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Cars you didn't buy (the ones that got away)


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Nearly bought:

Lotus Excel that had fuel injection fitted (why?). Had an AA inspection done which turned out various faults but with hindsight it was no worse than the standard one I ended up buying. 

Porsche 944 S2 in white, somewhere in Sussex. Cracked dash. Offered full asking price and seller refused! He was dodgy AF though, maybe he thought I'd give trouble (legally, not physically).

Alfa 33 1.7 which spattered a load of oil on a garage door when it was fired up. It was probably ok but I was frightened off and bought a Peugeot 309 GTI instead.

Jag XJC straight-six with tempting tuning mods. Would have been fighting the rust though, and didn't have the funds for significant welding. 

Mazda RX-7 MK1. It had a respray but in my opinion it was paint over rust. I drove it a little way and it was hilarious, straight-through exhaust and bleeping rev limit warning. 

Ford Capri 2600RS Should've bought it. Doesn't matter how rough it was, I'd be a millionaire today if I had. 

Toyota Carina-E Diesel Estate. A rare attack of sensible. But pulled out when I saw the state of the seller's fingernails. A shifty bloke from the travelling community. 

There are probably others but those are the ones I remember right now. 

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30 minutes ago, grogee said:

Alfa 33 1.7  bought a Peugeot 309 GTI instead.

Good call in my eyes! 

I test drive a 309 Git and absolutely loved it but the dealer wasn't daft and didn't want to touch my trade in Golf so offered me an insult. 

I ended up with an Mi16. Nice car but not exciting at all. 

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To be honest, most thing I view I end up buying

The only examples that come to mind that I didn't buy were:

Rover coupe 1.6 - viewed and found bodged rust repairs at the sill ends. Was a base spec one and not a good example.

Saab 93 TiD - Viewed as we were getting a dog and needed something bigger than a Clio. Spotted it at the side of the road Bought insurance for the day, pulled out of the layby and immediately u-turned as there was zero boost. £25 down the toilet, but saved me buying it.

Peugeot 306 1.9D - went to view it as I was assured it was a turbo diesel. Get there and it transpired it wasn't. Fella who was a home trader (I had been initially dealing with his son) was very apologetic and offered me a decent discount on a Rover 220Di and took my 93 for scrapping even with no paperwork. Top boy.

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Rover 820 - Free to a home good or otherwise. Couldn’t be arsed at the time to get it running plus the insurance would have been a pain. 

Sierra 1.6 base 3 door - the seller looked like some sort of nonce plus he’d warmed it up before the viewing (how thoughtful!)

Mondeo 1.6 hatch with the caramac interior - was in a lovely colour but pissing oil out everywhere. 

Polo Mk2 GT - engine was fucked plus I’d been out drinking all day so I didn’t have enough on me. 

Nova Saloon - 4 door. Was in really tidy condition but seeing it in the flesh made me remember what a fucking dogs dinner they looked.

Mercedes W124 300D, can’t remember how much he wanted but the wife’s late grandfather packed up driving and asked me if I was interested. Went to Africa in the end I’d expect.

Loads I was offered back when you could get a free car but I’d got reliable transport so I usually passed it up to acquaintances and they were invariably thrashed to an early grave. One that sticks in my mind was a Mercedes W123 280E, engine was blown but it had those fat cross spoke Alloys in, fuck knows what I’d have done with it but it looked good.

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I'm old and have bought well over 100 cars and probably walked away from at least twice as many. 

I have only bought one Frogeye Sprite, walked away from loads, usually because of rust where the rear springs are supposed to mount.

I have never bought a BMW, either because of rust, missing keys/documents, or because the dealer couldn't be bothered to talk to me (that was with new ones).

Never bought a Bristol, was offered a straight swap on a 405, my dad talked me out of it. Was offered a 410 if I covered its storage fees, but wasn't sure the "seller" had legal possession.

