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Blogs : October 2008

27 October

Slow going

KEITH ADAMS

SPENT all of Saturday towing cars. Sounds like a dull way of spending time, but for me, it’s usually associated with some movement in my fleet of hopeless heaps. This time round, it was a case of borrowing the evo magazine’s Brian James trailer, strapping my old BX to it, and hoiking it North to visit its previous owner, John Simpson of Practical Classics magazine. The reason – to get its head gasket done, and to get it through another MoT, so it can provide another year of cheap, comfortable and practical motoring…

He lives in deepest Lincolnshire, and although my place looks quite close to his on the map – and on sat/nav, it says just over 50 miles, for some reason the journey took the best part of two hours there, and two hours back. I was moving the entire time, traffic was okay – so where the hell did the time go. Still, it was job done – and onto my next job.

Which was picking up my Cavalier from former colleague, Neil Campbell’s, house in Coventry. The car’s been there since around the time I left PC, and although we’ve tried several times to get the old girl running, it steadfastly refused to go. Fuelling looks like the problem, as the fuel filter is bone dry – and it doesn’t get near firing up. Still, I think the pump has been on its way out for quite some time.

So, firing up the sat/nav, I dialled in rural Lincolnshire to Coventry, and saw that it was just over 70 miles. No sweat. I called Neil, and told him to put the kettle on; I’d not be long. Well, blow me, if it didn’t take the best part of three hours to do the journey. Again, the there were no real traffic problems – so where did the time go? Am I missing something – was time warping at the weekend? Let me know – I’d love to hear your theories.

Oh, and before you ask – yes that car/trailer will be bringing my SD1 home from Poland, soon. I promise.

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Andrew Elphick
10/27/2008
The clocks were playing up this weekend, it took me and Mr Average 5 and a half hours from Sussex to Mold, something that shouldn’t be possible in any 22 yearold 6 cylinder SD1… Be nice to see the fastback running again? Fancy a hatchback-back-to-back Keith!
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Keith Adams
10/28/2008

“Fancy a hatchback-back-to-back Keith!”

No…

Andrew Elphick
10/28/2008
Funny that….
Keith Adams
10/28/2008
Shit-stirrer 🙂
BEN ADAMS
10/28/2008
The problem with Lincolnshire is its refusal to join the 20th century and have DUAL CARRIAGEWAY ROADS, ergo you spend all your time stuck behind a Licence-to-Kill doing 39.9 mph.

24 October

Time for Skoda

KEITH ADAMS

Skoda Superb

THIS time last year, I predicted that the world was on the brink of financial meltdown (well, okay, kind of), and that belt-tightening will be 2008’s new black. Well, here we are – everyone’s cutting their expenditure, and the banking system did go into a state of near collapse. It was actually a sentiment that I thought would be good for making a point – why buy a £45,000 car when a £20,000 one will do the job just as well?

The cars in question were a Volkswagen Phaeton, and Skoda Superb, and the outlet for my mad wittering was The Independent (when it had a motoring section). But in my conclusion, I stated that when push came to shove, I’d happily forego the perceived status of a plutocrat motor in favour of the earthier charms of the Superb. I believed it then, and I stand by those sentiments today.

So, ditch the Audi – it looks like Skoda’s time may well have finally come…

I’ve never hidden my admiration for Skoda – I find the Communist-era chariots the most interesting of all of the Iron Curtain motors; and I admire how VAG has turned around the marque’s fortunes to such a degree that I would take one of its products over the equivalent Volkswagen or Audi, any day of the week.

That point’s been brought home to me again today – when I managed to blag a lend of the new Superb. It’s no top-of-the-range example either, being the 1.8TSI version in Elegance trim – and gimmicky boot and troublesome throttle response aside, I find it difficult to find fault with the thing. And just to put it into context, over the past few months, a string of mid-liners has passed through my hands including the Honda Accord, Volvo V70, Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and so on…

In fact, as we’re now officially in recession (like we didn’t know that anyway), I suspect that Skoda will probably do very well indeed, as people who must buy a new car (will there be that many, though?) choose to take the value, rather than premium, option. But, do you know what – sat inside and wafting along (the chassis is biased towards comfort, although it doesn’t lope quite as well as the last one), I couldn’t help but notice just how classy the cream and black decor actually was – and that it really didn’t seem like a value (as in sacrificial) alternative at all.

So, ditch the Audi – it looks like Skoda’s time may well have finally come…

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23 October

Design icon

ANDREW ELPHICK

Renault distribution centre Swindon

THERE is a bold design connection that links the Ferrari Dino to the Renault Centre in Swindon, Wiltshire – neither object bears the logo of its famous manufacturer.

Originally created as a sister for brand for Ferrari’s surfeit of twelve cylinders, the yellow Dino logo graced the first mid-engined Ferrari. (Borne of the Old man decreeing his customers might not be ready for this configuration in a road going-sports car). A striking design which shouted Ferrari, without so much as a single discreet badge proclaiming so. If Lord Foster, or his client Renault, contemplated the Pininfarina design from 1968 is unknown, however his brief stipulated these requirements – “becoming recognisable within your market, you must also become recognisable in the environment”. Effectively build a structure that says Renault without Renault actually being present. All this being achieved simply by the use of Renault’s corporate Yellow, allied to the Foster + Partners ‘playful’ structure.

Foster + Partners are today recognised world wide for architectural projects, from France’s Millau viaduct to London’s ‘Gherkin’ (the affectionate name for the Swiss RE building). Back in 1980 Foster’s most notable project to date was the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters – “the best bank building in the world”; the £8m Renault Centre arguably being “the best warehouse in the world”. (Or with tongue firmly in cheek, “the best Stanstead Airport development hack in the world”).

