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How far have you travelled... then NOT bought it?


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50 Kilometers - 1995 Mercedes Benz E200 Estate - Excellent car, seller wanted way too much for it.

 

100 Kilometers - 2002 Rover 75 Connie - No service history, paintwork far worse than described, tyres were fucked, seller was super dodgy.

 

150 Kilometers - 1985 Toyota Corolla CSX - Filthy and needed plenty of work done very soon, plus I had another car to see that day which was far better and subsequently purchased (1990 Corolla).

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I once drove 50 km to see a red HQ Holden Kingswood. Beautiful paint, all original appearance, absolute unit of a car. Open the hood and you'll find 2JZ engine, no shit. So it's supposed to be reliable.

 

I found it to be unwieldy, noisy, uncomfortable. No PAS. The car also hesitate a bit when accelerating so fuel related issues?. In the end, I wasn't brave enough to pull the trigger. Would've been very cool though.

 

On the flipside. I was talking to this guy selling a Volvo 850 Turbo with V70R manual swap for about 4 months. I really wanted to have it. The owner has health issue so I did not even manage to get a single look and I bought the Corolla about a week before he said he was available. Eh I guess it wasn't meant to be.

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Quite a few. 

 

A Renault Trafic in Bexhill from London...head gasket had gone...owner was very chatty when he picked me up from the station...not when I pointed out the problem. Anyway I then had a day out in Bexhill which is the seaside.

 

I once sold a car to a German bloke and dropped it on the German border from the UK - sold sight unseen - luckily he bought it.

 

I have had people back out after selling cars to me when I have left a deposit. These days I always take cash and drive away straight away if possible.

 

People are odd when describing cars over the phone often. If its something I want I just come and look. 

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Scimitar 1 in lock up being stripped. Dailying Scimitar 2. Dad and I went to Warwick to potentially buy Scimitar 3.

 

Would have been 148 miles Gravesend to just outside Warwick if we'd gone up the M40. Dad insisted on M6 through Brum was fastest, added time.

 

Car was at a breakers, in his "Save for selling/restore/classics area". With 2 cars on top of it.

 

Went back home - 320 mile round trip.

 

I didn't set off. He texted me with pics of the pump and I didn't go. If I'd got there, I'd have haggled and bought it.

 

You should have bought it anyhoo. 309s are awesome.

 

3 weeks later I'd have had 10 tickets.

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Rainham to Nottingham to buy a BMW e23 735i. I actually won it off of ebay, way way back.

 

I was due to meet the seller in an Asda car park. When it arrived, it looked and sounded like a sack of shit. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and started to look over it. I thought it was do-able. Then the geezer told me there were no documents with the car. He reckoned a bloke had given it to him for a job he did. Yeah right. Needless to say, no sale. Me and Mrs Tet back to the station and home. Mrs Tet not very happy.

 

Still, we live and learn - or do we?

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Longest UK - Windsor up to Glasgow, thought I'd take it easy and bussed it. Triumph TR6 ….. Got to vendor and it was totally fucked. Inner sill was still wrinkled from a previous impact, door wouldn't shut properly and it none of the lights worked. Brakes were deadly and clutch was slipping badly…….. I was not a happy bunny. Test drive ended outside Glasgow Central and I walked in to get a ticket. Didn't even bother listening to the lying sack of shit selling it. Restored my fucking arse

 

EU - Brussels - Palermo.... supposedly pristine Mirafoiri 131 Twin cam - shiny photos had me convinced it was worth the flight...… Idea was to buy, drive off on an Italian coast run and then pootle back roadtrip as part of a holiday. It was shit, rotten and wobbed up, not even missable from 10ft - engine smoked like a bastard and I had no confidence it would make it out of the region, never mind country or up to Belgium. GF was not at all pleased - but placated by stupid purchase of 127 Mk1 - buzzed around and back in that - was a peach mechanically…… bodywork not so much. She kept that when we split...……. it never saw the road again after we got back.

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A purchase I made was an aircooled Visa in France from a local garage. Stayed in France until I had to go back to London and the car I went down in then blew up on way back to London...ended up driving 300 miles in the Visa to get to work the following day - made it though but an an aircooled Visa is slow. So not a non-purchase more a purchase that turned out ok in a sort of way.

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Havana - looked at a trio of buggered but original sidevalve Indians but after a month trying there was no way of shipping them anywhere (legally). Will look for a photo or two.

Bishkek - looked at some Urals and sidecars but all too worn out to risk the journey back but did some time with an Ex=Soviet truck.

 

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My dad and I went to Wolverhampton (from Northampton) to look at a black Mondeo 2.0 Ghia X estate a long while ago, when I was looking for a replacement for my diesel Mondeo which borked itself.

 

It looked good in the photographs, but I should have been suspicious that they were all taken from some distance away and that there were no real close up photos of it or the interior. Wheels scuffed and corroded (TADTS) but the interior, and particularly the boot trim and carpet, were terrible. It looked like there'd been a knife fight in the back. Combined with an asking price around £1000 more than it was worth, in retrospect I'm not sure why I even bothered. A 2.0 Mondeo estate would have probably not lasted long on my drive anyway as it was hardly a ball of fire.

 

Shortly after buying the Saab 9-3 Aero, a wonderful blue Volvo S80 2.5T popped up for sale in Leicester. It had a manual 'box and looked stunning in the photos, which were generous in number and close up too. Although no photos of the rear seats...again, another alarm bell that failed to go off. It was keenly priced, however.

