I think what amuses me more is that the Saab I bought in Dundee - Turns out it was originally bought from a garage less than 40 miles from where I now live. Likewise the Lada, which I travelled up to Edinburgh to buy was originally sold from a garage over in Oxford...So both of these I've bought virtually back to their original homes! I've always meant to take the Saab back to its original "birthplace" to snap a couple of photos as the garage is still there - sadly it's something I've just never got around to. Not likely to for a while either given that it's currently parked in a corner waiting for some mechanical attention.
Ever since I got the car it's had an oil leak from the rear corner of the cylinder head gasket - nothing major, just a weep. It would also very occasionally start on three cylinders. At 112K and based on the paperwork I had, assuming the head had never been off it was pretty much due to need a head gasket based on my previous experience with these cars. However as it wasn't pressurising the coolant, there was never any mixing of things that weren't meant to mix, and a compression test showed no surprises it was just ticked off under the heading of "keep an eye on it but expect to have to do a head gasket on it eventually."
In fairness to the car as well, it took five years before I finally decided that it had had enough. I had a small amount of telltale gurgling from the heater on startup, and figured that it was the warning sign that the HG had had enough - fluids were placed on a daily check schedule and the car placed on "local duties only" status. A few days later turning into our block I suddenly lost a cylinder. Literally 500 yards from home at that point I just drifted back to the house and pulled up. What I hadn't noticed until it caught up with me however was the cloud of smoke and steam from the exhaust that I'd been trailing behind me!
No really obvious excessive pressure in the coolant and there was just the barest smear of white on the dipstick - though that could even just have been condensation as it had been a while since she'd had a decent run. Still...the James Bond-esque smoke screen and absence of any life from one cylinder told me all I needed to know. Later that evening I shuffled cars around to put the Saab nearest to the garage and afterwards again checked the oil/water. The fact that there was a tiny bit of contamination in the oil bothered me even though it was tiny, so I decided that the following day I'd drain and flush everything so at least if it was a while before I got to pulling the head that at least it wouldn't be left with damp in the crankcase.
The following morning I drained roughly three and a half litres of coolant out of the sump before finding any oil. There was a pint or two of coolant left in the bottom of the radiator...the rest was in the sump. So yeah...that decided to let go quite spectacularly overnight. I drained and flushed the oil twice before the car was again parked up awaiting attention. It was never run with that amount of crud in the oil I might add...just glad my sense of OCD demanded it be done or it could have sat for weeks like that.
So she's currently sitting waiting patiently in the corner for me to get that sorted out. Hoping it's just a simple case of old age on the part of the head gasket rather than anything more serious. Certainly in the time I've had the car she's never got anything resembling hot, and careful attention has always been given to the condition of the coolant.
As for the Skoda, that was bought from a gent up by Inverness who had previously picked it up when a large collection of vehicles was sold off when someone else passed away. Sadly it had obviously spent a lot of its life just sitting around rather than being used judging from the abundance of surface rust underneath - though I wasn't able to poke holes in anything - it just looked horrendous. Unfortunately it appeared that the bare minimum had been done to recommission the car. A couple of fuel lines had been changed, the radiator/heater bleed hose and I believe that the rear wheel cylinders had been. That was about it. When I got the car it was still wearing its original tyres (which had turned to plastic and were downright terrifying - powerslides around roundabouts in the dry at 10mph with only 52 horsepower was entirely possible - and in fact almost unavoidable), there were still miles of the original fabric braided hoses that anyone who has ever worked on these vehicles will know and hate, and even more astonishingly - it still seems to have its original brake pads and discs up front. Unsurprisingly this meant that I was taking on a car which suffered from a plethora of "never been regularly used" type gremlins.
 It wouldn't idle for love nor money - Removing something like a quarter of an inch of sediment from the float bowl of the carb and replacing all the fuel lines helped with that, along with tweaking the carb settings.
 Any attempt to climb even more than the slightest gradient at any real speed would result in the cooling system cavitating and boiling until you switched the engine off, waited 30 seconds then restarted.
 Approximately every other day a different random electrical component would decide not to work completely at random due to dirty connections. These included but were not limited to the alternator, headlights, points, heater fan and indicators. It was made all the more exciting by the fact that all of these things would quite happily work for hours before deciding suddenly not to work any more.