Such was the Centre’s draw, it even secured a cameo appearance in the Renault fans’ favourite Bond outing View To A Kill

Unusually the modular design owes praise to the architect’s nemesis – the local authority planner. Enthusiastically giving thumbs up to the blueprints, even though the 67 per cent coverage of the 16 acre site was well above the standard land density limits. The entire structure comprised of 42 individual, 24 square metre modules, suspended off 16 metre high masts. Each of these masts pierced the roof structure; glazed surrounding panels giving ample natural light. Totally self contained, the majority of the floor space was given over to parts storage complete with maintenance bays for employee training. Even the offices for regional retail and distribution staff came complete with Foster designed furnishings. The glazed reception gave a panoramic view through 4 metre square sheets of armoured Pilkington glass, strung on high tensile wire.

Those peering into the ‘Gallery’ were presented with the latest Renault range at floor level, an upwards gaze revealing bare painted body shells suspended from the roof beams. When devoid of the top of the range Trente or racy Fuego while used as a popular arts and social venue, wandering across the Gallery with the 1982 Car of The Year strung above your head, subliminally you never forgot where you were.

Period Renault advertising played heavily on the grade II listed backdrops, suckering prospective Renault customers into the world of hi-tech design, purchasable in the form of talking Renault 11’s with LCD instrument clusters. Such was the Centre’s draw, it even secured a cameo appearance in the Renault fans’ favourite Bond outing, View To A Kill.

The overall effect was graceful, yet contemporary – now 25 years after its opening by the French secretary of state for consumer affairs Madame Catherine Lalumiere, it still appears contemporary. After completion in 1983 accolades and industry praise were heaped on the partners design, winning both the coveted Financial Times’ ‘Architecture at work’, and Structural Steel awards. By 2001, commercial demands had changed and Renault relocated itself to the West Midlands, the Centre becoming the “Spectrum”. Despite lying dormant for almost four years, it is now home to a Ford distributor and digital media manufacturer.

Those in need of a Renault architectural fix need not despair however – drive to Paris and head toward L’Atelier Renault on the Champs-Élysées. Originally purchased by Louis Renault in 1910 for his companies Parisian base, after 1963 it became a bar come showroom. Today along with Citroen’s rival lifestyle building (fronted with double chevron glazing on the adjacent side of the Champs-Elysees) they make a pleasant place to absorb some French automotive ambience, even if the playfulness comes from watching the beautiful Parisians pouting, shouting and strutting.

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800lover
Swindon
10/24/2008
This building is amazing in the flesh…many a time when we drove past it I referred to it as being the “broken car place” due to the suspended cars which were clearly visible from the roadside. Now I think “Ford”. though they’re due to move out any time soon…
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Raymond
10/25/2008
Though from previous experience from an Orion, “Ford” and “broken car place” could be interchangeable.

22 October

Is the British Car Industry Dead?

JAMES RUPPERT

Austin Allegro

I just wondered because when people ask me whether they can buy a British built hatchback from a British owned company, the very short answer is no. However, if you want a 1930s throwback (Morgan) or a car with no bodywork whatsoever (Ariel Atom) you are in luck. And of course we still make cars over here, except they all seem to be Japanese (Toyota, Nissan, Honda), or German (BMW MINI), or even American (Vauxhall). That’s a bit odd really as in 1945 we just happened to have the second largest car industry in the world. I thought that this needed investigating, so I sat down and wrote The British Car Industry – Our Part in its Downfall to see if there was anyone or anything I could blame, or was it simply our fault? And instead of simply writing from an academic perspective I used a real British family to explain what it was like to buy and run cars over the last 50 years, my own. In particular my Dad who patriotically bought British even after he accidently bought the worst car British Leyland ever made.

Allegro/Maxi/Marina – discuss…

So was it simply the truly terrible cars that were on offer at the time? Well actually the Allegro could have been a lot better if the design had not been interfered with and then the final product poorly built. The Maxi was a bit half baked and underdeveloped, but had masses of room inside and should have outsold the ‘Dagenham Dustbin’, or Cortina as it was called in the Ford showroom, by a million to one. Then when British Leyland tried to take on Ford with a basic car they came up with the dreary Marina. Even when we made cars as beautiful as the Triumph Stag which also sounded so sexy thanks to the V8, it still went wrong. Again it was an underdeveloped product that was badly built. Where we led the world in small car technology, like the Mini, not enough money was charged which meant it was always sold at a loss. Not a mistake BMW made with its own MINI.

Blame the buyers?

Certainly the British car buyer was not nearly as loyal as the French or Italian who also had to put up with some equally rubbish cars. The Lancia Gamma, Alfa Romeo ARNA, Renault 9 to name just a few that were truly horrible, but maybe the buyers were more easily pleased. In the UK the climate and salt on the roads could kill most cars in just a few years, but reliability became something of a novelty unless you bought Japanese or German. Although Hondas and Toyotas of the time looked gaudy and awkward, at least they started every morning. The Volkswagen Beetle may have been ancient and technically wrong, but again it didn’t break down and when the Golf arrived it was the answer to everyone’s dream, including my Dad. In all he bought five and he was not alone as British buyers demanded better products and value than BL could ever give them. However, even when the products were not that bad it was too late to win back buyers, as MG Rover discovered.

What about Her Majesty’s Press?

We (Motoring Hacks) are a cynical old bunch of doom mungers hence my title The British Car industry – Our Part in its Downfall. Few of us have ever designed a car, can barely drive and rarely have a constructive thing to say about anything really. Mr Clarkson can possibly be credited with killing the Vauxhall Vectra as a brand, though even his power is probably exaggerated. Actually most British Car magazines and newspapers have been relentlessly positive about anything built in the UK. It was actually journalists who told British Leyland not to put a square steering wheel in the Allegro and to do something about the Morris Marina’s wayward handling, but were ignored. Criticism was very low level in the ‘50s and ‘60s and only the fiercely independent Car magazine ever dared to suggest that a car was not very good.

What about the Workers?