 

Met my dad at M1 15a services where I abandoned my car (two hour limit!) and we drove up to Leicester to have a look. The seller was a 'dealer-from-home' who wasn't there when we arrived, but his brother was about. The car was stunning, it had reams of paperwork, and it was literally my dream car (at that particular moment). The dealer had neglected to mention in the advert or show in the photograph that the rear leather seats had been melted or burned or something, and were rock hard and horrible. It was rather a strange problem, and one that meant my dad and I were there for approximately six minutes before getting in the car and driving home again.

 

On the way home, the dealer rang me and complained that I'd upset his brother by speaking harshly to him, when all I'd done is explain that the car was not being sold accurately or fairly. He said that the car was 'perfectly usable' and the rear seats 'were hardly a big deal', which then became 'well I could have sorted this if you had bothered to raise it with me'. I told him that he was given an opportunity to tell me when I had asked him 'is the interior in good nick?' (he responded 'yes, it's fine'), which meant I was not going to enter into any transaction with him, and wished him the best of luck in selling the car with that kind of issue undeclared in the advert.

 

I noted the advert remained on Autotrader for many weeks after this, with the dealer eventually editing the advert to include a line about the rear seats being 'damaged' but 'will be replaced upon purchase', and dropping the price £100 at a time until eventually someone bit it. 

 

To be fair to the car, it was probably relatively easy to sort out in respect of replacing the rear seats, and it seemed a very good car otherwise, but I refused on principle to deal with someone who would happily let people drive from miles away to view a car without disclosing all issues. 

 

I suppose if I had been considering spending £££s rather than ££££s my attitude would have been different, but I find it really tricky spending significant amounts of money, feeling pangs of guilt and worry before any purchase (despite any amount of enthusiasm and research I've undertaken), so it doesn't take much to make me inclined to walk away.

 

The only time I should have walked away but did not was with the Saab 9-3 Aero...that was in Peterborough and was purchased mostly because I felt like I had to buy something given I'd been looking for a car for ages and I'd drive an hour and a quarter to go view it. Definitely the wrong attitude!

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Glasgow to Portsmouth in a 3.5V8 Range Rover on Strombergs and TorqueFlite 3 speed auto, pulling a three ton trailer. Too scared to work out mpg, but on a good day, without the trailer, 12 - 15.

 

It appeared to be looking good when I got there and saw a car that I assumed he was using as a parts donor for the good one he was advertising, but I'm sure you can guess the rest....

 

Always been wary of the phrase, "BMWCC member", stated on ads since.

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Generally buying everything I go to see because I feel sorry for it, haggled a fiver off it and thought I'd done a good deal, bought the owners sob story of the nun running over the kittens in it and then convincing myself that it was a good buy and that I must have a special eye* for good keepers. Reality is that I fix most things eventually so problems don't bother me much, to my detriment. 

 

My first car viewing ever back in the late 80's was probably the only one I walked away from, and that was only about 10 miles away simply because there wasn't actually much of the 'good project car' left to buy.

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Just north of Aberdeen to somewhere in North Cornwall...

Car was a Suzuki Cappuccino. It wouldn’t have made the trip back north.

 

Okay I’m cheating a little bit, the trip wasn’t just to look at the car. Was heading to North Cornwall anyway for a holiday. Two stones with one Bird and all.

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Storytime, kids. Save this for bedtime reading, if you prefer.

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Generally, if I've travelled some distance to get a car, I've just bought it and driven it back regardless. Thankfully I've never encountered many cars too banjaxed to even get home - but I reckon that's more luck than judgement. Ok, so the red Polo did strand me in the arse end of nowhere on a public holiday a scant mile or two from the vendor's door, but that was a snapped drive belt and undoubtably linked to me jabbing at it minutes earlier to check the tension - otherwise it was a decent enough wee car.

My furthest-ever collection was to buy my Cortina estate - involving a flight from Belfast to 'Glasgow' Prestwick, then a train journey to actual Glasgow, where blokey picked me up from the main station and took me back to Cambuslang. We'd had a reasonable amount of contact by phone and email, but he seemed both surprised and faintly alarmed that I was flying over to collect it with no backup plan.

The vendor had, in fairness, been totally honest ("the photos do flatter it a bit; the paint's not great, there's a some scabby bits and and ideally it needs a new bootlid") and I knew when I drove it that something wasn't quite right with the engine. I'd told myself that if it turned out to be a total nail, I would have just had to suck it up and get the train back to the airport - so I wasn't hellbent on buying it at any cost. As it was, it needed a new manifold (cracked) and the timing reset.

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However, he dropped the asking price by a third, which seemed reasonable enough, and so I handed him a bag of sand in fifties and off I went, nursing it to the ferry at Troon and got home without issue. I carried out the needful repairs and drove it for almost two years, and yes admittedly it broke down a fair bit (clutch quadrant; fuelling issues; botched theft attempt), it rusted quite a lot, and it never did quite run right no matter how much I messed with the timing, but it scratched an itch  - and I'd never be able to afford one now. No regrets.

 

Just before a house move, I was looking to sack off my Polo breadvan for a Volvo estate, but inexplicably there were no biggish barges for sale locally at all, other than an extremely tatty povo spec 740 over at a dealer in Comber... which was filthy, dented and the interior looked as if a large family of ill-mannered werewolves had called it home, as everything soft was slashed and everything hard was chewed (including the control stalks, which had been gnawed into featureless lumps with no clue as to their function). It didn't even have a towbar for my trailer. £800, you say? And no MOT? Mmm, yeah, we'll think about it and get back to you...

