With the latest addition to my ‘Car’s Owned’ list arriving recently, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you my Car History. Many have questioned why I am so pleased with my new Vectra but after reading about the cars I’ve owned you might be a little more understanding. I’ve driven loads of various vehicles since I passed my test over 11 years ago, ranging from Land Rovers to Alfa’s, Vans (Including a refrigerated Mercedes Sprinter) to Mini buses, Various Tractors big and small, new and old, to telehandlers and diggers and a lot more in between. However my car ownership will probably leave a lot to be desired to most of you and is hardly head turning, but each car was paid for out right and usually served its purpose whilst I still had to be realistic and go for something practical with low running costs.
Car 1 – 1988 Ford Escort 1.3 in Silver.
Affectionately known as ‘Brucie’ as this was the 1.3 Bonus edition, the car used to be owned by my Gran. After she passed away, my brother used it for college, whilst I still got the bus and used my mum’s car on occasions when I needed. However on changing my Job I was given the car. It had dreadful white hub caps which I quickly replaced, a four speed gearbox which screamed at you if you ever went over 60mph whilst the bonnet would start to lift as if it was trying to act as an air brake to slow you down, and a radio which I swapped with a Blaupunkt CD player. However it was well looked after and despite only being a three door version, there was loads of room not only in the front but also in the back for passengers and the boot. The seats were pretty comfortable too. I had this car for about a year and I never really had many problems with it. It shrugged of most bumps and scrapes and parts were easy to come by. I found this out after hitting a pigeon at 60mph which smashed the indicator casing then flipping up and smashing the wing mirror glass before disintegrating in a cloud of feathers. It only cost a couple of quid to repair both and were easy to do myself. I eventually sold it for £350 to an Irishman so I could get something better for my early starts at work on cold winter mornings.
Car 2 – 1996 Ford Fiesta Encore 1.3 in Red
When I say get something better, I meant better than the Escort. Again this was nothing flashy but cost me quite a bit. Not only for the car but I was still young then so it was also very expensive on the insurance. It had a 5 speed gearbox which I thought was the bees knees. I had just about recovered from Brucie Screaming at me every time I drove him down the A12. Being the Encore Version meant it was the bog standard entry level version which meant the only luxury it came with, besides the four wheels and the engine was a driver’s airbag. No central locking, manual windows, not body coloured bumpers, and not even a radio. I did change take the CD player out of Brucie before selling him so that went straight into the Fiesta. Although the car was nothing special it was pleased with it. I had it for a few years which included a couple of years when I worked at the Oxfordshire golf club, so it often had to get back to the homeland of Essex every other weekend and it did pretty well. It was hardly ground breaking performance, but with me behind the wheel it could hold it’s own against other boy racers. It did cause me a few problems at times and I had spent a lot on it getting it repaired or fixed during the time I had it, including the ford dealer incident when they charged me a fortune to fit a new door lock barrel which I eventually found out they didn’t. But that’s another story.
I still had the Fiesta when I move back home and started a new job in Colchester. It was on the daily rush hour commute that the Fiesta saw its demise. Two days after spending £300 pounds on new tyres and brakes to get it through its MOT I wrote her off on a cold Monday morning. I had hit another car at low speed at a roundabout. As I was starting to accelerate onto the roundabout looking to my right as it was clear, the Peugeot 306 in front had other Ideas and was still stationary. I hit it with enough force to crumple the front of mine, but not enough speed to deploy the airbag. The Peugeot suffered only a broken number plate and a cracked bumper. Either it was built like a tank, or as I had expected, the front of my Fiesta was built of cardboard.
Car 3 – 1998 Renault Clio 1.4 16v RT in Red
I was given a good price from the Insurance company for my Fiesta, but It did feel like I had wasted the £300 on the MOT. However I used the money towards my next car, A Renault Clio. I really liked this car a lot. It had matching coloured bumpers, remote locking, electric windows, electric sunroof and power steering. It was a superb car to drive. Really fun, quick and handled well. I had a great time driving this and after fitting a full set of V grooved BFGoodrich tyres on it, the Clio stuck to the road like glue. Until an incident on an icy Sunday morning.