Individually they were committed and decent people, but they were appallingly led. Union leaders thought they could create a Socialist paradise in the car factories and related suppliers but only caused anarchy. British Leyland may have looked stupid for having half a dozen suppliers for exhausts, but their reasoning was that when one inevitably went on strike then they could still get them somewhere else. Whilst Japan was pioneering lean production and just in time techniques, the factories had to stockpile. Derek Robinson became the whipping bloke for union activities and quite right too. It was only when he was sacked could BL get on with the important business of building the Mini Metro. The powerful unions sapped the work ethic, yet the clean, bright and we are all in this together Japanese factories are conclusive proof that the Brit worker can bolt together a world beating car like the Nissan Micra.

And finally there’s the Government…

Here is conclusive proof that you should not let a politician run a market stall, let alone a massive industry. The constant meddling started post war when new factories had to be built in deprived areas. Areas that had no tradition of heavy industry which may have helped employment but did nothing for build quality. Governments were also instrumental at prodding manufacturers to get into bed together and created BLMC and when that ultimately started to collapse, BL then became public property, with politicians directly in charge of the means of production. There you have one very powerful reason why cars built in the mid 1970s were so terrible as my Dad found out to his cost.

You still need to buy the book

The British Car Industry – Our Part in its Downfall has all this and whole lot more including lots of little black and white pictures and all the cars my Dad drove. I’d also like to know what you think went wrong with the British Car Industry, so log on to the forum and let’s get the debate started.

Buy the book – The British Car Industry – Our Part in its Downfall…

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21 October

Finally, about bloody time

KEITH ADAMS

Rover 800 Coupe

DRIVING home tonight, I noticed that petrol prices are starting to slide back into the realms of sensibility. The Shell station that I pass on my daily commute is proudly displaying 94.9p per litre for petrol, and 105.4p per litre for diesel. A year ago, we’d have been apalled by these prices, but all of a sudden, they don’t seem that bad at all.

Given that we’re already in a recession (despite what economists will tell you – jobs are being lost now), and money’s going to be a lot harder to find during the next couple of years, I reckon fuel prices are going to have to slide a lot further before bigger cars are going to become desirable again.

Still, it’s nice to know that my recently purchased Saab Aero isn’t quite as silly a decision as it might have seemed when its fuel hovered around the 120p per litre mark. Let me know how you feel about fuel costs, and whether you feel confident about the future, dropping costs or not…

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20 October

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

KEITH ADAMS

WELL, that was a busy week – so, apologies to anyone who may have been left wondering where on Earth the new content for AROnline was? I’ll say two words that anyone within publishing will understand – press week. It’s a stressful time that involves filling blank pages, chasing freelancers for copy, and generally getting the magazine into a fit state for sale. Luckily, Octane’s one of those places where everyone involved mucks in and works their socks off, but despite that, the outside world melts away as the focus turns on the one thing that matters: finishing the mag.

So, I’m not entirely sure what’s been happening in the real world. I heard snatches of a financial crisis on Radio 4’s Today programme, and that Lewis Hamilton went from Hero to Zero – and back again. But other than that, I’m not sure… It should be fun catching up!

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13 October

What £500 buys you these days

KEITH ADAMS

 

IT’S a constant running theme on this website, but one that I can’t help returning to: how cheap cars can be – and often, are – just as useful as their expensive, new, counterparts. Take the Saab 9000 that I picked up from Preston last night – it’s MoT’d until next May, most of the electricals still work, it stops and steers in a straight line, and it still accelerates rapidly indeed. A year-or-so ago, I paid over £2000 for one of these – admittedly in much better condition. and slightly younger – and had many happy times in it (until the gearbox dropped a circlip and it went off the road to be fixed).

And on to now – with all the talk of recession, crunching credit, and expensive petrol, cars like this have rapidly become valueless. My ‘new’ example has 200,000 miles on the clock, but has been extremely well looked after (as all Aeros that have passed through my hands have), and probably still has loads of life left in it. And let’s face it, at a total outlay of £500, if it went bang tomorrow (and I doubt it will), there’s a rich seam of parts to be harvested for my own Abbott-tuned example. So, what are the plans for this one? I’d say as a winter smoker, and then see what happens…

Oh, and as for my Tomat and SD1; I’ve not forgotten about them. Updates coming soon, I hope!

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10 October

Whats’a happening Mr Riley?

BEN ADAMS

MG XPower SV
Ragtop SV on its way?

ALMOST six months ago, Russell Gowers interviewed a Mr William Riley, the man who had seemingly beaten NAC-MG to the finishing line in the race to get MG cars back out onto the roads. What has happened since then?

Well firstly, the TF is back, whether or not we believe that the majority of the 500 have been sold (and I don’t!) they are back on the roads with a far healthier number of dealers than previously divulged. Many of us have seen or drive one in the flesh and for the most part are happy with the finished result. Quality has improved greatly and it seems that the HG issues that once plagued any product fitted with a K-Series engine has now been banished to the history books (fingers crossed!)

How goes progress with Mr Riley?

Slow would be my word for it, he has got a number of obstacles to tackle, firstly the thorny issue of whether he actually has got the legal right to use the name ‘MG XPOWER’. His claims to be part of the great Riley motoring dynasty have been publicly refuted in a letter to the Financial Times earlier this year that has not yet had a retort printed from him. Therefore I found it odd to see him mentioned in a recent issue of Auto Express showing off his Roadster concept to the public when at this moment in time he may not have a Brand name to use and possibly no name to trade off the back of. His website www.mg-x-power.com is currently under construction and all queries are being directed to this address:

Cranhills house
Eardiston
Tenbury Wells
Worcs, Wr15 8JP, UK
Phone: +44 (0) 1584810421

Note the lack of Capitalisation on ‘house’ and on the second letter of the postcode. It all shouts amateur to me and if I was going to spend 70-90k of my money (in a Credit Crunch!) I would expect a little more professionalism.

I would also say that his lack of media ‘savvy’ is definitely a stumbling block to his future success, when interviewed by Russell he became rather bullish when the quality of the finish inside the SV was commented on. Maybe that’s his way of expressing himself but it won’t work as successfully as someone who plays up to the press.