 

So we ended up driving all the way up to Derry in the Yaris to look at an XM estate (with towbar) seen advertised on Carandclassic.com (the same place as the Cortina), as it was the only thing we could find that fitted the bill in terms of size and price... the ad indicated a central Derry location, but the seller was a smidge vague and had given me directions to a filling station on the far side of the city. On arrival, it transpired that the car was actually in Donegal, so we ended up following the seller for many a long mile across the border and down towards Letterkenny (about 100 miles from home, now)…

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On arrival, the car was not as good as hoped. Despite the seller's glowing description, every single panel was scratched and dinged, there were fag burns all over the seats and a fair bit of crust around the rattecanned arches. The exhaust had severed in front of the back box, and when I experimentally tugged at the n/s sill, there was a crunching noise and a crack appeared...

At this stage I probably should have just walked away, but since we'd come all this way I felt I should at least drive it, and when I did we were both deeply impressed at the big Cit's immense smoothness, stability and extremely potent 2.5TD unit. It had 9 months MOT, and the seller showed me the receipts for a new set of tyres and full set of suspension spheres fitted just a few weeks before. He seemed genuinely regretful that the VRT charges to re-register this NI-plated car in the Republic of Ireland would be prohibitively high; hence having to sell it on.

It seemed that my choice was either to take a chance on this one, or go home empty-handed and then have to spend even more on a Volvo-shaped dog chew... I reasoned that if it even lasted for three weeks and then grenaded, it would tip the weighbridge at a reasonable sum and might still have worked out cheaper than hiring a van for the house move and associated dump runs. Although the seller was somewhat unwilling to take less than his 'firm' asking price, we eventually shook hands at £650 - and surprisingly the damn thing was actually amazingly reliable, swallowing plenty of stuff for the move.

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I spent precisely nothing on it over the next 9 months other than fuel, legals and a secondhand Haynes manual - which was just as well because at MOT time it was revealed to be a massive lash-up with sills made from Fastglas, lengths of electrical conduit and plastic bags...

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So, with oodles of welding needed and a cracked engine block, off it went to a specialist Citroen breaker, sadly.

 

While there's been plenty of cars I've viewed and not bought for one reason or another, I generally didn't travel far to view them.

I do recall an odd sort of reverse-sales situation, where I once went to look at a hopeless old shed of a 2-dr Viva GLS.  In a fit of stupid optimism, I'd seen it parked outside a shop (in the dark, and in the snow) and had left a note on the windscreen. 

When I received a call from the owner to state that he might be induced to part with it, I was jubilant. This feeling lasted until I actually went to look at it on a freezing January morning (in quite a posh and leafy part of Bangor West) to discover it was chock-full of wob on the outside, slopping with semi-frozen water on the inside, and only had half a boot floor (the spare wheel well just wasn't there).

The fella selling it (also a spotty teenager in a German army surplus shirt, as was I at the time) wanted £250. Despite my serious misgivings, I considered it really wasn't worth over £100 (because it was actually shit, even I could tell that), and my own father (who'd driven me over to the address) looked substantially relieved when the owner refused to drop his price, and I couldn't afford to raise mine.

So we went home; and about half an hour later his dad rang to say "He will take £100 for it, so he will! When can you come and get it?", while the teenage owner fumed and sulked loudly in the background (think Harry Enfield's 'Kevin the Teenager' - "Ah, God, so unfair, hate you, why did you even have me if you just want to ruin my life?"), at which point my own father snatched the phone away and firmly stated that no, we'd had a good think about it and decided it wasn't the car for us, thank you - at which point Dad #1 then started to make ever-decreasing counter-offers, to increased wailing from both his offspring and me... "He'll take £75 for it, then... come on, fifty pounds! Just come and take it away!"  My dad thanked him and hung up.

(Oddly, the knackered GLS then passed on to a fella I later worked with, who blew the head on it, and the remains went to some other lad who worked in a body shop and spent two years and about £5000 bringing it up to show standard. I went to see the restored car, and it looked good - although painted a particularly unappealing shade of metallic green, with oversize springs on the front and huge blingy alloy rims that looked all sorts of wrong. I was driving my own Viva by this the time, and gracefully declined his generous offer to let me take it off his hands for £2500 ("though not the wheels, it's £3k if you want the wheels too"). It later resurfaced parked up in a public car park - and sat there for about six years, never moving, getting scabbier and rustier, until one day it was gone. Hmmph.)

 

Probably the only car that fits the actual criteria of the thread is this one:

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I think this one appeared on Gumtree. A 1993 Montego Clubman 2.0 Diseasel Estate, up in Randalstown - only about 30 miles away. 

I think £500 was the asking price - with no current MOT, but it was booked in for one in the next few days (this may have been at a time when the government-run MOT testing centres in NI were experiencing a massive backlog, and cars were being granted temporary exemption certificates because they couldn't get a test date for 12 weeks or whatever).

The seller (a fella going by the unusual name of Bag, if memory serves) was very nice but quite hard to pin down. It seemed he worked erratic hours, and the car was being stored in a locked haulage compound to which he didn't always have access. It took quite a few days of negotiation to agree a time to view, during which time the MOT was failed on a balljoint, but I was assured it'd be replaced and re-tested before it was sold.

We went up in the ever-faithful Yaris, and met with Bag outside the yard. His mate was coming down with the keys shortly, and while waiting we chatted about the various old nails we'd owned. He had a Mk1 Golf, and seemed to do a bit of buying and selling.

Then Matey-boy showed up, after about half an hour of us standing around. I immediately decided that I did not much care for Matey.