Walked away from a very convoluted swap where I would have ended up with  Lancia Fulvia and Lotus 7 S4 (the fibreglass one) in exchange for a Morgan 4/4. (I wad stupid that was a really good deal)

Thought I'd done a deal on a Swallow Doretti, but didn't end up with it, when someone offered more.

Did buy a Frogeye in the end, thought I'd set my brother up to buy the chap's Mk 2 Lotus Cortina that he was selling as well, but he didn't follow it up quick enough. I would have bought it myself.

An Alfa 164 3 litre  Cloverleaf, I'd had one and loved it, looked at another years later, it sounded like a bucket of bolts being shaken when started a huge disappointment.

Quite a few where I have had a think overnight and missed out.

Usually I walk away for a good reason. Perhaps we should have a thread for the things you bought, when you should have walked away.

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My dad and I spotted an advert in.the Sheffield Star a very, very very, long time ago (mid 70's) for a Daimler Dart, in pieces, for £ very little. If only....

I bid, and won, at a car auction in Rotherham, about 30 years ago, a Chrysler Sunbeam, sadly as it hadn't made reserve the seller withdrew it.

I organised to see a new Renault 5 Campus (mid 80's) at the local dealer one evening. He obviously couldn't be arsed as they had shut when I got there, so I drove down the road and bought a new 205. 


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- 1938 Renault Juvaquatre, needed too much work. There's a short clip from what I presume is the current owner on youtube, it wasn't driveable or covered in primer when I considered buying it so it seems this one went to a good home: 

- The final shortlist for my first car (in 2009) consisted of a 1984 Opel Kadett and a 1978 Toyota Corolla. The Kadett was fine, when we went to see the Corolla later that day we were greeted by a Steven Seagal lookalike who wasn't of much help and failed to find the keys, but even without a test drive it was obvious that it was in far worse condition than described. I bought (and still own) the Kadett and do not regret it.

- 2011, I was looking for a second car. I knew of a bASe Kadett 1.0 S  nearby, and when it was offered on a local website for 300 euros I immediately messaged the seller. It was a Friday and he told me it would be possible to view the car on Sunday. Fine, so I made an appointment and would almost certainly have bought it, however... I got a message from the seller Saturday evening, it was already sold to a trader who found out where the seller lived (probably with help of the photos in the advert) and just showed up there uninvited with some scrap money. Said trader then put it up for sale a couple of weeks later for, iirc, 1500 euros.  My photo, 2010:


Also, does "bidding but not winning at an auction" count? If yes, then I should mention a Ford Capri 1.6 Laser (needed recommission, in hindsight I doubt I would have had sufficient skills and funds back then to get it roadworthy) and a Rover 3500 SD1 Vanden Plas as well. 

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When I was looking to buy a car for myself for the first time I had a few possible cars I checked out before I made my mind up.

One was a 2000 Nissan Micra with only 7000 miles on the clock, but as it had taken 7 years to travel this far I wasn't sure how the mechanical parts would cope with anything other than around town driving.  Even the £2700 price tag wasn't enough to persuade me.



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My mates 1985 Audi UR- quattro 10v, one of the very first ones in the country, was offered it for 1500 quid with a blown turbo back in 1996, it was in great condition apart from the turbo, I turned it down as I'd just bought a Supra and the Audi was slower, it was just an ageing performance car back then.

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How long have you got?  At least 15 Wolseley 6/110s, almost all rejected because they were autos. This was before I found out that they're much nicer like that than with a manual box. RYM66E was for sale in an Ipswich suburb, drive it away for £350. Rock solid, nice interior, decent chrome but at 18 I just couldn't rustle up the money. A couple of years later I was too skint to save a Vanden Plas 3-litre Princess from the track, could have driven it home for £700. To this day the only big Farina variant I've never owned. 

Can't recall the registration, but a pale blue 56 Cadillac four door, a little rough round the edges but very appealing, roadworthy and  worth every penny of the two grand the chap was asking. Unusually for me, I actually had the funds at the time. Didn't buy it as I couldn't find anywhere to put it. 

