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It was the 30th anniversary of me passing my driving test sometime in late February. Thought I'd assemble photos of the stuff I've been driving over that time - I should have a photo of everything I've owned. Warning to anyone who doesn't much care for Japanese cars - you won't find much of interest here (but there might be a few surprises to those who think I've had nothing else). Very young Spottedlaurel in pedal car #1 by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Young Spottedlaurel in Team Raleigh pedal car #2 by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Early stuff, less rust issues with these (but I think I'd struggle to fit myself and the family in them). 1978 Renault 5GTL + Mini + Manta (May 1985) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr First real car I drove, if only for a just few yards into the garage. 1981 Datsun Cherry 1.2GL 3dr (N10) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr This is where it all started. My mum bought it to replace the 5 in about 1986, which was starting to jump out of gear every so often. Early in 1988 my aunt won a Mini Mayfair in a Daily Mail competition, but she didn't want it so mum bought that from her and in turn I bought the Cherry. I'd been using it quite bit for driving lessons and passed my test in it. Back then most of my peers were getting Mk1 Fiesta 1.1s so this made a bit of a change. As an avid magazine reader I'd had all sorts of thoughts about getting a 'classic' (Herald, Beetle etc) but in those pre-internet days there wasn't the support network available and I took the sensible option. Being a Datsun it was already going rusty, despite its relatively low mileage - I had to spend £150 getting the door bottoms and arches filled and sprayed when it was just seven years old. The guy did a good job and it remains probably the only car I made money on (bought for £500, sold for £1000). At work I was driving 1.6 Maestros and Rover 800s every so often, just everyday stuff back then. The first time I drove an 820 with its PAS was a bit of an eye-opener and an 827 remained the fastest car I'd driven for some time. Here's mum's Mini, which I regularly drove myself: 1988 Mini Mayfair + 1971 Triumph Toledo by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr The Toledo belonged to a neighbour. A year is a long time in the life of an 18-year old car enthusiast and I was soon wanting to move on. I was after something like a Mazda 323 GT or a Golf GLS but I made a natural progression onto this beige beauty...... 1983 Datsun Sunny 1.5GL Coupe (B11) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr My 1983 Sunny + 1986 309, Ipswich 1990 by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Bought for £2250 from a garage in Sudbury in 1989, complete with the decadence of five gears, sunroof and a quiet OHC engine. The clutch went on it once and another time it popped a core plug but luckily for a model prone to HGF and warped/cracked cylinder heads it survived OK. Sold for about £1500 IIRC. After another year I was again getting itchy feet and mistakenly thought I should get myself into a gradually newer car each time. £2500 in April 1990 bought this 309 - yes, something non-Japanese. Peugeot 309 GR at Surrey Road, Ipswich 1990 by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Peugeot 309 1.6GR by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr In hindsight I think it was that cheap for a reason, it had possibly had quite significant damage at some point? The boot let water in and when it was loaded-up with a lot of people/stuff the handbrake came on and the car wouldn't move - maybe routed incorrectly, or just because French? Still it was reliable enough and like the Sunny it did a fair few trips down to London and around the country to see bands play (lots of indie/grunge stuff and most of my friends didn't have their own cars). It'd be interesting to know where I'd have ended up if this hadn't happened one evening: 1986 Peugeot 309 1.6GR (1991) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Managed to plant it upside-down in a hole beside the road. A proper bit of lorryshite was required to extract it: 1986 Peugeot 309 1.6GR + Ford Transcontinental (John Grose) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr 1986 Peugeot 309 1.6GR (1991) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr 1986 Peugeot 309 1.6GR (1991) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Peugeot 309 1.6GR crash by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Little surprise that it was written-off. Luckily I wasn't and fortunately I didn't have any passengers with me. My insurance company were possibly a bit sceptical as it was on the very first day of