The car was... odd. There was just a strong vibe off it of something not being quite right, which hadn't come over in the photos but strongly did so in the metal. There was plenty of appallingly badly touched-up surface rust, but nothing too bad. It looked reasonably okay underneath. The interior was scruffy, but not utterly ruined. It had been crashed at some point but the repairs to the front panel looked reasonable, though the bonnet was a bit frilly. It looked like a total shed, and I had no doubt the neighbours would despise it, but then most of my cars fall into this category anyway.

Problem was, while Bag just stood back and let me have a poke around, like any decent seller, Matey seemed determined to do all he could to distract me and interrupt me, by sticking right at my elbow and making constant declarations about what a sound car it was, how reliable it was, how hard they were to find in this condition now, etc etc. Despite his overbearing chumminess, I also got the impression that his demeanour could shift quite rapidly; a bit like Robert Carlyle's portrayal of Begbie in the Trainspotting films. A bit like that. He even had the same wee 'tache. I didn't feel all that comfortable.

One early problem arising was the boot. This car had been spec'd as a seven-seater, and so had a folding jump seat built into the boot floor. Except it wouldn't fold down, for some reason, and despite much effort where we could get it to partially go down, none of us could get it to actually go flat. And then we couldn't get the seats back up again. This wasn't ideal for a car I needed as a load-lugger for kitchen and bathroom componentry. But my concerns were batted away by Matey; it was fine, no problem, easy to fix.

 

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Just to try to find a definite reason to reject the car, I took it out for a drive. I knew the old n/a diesel lump was not going to match the late XM's powerplant, but it on starting it felt like a bloody Nuffield tractor running on three cylinders. The vibration was eyeball-shaking. Once I got it out on the road, I was somewhat shocked to realise that the driving experience could be summed up as follows: everything that should be tight was loose, while everything that should be loose was tight.

The pedals were all unbelievably stiff, and squeaked as they resisted all human efforts to move them. The steering wheel, meanwhile, had about ten inches of slack in it while the gearstick seemed to be totally unattached to anything other than the rubber gaiter, so much play did I encounter during operation. The hand controls and window winders all felt like they were going come away at any moment, while the clutch snatched and grabbed like an ill-mannered orangutan being offered a bag of buns.

But maybe... maybe this is just the way Montegos are? I knew that by '93 they were hideously dated cars that only really existed to threaten underachieving sales reps with. But could they really be this bad, even with 160k on the clock...?

I only took it to the end of the road, so little enjoyment was I deriving from the experience - then spent a pleasant* and relaxing* few minutes trying to find reverse to conduct a three point turn, while holding up an increasingly irate funeral cortege. As you do.

 

I returned to the yard with ill-concealed gratitude, and made a few faint and non-committal noises while Matey expressed flabbergasted disbelief that I hadn't been so overcome at the superlative driving experience that I'd gone on an impromptu round-Ireland jaunt. I continued to press aimlessly at the various dash buttons while trying to formulate a plan to extricate myself from the situation (MrsDC had wisely retreated to the Yaris at this point).

I hauled myself from the (baggy, saggy) driver's seat and had another thoughtful circuit of the car, then stopped as I noticed the small pool of water spreading from under the front n/s wheel. Ah. This was interesting.

I opened the bonnet again, to further enjoy* the diesel engine clattering away like a thousand chain-mail clad warriors having a swordfight in a tambourine factory. The water seemed to be coming from... the area beneath the windscreen washer fluid tank. I looked closer. There was a pipe coming out from the tank, but it was swinging loosely in the breeze about 18" down. How odd.

Trying to ignore Matey's indefatigable rhapsodising about this unlovely heap of old wank (by this stage, Bag had wandered over to a corner of the yard and was picking listlessly at a rusty LT150 van), I stuck my head back into the cabin and flicked at a few buttons. It transpired that pressing the rear wash/wipe button activated the 'incontinent cocker spaniel' function. Perplexed, I ducked round to the back of the car... to find that there was no rear washer or wiper. At least - not now.

 

It's hard to remember what things were like back in the pre-smartphone era, and no doubt younger folk will titter, but this was the point at which I pulled out a black-and-white printout of the Gumtree advert and squinted at the grainy greyscale photos: because, as far as I could tell, the car in the photo - the same car, depicted in the same yard - DID have a rear wiper fitted. The car before me now had a rubber plug, sealed with what looked like black mastic, over the hole where the wiper spindle should have been.

Bag and Matey were hovering close at hand.

"Um... just looking here, what happened to the rear wiper?"

"What? Nothing. There isn't one."

Matey folded his arms. Bag looked at the ground and said nothing.

"Well, it looks like there's one in the ad photo here. And there's a switch for the rear wiper on the dashboard."

Matey swiped the printout from my hand and squinted at it with a high degree of suspicion.

"No... no, it LOOKS like one, but it's just, like a crease or something..."

"It's just, there's a pipe coming out from the washer reservoir that looks like it's been cut - hence the water whenever the button's pushed..." I indicated the spreading pool on the dusty ground.

"What? No... no no no. Definitely not."

There was a further uncomfortable silence. The printout was not great quality, but I knew there had been a wiper when I'd looked at the photos on my PC (and you can see them, too - they're the same pics posted above). Why the hell would they lie about it? Why the hell had they removed it, anyway? What the hell else had they done?

 

I should have been firmer and just said Well, thanks for your time gents, the car's not for me but best of luck with the re-test and sale. That would have let us all leave with a modicum of dignity, however ill-deserved.

But oh no. I felt I'd spent too long now faffing and poking to just do that.

