The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

My Car History

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.

My first car, inherited from my Gran

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

The first car I bought myself met a sad demise

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

My Clio was great fun to drive

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

The Astra was a real workhorse

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

The Vectra SRi. My current vehicle

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.

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10 responses

  1. Lee

    I had an ’88 Escort Bonus as my first car too! A 1.1 three door in black that I shared with my Mum, it was awful!

    When did you work at the Oxfordshire? I used to live in Tetsworth!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    • I lived near Thame between July 2003 & July 2005. I know of Tetsworth.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      • Lee

        I’d already moved to the sunny climate of south west wales by then!

        February 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  2. Matt Smith

    I’ve been driving since 2007 but on the roads since 2005 as an annoying 16 year old on a hairdryer!
    2005-2006: – 2005 Piaggio NRG power 48cc! (did 55 down a hill with the wind behind me!!)
    2006-2007: – 2003 Aprillia RS125 124cc (greatest bike ever owned!)
    2007: – 1997 Nissan Micra 998cc (my mums car was given to me! It lasted 4 weeks before I sold it!)
    2007: – 1992 Vauxhall Corsa 1198cc (not my wisest purchase it blew up after 3 weeks of ownership! Also was a bit Chaved up!)
    2007-2008: – 2000 Kawasaki ZX-6R 598cc (first taste of real power)
    2007-2010: – 2004 Ford Fiesta 1248cc (most reliable car I’ve ever owned!)
    2008-2010: – 2003 ZX-6R A1P 636cc (much like the first ninja!)
    2010-2011: – 2006 BMW 320CI 2198cc (fantastic car cost a fortune to keep though!)
    2011-present: Vauxhall Astra Sri CDTI 1897cc (gave in to the lure of higher MPG great car though!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  3. Blimey, ready for a long list?

    VW Derby, Skoda Estelle, Citroen Dyane Six, Citroen BX 1.9D, Rover 213, Austin Maestro, Vauxhall Cavalier 1.7TD, Vauxhall Astra 1.4, Nissan Primera 2.0GT, MGB, Ford Sierra 1.8, Vauxhall Astra 1.7D, Nissan Primera 1.6, Austin Montego 2.0D, Suzuki Vitara JLX, Peugeot 405 GLD, Volvo 440, Range Rover Classic, Land Rover Series 2a, Mitsubishi Delica, Rover 75, Mazda BT-50

    Think I May have missed a few there, but thats all that springs to mind

    February 7, 2012 at 9:56 pm

  4. Seems like an Escort Bonus is a favourite first car for people from Essex. It got slightly better from there and I bought a Peugeot 106 1.1 Zest 2 which annoyingly I only kept for 6 months as I got a new job which included a company car. So along came a Vauxhall Vectra 1.6LS and then another, before I finally killed that one too and got a Peugeot 406.

    Not the best period in my car history, but it sort of gets better with an Seat Ibiza Sport TDI, that was a great car and I regretted selling it shortly after to fund my new Focus ST 2. However, I still needed a car while I was waiting for that to arrive, so along came a Peugeot 205 GTI. It was only the 1.6 model, but it was the best fun I’ve ever had in a car. The combination of the low weight and low grip was great to throw around the country lanes. But alas, the new car arrived and it too was sold on, but the fact I’d only lost £50 in three months worth of motoring helped. 7 months after I got the Focus, someone decided it would be a good idea to use it as a brake causing a nice £4000 bill for them to fix my car.

    A year later I’d decided it didn’t feel the same and I needed a more economical car for work, so I traded it in for a Seat Ibiza Cupra TDI which served me well on an European road trip via the Nurburgring, but then as the warranty was running out the turbo died so I took that as a chance to trade it in again as I was wondering what would die next. Which brings me to my latest car… Yes, it’s another Seat, but this time a Leon FR TSI. It’s not the top of the range model, but it does everything I need it to and even though I’m hanking after a new car again I can’t think of anything which I really want to replace it with.

    February 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

  5. As a 20 year old student, my car history isn’t that exciting or extensive. But i’ve owned a couple of great runarounds.

    Car 1 – Feb 2008 to April 2011 – 2001 Vauxhall Corsa 1.0l – Formerly written off in a crash, it was brought by my brother and fixed up for him. He commuted to work in it daily for a couple of years, before selling it to me. As only a 1 litre engine, it felt like I was driving a tin can with a sewing machine engine, but it was a great little car to be honest. I could beat anything from the lights for the first 100 metres, before the lack of power kicked in, but it got me around the country to race events, including a trip from the south coast to Croft, and was a good town runaround. Had to get rid of it though as it was slowly getting older and things started to go wrong, including a snapped clutch pedal, which was good fun experience on a wet A34 at 70mph.

