to the centrally positioned rev-counter is a little LED, displaying the selected gear. This also incorporates two arrows, one pointing up, one down. They are essentially change-up or down lights and show which direction is available at that specific moment. These two little arrows may not sound like much but they prove to be a very welcome feature that can become addictive.

Ride and Handling

Toyota GT86 piston badge

GT86 wing-mounted badge. Note the two horizontally mounted pistons.

One attraction which the GT86 proudly boasts are it’s rear-driven wheels. It would have been far cheaper and easier for Toyota to opt for safe, predictable front wheel drive but this is where the car really shines. With all the standard safety modes selected, the deliberately skinny rubber will allow for a certain amount of slide and oversteer when pushed but it quickly reels the rear end back in before exuberance outweighs talent. Select ‘sport’ handling and the fun really starts; a warning light appears, informing the driver that the traction control is off but this isn’t entirely true. It simply allows more of a degree of sideways action before calling a halt to proceedings, inspiring levels of driver confidence that, although possibly a touch artificial, are hugely satisfying anyway. There is an option to turn all driver aids off completely but, given the fun-factor already available, I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless your self-confidence isn’t even slightly over-inflated or you’re driving on a track.

To achieve the direct, precise handling of the GT86, the suspension is obviously set up in quite a focused manner to minimise body roll and drifting. The ride is one aspect of the car that is non-adjustable, whether this is the right decision is obviously down to each individual’s point of view. Personally, I found the car just about forgiving enough, even on cobbled roads and over potholes. To add adjustable suspension to the GT86 would have taken the price up and would possibly have diluted it’s modus operandi. If it’s a softer ride you’re after, this car may just not be for you. I, for one, am all for this determined attitude.

Quiet Exhaust Note

Toyota GT86 Rear view

Large-bore exhausts could do with being a little louder

Protruding from the F1 style, Venturi effect rear splitter are two purposeful looking exhausts. As is usually the way with Japanese cars however, there seems to have been a certain reluctance to allow the decibels produced  match their visual impact. Quite contrarily, the engine noise has more of an impact from the cabin than the rear as this is one of the new breed of cars to pipe a growly tune directly into its occupants. The lack of exhaust note  represents little concern though as it’s surely the easiest of easy fixes. Toyota’s own in-house tuning wing, TRD are already offering upgrades for the GT86 which will possibly make it even more appealing for the UK market.

In Conclusion

Toyota GT86 rear badgeIn conclusion, the GT86 represents the sportiest, most adventurous model from Toyota for a long time and long may it continue. More than this though, I feel that the GT86 is a perfect reflection of the global attitude as a whole; yes, we’re in recession, no, we haven’t got the expendable income we once had but that doesn’t mean that we’re content with misery and gloom all the time. We still want to have fun and thrills, they’ve just got to be cheap thrills.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Toyota GT86, Price –  from £24,995, Engine –  2.0l Boxer 4cyl, Layout – Front engine,  RWD, Power –  200bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph 7.7s, Maximum Speed –  140 mph, Economy – 44mpg combined.

Huge thanks to Oakmere Toyota, Northwich, Cheshire.

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News

The all new Peugeot 208

Peugeot have released details and, perhaps more importantly pictures of the upcoming replacement for the 207, the imaginatively titled 208 (One wonders what they’re going to call the replacement for the 209?) I was lucky enough to own a particularly good 205 Gti when I was 18 so this story caught my eye immediately, especially when the Peugeot press office took the bull by the horns and pre-empted that burning question- will they build a Gti that’s fit to wear the badge? They’ve cut kerb weight dramatically in a bid to capture the essence of the 205’s driving ability and have already released details of the all important Gti which will come in two guises, the really hot version being powered by a turbo charged, four cylinder engine producing 204 bhp.

First impressions visually are promising with front overhang reduced dramatically, not only giving the car a more sleek profile overall but also improving handling as Peugeot are so keen to stress was their main focus. There are some neat design touches, the shoulder line incorporating the door handles and fuel cap is smart, even more so where it enters the rear light cluster and performs a U-turn to become the rear indicator. I feel that some aspects of the exterior are almost in competition with each other for your attention which can just result in a headache, I’d describe this as a ‘busy’ look. Peugeot should maybe have followed the old mantra that simplicity is best when deciding which little flicks and curves were appropriate and which should maybe have been saved for the next model.

Peugeot 208

One glaring improvement on all recently released Peugeots is the deletion of that ridiculous ‘wide mouth frog’ front end. The 208 may look a little generic overall, sharing styling cues with the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio but I feel it’s just about recognisable in a crowd.