I knew that I wasn't a timewaster; I mean, I had the full £500 asking price tucked away in my pocket. Obviously I'd hoped to chisel a bit off, but I'd arrived the with cash in hand fully intending to at least leave a deposit if the Montego seemed in any way capable of functioning as a mode of transport. I think I was surprised, more than anything, that I'd finally encountered a car that didn't meet even my unbelievably lax standards. Even though I was car-less with the XM beyond bodging, I was by now reasonably certain I didn't want this - at any price.

So of course, rather than just playing it straight, I instead pitched a lowball offer that I knew they could only refuse. What a dick move.

"Mumble mumble mumble, £200."

Silence.

FFS.

Well, Matey didn't take kindly to this. Cue much waving of arms, gnashing of teeth, exhortations to the heavens that his little ones would have to forgo shoes and nourishment because of my flinty-hearted callousness, and they'd all be in the poorhouse by the end of the week. You've seen The Life of Brian, right? The Beard Vendor. That bit.

Bag still kept quiet.

More silence. Birds twittered in the adjacent derelict DAF cabs.

"Ok then, you can have it for £400."

Double FFS.

Obviously, the next obvious move was for me to bleat £300, then it would be checkmate and shake-hands at £350.

But.

I. Didn't. Want. It.

At all.

 

Not for £350.

Not for £3.50.

 

I'm still not quite sure how I made it out of the yard. I know I didn't make it out without looking like a massive timewasting ballbag, that's for sure. I think I just gabbled a bit, smiled a lot, made expansive arm gestures, then sprinted for the safety of the Yaris. The kind of skills I last employed upon being given the hard-sell treatment by lads selling knock-off Calvin Klein jeans in Turkish holiday resorts.

 

A week later, Bag rang me to say I could have it for £300, if I wanted it. The balljoint was now replaced and it had the MOT retest booked.

I should have come clean there and then, safely on the other end of the phone (rather than in Randalstown's own version of the Thunderdome) and explained that the car just seemed a bit shonky; it drove like a bag of bolts; the disappearing components worried me and I was really discomfited by the presence of Matey. I didn't want it, even for free.

Instead, I lied like a bastard and expressed much sads and regrets that I had just bought a car, wow, what bad timing, and while I would love to own something as wonderful as the Montego, I just couldn't see it working out - but seriously, best of luck, it's a great car, I'm sure someone will snap it up soon...

Basically, it's not you - it's me.

But it absolutely was them - and the car. I wish, for my own peace of mind, I'd been able to say that. But then again, I think that deep down, Bag knew full well. God only knows what the dynamic was there between him and Matey-boy.

 

A week or so later, I bought another Polo breadvan. Because obviously that's great for house renovation work.

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TL;DR - really, you don't want me buying a car off you. Seriously, I'm an idiot.

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Went to Hastings once (from here in Liverpool) to look at an MX5 which I didn't bring back.

 

He said it was an import, which it obviously was, but however it got to the UK I suspect it had been dragged through the sea all the way. The glass was the only bit of the thing which wasn't rusty.

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I'm lucky that mostly things I've travelled distance to buy have been worth the trip, I did accompany a mate to look at a Renault 5 Gordoni, went to Swindon from Barry, seller's idea of no rust not the same as ours, you shouldn't really be able to see the back of the interior carpet when you look underneath the car.

 

My own disappointment/walk away jobs have been on cars I really, really wanted, but where I was annoyed that the vendors had deliberately been economical with the truth with answers to specific questions.

One was an Alvis TD21 in Bristol, supposedly restored. Vendor conveniently not at home when I arrived at the appointed time. The car had bits of trim missing (photos taken at angles not to show this) The paint wasn't bad, but you could see nail heads below the rear side windows, doors were dropped and moved up and down with the (unsound) door pillar (I had specifically asked about door drop and the wood parts of the frame and was assured that they were fine) the engine sounded good but was fluffing if you tried to rev it a little, possibly just needing carbs and timing setting up, but by then I was put off. It was not cheap and needed work undoing before it could be done properly. I walked away, if it had been dirt cheap I would probably have bought it, run it a bit and passed it on as a project, like I did with the Bentley.

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Back in the mists of time [pre internet] went to look at a very cheap Chrysler Newport........looked reasonably smart....until I opened the door, which dropped [and I kid you not] 4 inches.......entire bulkhead was cunningly fashioned out of chicken wire and plaster of Paris.........I did a "News of the World"..............

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Storytime, kids. Save this for bedtime reading, if you prefer.

 

attachicon.gifIntense Reminiscing.jpg

 

Generally, if I've travelled some distance to get a car, I've just bought it and driven it back regardless. Thankfully I've never encountered many cars too banjaxed to even get home - but I reckon that's more luck than judgement. Ok, so the red Polo did strand me in the arse end of nowhere on a public holiday a scant mile or two from the vendor's door, but that was a snapped drive belt and undoubtably linked to me jabbing at it minutes earlier to check the tension - otherwise it was a decent enough wee car.

 

 

My furthest-ever collection was to buy my Cortina estate - involving a flight from Belfast to 'Glasgow' Prestwick, then a train journey to actual Glasgow, where blokey picked me up from the main station and took me back to Cambuslang. We'd had a reasonable amount of contact by phone and email, but he seemed both surprised and faintly alarmed that I was flying over to collect it with no backup plan.

 

The vendor had, in fairness, been totally honest ("the photos do flatter it a bit; the paint's not great, there's a some scabby bits and and ideally it needs a new bootlid") and I knew when I drove it that something wasn't quite right with the engine. I'd told myself that if it turned out to be a total nail, I would have just had to suck it up and get the train back to the airport - so I wasn't hellbent on buying it at any cost. As it was, it needed a new manifold (cracked) and the timing reset.