 Several coolant hose clamps disintegrated when looked at.
A lot of these issues were easy enough to resolve with a few metres of the appropriate hoses and a couple of boxes of decent hose clips, a new set of tyres and a decent service. The root cause of the issue with the cooling system turned out to be a duff expansion bottle pressure cap. Now while I've a pretty good finger on the pulse of a car and was able to detect that something was amiss more or less the second that the temperature gauge even started to move, I don't think the same could be said for the previous owner(s). So it had got hot at some point, and sure enough that had seen off the head gasket - not surprisingly given that they're made of cheese and like to fail at the drop of a hat nearly as frequently as the clutch release bearings.
It's a mechanically traditional OHV engine though, so a HG change wasn't any real headache. Only took 40 minutes or so to strip it off and care was taken not to move the engine with the head off so as to not disturb the cylinder liners. The car only had 18K on the clock by that point, so I wasn't going to mess around with the valves or anything unless the head needed to be skimmed - and checking with the kit I had to hand showed it to be perfectly flat by some miracle, so just cleaned everything up and put it back together again. The single headache I did have there was that previously two of the exhaust silencer (bean-can to us owners) to manifold studs had previously snapped. Getting those out turned out to be an absolute swine of a job which ended up taking me most of a day, an unfeasable number of drill bits and inventing some new and special swear words. The threads did not survive this - but I'd planned on just sticking a nut and bolt in there anyway so as to not have the same problem in the future. Thankfully the stud which goes into a blank hole was good!
Reassembling everything resulted in a car which no longer flooded itself with coolant when switched off and would go up hills without major protest any more. For about a month - at which point it randomly started to get hot as I turned into our street one day without any prior warning. It did this twice for no readily explicable reason earlier this year - on both occasions close enough to home (and up hill from here) that I was able to just switch the engine straight off and roll home. Once cooled back down, everything behaved normally again. My money there is on a thermostat that's sticking - as that wasn't changed when I did the HG because I managed to get sent totally the wrong part by eBay sellers on no less than three occasions, at which point I lost patience.
Shortly after that it went in for last year's MOT which it passed needing only a couple of small welding patches on the offside (yes, it's the offside where all the rust is not the nearside oddly) around the inner sill. I wasn't particularly surprised there as that was by far the most crusty looking part when I got it.
At this point an Excess of Real Life intervened, and I never really had time to look at it for a couple of months - and the MOT ran out. Which is about where we're at now. I'm sure that with some TLC and patience that she can be an absolutely cracking little car. Just has worn through my patience a bit, and given that the Lada that I've since found ticks many of the same boxes while also being somewhat more practical (and dog friendly), it's somewhat surplus to fleet requirements. As such I think it's just time to move it on.
I know someone has previously expressed interest in it, so I'll probably give them another nudge to see whether they're still interested. If not it may well get offered on here. Plan is to probably throw it at my usual garage and see whether it'll take another year's test without any major headaches - if so it'll have a year's test. If not it'll be priced even more attractively and have the fail certificate to go with it. I know that's shooting myself in the foot somewhat as far as what it's worth is concerned - but at this point I'd rather just see the car moved on to someone who will enjoy it than invest more time and resources into it in the off chance I get more cash for it. The thing already owes me far more than I'm likely to ever get back even with 12 months test and running perfectly anyway!
Only really big job that I'm aware that it really could do with doing - save for being professionally rust-treated and rust proofed anyway - is that the semi trailing arm bushes need doing just due to the fact that they're disintegrating due to old age. No doubt would benefit from a set of brake flexi hoses as well, I'd half expected those to come up at the previous MOT but they didn't. Bodywork is generally good. The grotty bits are: Offside front wing. Corrosion in the usual spot behind the headlights and at the base of the windscreen pillar. Offside rear wheel arch, a bit along the edge of the engine cover, and just general surface corrosion due to sitting around underneath. Rest assured though that an absolute deluge of photos would accompany any for sale ad - I went out a couple of days ago and took about 60 - and then realised a bunch of things I forgot to include...I'm a great believer in the fact that you can't include too much information when trying to sell a car!