Subaru BRZ

In other news, Subaru have released images of their take on their joint venture withToyotato create a sports –coupe. Named the BRZ (Boxer engine, Rear drive, Zenith), it is quite expectedly similar to Toyota’s upcoming FT-86 with only the rear end being significantly different, I would say more aggressive, more Subaru. This model could really do with being a big hit for Subaru as they’ve announced a profits crash of 27%, blaming, amongst other things, the Japanese earthquake that struck earlier this year.

By Ben Harrington

Scion FR-S

It was with more than a tinge of sadness that I recently realised an unerring truth; in fact, I may have even shed a tear or two. I was always told it would happen, especially when the kids came along but I never really took any notice, perhaps this was my undoing. You see, no matter how hard I searched every nook and cranny of the old grey matter, somewhere along the line over the last few years, I’d completely lost sight of what a young boy racer aspires to own. By this, I don’t mean anything exotic from the likes of Lamborghini or Porsche, I mean a realistically obtainable automobile, a working class hero if you will.

Having looked at what’s on offer though, I’m beginning to wonder whether it is me that’s lost touch or whether today’s Friday night heroes are lost in an automotive wilderness with a distinct lack of identity. Every generation can be easily ring fenced by the objects of their desire. The ‘80s had the Golf Gti, Pug 205 Gti and the Escort XR3i. My generation, the ‘90s also had the Golfs but we’d progressed onto the rally derived rockets, typically the Imprezas and Evos, earning us the ‘Playstation generation’ tag. The ‘00s gets a little hazy but the hot hatches were still in full flow and the Japanese entries simply got more and more powerful but this is where the trail gets lost.

Correct me if I’m wrong but hot hatches appear to have lost their way a little of late. They’re mostly overpriced, the old stalwart, the Golf is bland, all Peugeots are hideous and Vauxhall’s Astra is suffering delusions of grandeur. The only manufacturer which has maintained the cheap thrills ethos is Renault but seriously, what self respecting young scally aspires to own something called a Twingo?

Similarly others have lost their way. Subaru’s last hot Impreza was so expensive that for a few quid more, you could have bought a proper performance car. They’ve just displayed the all new Impreza at the New York motor show and it is the automotive equivalent of gruel. Mind you, if you think that’s bad, Mitsubishi recently announced that their next generation Evos would be doing their utmost to save the planet. Come on! That’s like marketing a child friendly nail bomb.

scion-frs

Scion FR-S

All of this brings me neatly onto what I think could just be the next symbol of a generation.  Contrasting against its surroundings like a blood red stain on a brilliant white background, their was at the New York motor show  a small, cheap, attention grabbing sports car called the Scion FR-S. Scion are Toyotas youth brand, as Lexus is their OAP brand and the FR-S is their attempt to put the thrills back into affordable driving. Developed in conjunction with Subaru who supply the engines, the FR-S has a very low centre of gravity and perhaps most importantly, it’s the rear wheels that are driven. Toyota believe that this is what will tempt buyers away from cars such as VW’s Scirocco as it will have a fun factor that’s not present in most competitors. Whatever your opinion on the looks, it’s certainly not mundane, especially against the backdrop of plain cars many manufacturers are happy to force upon us today.

If this car works, I foresee a resurgence of the Japanese sports car industry, possibly with the reintroduction of greats such as the MR2 and the Supra.  The land of the rising sun appears to have had a new dawn, European manufacturers, you have been warned.

By Ben Harrington

Geneva Motor Show 2011

Well, the doors haven’t yet been opened and already we have a fair idea of some of the new models set to wow us at next month’s Geneva motor show. Below are a few titbits I’ve selected which may be of interest.

BMW alpina b5 in white

Alpina B5

Alpina B5 Touring. This 500bhp, 188mph monster may possibly be the quickest way to ferry four adults and a large dog around in sumptuous comfort. Alpina may well be onto a winner here as BMW have already announced that the next gen M5 will not be available in estate guise. Something tells me this may change if the B5’s sales figures rocket!

Subaru coupe

New Subaru Concept

Subaru have used a clear, plastic body shell to showcase their ‘Boxer Sports Car Architecture’ concept. This will be a rear drive coupe which will undoubtedly be beautifully built, handle like a dream and be capable of embarrassing some expensive exotica. If some of Subaru’s recent designs are anything to go by (Impreza, Tribeca etc, etc), they may be wise to consider offering this new model with the concept’s transparent panels as standard.

aston martin virage in orange

Aston Martin Virage

Aston Martin have revived a name not seen since the ‘90s – the Virage. Looking suspiciously like every other Aston in the range, it will be available as either a coupe or a convertible and will be priced from about 150k to £160k. Aston Martin hope the Virage will fill the ‘huge’ gap between the DB9 and DBS models.