    Car 2 – April 2011 to present – 2004 Vauxhall Astra 1.4l – Decided for my second car I wanted something with a bigger engine. Never intended to get a larger size car, but this Astra came up and was a perfect fit. I love having a bigger car, that can cruise comfortably on the motorways and fit me, three mates and four sets of golf clubs with ease. With a decent level of miles on the clock, am expecting to have this car for a while.

    Thought i’d also write my parents and brother recent car history’s, as you might notice a trend …

    Parents
    Current cars – 2011 Vauxhall Astra MK 6 Supertourer, Vauxhall Vivaro Van, Opel-powered CC Cyclone kit car, Vauxhall Astra Mk 1 GTE

    Previous Cars – Vauxhall Astra Mk 5, Vauxhall Astra Mk 4, Vauxhall Astra Mk 3, some Vauxhall Cavaliers and other cars back in the 1980’s/early 1990’s.

    Brother
    Current car – Has a Vauxhall Corsa VXR VX Racing edition, but is trading it in for a recently ordered new Vauxhall Astra GTC to arrive in March. Also has a part-built Tiger Avon kit car in the garage and just brought a CC Cyclone kit car.

    Previous Cars – 2009 Vauxhall Corsa, my old 2001 Vauxhall Corsa.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    • I love the loyalty to the Griffin. My mum has owned nothing but Ford Fiesta’s. She is now on her fifth and will probably be looking for he sixth soon. My dad was always loyal to the blue oval too for many years, owning many of their models from a MK1 Cortina GT to a Ford Anglia upto to various Sierra’s. In 1996 he bought a brand new Land Rover Defender 110 county station wagon and had that for quite a while before changing it for a used 03 plate Defender 90. Which had been used on an airfield to drive up and down scaring birds etc.
      My brother, with the exception of the Escort he used for a while before I had it, has only owned landrovers. He had a 1981 Series 3 short wheelbase then he bought a 2000 plate Defender 90 Hard top before his current Defender 90 TD5.
      My sister had a 1998 Seat Ibiza which she bought off our great Uncle who did less than 1000 miles a year in and she now has a 2006 Corsa.

      February 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

  6. Graeme

    Ok, here goes. My full confession:

    1. Ford Cortina Mk5 estate, blue. No tax or MOT. Holes in the wings I could fit my fists through. Also bonnet release snapped; otherwise gwo. Bought it for £60 from a bloke who was using it as a kennel for his greyhounds. Used it to get to a job interview and then to pick up a chest of drawers, at which time the tailgate lock jammed. Drove it home, put a sign in it, put the kettle on, sold the car for £100 before it had boiled. Win!

    2. VW Passat 1.6 GLS liftback, 1978, dark red. What a motor. Fast, comfy, faultlessly reliable even though gf kept forgetting about the manual fan and boiling it dry, and thinking about it, I don’t know why I haven’t just bought a string of Passats since. Can’t remember why I sold it either, but I do remember that the Kiwi couple who bought it didn’t heed my warnings about the fan and left several messages on my answering machine threatening to stab me to death. Had to have them arrested. Bad times.

    3. Mini 1000, 1977, Kraft Cheese Yellow. Swapped in a Clubman interior & upholstered the dash in purple satin. Sweet. Then I ran it through the harshest winter on record, up and down the M2 in terrifying white-out conditions. Eventually the stress of getting too cold on the outside and too hot on the inside caused both front wings to crackle like eggshells, held together only by a thin membrane of grime and sympathy. Only had to be trucked home once though, overheating just as I got lost in a contraflow and accidentally turned onto the M23; long night, but even then it was right as rain in the morning. Finally killed by the MOT inspector, who happily informed me that all the petrol was spewing onto the manifold and that I probably shouldn’t drive it home. Delivering it to its proud new owner was one of the longest drives of my life…

    4. Ford Capri 1.6L Mk3, white. The journey home after I bought it was fun, because I had two cars and only one of me and so had to leapfrog it halfway across the city. Also the first car I got pulled over in (ten yards from work, for not having put my seatbelt on yet) and the first car I drove home utterly stoned with a girl I shouldn’t have been with. It was a heap of shit though, so I sold it to a banger racer.

    5. Ford Orion 1.6 Ghia, gold. The single most hateful thing ever conceived by the minds of men.

    6. Peugeot 205 GTI 1.6, black. Went like a greased weasel when it started. Didn’t really start much, though, which was arguably a blessing because every time I drove it, another piece of trim fell off. Every day after work I had to rebuild the distributor and push-start the car. At some point a hard-to-reach electrical component failed and I was forced to take it to a main dealer, who had no idea what to do with it and so tried to charge me £80 for fitting the new part myself in their workshop. Eventually the headlights started flashing alternately with the engine off and some smoke came out, so I sold it to a banger racer and vowed never to buy another Peugeot.