 

attachicon.gifFord Cortina 2.0 GL, at Minnowburn.jpg

 

However, he dropped the asking price by a third, which seemed reasonable enough, and so I handed him a bag of sand in fifties and off I went, nursing it to the ferry at Troon and got home without issue. I carried out the needful repairs and drove it for almost two years, and yes admittedly it broke down a fair bit (clutch quadrant; fuelling issues; botched theft attempt), it rusted quite a lot, and it never did quite run right no matter how much I messed with the timing, but it scratched an itch  - and I'd never be able to afford one now. No regrets.

 

 

Just before a house move, I was looking to sack off my Polo breadvan for a Volvo estate, but inexplicably there were no biggish barges for sale locally at all, other than an extremely tatty povo spec 740 over at a dealer in Comber... which was filthy, dented and the interior looked as if a large family of ill-mannered werewolves had called it home, as everything soft was slashed and everything hard was chewed (including the control stalks, which had been gnawed into featureless lumps with no clue as to their function). It didn't even have a towbar for my trailer. £800, you say? And no MOT? Mmm, yeah, we'll think about it and get back to you...

 

So we ended up driving all the way up to Derry in the Yaris to look at an XM estate (with towbar) seen advertised on Carandclassic.com (the same place as the Cortina), as it was the only thing we could find that fitted the bill in terms of size and price... the ad indicated a central Derry location, but the seller was a smidge vague and had given me directions to a filling station on the far side of the city. On arrival, it transpired that the car was actually in Donegal, so we ended up following the seller for many a long mile across the border and down towards Letterkenny (about 100 miles from home, now)…

 

On arrival, the car was not as good as hoped. Despite the seller's glowing description, every single panel was scratched and dinged, there were fag burns all over the seats and a fair bit of crust around the rattecanned arches. The exhaust had severed in front of the back box, and when I experimentally tugged at the n/s sill, there was a crunching noise and a crack appeared...

 

attachicon.gif1996 Citroen XM 2.5 VSX.jpg

 

At this stage I probably should have just walked away, but since we'd come all this way I felt I should at least drive it, and when I did we were both deeply impressed at the big Cit's immense smoothness, stability and extremely potent 2.5TD unit. It had 9 months MOT, and the seller showed me the receipts for a new set of tyres and full set of suspension spheres fitted just a few weeks before. He seemed genuinely regretful that the VRT charges to re-register this NI-plated car in the Republic of Ireland would be prohibitively high; hence having to sell it on.

 

It seemed that my choice was either to take a chance on this one, or go home empty-handed and then have to spend even more on a Volvo-shaped dog chew... I reasoned that if it even lasted for three weeks and then grenaded, it would tip the weighbridge at a reasonable sum and might still have worked out cheaper than hiring a van for the house move and associated dump runs. Although the seller was somewhat unwilling to take less than his 'firm' asking price, we eventually shook hands at £650 - and surprisingly the damn thing was actually amazingly reliable, swallowing plenty of stuff for the move.

 

attachicon.gifpost-17915-0-56572300-1525507141.jpg

 

I spent precisely nothing on it over the next 9 months other than fuel, legals and a secondhand Haynes manual - which was just as well because at MOT time it was revealed to be a massive lash-up with sills made from Fastglas, lengths of electrical conduit and plastic bags...

 

attachicon.gifXM Innards.jpg

 

 

While there's been plenty of cars I've viewed and not bought for one reason or another, I generally didn't travel far to view them.

 

I do recall an odd sort of reverse-sales situation, where I once went to look at a hopeless old shed of a 2-dr Viva GLS.  In a fit of stupid optimism, I'd seen it parked outside a shop (in the dark, and in the snow) and had left a note on the windscreen.

 

When I received a call from the owner to state that he might be induced to part with it, I was jubilant. This feeling lasted until I actually went to look at it on a freezing January morning (in quite a posh and leafy part of Bangor West) to discover it was chock-full of wob on the outside, slopping with semi-frozen water on the inside, and only had half a boot floor (the spare wheel well just wasn't there).

 

The fella selling it (also a spotty teenager in a German army surplus shirt, as was I at the time) wanted £250. Despite my serious misgivings, I considered it really wasn't worth over £100 (because it was actually shit, even I could tell that), and my own father (who'd driven me over to the address) looked substantially relieved when the owner refused to drop his price, and I couldn't afford to raise mine.

 

So we went home; and about half an hour later his dad rang to say "He will take £100 for it, so he will! When can you come and get it?", while the teenage owner fumed and sulked loudly in the background (think Harry Enfield's 'Kevin the Teenager' - "Ah, God, so unfair, hate you, why did you even have me if you just want to ruin my life?"), at which point my own father snatched the phone away and firmly stated that no, we'd had a good think about it and decided it wasn't the car for us, thank you - at which point Dad #1 then started to make ever-decreasing counter-offers, to increased wailing from both his offspring and me... "He'll take £75 for it, then... come on, fifty pounds! Just come and take it away!"  My dad thanked him and hung up.

 

(Oddly, the knackered GLS then passed on to a fella I later worked with, who blew the head on it, and the remains went to some other lad who worked in a body shop and spent two years and about £5000 bringing it up to show standard. I went to see the restored car, and it looked good - although painted a particularly unappealing shade of metallic green, with oversize springs on the front and huge blingy alloy rims that looked all sorts of wrong. I was driving my own Viva by this the time, and gracefully declined his generous offer to let me take it off his hands for £2500 ("though not the wheels, it's £3k if you want the wheels too"). It later resurfaced parked up in a public car park - and sat there for about six years, never moving, getting scabbier and rustier, until one day it was gone. Hmmph.)