Lotus Elise Club Race in blue

Elise ‘Club Racer’

Geneva will see the launch of a new, track day orientated Lotus Elise, the Club Racer. Boosting power output by 5bhp and stripping the Elise of its few creature comforts will make the car even more focused, even more precise. It may also transform a car that already offered an uncompromising ride into the world’s fastest iron maiden.

Jaguar XKR-S in blue

Jaguar XKR-S

Jaguar have fired another warning shot across Aston Martin’s bow with the XKR-S, the latest hardcore version of the XK. With 542bhp and 0-60mph time of 4.2 secs, it is the quickest XK yet but at £85-90k, also the most expensive. Purely for comparison’s sake of course, Aston’s V12 Vantage achieves 0-60mph in 4.1 secs but would set you back £140k.

Rolls Royce 120EX Powered by lithium ion batteries

Rolls Royce 120EX

Rolls-Royce are displaying an all electric Phantom, codenamed the 102EX, the world’s first electric ultra-luxury model. Sources at Rolls-Royce are apparently unsure whether the Phantom could achieve an acceptable range in extreme weather conditions using electrical power only. Surely in a car as powerful as this, uranium rods would be a more appropriate power source than lithium-ion batteries.

mini rocketman concept in gray

The Mini ‘Rocketman’ concept

Finally, a Mini that isn’t in danger of contradicting its own name. This ‘Rocketman’(!!!) concept is highly likely to see production in the upcoming 2013 range of new Minis. Whether neat styling touches such as the Union Flag etched roof and retro exterior door hinges make the final cut is anyone’s guess.

And most pointless exhibit on display goes to……

smart forspeed in white

Smart Forspeed

morgan threewheeler in green

Morgan Three Wheeler

The Smart Forspeed. I was originally going to give this award to the Morgan Threewheeler but the order books are full for this little oddity so, who am I to argue? The all electric Forspeed however, has no windscreen or roof, no rear seats and very little range. It is essentially the lovechild of an Ipod and a mobility scooter. Oh dear!

By Ben Harrington

Ben’s Cars

 

 

Austin Metro

Austin Metro

1. 1983 Mk1 Austin Metro 1.0L, Owned May1996 – Jan 1997

Colour – Stratos Blue

Purchase Price – ?- Sold For – ?

Although technically my first car, I tend to disregard my Metro as I never actually drove it on a public highway, legally. Bought for me by my dad, it was an MOT failure which needed plenty of bodywork and dad naively thought I would jump at the chance of learning to weld. Observations on handling and performance are obviously limited in spite of the hundreds of journeys made travelling up and down Mum’s 30ft driveway.

2. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1200, MNG 781E, Owned Feb 1997 – Jan 1998

Colour – Peppermint Green

1967 Volkswagen Beetle Lowered

1967 Volkswagen Beetle

Purchase Price – £1500 – Sold For £1000

The car I prefer to refer to as my first. In lurid green and slammed to the floor, subtle this car was not. Despite pedestrian performance, wayward handling and woeful unreliability, this little bug was my introduction to air-cooled VWs, a breed I’m still passionate about today.

3.  1990 Peugeot 205 1.9 Gti, H936 CPO, Owned Jan 1998 – Dec 1998

Colour – Cherry Red

86-peugeot-205-gti in red

Peugeot 205 Gti

Purchase Price – £3995 – Sold For – £3000

A combination of receiving my first regular income and still living at home meant I could afford the Pug, arguably the greatest hot hatch ever. Seemingly supercar performance and renowned go-kart like handling easily justified the insurance which was equal to over a third of the value of the car!

BMW 320i

BMW 320i

4. 1987 BMW 320i, Owned Dec 1998 – June 1999

Colour – Cirrus Blue

Purchase Price – £4200 – Sold For – £3900

From the days when the Germans were hell bent on over-engineering, this Beemer was heavy, and I mean heavy! So much so that despite the more desirable six pot engine nestling under the bonnet, it struggled to propel its own weight and the result was mpg to rival a Hummer. I admired this car but never truly grew to love it.