    7. Ford Capri Mk3 2.0 Laser, black. What. A. Machine. Bought it just before they became cool, so everyone laughed… until they heard the noise it made flat-out in third up the Mulbarton road. Mega sideways fun, especially when not at all racing another Capri, Officer, and room for a mountain bike in the back (if you were adventurey) or some toddlers (if you weren’t). Standout moment: driving home on winter nights when the locks froze, balancing the oversteer with one hand and holding the door shut with the other. Epic.

    8. Ford Granada Scorpio 2.0, 1990, black. Leather armchairs, auto ‘box, air-con, electric everything, colossal boot. Reliable as a horse. Sweet.

    9. Ford Granada Scorpio 2.9 Cosworth saloon, 1994, Nouveau Red. God in heaven, that thing shifted. Only visible clue to mods was a discreet sticker under the bonnet, but flat out on a good day in a straight line it would (and did) happily outrun an M3 (on a closed circuit with a professional driver, your honour). And when it wasn’t teaching me all about speed, stopping distance and pants-shitting terror, it was like a sleazy lounge bar. A lot of stuff happened in that car, and some of it was life-changing (story for another time). Sadly, in the end, 18mpg meant it had to go, but as much as it was just a wallowy, gas-guzzling, overpowered Granada, I still miss it rather a lot.

    10. Ford Granada 2.8 Ghia Mk2, green. I admit it, I’m into old Fords, and I love a Mk2 Granada. Comfy as an old armchair, the V6 makes a fantastic burble and if anything goes wrong you can fix it with a hammer, a tap and some swearing. Mine also doubled as a Land Rover, happy as it was to plough over or through anything that stumbled into its path: tractor ruts, tree limbs, shopping trolleys, pedestrians… Sadly, one day I got angry and kicked a hole in it, whereupon the full extent of the rust problem became apparent. To my eternal shame, I sold it to a banger racer.

    11. Ford Sierra 2.9 XR4x4, Rosso Red. Holy cow! The stiff ride and short-ratio ‘box made it a tiresome banshee on the motorway, but on the twisty stuff it was just phenomenal. I drove it like a hire-car and never found the limit of grip. Sounded brutal too. Sadly killed off when the clutch broke on the A11, forcing me to drive home without one. Best quote I got for a replacement was £500. Ahoy there, banger racers.

    12. Vauxhall Cavalier Mk3 2.0 CDi Auto, red. Emergency purchase when the Sierra broke and I was poor, £100 with a full MOT. Gearbox sometimes got stuck in winter mode, and an army Land Rover pulled the back bumper off so it was held together with twine. It doggedly held out for a summer tour of the south coast, though, despite having to be topped up with oil at ever fuel stop, and I ended up keeping it until the MOT ran out, at which point I left it out with the bins.

    13. A selection of late-80s 3-litre Granadas in various shades of silver and gold. 3-litre
    Granadas are the nuts, apart from when petrol’s six quid a gallon.

    14. Ford Mondeo 2.0 GLX, 1994, black. Poor again, because I never seem to leave a 3-litre Granada in a saleable condition. Had to go to Southend on a bus (the indignity!) to buy this. New MOT, mint condition, £100. Although it was only mint if you looked at it from one side. The other side was a bit scrapey. Even so, it had 75k on it and drove like new, at least until the exhaust fell off and some scrote smashed the window. Good car.

    15. VW Golf Mk2 1.3 CL, green. Bargain-basement eBay job. Seemed to have been used as a builder’s van and also possibly a boat. Took a week to clean it. After that, a great little car, never let me down. Also so old and solid that nothing was ever in its way for very long. There’s a lot to be said for a tatty, heavy, unyielding car with big rubber bumpers when it comes to finding a parking space.

    16. VW Polo breadvan, red. Broke within minutes.

    17. Nissan Micra Shape, 1997, white. Inherited from my nan. Was in really good nick and I actually didn’t mind it at all, plus it got me out of a very big hole, but it just wasn’t big enough. It’s still in the family though.

    18. Renault Scenic II 1.8 Privilege+, gunmetal grey. Laugh if you like, but I loved my Renault, even if it did have French electrics. It was such a useful car that I’m still kicking myself for not immediately buying another one. Of course it’s probably more to do with the adventures me and Lewis had in it, and the fact that when push came to shove it laid down its life to save his.

    19. Ford Mondeo Mk3 2.0 Ghia X, steel blue. It’s clear that I’m partial to a big Ford, and I’ve always considered this generation of Mondeo to be a perfectly terrific car, so I’m sure mine will be prefectly lovely if and when I replace all of the many and varied parts that don’t work. But let’s not go into that again!

    And that, give or take the odd spousal Mercedes, is that, at least until the insurance ponies up and I buy some other ill-considered pile of horseshit. Still: bought and paid for, eh? 🙂

    February 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm

  7. Graeme

    Sorry, didn’t mean to write a novel.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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