So come on Mr Riley tell us what’s going on

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Dave
Cookeville, TN, USA
10/13/2008

It seems that car has again fallen into incapable hands. What began as the Mangusta could again have the Mustang-engined boutique car market sewn-up in the US (RIP Panoz Esperante). With an ability to actually build and market them, I’m sure that SVs could sell in decent numbers everywhere. Like TVR, Marcos, and countless others, the design and name have been sold to a playboy who has more delusions than dollars and who will run it into the ground.

As for the MG name, I doubt he has the right to use it. That said, I think it would hurt SAIC more to take it away. Noone is buying an SV instead of an MG7, and it’s sort of like a halo model without the company actually having to build it.

He should’ve stuck with trying to use his own name-Riley. I think that a few people still remember that one. I should know. I have a dog named Riley.

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Charles
10/13/2008
Somebody other then Nanjing must own MG X-power marque even if Mr. Riley’s ownership is uncertain. All the same its about time the British buyer were treated to a new big cabrio, especially as Auto Express pointed out after the cruel demise of TVR. (Even while the credit crunch exists) I always thought the lights on the MG SV look as though they were borrowed from a Fiat Punto Mk2, would anyone know this to be certain?
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Charles
10/13/2008
To add to this I personally think Mr. Riley be entitled to use the name. Saic Motor Corp was not prevented from using Rovers great heritage at Beijing Motor show as well as the Rover P5’s P3’s on display to promote the hideous Roewe 750. But then nobody else ‘Ford’ included cares apart from perhaps British Motor Heritage. ‘Roewe’ is different from ‘Rover’ as Mr. Riley could argue ‘MG’ is different from ‘MG X –Power’.
BMW I think never were bothered after the Rover brand had become defunct and bought by Ford in my own view because in Fords hands BMW knew they were safe from a new powerful car manufacture with a reputable name and tech to fit emerge from industry hungry China. And for this I believe BMW were impatient for Ford to buy the British brand alone, but this is another matter.
Charles
10/13/2008
I would be interested to know what Mr. Adams thinks to my last blog – it would be appreciated, as well as his thoughts already stated for the other gentlemen (whether for his benefit or not) concerning capitalization. Thank you.
Andrew Elphick
10/14/2008
Yep FIAT Punto headlamps, rumours persist that during Phoneix’s tenure things were so bad that each was individually purchased from Longbridges local “Partco” (automotive wholesaler‘s)branch in cash… the firm not deemed credit worthy enough for a trade account….
Mark Pitchford
10/15/2008
Well, I don’t suppose it is a surprise that cash flow was something of an issue…?
Mark Pitchford
10/15/2008
Yes, I thought the Auto Express line on TVR showed a surprising lack of research, given that the company is now
taking orders on the Sagaris II…
steve mcgill
10/17/2008
Yes the front lights from the SV were taken from the punto under license
alexscott
new plymouth
10/13/2008
Lister or Lanchester GT ? Jaguar might oblige
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Simon
Portlaoise, Ireland
10/13/2008
Yes Mr Adams, how goes progress with Mr Riley? Your blog tells us nothing, and merely shows you to be biased and prejudiced against Mr Riley and his project. You seem to be judging the worth of the entire project by a wrongly typed postcode on a website. This is a tired and lazy effort at “journalism”, and I would expect better from AROnline (hope I got the capitalisation correct).
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KC
10/13/2008
If Mr Riley cannot get his capitalisation correct, it tells you quite a bit about his attention to detail and his professionalism. Is he equally casual about his finances and his technical knowledge? Rather than lazy journalism, it seems that Mr Riley is rather lazy in his overall attitude to business. It’s the kind of thing you get on those tacky phishing websites who pretend they are from National westminster bank
Simon, Ireland
10/13/2008
It seems bizarre to condemn Mr Riley and his car on the basis of a typing error, which was probably made by a freelance webpage designer. It tells you nothing about the state of Riley’s finances or technical knowledge. If Ben Adams cares so much for correct spelling and grammar, then he may like to know that he was wrong to spell “capitalisation” with a capital C in his own blog.
Nit-picker, Little England
10/13/2008
National westminster bank ? It is not only Mr Riley who cannot get his capitalisation correct !!!! We all make mistakes like this, my own weakness is the overuse of exclamation marks. Shall we now all get together and draw conclusions about KC’s lack of attention to detail, professionalism, finances and technical knowledge ? No, we will not, because that would be the job for a tired and lazy journalist.
KC
10/14/2008
Irony bypass it seems. I deliberately wrote National westminster bank in such a way to make the point about bad capitalisation in email scams.
rhyds
10/14/2008
There’s nowt wrong with picking up WR on bad spelling/grammar in this case. This website is THE FELLOW’S ADVERT TO THE WORLD. Can you imagine any REAL company letting promotional material for such slapdash quality to come out?
rhyds
10/14/2008
And for the PEDANTIC among us, “to come out” should be “to be seen in public”
Simon, Ireland
10/17/2008
Yes, I can imagine a REAL company letting slapdash promotional material be seen in public. Just look at some of the press releases put out by a certain chinese company, especially in the early days, when the English translation was a hoot. But I say again: this tells you nothing about the quality of the cars, or the finances of the company, or anything else, so I still do not see the justification for Ben Adams to adopt such a sneering and sarcastic tone towards Mr Riley without any significant facts or information to support his case.
Charles
10/17/2008
There should actually be a vote to rename and re-brand this web resource as ‘ELOnline’ (English Language Online) for the benefit of British school students with coarse work who have little knowledge of where to find assistance online with regard to punctuation for an essay about ‘Lord Of The Flies’.
10/19/2008
So you would buy a car from a salesman who had clearly been drinking heavily and smelt mildly of onions? As someone once said RETAIL IS DETAIL, and if you don’t get the detail of your only online Advert right, then there must be somthing wrong…
Richard
10/15/2008
Nit-picker, you also seem to have a habit of putting spaces in front of question and exclamation marks which, I’m afraid, is not correct.
I’m afraid I must also agree with Mr. Adams on this issue. A lack of care on something as important as your only face to the public doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Pete
10/15/2008
Once more a car that could of been so great, jaw droping looks bags of go. In MGR days the SVR was coming in at £80k, if this car had of been 20k less, who knows what may of beens its future. Even jassa from top gear liked the car, a rare thing for any MG. You dont come much more then a bigger MG fan then me, Having iTS baby Brother the ZT 260, and before that The ZS 180 face lift. bit of a look likey from about a mile with one eye shut, but you know what i mean. But even i would not part, with £80k for it, if i had it which of corase i have not. Not sure were MR Riley stands with useing the MG name. I wish the New SAIC, would of come up with SV, for around £40/50k, to give MG a halo car.that would still be way out of my reach but would like to see more SV on the road. But have heard the SAIC are planing a super coupe, looking more like the X80 that the SV came from, anyone know more on this. Cheers Pete
rhyds
middle wales
10/12/2008
I doubt in this day and age the name “Riley” would be a valuable asset as the car is clearly not related to that firm even remotely. I wish the lad all the best but we’ve all seen these firms come and go over the years.
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Mr X
10/12/2008
Rumour persists Mr Riley, is co-hoots with eclipse, for there “Hacksaw blade” know how, I wonder when the 3rd stockpiles shell roadster will appear in orange – Jensen’s turn next?
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Mr X
10/12/2008
Rumour persists Mr Riley, is co-hoots with eclipse, for there Hacksaw blade” know how, I wonder when the 3rd stockpiles shell roadster will appear in orange – Jensen’s turn next?
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8 October