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

5. 1986 Volkswagen Golf 1.6L, Owned June 1999 – Jan 2000

Colour – Mars Red

Purchase Price – £1700 – Sold For – £1500

University meant my days of desirable motors were forced to go on hold and thriftiness was the order of the day. This Gti look-alike however, proved that little budget doesn’t have to mean little quality. The lack of outright power was overshadowed by the magnificent chassis, cocking the inner rear wheel when pushed. If nothing else, this car knew how to have fun.

Ford Sierra Sapphire

Ford Sierra Sapphire

6. 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire 1.8L, Owned Jan 2000 – March 2000

Colour – Rosewood Red

Purchase Price – £500 – Sold For – £400

Some of the most honest, satisfying  cars I’ve owned have cost less than one thousand pounds, so have some of the worst. The Sapphire fell into the latter category. Built when quality control was becoming a foreign concept at Ford, its bodywork was unseasonably rusty although I’m fairly sure a bodged accident repair didn’t help matters. The previous owner had had a decent stab at replicating a Cosworth by pilfering a set of wheels from a Mk2 Escort RS2000 and they were definitely the highlight. I would say the worst aspect overall was the engine though. The car ran on petrol, the engine looked like a petrol engine, the logbook even stated petrol fuel was required and yet the rattling engine note wasn’t dissimilar to a tired London Taxi.

Mini Mayfair

Mini Mayfair

7. 1984 Austin Mini Mayfair (Auto) Owned March 2000 – May 2000

Colour – Ermine White

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £200

As a rule, automatic ‘boxes aren’t really my thing, I prefer the pure driving experience of a manual. The lack of a clutch pedal in this Mini however only added to the joy it brought. The handling was so precise and accurate that being an auto enhanced the feeling of driving a go-kart on the road. There was no fluidity or smoothness to the box, rather a violent jolt with every change which, to me was pure rally car. Unfortunately, one two many jolts resulted in broken engine mounts and that was the end of my Mini adventure.

8.  1988 Renault 5 Campus, Owned May 2000 – January 2001

Colour – Avis Red

renault 5 campus in red

Renault 5 Campus

Purchase Price – £250 – Sold For – £250

I have very fond memories of my Five, for the simple reason that it did everything asked of it and it did it well. It suited my needs perfectly – it was cheap, reliable, did about a million mpg and, joy of joys was an absolute hoot to drive. The suspension was too comfortable to ever make handling precise but somehow you always knew where the limits were with no nasty, hedge bound surprises. Hailing from when French autos still had a sense of humour, even the dash was a design masterpiece with random levers sprouting from bizarre locations like a Dalek.s helmet.

9. 1987 Volvo 340 GL, E596 GOO, Owned January 2001 – November 2001

Colour –  Smoke Silver Metallic

Volvo 340

Volvo 340

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £300

It may be purely psychological but I always find a Volvo a warm, cosseting environment to be in, like a great big steel hug. My Volvo really was a warm place to be in due to the fully functioning heated seats, a pleasure until the many occasions when I forgot they were on in mid summer resulting in a Swedish sauna effect. My friend and I were once waiting in traffic, heard a screech of tyres and felt a slight shunt from behind. We went to survey the damage and found an apologetic Punto driver clearly upset about his mangled front end. Damage to Volvo wasn’t even a scratch. Crumple zones – who needs them anyway?

10.  1985 Volkswagen Golf  1.3L, Owned November 2001 – November 2001

Colour – Mars Red

1985 vw golf mark 2 in red

Mark 2 Volkswagen Golf No.2

Purchase Price – £100 – Sold For – £100

Whilst possibly trying to rekindle my emotions for my first Golf, I stumbled upon this example, similar in many ways except for the smaller capacity engine. Like going back to a favourite holiday destination, I was destined for disappointment. This Golf was to put it mildly, knackered. A nightmare to start, when it did start it stopped again at every opportunity and when it didn’t stop it still felt as though it had due to the measly amount of power on tap. Thankfully my torture lasted but a week when a workmate needed extremely cheap transport and I saw my opportunity to end my misery.

From November 2001 to June 2002 I reverted back to car number 4, the BMW as I had sold it to my dad and he wasn’t using it anyway.

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

11. 1996 Volkswagen Golf Gti 8v, P383 KND, Owned June 2002 – September 2004

Colour – Dusty Mauve

Purchase Price – £4995 – Sold For – £3500

2002 was a big year for me. I met my future wife and started earning proper money again, life was good. Of course, more money meant a new car and I’d always wanted a Golf Gti so that was what I got. The Mk3 8v always gets bad reviews as being overweight and underpowered but after years of snail pace driving, it initially felt pretty spritely to me. Admittedly though, it wasn’t long before 115bhp started feeling a tad pedestrian but as is usual with VW, the car was greater than the sum of it’s parts and the Gti’s character and build quality shone through.