The state the Lada was in when I picked it up resulted in a similarly "exciting" drive home. I'd pretty much decided on sight that I was buying it as it was largely rust free, low mileage, was the spec I wanted...and I'd just spent eight hours on the train getting there and really didn't want to have to call in the contingency "how to get home if I don't buy the car" plans by that point. I wanted to get in the car, drive to my stopover at the Mercure Livingston (really odd being there not for an event), then get home the following day.
While initial examination revealed the car to be fundamentally sound, it had some issues...
 It wouldn't idle for love nor money.
 The steering was truly diabolically vague, even by Lada standards.
 The accelerator pedal was essentially graduated as follows: stall - kangaroo with the occasional backfire - stall - some power maybe - stall - GO! - Stall again. Made the 350 mile drive home "interesting" - Especially when the traffic got heavy on the M6.
 The check engine light was resolutely dead.
 The heater did nothing.
 The nearside front brake was clearly doing far more than any of the other three.
 It was wearing an interesting selection of four different tyres, none of which were brands I'd ever heard of before.
 The driver's seat had a tendency of randomly un-latching the forward/backward adjustment mechanism when you went for the clutch (I later found the offending missing spring under the carpet - I temporarily fixed it for the journey home once I discovered the problem by cable-tying the adjuster lever to the seat frame). Suffice to say, the first time that this happened, leaving me suddenly hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life, halfway around a busy roundabout in Edinburgh in rush hour was slightly terrifying. Especially when taken in conjunction with the above issues and the fact that my sat nav's battery had about 30 seconds prior to that died so I was already using all available brain cells trying to remember where the fluff I was going.
The main running issues were unsurprisingly down to Billy The Bodger having been mucking around with the emission control system. These cars were the only ones other than BMC that I'm aware of who decided that computer control of a carb was a smart idea...and it's a system that *just about* works provided that everything's in A1 condition. However it's a system that if you don't know your way around can wind to all manner of problems when people start fiddling with things.
...Such as having decided to hack the idle solenoid straight up to 12V. What the? Hmm...Unsurprisingly the check engine light was dead because someone had taken the bulb out. Once that was replaced...it wouldn't go out. Not surprisingly given the aforementioned strangeness with the idle solenoid feed. Once I reconnected the idle solenoid to its proper line however, the check engine light started behaving - and the car would suddenly idle. It wouldn't idle especially *well* but it would idle. Likewise the accelerator pedal started to behave better. The carb still obviously wasn't happy, and the running mixture was all over the place, and it tended to flood itself when starting. A thorough clean helped things a lot, though it still tended to hunt between rich and lean at idle (which made getting through the emission test fun!). I reckon the lambda sensor may well have suffered somewhat from it having been running significantly rich for a while when the idle circuit was effectively running at 100% flow all the time. While the car wasn't running especially well...it was actually drivable then!
Handling issues were resolved simply by putting four tyres that actually matched and weren't made by some comedy Chinese outfit and getting the tracking set correctly. The brake imbalance that was initially so obvious seemed to resolve itself after a while, so I reckon was just a symptom of the car not having been used regularly for a while.
Beyond that it was a simple matter of eliminating all of the original coolant hose clips because virtually every joint was leaking, and just little detail jobs.
Getting the carb to behave well I sidestepped. I've done battle with that carb twice before on a Samara and another Riva, and don't like it. It was an ingenious solution to a problem...but it was a bit of a bodge. However the fact that it's a 1993 car means that your options are limited as it needs the emission control kit to pass the emissions test. My solution? Grab the fuel injection system from a Niva 1.7i and graft it onto the Riva. My firm belief is that this is how the later Rivas should have been equipped when they arrived in the UK. While it doesn't do anything to dilute the character of the car, it makes it far more driveable. The jerkiness of the drivetrain at low speeds is vastly reduced, the power delivery is far more linear, and you've got a bootload more bottom end to mid range torque.
The "how I did this" for that though is worthy of a post in its own right I think - and once I've finished a couple of details that are outstanding (waiting on tracking down the right fuel pump mainly as the one from my donor vehicle was dead and applying some brainpower to properly sort the throttle linkage in a manner that doesn't involve several cable ties), I'm probably going to write up a proper how-to in case anyone else wanted to attempt something similar.