Black Vauxhall PC Cresta four speed floor change manual, being sold by the man who'd reshelled a six month old write off in 1969 and had it ever since. This was in 2007 and he wanted £850. Clean and could have been driven away but once again circumstances dictated otherwise and I just couldn't come up with the money. This one still grates with me now. 

1989 BMW 325i auto four door, one owner from new. Bit scruffy but sound in wind and limb and went like greased fuck on the test drive. Walked away because the lady wanted 275 and that seemed expensive. That was in 2008,bought a nicer two door 318i the next week for 225 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Would have another but not at today's prices. 

Alfa 164 3 litre 12 valve with a manual box, plenty of tax and ticket left. I spotted it about ten miles from home on ebay, went and took it for a spin(went like a rocket and sounded magnificent) and made an offer but the owner wanted to let the auction run. Fair enough, it was due to end on the same Saturday evening as the the banger World final at Foxhall and I'd already got my ticket . Left instructions with a mate to bid for me but he got too stoned and forgot. Checked the next morning when I got home and the winning bid had been £192. This was before having the internet on your phone was a thing. 

Plus lots of others, but those are the ones which stand out in my memory. 

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Renault Clio Williams.

Had one there, short MOT'd for £800.

Yes, it was going to need some bodywork, and yes, that'd probably have been 1-2k for a rear arch and paint.

But OYF, did i get that one wrong. Even if i'd had to spend £3.5k on getting it right + £800 purchase, i'd have been laughing.

They're worth 8-10k now. They were going for 5-6k within a year of me not taking that one on.

Similar story with a Delta integrale, albeit this one was at £5k.

Yeah they're worth more like 40k now....

I could go on and on.

Fiat Coupe Turbo, Bravo HGT, E36 M3 saloon... All painful misses.

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Several Honda Legend Coupes, for various reasons (condition, price, something else even more special coming up for sale)

The Caddy Fleetwood recently that the ebay seller didnt want to hand over after winning the auction.

Several good deals on cheap cars because they sold instantly or seller didnt work with me despite offering deposits etc.

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after I had my 2.8 Capri nicked I could have just about stretched to a Mk1 RS2000 , but didn't

On the more budget end, I backed out on an Alfa Arna and then a 33 16v

Also test drove a very tidy and original Maimi blue 205 Gti at sub 1k but for some now unknown reason I didn't buy I

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I could have bought the very last Sunbeam Rapier Fastback built. It was for sale MoT'd in good condition at a cheap dealer between Cardiff and Penarth in 1987 for £250. Late registration madness on an R plate. I was courting my wife at the time and had other calls on my money. I didn't know it was the last one until I saw it for sale for more money in Practical Classics a couple of years later. Yes, I do have a good memory for number plates.

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Volkswagen 412LS 3 door estate. A really late one on a P plate. It was perfect green metallic, low miles, very good value. I really liked it but decided it would have been better as an auto.


So I bought a manual Saab 99 instead, which I didn’t like, followed by a load of duff car choices trying to find something as good as that 412.

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Few from recent years:

Granada 2.8 Ghia estate: was on an eBay listing starting at a reasonable price with no reserve but the guy actually wanted stupid money for it and would fuck over the winning bidder if it didn't sell for what he wanted. Went to view it and there were tack welded plates in the rear door shuts, bodged rear arches, flat battery, it was on TRXs, and generally a bit fucked - it had a vinyl roof which was bubbling away on the A-pillars. Was supposedly a 50k mile FSH car but this implied that the car did 8000 miles in the first ten years of its life, which smelt like shite to me. 
It's been on and off the road inconsistently since. 