12. 1996 Ford Escort Si, P96 WBV, Owned May 2003 – February 2007

Colour – Metallic Panther Black

1996 Ford escort SI 16v panther black

Ford Escort Si 16V

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold For – £ 750

In truth, my wife’s car but I ended up doing a lot of driving in it so it’s on the list. The Mk6 was doomed to fail from the start as its technology was outdated before production even began, poor safety levels and even poorer build quality didn’t help either. I always found this ‘warm hatch’ quite endearing though, the Zetec engine moved it along nicely and I don’t remember it breaking down. The interior was quite a pleasant place to be, that is until a cucumber was lost under the back seat for a month, resulting in an ungodly smell that never really seemed to dissipate.

Audi 90 Quattro

Audi 90 Quattro

13. 1988 Audi 90 Quattro 2.2, Owned April 2004 – May 2004

Colour – Lagos Metallic Blue

Purchase Price – £800 – Sold For – £300

I’d always fancied an Audi Quattro so when two of my friends bought Audi 90s, I decided to take the plunge. The theory was to sell the Golf and save some money by running a decidedly cheaper Audi. The engine had plenty of life left in it and the handling was excellent due to the 4wd system. Its first long run to the Lakes resulted in a strange knocking noise developing on the motorway. You can imagine my joviality when I discovered the wheel nuts had worked their way loose, a trick they continuously repeated. A disastrous MOT led to the car going, albeit at a huge loss. Thankfully, I’d never got round to selling the Golf so I jumped back in that and forgot the Audi ever happened.

14. 1974 Volkswagen Kombi, ANW 610M, Owned September 2004 – Present

Colour – Originally Alpine White, now BMW Jet Black & Antique white

1974 Volkswagen Camper

‘Matilda’

Purchase Price – £4750

Where to begin?! We originally went to a VW show to find a Karmann Ghia and came away with our hearts set on a camper. After viewing several rust buckets, we found a company who imported VW’s from Australia and went to have a look. We were shown a weather beaten, plain white van with no interior but more importantly with no rust or bodged repairs either; we fell in love and agreed on a price. Matilda, as we christened her was my daily drive for over a year – not much fun in winter with no heater! Having spent thousands on her, she sadly spends most of her time in my garage now but that’ll change once the kids are a bit older. My eldest loves her already – she should do really, she was conceived in her after all!

15. 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6, L479 VLA, Owned January 2006 – Sept 2007

Colour – Midnight Blue Pearl Effect

1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in blue

Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Purchase Price – £3500 – Sold For – £6360

The only car I’ve ever bought by accident. I traipsed down to Brighton with a bag of cash to see this car but it was far from as advertised. It was low mileage and had potential but the owner wanted top money for it so I made my excuses and motioned to leave. After relentless pressure to make any offer, I came up with a meagre figure- less than half the asking price just to allow me to leave. Next thing I knew I was circling the M25 in a car I didn’t really intend to buy, luckily my gamble paid off though. Torque steer aside, it drove magnificently with an addictive soundtrack and after some more money and time were invested, yielded a healthy profit. I’d still have it today if it wasn’t for those pesky kids! (Sold following news of wife’s pregnancy – baby seats don’t fit in Corrados)

Fiat Punto

Fiat Punto

16.  2001 Fiat Punto ELX 16V, AP51 HMC, Owned January 2007 – January 2008

Colour – Metallic Gun Metal Grey

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold for – £1400

Another of the wife’s cars technically, recommended by me after I walked away unscathed from a Punto that was involved in quite a serious accident. Sadly, a truly dreadful car however. Over lightened steering meant the driver could only marginally affect the direction of travel via the traditional steering wheel method and an iron maiden would embarrass the interior when comparing comfort levels. By far the worst aspect though was the build quality which sported rust levels previously unseen on a non seafaring vessel.

Volvo 460 GL

Volvo 460 GL

17. 1993 Volvo 460GL, Owned September 2007 – June 2008

Colour – White

Purchase Price – £200 – Sold for £100 (Scrap)

Finding myself in-between cars again meant a cheap solution be found quickly, resulting in a return to Sweden’s finest. Joy of joys, this one had heated seats too which more than made up for the rotten bodywork and various dents. Testament to the brand, this unloved shed got through a freezing winter without a hiccup. I almost felt guilty when the MOT ran out and I summoned the scrapper without even granting the opportunity to attempt a further twelve month stay of execution.