I had driven to work very early to do a few hours. The road wasn’t too bad on the way in to work, the way to work was on smaller B roads and country lanes that never got gritted in the winter. However unbeknown to me, the roads have got worse during the time I was at work and on the way back I took a slight left hander too fast and lost the back end. On full opposite lock to try and control the slide the patch of ice stopped and the front tyres gripped the tarmac instantly flicking me round into the opposite direction. I was heading for the slight bank and the ditch behind it on the right had side of the road and I just had to hold on and expect the worst. It didn’t quite happen how I had anticipated. The bank had launched me into the air and I had cleared the ditched in a way the General Lee would have been proud of. However upon landing in the field the Clio spun round 180 and ended up heading back towards the ditch I had just leapt. We came to a halt facing the road nose first in the ditch. I was stuck. I called my brother and with a push from him, the car got out and was miraculously in not too bad a state. I few cracks and scuffs to the front bumper but it was still intact and the car drove fine.
I had the car for a few months longer, but by that time my photography business was picking up and I was being asked to cover more and more equestrian events. I printed on site at these events and I had a lot of equipment to transport and the space in the Clio just didn’t cut it. It was sad to let her go as she was great fun and I will always remember her fondly.
Car 4 – 2003 Vauxhall Astra Estate 1.6 in Blue
I part exchanged the Clio in February 2008 for the Astra. It was never going to turn heads or pull the ladies but it suited what I ultimately needed. It was on a 52 plate but registered in 2003 and had low mileage. It was in really good condition and it was comfortable to drive. Performance wasn’t earth shattering but with petrol prices on the rise I had to be realistic and consider the running costs. There is a lot of stigma attached to drivers of Estate cars and I was well aware of that, but making money from my photography was more important and I needed a car like this to do so. As it turned out this was the most reliable of all of the cars I had owned. Until I replaced it very recently it had never had a problem, never failed and MOT or ever let me down in four years. I was happy with it and had become very attached to her. I had done over 60k miles in her, which included numerous trips to the Yorkshire Dales, and a few journeys to Le Mans, in which the space she had came in very useful, always taking it in her stride. As a petrol head I was always going to long for something fast and sporty but I couldn’t afford something like that and the running costs that came with it. The Astra suited me fine. It wasn’t filled with extras, but it had remote locking, electric windows, air conditioning and a CD player with steering wheel controls. She was also handy for the occasional time I’ve needed somewhere to bed down for the night. With the rear seats folded completely flat I could lie down almost fully stretched out. It was only recently that issues started to arise in which I spoke about in my previous blog post so it was time to move on to my fifth car.
Car 5 – 2008 Vauxhall Vectra 1.8 16v SRi in Lightning silver
I wasn’t intending on getting something like the Vectra. I had resigned myself to another estate for practical reasons. However the size of the boot in the Vectra had changed my mind and I opted to buy one. The Sri version is one of the top of range models and the sportiest of them all. With 17 inch alloy wheels, sports trim, sports seats and nice extra’s like cruise control and rain sensitive windscreen and wipers it was without doubt the best car I’ve ever owned. It looks nice, is comfortable and drives well. The onboard computer is also nice to have, telling me all sorts of info such as current MPG, Average speed, range etc and appeals to the geek in me whilst I try and get the best fuel economy. (Although it won’t always happen as I am partial to using my heavy right foot on occasions too). The numerous seat and steering column adjustments, mean it’s easy to get comfortable and the adjustable centre armrest is great for my somewhat arrogant/boy racer driving style of one hand of the gear stick and one on the top of the steering wheel. The variety of storage compartments are great and there are some good features for passengers too. As I’ve only had the car a few days I can’t talk about reliability, but buying from Vauxhall meant it has a year’s warranty as standard and a good service plan in place. If it is as reliable as my Astra was I will be very happy.