 

 

Probably the only car that fits the actual criteria of the thread is this one:

 

attachicon.gifMontego 2.0TD Clubman Estate 2.jpg

 

I think this one appeared on Gumtree. A 1993 Montego Clubman 2.0 Diseasel Estate, up in Randalstown - only about 30 miles away. The aforementioned XM had been unmasked as having less structural rigidity than a damp Pringles tube, and a road-legal replacement was urgently needed to cope with the house renovations that were ongoing. The promise of roof rails and a towbar were a big draw.

 

I think £500 was the asking price - with no current MOT, but it was booked in for one in the next few days (this may have been at a time when the government-run MOT testing centres in NI were experiencing a massive backlog, and cars were being granted temporary exemption certificates because they couldn't get a test date for 12 weeks or whatever).

 

The seller (a fella going by the unusual name of Bag, if memory serves) was very nice but quite hard to pin down. It seemed he worked erratic hours, and the car was being stored in a locked haulage compound to which he didn't always have access. It took quite a few days of negotiation to agree a time to view, during which time the MOT was failed on a balljoint, but I was assured it'd be replaced and re-tested before it was sold.

 

We went up in the ever-faithful Yaris, and met with Bag outside the yard. His mate was coming down with the keys shortly, and while waiting we chatted about the various old nails we'd owned. He had a Mk1 Golf, and seemed to do a bit of buying and selling.

 

Then Matey-boy showed up, after about half an hour of us standing around. I immediately decided that I did not much care for Matey.

 

The car was... odd. There was just a strong vibe off it of something not being quite right, which hadn't come over in the photos but strongly did so in the metal. There was plenty of appallingly badly touched-up surface rust, but nothing too bad. It looked reasonably okay underneath. The interior was scruffy, but not utterly ruined. It had been crashed at some point but the repairs to the front panel looked reasonable, though the bonnet was a bit frilly. It looked like a total shed, and I had no doubt the neighbours would despise it, but then most of my cars fall into this category anyway.

 

Problem was, while Bag just stood back and let me have a poke around, like any decent seller, Matey seemed determined to do all he could to distract me and interrupt me, by sticking right at my elbow and making constant declarations about what a sound car it was, how reliable it was, how hard they were to find in this condition now, etc etc. Despite his overbearing chumminess, I also got the impression that his demeanour could shift quite rapidly; a bit like Robert Carlyle's portrayal of Begbie in the Trainspotting films. A bit like that. He even had the same wee 'tache. I didn't feel all that comfortable.

 

One early problem arising was the boot. This car had been spec'd as a seven-seater, and so had a folding jump seat built into the boot floor. Except it wouldn't fold down, for some reason, and despite much effort where we could get it to partially go down, none of us could get it to actually go flat. And then we couldn't get the seats back up again. This wasn't ideal for a car I needed as a load-lugger for kitchen and bathroom componentry. But my concerns were batted away by Matey; it was fine, no problem, easy to fix.

 

attachicon.gifMontego 2.0TD Clubman Estate 1.jpg

 

Just to try to find a definite reason to reject the car, I took it out for a drive. I knew the old n/a diesel lump was not going to match the late XM's powerplant, but it on starting it felt like a bloody Nuffield tractor running on three cylinders. The vibration was eyeball-shaking. Once I got it out on the road, I was somewhat shocked to realise that the driving experience could be summed up as follows: everything that should be tight was loose, while everything that should be loose was tight.

 

The pedals were all unbelievably stiff, and squeaked as they resisted all human efforts to move them. The steering wheel, meanwhile, had about ten inches of slack in it while the gearstick seemed to be totally unattached to anything other than the rubber gaiter, so much play did I encounter during operation. The hand controls and window winders all felt like they were going come away at any moment, while the clutch snatched and grabbed like an ill-mannered orangutan being offered a bag of buns.

 

But maybe... maybe this is just the way Montegos are? I knew that by '93 they were hideously dated cars that only really existed to threaten underachieving sales reps with. But could they really be this bad, even with 160k on the clock...?

 

I only took it to the end of the road, so little enjoyment was I deriving from the experience - then spent a pleasant* and relaxing* few minutes trying to find reverse to conduct a three point turn, while holding up an increasingly irate funeral cortege. As you do.

 

I returned to the yard with ill-concealed gratitude, and made a few faint and non-committal noises while Matey expressed flabbergasted disbelief that I hadn't been so overcome at the superlative driving experience that I'd gone on an impromptu round-Ireland jaunt. I continued to press aimlessly at the various dash buttons while trying to formulate a plan to extricate myself from the situation (MrsDC had wisely retreated to the Yaris at this point).

 

I hauled myself from the (baggy, saggy) driver's seat and had another thoughtful circuit of the car, then stopped as I noticed the small pool of water spreading from under the front n/s wheel. Ah. This was interesting.

 

I opened the bonnet again, to further enjoy* the diesel engine clattering away like a thousand chain-mail clad warriors having a swordfight in a tambourine factory. The water seemed to be coming from... the area beneath the windscreen washer fluid tank. I looked closer. There was a pipe coming out from the tank, but it was swinging loosely in the breeze about 18" down. How odd.

 

Trying to ignore Matey's indefatigable rhapsodising about this unlovely heap of old wank (by this stage, Bag had wandered over to a corner of the yard and was picking listlessly at a rusty LT150 van), I stuck my head back into the cabin and flicked at a few buttons. It transpired that pressing the rear wash/wipe button activated the 'incontinent cocker spaniel' function. Perplexed, I ducked round to the back of the car... to find that there was no rear washer or wiper. At least - not now.