S3 Daimler Sovereign 4.2: after a long train journey on a Sunday to view it, I arrived at the train station where the seller picked me up, and immediately dropped the price of the car by £250 as the windscreen had cracked while he drove off a kerb, ie the bulkhead was rotten. The car also wouldn't start and so he was shoving easy start in the air intake then thrashing the bollocks off it from cold to get it to run on the high pressure fuel pump. 
I didn't bother to tell him that the inertia switch in the passenger footwell had probably triggered, and left him to it. Even if I'd wanted to buy the car, he refused to take any money off me until he'd fixed it. I text him from the train telling him the bulkhead was probably rotten and he didn't reply again. 

MR2: trying to get rid of my shagged Accord Aerodeck and a youngish chap offered me a px on an MR2, and could tell me quite a bit about it. It sounded good, he came to view the Accord but didn't bring the MR2 for some reason. We agreed a deal in principle so I ran down to see the MR2 a couple of weeks later and I was happy with it, however it had an obnoxiously noisy decat pipe on it: chap says he has the original backbox but it's a mess, however he can refit it and send it for an MOT (he worked in a Ferrari/Porsche dealership, at a guess he was an apprentice tech). He'd done some work on the car himself including the front suspension, and while viewing the car I noticed he'd fitted one of the front top mounts upside down.

He sends it to a colleague's other garage for an after-hours MOT on a Friday night - I think he was under the impression he'd get a friendly test. Anyway, the car comes back with a massive fail sheet, including several corrosion advisories, brakes, the dodgy top mount (a fail item), oil leaks, and to top it all off emissions, because he'd sent it for an MOT with the fucking decat pipe.
He said he'd get it re-tested, but by this point I'd lost patience with him as he'd already messed me about getting it MOT'd (he'd had about 2 weeks as I was on holiday) so I walked away from the deal.
That was in July and the MR2 still hasn't been for a retest.

205 diesel: seller was a tinfoil hat nutcase that was taking ivermectin for Covid and joint pain, and believed in all sorts of snake oil remedies and car bodges. Way worse than described - he claimed to have welded the car up himself but he appeared to have done it with his eyes closed, and there were countless things wrong with it like a door that didn't open, a broken headlight lens, putting my hand through the boot floor, Foster's cans littering the car, etc. Ran pretty quickly away from that one.

960 for £1k: after being the first to message about it, the Marketplace seller 'wasn't in' when I'd agreed to meet him and gave vague non-reasons, followed by radio silence.

Civic 1.5 LSi saloon auto for £400: saw the ad on Marketplace at 3pm, agreed with seller to collect at 8pm. 40 minutes later the seller messages me 'sold' as she'd sold it to some Asian bloke from Blackburn that immediately relisted it for £1200. 


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Temporarily car-less, I started hunting for car number 2 in January/February 1997 as a 19 year old student. Very difficult because as well as my studies I also had a weekend job. I had saved up around £2,500 from my previous evening job. Wanted a sensible sub 1.4 litre small hatchback for insurance and running cost purposes. Also had a few 'wildcard' options such as a late reg Cortina 80, Capri or Cavalier no bigger than 1.6 litres.

Difficult to arrange viewings of private cars with my studies and job. Remember the Internet was just coming in at that time, so it was mainly the yellow free ads paper, classified ads and the Auto Trader. 

One chap brought round a red 1987/88 Astra mark 2 1.3 for me to look at one week day. It looked really nice but I didn't want to do the deal without seeing where he lived. I'd want my dad or brother-in-law to come with me for a second opinion too. This was difficult because they both worked full time during the week. :rolleyes:

A similar aged mark 2 Golf 1.3 also slipped through my grasp. I think once I got my dad or BIL to drive me to see it, the VW had sold. I think the same happened with a Rover 213. D'oh! :(

I managed to get a weekend's annual leave in March 1997, so my dad and I went to view a silver 1988 ish Astra 1.6 GL. The female seller was very honest and pointed out the lacquer peel on the paintwork. I backed out of the deal on seeing that, rather prematurely. "FFS what do expect? It was a 9 year old car! " I would love to have told my younger self. :oops:

After that I went to view a 1987 Rover 213S at a car dealers, advertised in the classifieds. Asked the salesman about it but he didn't know anything about it. It probably hadn't come in yet. They had an excellent range of used cars there so I noticed the gold mark 4 Escort 1.4 GL for sale, inspected it, test drove it and agreed to buy it. Escorts weren't as high on my list as Astras, 213s or Golf's but I was under psychological pressure to get something so I did the deal. 

