The best used car in the real world?
Friday, 30th November. It’s a very special date for me – two years ago I took the plunge and invested all of £150 in a Rover 416 SLi saloon. A foolish move? Well, so far, so good – it’s been one of the best cars I’ve ever bought*
It all started so predictably – I simply circled cars in the classifieds section of my local freesheet – and, as anyone who has a predilection for buying bangers knows, this is where things can start to get interesting, depending on how cars are classified – by price or by make.
My local paper does the latter so everything under £500 is lumped together – a veritable ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ (with apologies to CAR Magazine) of the flotsam and jetsam floating around at the bottom end of the market. Once in a while though, you’ll unearth a gem which is why a 1994 Rover 416 SLi with ‘scrapped’ doors took my fancy at £200. That ‘scrapped’ should have read ‘scraped’ but, sensing there was a good car to be had at a very reasonable price, I rang – and rang, and rang, and rang.
A week later, I called for one last time. The lady who answered couldn’t have been more apologetic, explaining that BT had just fixed their phone line. I thought that by now I’d have missed it anyway and rather lamely enquired about the Rover, wondering if it was still for sale.
‘Oh yes, you’re the first caller who’s got through. Would you like to see it this lunchtime?’
Half an hour later and I arrived at a very posh address in Formby, West Lancashire. I clocked a three year old MG ZR and early Jaguar S-TYPE on the drive with her discarded 39,000 mile Rover 416 SLi in Nightfire Red parked at the corner with said scraped door – and a dented wheel arch.
Turns out she’d hit the gatepost twice while reversing off the drive so her husband had decided to buy her a smaller car and she wanted the Rover sold pronto.
The car started on the button but was damp inside (both drain channels needed clearing of accumulated crud) and needed a good wash and brush up. She had left it for a month or so since last using it but it boasted a decent test and tax – and that all important FSH along with the original bill of sale.
I explained that I worked for a local hospice fundraiser and needed a roomy, reliable car. That swung it – £50 came off the price just like that and we agreed £150 for what’s proved to be a great buy.
Over the past two years it’s needed a new battery, an exhaust back box, some attention to the track rod ends and a tyre or two but, all things considered, it’s been a little belter. Having the Honda engine’s helped of course – and the fact that there are still so many 200 and 400s on UK roads got me thinking…
This isn’t the most scientific of surveys but, when I’m travelling around West Lancashire and Liverpool, I still see my fair share of older Audi 80s, Cavaliers, Mondeos, Passats and Primeras. I’ll see a Montego or Maestro once a month perhaps and a Rover 213/216 even less frequently.
Why is that … were some ’80s and ’90s cars better made or did their owners look after them more lovingly? What of the models which have simply disappeared off the radar – when was the last time you saw a Fiat Regata, Lancia Dedra, Yugo of any description or early Lada?
*Since 1974, that’s car number 27 for me, not counting the ones I have bought for the wife. The Rover is still doing sterling service with an L reg Daihatsu Mira bought as a Christmas present for my wife (and to satisfy my curiosity) for Christmas 2007.