Gits!

KEITH ADAMS

Citroen AX GT
Don’t buy if you want a stress-free commute…

TODAY I had my most stressful commute in ages. You see, since I found myself tooling around in a Shelby Mustang a couple of weeks back, and learning all about self-restraint, I’d like to think that I’ve become the UK’s Slowest Driver (TM). So, this morning, I decided to take my E-registered Citroen AX GT to work, and drive it an manner that’s befitting of the traffic regulations, and not the hooligan way this car generally encourages its drivers to take.

Pottering along out highways and byways at just below the legal limit soon found my stress levels rising rapidly. Why? Because everyone, and I mean – everybody – who ended up behind me, decided to drive centimetres from my rear bumper. Those around me, generally mistook my car for a mobile target, aiming for me at every lane change, and if I did pass anyone, they’d inevitably get the hump and re-pass me…

Yet, if I’m in my Subaru Outback (08-plate and most presentable), I’m treated with courtesy and respect. The same in the Saab. Even my Cavalier is given space and time. So why not the AX? Is it a) invisible or b) so useless looking that people just want to see it off the road? Either way, for peace of mind, I should drive it quicker and run rings round the opposition come the corners.

But will those nice, friendly traffic officers see it that way, I wonder?

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James Anness
Southend
10/12/2008
I know the feeling all too well. People driving modern Euroblobs, Binis, bully-boy pick-ups and poverty-spec BMWs seem to really resent me for choosing to drive a £200 Volvo 740 estate instead of selling my soul to the finance companies like they have. Slow and steady wins the race…
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Tim Burgess
Bristol
10/11/2008

I’ve noticed this more and more recently. Drivers of certain cars (usually German) driving so close to me that I can’t even see their headlights. I call it P.T.S. or Pushy Tw*t Syndrome. In my experience BMW drivers are worst, closely followed by Audis. I got this just as much in my Honda Accord Coupe as I do in my 75 or my daily hack Proton Impian. If your car is deemed unworhty by these morons, watch out. Just put it down to arrogant stupidity and let them get on with putting points on their licence. The car probably isn’t theirs anyway.

 

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Richard Kilpatrick
10/10/2008
Speaking of Mustangs – didn’t you have a post about that up here very recently that seems to have vanished?
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RobB
10/09/2008
Moral of story? Always have 1 washer jet aimed straight over your roof, and a hair-trigger adjustment on the brakelight switch.
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Charles
10/09/2008

I know the feeling. I’m certain that when my early 827 is even slightly dirty, folk are not so courteous about waving one by at busy road ends. I’ve had the great privilege last week of driving a friends 57-reg XF and boy does one feel like royalty. No joke men and woman drivers alike pleasantly give way almost with a sense of satisfaction written on their faces. As for tailgating if (big) only the majority properly judged the road ahead like few mature drivers. Up north we think ‘Note queerer than folk’. (No offence intended if the word is no longer politically correct)

 

Charles
10/09/2008
That is ‘Nowt’ rather then ‘Note’
alicecat
10/09/2008
I have always had this problem, mostly in recent years because I habitually drive at a speed which saves fuel, is safe and keeps down my stress levels (if only the impatient t**t behind would just consider the potential benefits to his no claims bonus of backing off!) However, 20 years ago, when I was a fully paid-up hooligan motorist, I used to get it despite fulfilling the hooligan speed requirements. The reason? I was driving my A35 which, although actually quite quick and nimble, others seemed to percieve as a “slow car” so felt oblighed to overtake me in the most dangerous of circumstances.
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Will
Belfast
10/09/2008
My old ZX had a similar issue, especially with blue and white propellers in the rear view. It looked like a slightly longer 5 door AX, though in all fairness it’s NA XUD diesel engine lost pace with outside lane speeds going uphill.
The Xantia fares slightly better, my hypothesis being that from the rear, if you squint slightly, the upcurve above the lights on the bootlid looks slightly like that of the E36 316i repmobile.
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David Hayward
10/09/2008
Same with my daughter’s KIA Picanto which is a great way to to drive at 50 mpg or have a thrash with. It’s red as well. It jist seems that the mentality is that it’s a ‘bod’ in front who is driving a ‘slow car’. If you are driving a Scooby-doo then that’s a ‘fast car’ and the driver will surely get their foot down and let me get to where I want to go without hinderance.
David
10/09/2008
I have the same problem in my Fiat Stilo. Now, I know it is a “slow car” and has all the style of a shoe box but it can move when it wants to. People HATE being over taken by it.
Will
10/09/2008
Funnily enough when I was in Rome recently it was the Fiat Stilo/Multipla taxis I happened to be passenger in that were riding the bumper of the cars in front 🙂 UK driving is tame in comparison.
Rusty
10/09/2008
Try overtaking people in a VW Polo Saloon. People simply cannot accept that they are driving more slowly than an “Elephant balanced on unicycle wheels”, as Clarkson put it. The last time I saw someone so desperate to re-pass somebody, he was given a 25-second penalty by the FIA.
Doive
10/09/2008