So this completes my somewhat dubious car history. It will probably have made you feel a lot better about you own cars. However I’d really like you all to get involved and let me know about your car histories. Leave a comment and tell me about what you’ve owned. What were your best ones and your worst ones along with any funny or interesting stories you have. It would be nice for me and others to read and share and it would be great to feature some on this blog in the coming weeks and months. So please get involved. I’d love to hear from you.
Having spent last weekend at the Rockingham Stages Rally, I now have to accept that my motorsport season is finally over. It was a great way to see out an eventful year with some great cars having entered the 12 stages over Saturday and Sunday including 2 night stages.
Although the entry numbers were down on previous years, the action was by no means in short supply. A host of superb rally cars from Classic Mark II Escorts to Modern Subaru Impreza’s and Peugeot 205’s to Vauxhall Astra’s and many more all took to the tarmac stages during the bitterly cold winter’s weekend. A close fought battle between the Dave West and his Peugeot 306 Maxi Kit Car and the Escort MkII of Pete Raynor throughout saw the latter clinching Victory over the last 2 stages of the weekend. It was also a good chance to meet up with friends before the winter break and listen to funny stories from Steve Cressy’s crew from previous Rallies. (It’s the way they tell ‘em).
This was my second Rally event for me, the first as media, after my recent Mull Exploits and hopefully won’t be my last. I’ve always been interested in Rallying and although Rockingham is not your typical rally, I hope I will get to shoot some more events in the future. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to go to Belgium with Cat and Andy and their new Rally Car next year so fingers crossed. More photos from the Rockingham Stages can be seen here.
So as I sit and contemplate the long winter until the motorsport season roars back into action next year I can’t help but reflect on the past season’s escapades. Having covered well over 20 race weekends plus various other motorsport events (I daren’t count all them up) it has been a very busy year. I have met many great people along the way and shared some great experiences. I think it is only fair to thank some of them who have made 2011 a great experience.
Firstly, a huge thanks to Vince Petit, editor of The Checkered Flag, for giving me the opportunity to work for the site and the superb experiences I have had thanks to it, I look forward to many more seasons working with him and helping the site go from strength to strength by providing images and the occasional report. I’d also like to thank my partner in crime, James Broomhead, writer for The Checkered Flag. We’ve spent many weekends away at race events and he has been great company, even when our deep and somewhat geeky motorsport discussions have meant we have totally missed junctions on motorways and turnings en route. Also, thanks go to all the other contributors to the site who have worked hard providing coverage and have been patient whilst I sort out images for their reports. It’s been a pleasure working with them.
Another thanks to James Mappin and all the guys and gals at BTCCCrazy who I have provided various pieces of work for this season. They are a great bunch and I hope to continue working with them in the future. Thanks go out to fellow media room buddies, too numerous to mention all but special mentions to Pete Mainey, Karl Bowdrey, Jon Hobley, Chris Enion, Adam Pigott, James Warnette and Louise Rich who have all provided many a laugh, discussion, debate and help throughout the year.
Other people who I must thank are Cat Lund and Andy Rowe who gave me the amazing experience of my trip to the Mull Rally despite the unfortunate retirement it was a great week and I hope to join you again for a more successful rally in the future. Thanks to Matt Smith who has become a good friend and always handy to get some inside knowledge off. I wish him and his father Peter, the very best for next seasons attack on the Britcar Championship. Also a massive thank you to Nick Underwood from Tin Tops UK. (Look out for him as he attempts to get behind the wheel of a racing car next season.) He has been such great help and has supported me hugely this year, not only with my photography and Karting exploits but also personally. The last couple of months have been very difficult time for me personally so it is great to know there are people like Nick along with Ian Cook (Popbang Colour) who are very supportive and helpful. Thanks to them both.
Finally I would like to thank you and all the readers of my blog. Thank you all for your feedback and comments and I hope you have enjoyed reading my mutterings throughout the season. I’ve been very surprised at how popular it has become since its inception less than a year ago which couldn’t have been achieved without you. Sorry for lack of posts recently but as mentioned the last couple of months have been really difficult but I should hopefully be back next year with renewed confidence and enthusiasm. In the mean time I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year and I may well see some of you at the Autosport Show in January.