 

It's hard to remember what things were like back in the pre-smartphone era, and no doubt younger folk will titter, but this was the point at which I pulled out a black-and-white printout of the Gumtree advert and squinted at the grainy greyscale photos: because, as far as I could tell, the car in the photo - the same car, depicted in the same yard - DID have a rear wiper fitted. The car before me now had a rubber plug, sealed with what looked like black mastic, over the hole where the wiper spindle should have been.

 

Bag and Matey were hovering close at hand.

 

"Um... just looking here, what happened to the rear wiper?"

 

"What? Nothing. There isn't one."

 

Matey folded his arms. Bag looked at the ground and said nothing.

 

"Well, it looks like there's one in the ad photo here. And there's a switch for the rear wiper on the dashboard."

 

Matey swiped the printout from my hand and squinted at it with a high degree of suspicion.

 

"No... no, it LOOKS like one, but it's just, like a crease or something..."

 

"It's just, there's a pipe coming out from the washer reservoir that looks like it's been cut - hence the water whenever the button's pushed..." I indicated the spreading pool on the dusty ground.

 

"What? No... no no no. Definitely not."

 

There was a further uncomfortable silence. The printout was not great quality, but I knew there had been a wiper when I'd looked at the photos on my PC (and you can see them, too - they're the same pics posted above). Why the hell would they lie about it? Why the hell had they removed it, anyway? What the hell else had they done?

 

I should have been firmer and just said Well, thanks for your time gents, the car's not for me but best of luck with the re-test and sale. That would have let us all leave with a modicum of dignity, however ill-deserved.

 

But oh no. I felt I'd spent too long now faffing and poking to just do that.

 

I knew that I wasn't a timewaster; I mean, I had the full £500 asking price tucked away in my pocket. Obviously I'd hoped to chisel a bit off, but I'd arrived the with cash in hand fully intending to at least leave a deposit if the Montego seemed in any way capable of functioning as a mode of transport. I think I was surprised, more than anything, that I'd finally encountered a car that didn't meet even my unbelievably lax standards. Even though I was car-less with the XM beyond bodging, I was by now reasonably certain I didn't want this - at any price.

 

So of course, rather than just playing it straight, I instead pitched a lowball offer that I knew they could only refuse. What a dick move.

 

"Mumble mumble mumble, £200."

 

Silence.

 

FFS.

 

Well, Matey didn't take kindly to this. Cue much waving of arms, gnashing of teeth, exhortations to the heavens that his little ones would have to forgo shoes and nourishment because of my flinty-hearted callousness, and they'd all be in the poorhouse by the end of the week. You've seen The Life of Brian, right? The Beard Vendor. That bit.

 

Bag still kept quiet.

 

More silence. Birds twittered in the adjacent derelict DAF cabs.

 

"Ok then, you can have it for £400."

 

Double FFS.

 

Obviously, the next obvious move was for me to bleat £300, then it would be checkmate and shake-hands at £350.

 

But.

 

I. Didn't. Want. It.

 

At all.

 

Not for £350.

 

Not for £3.50.

 

I'm still not quite sure how I made it out of the yard. I know I didn't make it out without looking like a massive timewasting ballbag, that's for sure. I think I just gabbled a bit, smiled a lot, made expansive arm gestures, then sprinted for the safety of the Yaris. The kind of skills I last employed upon being given the hard-sell treatment by lads selling knock-off Calvin Klein jeans in Turkish holiday resorts.

 

 

A week later, Bag rang me to say I could have it for £300, if I wanted it. The balljoint was now replaced and it had the MOT retest booked.

 

I should have come clean there and then, safely on the other end of the phone (rather than in Randalstown's own version of the Thunderdome) and explained that the car just seemed a bit shonky; it drove like a bag of bolts; the disappearing components worried me and I was really discomfited by the presence of Matey. I didn't want it, even for free.

 

Instead, I lied like a bastard and expressed much sads and regrets that I had just bought a car, wow, what bad timing, and while I would love to own something as wonderful as the Montego, I just couldn't see it working out - but seriously, best of luck, it's a great car, I'm sure someone will snap it up soon...

 

Basically, it's not you - it's me.

 

But it absolutely was them - and the car. I wish, for my own peace of mind, I'd been able to say that. But then again, I think that deep down, Bag knew full well. God only knows what the dynamic was there between him and Matey-boy.

 

 

A week later, I bought a Volvo 240 Estate. And although it was five years older than the Montego, it was chuffing amazing.

 

attachicon.gif1988 Volvo 240 GL.jpg

 

 

TL;DR - really, you don't want me buying a car off you. Seriously, I'm an idiot.

Interesting one...great write up...."I only took it to the end of the road, so little enjoyment was I deriving from the experience - then spent a pleasant* and relaxing* few minutes trying to find reverse to conduct a three point turn, while holding up an increasingly irate funeral cortege. As you do."

 

Perhaps two identical cars?  Ruse - get MoT on car A - transfer identity to car B and sell it to you. Then with car B identity on car A it goes back for a MoT and hey presto...it passes!

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Similar story to NorfolknWeigh, way back before the internet I went to have a look at a black Rover V8 100E 120 miles away in Bristol. Must have been advertised in Custom Car or Street Machine I guess. Got my dad to drive me down there. Immediately obvious that this thing was a complete lashup and pretty much un-defuckable. Drive back home and just shrugged it off :D

 

No way I’d drive that far these days. Can’t believe we never thought twice about it back then.

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