Unfortunately seems to be par for the course for drivers of old and/or small cars. Driving my little brown Chevette hatch the other day down the A1 at ~65 in the inside lane, drivers of bigger and more modern machinery were all over the rear bumper, sawing at their steering wheels and gnashing their teeth. It was a 40 mile game of one-upsmanship.

My advice Keith – get the foot down in your pocket rocket, or get off the A roads, avoid the hassle and enjoy some back-road blasts on the way to work!

Marty B
10/09/2008

I was doing a mild 75 ish in the outside lane of the M1 North in my 97 Fester Ghia (white & rust, complete with blowing exhaust)overtaking 2 HGV’s who were playing ‘see who’s limiter is faster’ when some prize T**T in a Vauxhall Rectum got about 2 inches from by back bumper, so I slowed to 65 just to annoy him..Flippin self important prat…

BTW if in Leeds ever, watch out for a small black Volvo (V50?) estate on a 57 plate…its an unmarked plodster...Saw it pull over a taxi who did some very silly lane changes and cut said Volvo up….

Chris
10/11/2008
I had a colleague where I used to work that would regularly brag about ‘pushing’ drivers in front. I left before I could tell him my opinion of his idiotic driving. I’m just hoping when he has his bad crash (he’s had several near-misses), it’s with a tree or a wall, not someone else.
Chris
10/11/2008
(just occurred to me – almost writing off a brand new Pug 106 and spinning in the middle of a contraflow are not particularly ‘near’…)

6 October

Why am I now looking?

KEITH ADAMS

IT’S good to drive a selection of cars – so far in 2008, I’ve had over 50 pass through my hands, and each one has been memorable for one reason or another (some brilliant, and some appalling). With the change in job has come a change in emphasis, with the more exotic coming my way – and I do hope that I continue to report on them in a dispassionate and even-handed way, whatever the engine under the bonnet and badge on the bootlid.

Anyway, despite that, there’s always something a bit special about climbing into your own car once in a while – and although my own principal cars are under the knife (the SD1 in Poland, and the Saab in Taunton) it doesn’t stop me thinking about what else to add to the fleet. Right now, thanks to Kevin Davis (see his blog on the 1st October, below), I’m constantly fantasizing about Rover 75s, and being wafted from place to place without a care in the world. In his blog, he says that these cars have now dipped into the £500 arena at auction, and that puts them well and truly into my price league once again.

Right now, I’m constantly fantasizing about Rover 75s, and being wafted from place to place without a care in the world.

A quick scout on Autotrader revealed the horrible truth – forecourts are full of them for around a grand or just under. Put in a bit of discount, and push for some warranty (yeah I know, but you never know) and I could be looking at owning another Rover 75, and none too painfully. The example pictured below, resides on a forecourt about 25 miles from my home, and as far as I know it’s been there for about three months. It’s a CDT version in Club spec, with 119,000 miles on the odo, and assuming everthing works, it looks quite tempting for the £1095 it’s currently advertised for. Call it £900 after arguments, and that’s a lot of car for the money.

A well sorted example still feels contemporary to drive in many ways, and – let’s face it – is still a very nice place to sit in. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m talking myself into doing something silly. We’ll see what happens, and I am sure that I’ll see sense before the night’s out, but right now, a Rover 75 looks like a fun place to stick £1000…

Rover 75
…to this?

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Alastair Fitton
Rochdale, Lancashire
10/08/2008
The £1,000 75 – It only seems like yesterday that the 75 first took to the streets. It still exudes elegance, and a quick glance around a number of examples close to hand reveals that they have stood up to the test of time very well. Our ’01 CDT Connoisseur is immaculate in and out – a delight to drive. Build quality is exemplary, and its Arden Green paint job and chrome makes it stand out in the crowd. Buy one and enjoy!
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Andrew Elphick
10/06/2008
The trick is finding one thats been serviced properly and not sitting on “Woo-sung” tyres, you could throw a lot of money at a CDTi, go on be man enough to go full 25 V6 madness…. Don’t blame me if you do!
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Andrew Elphick
10/06/2008
The trick is finding one thats been serviced properly and not sitting on “Woo-sung” tyres, you could through a lot of money at a CDTi, go on be man enough to go full 25 V6 madness…. Don’t blame me if you do!
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James Anness
Southend-on-Sea
10/06/2008

£1095? What a steal! I currently have my eye on a 1994 Volvo 940 Wentworth estate in the same condition, with similar mileage and up for a similar price. I wonder which car would be the most satisfying to own?

If I could get a 75 Tourer for that sort of money, I’d snap it up straight away.

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James Anness
Southend-on-Sea
10/06/2008

£1095? What a steal! I currently have my eye on a 1994 Volvo 940 Wentworth estate in the same condition, with similar mileage and up a similar price. I wonder which car would be the most satisfying to own?

If I could get a 75 Tourer for that sort of money, I’d snap it up straight away.