Citroen Xsara Picasso blue

Citroen Xsara Picasso

18. 2002 Citroen Xsara Picasso Sx, PE52 DFO, Owned January 2008 – Present

Colour – Mediterranean Blue

Purchase Price – £2995

Getting closer to two becoming three meant that the hateful Punto had to go in place of a larger, five door model. The price and family friendliness of these ubiquitous Gallic oddities does a good job of excusing their faults, i.e. build quality and driver satisfaction. Some nice little features inside that really feel like a helping hand after a long night with a screaming baby!

Subaru Impreza WRX

Subaru Impreza WRX

19. 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX SE PPP, AY05 MLO, Owned June 2008 – Dec 2008

Colour – Crystal Grey Metallic

Purchase Price – £9600 – Sold For £9000

I needed a family car by now and to me, having four doors meant the Scooby qualified perfectly, fulfilling a long term desire to own this road going rally car was merely a bonus! I didn’t want the attention the Sti brought with its pink badges and spoilers so I opted for the relatively subtle WRX SE with the Prodrive Performance Pack. This meant I got luxuries like leather interior combined with a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds – supercar territory. By far the fastest car I’ve ever bought and also the most painful on the wallet with mpg averaging around 20 and already high insurance premiums reliant on a tracker. The expense combined with being surprisingly small inside meant after six months I wanted out and on Christmas eve my wish was granted with little depreciation. Time for a proper family car.

Audi A6 Avant

Audi A6 Avant

20. 2003 Audi A6 1.9Tdi SE Avant, KC03 HLG, owned Jan 2009 – August 2011

Colour – Crystal Blue Metallic

Purchase Price – £6000 – Sold For £5000

Without doubt the most complete car I have ever owned. Torquey, economical, beautifully built, absolutely reliable, cavernous inside, handsome and even cheap to tax. I really cannot fault this car for anyone with a young family. High mpg is appreciated whilst outgoings rise and incomes drop, the boot easily swallows buggies etc and if you go for the multitronic or auto, it’ll even change gear for you, leaving you free to consume precious coffee on the way to work. I’m even lucky enough to have an incredible stereo for when the kids aren’t in the car.

Piaggio Vespa PX125

Piaggio Vespa PX125

21. 2006 Piaggio Vespa PX125, YX06 LTZ, owned July 2011 – Present

Colour – Black with tan seat

Purchase Price – £1250

Fair enough – it’s not exactly a car. My first venture into motorbike ownership is represented by my beautiful black Vespa. I’ve desperately wanted a Vespa since I was 16, so this is really an ambition fulfilled, as well as a very cool, ultra economical piece of transportation. The fact that it’s iconic, black and air-cooled means that it fits in perfectly next to Matilda the VW and I’ve used my Italian scooter in all weathers without her missing a beat.

2003 Mini JCW Cooper S

JCW Cooper S

22. BMW MINI Cooper S JCW, CU53 UNB, owned October 2012 – August 2013 

Colour – Royal Grey

Purchase Price – £5650

Sold For – £5000

‘Buy a Cooper’, I said to myself. ‘You’ve driven the Cooper S and it’s too powerful, the Cooper is more fun’. I’ve got a track record of not listening to my own advice though, so, although I didn’t buy a Cooper S, I went the other way and bought the 210bhp John Cooper Works. Great fun over a perfectly flat road, not so much on the tarmac disgraces we call roads in Britain. Jarring ride aside, the performance was fabulous, especially with that supercharger constantly whirring away.

0534525-Saab-900-Cabriolet-900-SE-2.0i-Turbo-Cabriolet-199523. Saab 900 SE Turbo Convertible, R978 XON, owned August 2013 – November 2014

Colour – Midnight Blue

Purchase Price – £1060

Sold For – £995

I’d always admired Saab’s quirky nature and the 900 Turbo is an absolute icon. Having seen the upwards spiral that the early models’ prices had taken, I couldn’t resist this immaculate, low mileage ‘New Generation’ car. The body was about as rigid as cooked spaghetti, but that 2.0l Turbo Saab engine was a dream. Registered at the end of February 1998, I believe that my car was one of the last ever made before the arrival of the GM sourced 9-3, and I saw it as something of an investment. Unfortunately, it was getting enough use and when I was made the right offer, it had to go.

 

 

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