a new fully comp policy rather than TPFT that I'd had until that day...... Cheap wheels were required to keep me mobile until I got paid out and my mum knew someone selling this without an MoT for £150: 1975 Mini Clubman Estate by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Somehow a garage got an MoT on it for £150 but it was as rubbish as you might expect. It overheated and above 55mph the non-sealing rear doors let in an unhealthy amount of exhaust fumes and smoke (solved by driving at no more than 55). I managed to find someone willing to buy it off me and with the insurance payout I decided to indulge myself in a 'proper' classic: 1971 Opel Manta A 1.9 Rallye by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr 1971 Opel Manta A 1.9SR Rallye by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Wonder what happened to that 604 in the ad? I think the Capri behind it might have been a power-packed 1.3..... 1971 Opel Manta A 1.9SR Rallye by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr For some reason I appear to be proud of it here. It did look fantastic in its non-original black, but it was somewhat bodged and I paid far more than it was worth. Sometimes it had no electrics at all, eventually traced to a duff ammeter, and the brakes had a savage pull to one side. The fuel tank was holed at the top meaning I could never fill it right up, but as I was doing a fair few miles for work at the time in rather rural areas I would often run out of fuel so had to permanently keep a spare can with me. 1971 Opel Manta A 1.9 Rallye by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr Most of the time it looked like this as the few months I owned it for were during the winter. Sold it at something of a loss (£1450 down to £750) but it did go to an enthusiast. Saw it again at a Billing show a year or so later, and was then very surprised to see it on RR more recently. Turned out to be little more than its tax-exempt ID and a few parts on another A. 1984 Ford Fiesta 950 Popular Plus (1992) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr On the day it was due to be collected I managed to bump into the back of someone else, oops. Fortunately the Manta was undamaged so the new owner didn't need to know and I just had the Fiesta owner to deal with. They turned out to be very trusting people, letting me source a secondhand bumper myself (£6) and handing me the keys so I could drive it to my garage to get it fitted for £24. Despite this sorry tale the Manta A remains one of my favourite cars and I'd love to have another one someday, but I suspect I'd need to find a bit more spare cash than I have right now. With a sub-£1000 budget I had to subject myself to the delights of Auto Trader and local paper classified ad's. With the relative ease of viewing stuff on Gumtree, eBay, Car & Classic etc it's easy to forget what it used to be like in those pre-WWW days. I considered a 305 estate, Visa Super X, RWD Starlet 1.0 and Mk1 Cavalier 2000 GLS - I test drove the latter two but decided the Cavalier wouldn't be much cheaper to run than the Manta and wanted to go for the Starlet. However that had already sold and I had to scratch around for something else. This is where the predictable thing really starts, as I ended up with another FWD Sunny: 1982 Datsun Sunny 1.3DX (B11) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr 1982 Datsun Sunny 1.3DX (B11), Ipswich 1992 by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr By this time I'd become self-employed and ended up doing around 20k a year for work and trips down to Bath to see Mrs SL-to-be so it was probably the best choice. A 4-speed, 1-litre Starlet might have been hard work up and down the M4 every 3-4 weeks...... 1982 Datsun Sunny 1.3DX (B11) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr 1982 Datsun Sunny 1.3DX (B11) by Spottedlaurel, on Flickr As it was already a bit tatty I decided to try a bit of an experiment on it. I was curious as to how dirty a car would get if it was only washed once a year and the answer was "very". It was already going rusty when I bought it (I didn't look in the boot when I viewed it and discovered the classic rear inner arch rot first time I put something in there) and after a couple of years the door bottoms were held on with self-tappers. A quick sale was required when the time came for a change in 1994 and I punted it on through the excellent/awful Ipswich Car Auctions, where I'd seen many other miserable delights pass through. I think it made £175 and I saw it around town on at least one occasion - surprisingly it lasted until 1996 so the new owner(s) managed to get another couple of years out of it. The next car is the beginning of a new chapter, to be told in the next exciting installment......