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Richard Hill
10/06/2008
Yep the 75 is getting cheap alright…
Be careful with the BMW diesel engine though, unless its been well maintained and run on regularly changed fully synthetic oil, had the crankcase breather filter changed regularly, then the turbo could be on its way out, which can be very expensive to fix by the time you have to clean the oil out of the intercooler and cats and exhaust.
Also a KV6, sounds lovely, but what if the cambelts snap or need doing, writes it off instantly.
Think a K series 75 would be less complex, safer bet, even though there the old Head gasket could get you of course.
406V6
10/07/2008
My father got rid of his T-reg 75 (owned from new) earlier this year after it began suffering from “heritage”. With an old 75 you could be buying your way into something that will suck money from your wallet. Good luck.
(Oh yes, he replaced the 75 with an X-type).
JON
10/08/2008
Doesn’t that sticker say £1695?
Andrew Elphick
10/08/2008
On Autotrader the price their after and the screen price can be a big jump – go look!

5 October

AROnline on video

KEITH ADAMS
Challenging preconceptions

SPENT an enjoyable rainy afternoon browsing around YouTube, looking at old car adverts. The reason was simple – ever since uploading the Roewe 550 Videos page, I’ve been meaning to add more from the extensive back catalogue available on the web. As you’ll see from the site homepage, I’ve already added the Rover 75/MG ZT (including that memorable viral ‘blow job’ ad for the ZT190), but there’s a number of others dotted around the site for you to find…

When there’s a representative number uploaded, I’ll do a full roll-out, but in the meantime, if you fancy going looking, you’ll find each car has (will have) it’s own entry in its index page. Do check the Maestro and Acclaim for starters, though, as they’re priceless!

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3 October

Internationally recognised

KEITH ADAMS


We even had a visitor from Iraq…

DON’T worry, Big Brother isn’t watching you, but I have installed Google Analytics onto this site, in order to give me an idea about where everyone’s coming from, and how many of you there are. I must admit that I like the current site stats system on AROnline, which tells us directly how many people are connecting to the site and how they’re using it, but with Google, it’s good to get things represented a little more graphically.

One of the dashboard toys I like is the Map Overview, which shows clearly where everyone’s coming from (right down to a breakdown of cities, towns and villages) – and as you can see in the last week’s usage map (above), they’re coming from everywhere. Predictably, it’s the UK where most of the visitors hail from, and the US that comes in a distant second. But after that, I rather like the fact that Germany’s next up, and that the city where most are coming from is Munich. Does that mean there’s still considerable interest from the headquarters of BMW years after the occupation? If you’re reading us from BMW, do get in touch; I’d love to hear from you – I still want to see your R30 prototype, assuming it’s not been thrown out with the rubbish now.

I also hear that AROnline is banned in China – and, personally, I’d love to find out why. There are visitors from the People’s Republic and even one or two from Nanjing but, apparently, the majority of people there who want to see us can’t. I don’t think we’ve equated buying an MG7 to freeing the Tibetans, so what gives?

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2 October

Are Sunday afternoons over?

ANDREW ELPHICK


Ah, the good old days…

Polishing the car, tinkering about, fitting some new speakers, dropping the oil. Is it over? Maybe.

Possibly due to the economic downturn, but possibly just natural selection, this week national chain Motor-World entered administration. Immediately, 95 branches out of 237 closed (leaving 300 out of work); a shame as those staff were usually fairly competent if you needed advice. Motor-World stores seemed to have swallowed up the old market place of Halfords’ high street branches and your (now not economically viable) local motor spares shop.

So, where are we left when we’re out of Autosol, or need some new wiper blades and an air filter?

Though China’s recent purge for steel has seen the decks cleared of cars in our price bracket, and environmental regulations are tightening up, the real problem is the percentage of folks who fiddle with cars is dwindling. As a rule, ten year old cars are not worn out, just passé.

Shift patterns mean Sunday is no longer a day off, and why wax the family wheels when you could sit watching Sky or playing on the Playstation? So, where are we left when we’re out of Autosol, or need some new wiper blades and an air filter? In the trade outlets; except they close at midday Saturday… the big question is will the enthusiastic motorist’s nemesis, Halfords, head the same way?

Is this the golden age of motoring – it might just be still.

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Feedback:
Rob B
Sunny Berko
10/06/2008
Aren’t most Motorworld shops franchises? The couple near me certainly appear to be no more than MW branded independents. Anyway, the indy seems to thrive round my way for some reason: Apsley Car Spares, Dunstable Auto Spares and Midnight Motors in Watford are all proper old-skool car spares places (all owned by the same chap) that are open 8-5 on a Sunday, stock brake pads for my 21 year old Audi (more than GSF do…) and will knock you up a solid brake line in seconds. They really know their stuff; remarkable. There’s also the indy in Berko that’s open Mon-Sat, but he’s “Last port in a storm”, unfortunately. £3 for a jubilee clip, I ask you… Will makke “show plates” with no ID too…
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Rob B
10/06/2008
Oh and isn’t Motorworld where The Spask ™ works? Not all bad then…
Will
Belfast
10/02/2008
Seems to me, round my way at least, most have bought small japanese and VAG hatchbacks on credit. Routine servicing at the dealer to keep the stamps in the logbook, if anything goes wrong then it’s under warranty. Many bonnets are never lifted. In fact it is so much of a novelty for someone to work on their car than when I am servicing my 9 year old Xantia I get the local kids congregating round “here mister, yer cars broke hahaha”. So I often take it down to my friends farm with a huge yard to perform regular maintenance.
As for polishing, every petrol station seems to be turning into a hand car wash, who for £4 will wash and wax your car. People wont spend the time, effort or money doing it themselves. (In fact only other neighbour I know of to go near the oily bits has a fantastic looking gold Rover 75 2.0).
I remember going into Halfrauds once asking for 5 litres of LHM and a drum of hydraflush, the guy just looked blankly. Ask, however, for a Pioneer stereo or alloys for a Corsa and they’re the experts.
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Marty B
10/02/2008

This is the second time Motor World have gone pop. The first time was when them & Charlie Browns were taken over by the parent company of Edmunds Walker commercial parts, and not long after the takeover, they hit the skids….Most Motor World branches closed, but Charlie Browns/Motor World seemed to survive (Management buyout I think)….