The dealer actually agreed to drop the Escort off for me, which they did. Sadly the car soon developed a fuel starvation/blockage issue that stalled the engine so I took it back to them to sort out under the 3 month warranty. Left the car with them. One of their workers dropped me off home in what I strongly suspected was the same Rover 213S I originally asked them about.  It looked very shabby so I perhaps dodged a bullet there. :mrgreen: Maybe "awaiting preparation". Turned out to be a pre facelift model with the square rail lights. The Escort was fine once I got it back. 

After all this time, I still fancy an SD3!

Cripes, spent almost all of my lunch break typing that out. Phew! 

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Back in 2013 or 2014 I went to look at a very nice, original Standard Super 10 which was on ebay but local to me. Looking through the paperwork there was a build sheet from the Standard Motor Club which revealed it had been completed exactly 30 years to the day before I was born, which was enough to make me want it. I was the underbidder and it sold for a trifling £1200 I think. Should have had another bid but I really, really didn't need it


More recently, the £600 Standard Ensign which I was trying to buy during the first lockdown. The guy had had brain surgery and was pretty out of it, and I was arranging for a local third party to go and assess it and take some photos (I never saw it) but the chap was hyper cautious about Covid as his health was so bad. There was a pretty constant diaglogue for a couple of months, and when lockdown was lifted my bloke rang up to make the arrangement to go and view it. The vendor then informed him the Ensign had been 'taken away' about six weeks previously. He assumed it had been sold to me. no idea what happened, if somebody heard of his plight and just turned up with a truck and stole his car, or if he actually did sell it but to somebody else. All very weird, and I have a big Standard-shaped hole in my life still. Library pic for reasons.


More recently, I missed out on what might end up being the last affordable Peugeot 205 XS in the world, which I'm still annoyed about


Slightly more fancifully, the Broual collection auction in Paris a few years ago. We had to leave to come back to the UK before these lots were up, but in hindsight should have missed our train and stayed to bid on the amazing unique Donnet 'Donnette' which sold for about £4000


Or the lovely, fragile Amilcar saloon with untouched Art Déco interior which sold for £8500 or something



This one was recommissioned by the new owner, and I saw it on an event I organised a year later. Was a really nice car. The bloke tried to sell it (for loads of money), couldn't, and so chopped it up, sold the engine to one guy and the rolling chassis to another. Apparently, he literally chopped up the body and burned it in his back garden. An absolute crime, and it still haunts me to think I could have prevented it quite easily.


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A few that I occasionally regret...

1994 volvo 480 'celebration' edition. Private seller in a sketchy bit of Bristol. Car looked great but I bailed out when I realised the boot was full of water.

1995 mazda 323F ZXi with the tiny 2.0V6, in that turquoise colour with leather seats. Deliberated long and hard as it was £4k. Turned up at the dealer to look, and found someone else had already put a deposit on it.

Lexus GS300. Sold by a driveway trader in Surrey. The lexus was blocked in by about 4 other cars. To be fair it wasn't bad but he was a patronising prick so I walked.

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Oh god I just remembered another one that really stings. My mate had owned this rhd(!) Simca 1200S coupé for years and his wife didn't know about it, so he was looking for a discreet way of offloading it for the price he'd paid (a pittance). I was ready to pull the trigger, but then another friend got involved in a very complicated deal which would have ended up with me having the car for a few hundred quid. In the end it all fell through and I believe it has now been broken up by the dealer who eventually ended up with it.


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