I worked for Motor World for a year in 1994 and I found them to be over priced even with my staff discount.

Motor World lost their way I think, trying to sell too many different product lines, and trying to compete with the range Halfords sells, but in tiny high street locations

The best car accessory shop in my native Yorkshire, has always been Auto Spares Kippax, who I have found to be cheaper than anywhere else in the area…We need to support these places wherever we can

Steve Jones.
10/04/2008
Is that kid in the black & white photo cleaning the van the ”young” Frank Spencer. lol.
10/04/2008
i worked for motorworld when they were expanding rapidly as part of the finelist group- is chris swann the boss still in jail?- i remember not being able to get packs of metric nuts and bolts to sell as the buyers found they could get imperial thread for cheaper, i think the head buyer was ex boots lippy department at the time!!!
David Hayward
10/05/2008
Austin 152 Omnibus, or is it a Kenex or Dormobile conversion? The rego is spring 1960. Cor, I remember wearing short trousers and grey socks like that when that photo was taken!
Ken Strachan
10/06/2008
Even if I check my oil on the drive, my neighbour asks if I’ve broken the car. Maybe he’s disappointed I’m not out in al weathers welding up Minis like he is…

1 October

It’s such a shame

KEVIN DAVIS


From that shiny beginning in 1998…

I STILL have the camcorder footage I took at the 1998 Motor Show at the NEC, recording the bright and shiny new Rover 75 2.5 V6 Connoisseur in Wedgewood blue rotating gracefully on the platform. The pictures here are from that footage. At that time hardly any motoring journalists had driven it, but its static qualities were enough for people to queue for a sit in it, with enthusiastic staff giving guided tours of the new car. It was the bold new face of Rover for the 21st Century.

Fast forward to 2008 and my, how things have changed. I was at my local car auction last week and there was a plethora of unloved and unwanted cars in the lot, but what particularly caught my eye was a Rover 75 in Wedgewood Blue in identical Connoisseur specification to the one at the ’98 Motor Show. Being a T-registered 1998 model with only 89k showing it was a fine example, with unmarked interior and bright and dent free paintwork. It was very nice.

Just before the 75 went through the hall a 1993 Fiesta 1.1LX came in, it also was very tidy with lots of MoT and enthusiastic bidding saw it sold for £525, which just goes to show that tidy, well cared for superminis are in demand. Then it was the 75’s turn.

I was at my local car auction last week and there was a plethora of unloved and unwanted cars in the lot, but what particularly caught my eye was a Rover 75 in Wedgewood Blue

A reasonable description from the auctioneer didn’t really spark anybody’s enthusiasm and a paltry half hearted bid of £200 started the bidding. Soon, people started to wake up as to how cheap this might be but by the time it got to £400 bidding started to waiver, and it eventually sold for £475. Almost brought a tear to my eye.

I know it’s effectively a 10-year-old banger, but all the hopes and dreams of Rover were hinged on the success of the Rover 75. Sadly, no one was really interested when they were £25,000 new, and no one is really interested now they are only £500. The fact is, it’s still a superbly engineered product and was well made, but people have long memories when it comes to the world of cars (just mention any BL product to someone), and it would seem that the 75 has already been consigned to a bygone era.

The 1998 dream of spotlighted, rotating platformed motor show stands and glass-plated showrooms has turned in 2008 to draughty auction hall reality. It’s enough to make you weep.


Still looks good today…

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John
London
10/14/2008

I was backpacking through Asia at the time of the 75’s launch and I remeber rushing into a news agent in Hong Kong to find pictures of it alongside the S-Type Jag, launched at the same time.

I was amazed just how elegant the Rover looked compared to the clumsy retro detailing on the Jag. That interior just looked so inviting too.

And now a decade later Jaguar are finally building aa XF, the car that should have been the S-type and Rover is sadly no more.

Enough to bring tears to a glass eye…..

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Nathan
Leamingtoncester
10/01/2008
Only minutes later after those photographs were taken, Burnt Pritctsick said “…and we might close Longbridge“.
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john
Ireland
10/01/2008
Beautiful car at very cheap money!!! Only negative i see is that in Ireland anyway the head gaskets are very difficult to find and i’d imagine that it is probably gone in a 75 that old. From talking to a mechanic he has had 3 in for hgf and 2 are still in his yard 7 weeks later. No spares available according to him. sounds hard to believe!
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Ken Strachan
10/06/2008
Can’t he get ’em mail order from Rimmer’s? Just make sure the GPO don’t bend the parcel!!!
john
10/06/2008
he has been onto them a number of times and they said the were currently out of stock…...
Rob B
10/01/2008
If they’re going through at less than 500 I might keep my ear to the ground…
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Jon
10/01/2008

Sorry to be pedantic but a T registered car would have been registered betwee March and September 1999.

JON

Kev.
10/01/2008
It was 1999 T-registered. That makes it even more of a bargain if it’s year newer than I said!
Nathan
10/01/2008
Pre-volume S and T-reg cars were deemed saleble by the project team as I recall
rhyds
10/02/2008
It’s not just 75s that are seeing their values plummet. Anything 2.0+, especially autos are being hit by the fuel price hikes and post 01 cars are also being hit by BRUIN’s FUN TAX on larger cars. Sub 1.5 superminis are the thing to be selling now as the fiesta’s price shows. Even jaguars are hitting rock bottom now, so if you can stomach sub 25mpg now is the time to buy a barge 😀
DIDIER ZIANE
10/03/2008
it’s so true.. my neighbour just got a v-plate jag s-type with all the options and fsh , 3ltr V6 auto for £1200..
Ben Adams
10/03/2008
from Village Lane garag was it?
DIDIER ZIANE
10/06/2008
car auction off M8 in glasgow
Geoff
10/17/2008

[reply]

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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