Blog : Bangernomics – what is a boy to do?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Mercedes-Benz A-Class (3)

Regular readers will know that we do love to preach at the altar of the great god of Bangernomics here at AROnline. For years, I’ve enjoyed an interesting life running around in cars that invariably cost around £500 and come with all manner of heritage issues to keep me (and you) interested. Thing is, I think times are a-changing. And that makes me a little bit sad.

Don’t get me wrong, for those who enjoy Bangernomics motoring, we truly are in a golden era. For under a grand (I reckon the Bangernomics price point now is around £800), you really can pick up some amazing cars. A quick look at eBay, Autotrader or Gumtree will show you that, armed with a thin wad of fresh twenties, you can get into a truly special car now. For those who aren’t racking up miles and don’t mind a thirsty car, a Jaguar X300 or Lexus LS400 looks irresistible in terms of metal and smoothness for your money – and well in budget.

It’s the same story further down market, with once well-regarded repmobiles from 10 years ago, now all in the price point. You too could look like one of Blair’s millennial men from behind the wheel of a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra. Both would have plenty of life left in them and come with the added advantage of a choice of petrol or diesel – and, of course, as all good preachers of Bangernomics will tell you, it’s the former – a car fed from the green pump – that’s the most desirable, even if it might not seem it at the pumps.

But you’ll have noticed that in all of this, I’ve been a little shy of mentioning Rover in this little lot. I was thinking about this today, funnily enough, after an email from my good friend Alexander Boucke, who’d been reflecting on things after visiting England last week. ‘I saw about the same number of Rovers on the complete journey to Bristol and back as I would be able to see on two afternoons here in Aachen – very sad, it seems they are all gone now! It’s good that MINI and JLR seem to do very well in the UK, even if they do leave out a large gap in the market (where I would be looking for cars).’

And he’s right. It seems that our cars are disappearing from our roads far too quickly. Which is an absolute shame. Of course, I’m not helping the situation – for the past few months, I’ve been running this Mercedes-Benz A170 CDI long-wheelbase as my Bangernomics motor of choice and, although it’s not exactly exciting to drive (with steering and brakes set in gorilla snot), it hums along agreeably enough, uses not too much fuel and – important this – seems to get left alone by the aggressive types out there on Britain’s mean streets. I’ve even seen fit to put in a decent Alpine stereo and stock it up with a tool kit, high-vis jackets and spare bulbs. Trust me, these are home comforts that make it a keeper.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class (1)
Mercedes-Benz A-Class with new Alpine head unit – with iPhone connectivity, it’s made my car much more useful than it used to be. Not only does it get me places, but it charges my ‘phone… Oh, and it sounds good too.

Am I in love with it, though? Of course not. It’s a tool. Okay, so I love the A-Class concept – a small car with an absolutely huge interior – and it’s one of those clever packaging concepts that really deserves to have enjoyed a better fate (and I’m sure the blessed Uncle Alec would have approved of that). But it’s nowhere near as rewarding to waft along in the manner that you would, say, a Rover 75. I certainly don’t look at it over my shoulder as I walk away after driving it somewhere. That said, it is a pretty stress-free car to drive. As I say, it does seem to get treated well by other users and the high driving position leaves you feeling relaxed, too. More so, as it does make those who do choose to tailgate me in 30mph zones, seem to appear less important, as they’re lower in the mirrors. So it’s not all bad.

But here’s the thing – Rover 75s that you’d actually want to own just don’t exist at this price point. You either end up with a car needing a headgasket, or one that’s been bodged to within an inch of its life (and I’ve been there, and done that). Or you could get lucky and find a good one – but, as Alexander said, they’re disappearing fast.

So, as a Bangernomics driver and a British car fan, I’m finding myself left with fewer and fewer options. Ten years ago, I’d have owned a Rover R8 and enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I did. Now, I’d struggle finding a rust-free one and, if I did, I’d probably be terrified off the roads by all those people who saw fit to try and run me off the road.

So what are the equivalent options today? A 400 or 45? Do me a favour. A 200 or 25? Too cramped now I have a dog. 600 (like the one I had before, right)? Now, there’s an interesting one – because it’s reliable, looks good and goes well, especially in Ti form. Sadly, the turbos have all gone now and the rest are just too dull to enjoy. And yes, I know my Benz is dull to drive, but it does do 50mpg, and the neighbours don’t assume I’m running a discount minicab operation.

So although I’ll bitch and bleat about the rubbish dynamics of my A-Class, it’s not a bad old hector. What’s really sad though, is that there are so few British alternatives out there nowadays. Damn you Rover for going the way of the dodo. Perhaps I just need to wait a little longer and snap up an MG6.

Here’s to Bangernomics!

It's a work place - I feel no need to keep it tidy!
It’s a work place – I feel no need to keep it tidy!`
Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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33 Comments

  1. Sub-2 grand there doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice these days.

    Alright if you want a thrashed Bora or a Corsa, the occasional X type – diesels with flashing glowplug lights or thirsty petrols.

    I might be picking up a reasonably interesting car this weekend, and if so the Honda will be up for sale, MOT due soon and a random cut-out issue that may or may not be the main relay. I’d be looking under bangernomics budget, project car, think of it as the Sterling 600 coupe that never was 😉

  2. It is hard to find a good banger these days. I was browsing some of the French offering, the Lagunas of the right age and price all look like they’ve been in a demolition derby, and where once you could pick up a decent BX or Xantia cheaply enough, the Peugeots and Citroens seem few and far between.

    P.S. Keith loses 100 street-cred points for listening to the Best of Sting.

  3. @2

    Funnily enough I was looking at French barges, I’ve had a 406 before but there were a few, there are a few mk2 Lagunas in the price bracket – they still look good but I’d a niggling feeling that they’d not guarantee to get me home every night.
    A single Xantia and some ropey boggle eyed C5s (the well resolved facelift is still post 2k money, as are 407s and, surprisingly, some late 406s).
    Nice wildcard was the 406 coupe in a stunning shade of blue, 2.0, leather etc for 800 of your hard earned.

    BTW I wonder if Keith’s CD is ‘The Best of Sting and The Police’ with track 13 Desert Rose being an extended S type advert.

  4. Go for one of the most unfashionable bangers that can be had cheaply and is probably reliable if serviced correctly like a Hyundai Sonata. OK it is a bit vulgar looking and not very exciting to drive, but has stacks of kit, the V6 is smooth and is huge inside.

  5. Decent Rovers are actually pretty common around here. In fact, Hampshire seems to be crawling with tidy 75s!
    If I take a trip up the road I can almost guarantee you I will see at least two.

  6. I did pick up a BMW E36 316 compact off my brother last year for £150, ok it needed tidying and the electric windows needed fixing but,it was mot’d and taxed for 4 months it’s comfortable and reliable and the engine is as smooth as silk.
    I still have my 1991 214 gsi also the rover 600 that is Keith’s post is still in the family, but I have noticed that when I drive the 214 other drivers hog my bumper and will overtake at the first opportunity but not so with 4 years older BMW

  7. To echo comment 5. 75s seem pretty common in the East Mids too, although not in the local rag, which does always seem to have a 25 or 45 for sale.

    By the way, the actual title of the CD in the photo is ‘The Least Worst of Sting’ 🙂

  8. It too am surprised at the remarks about Rovers being a rare sight on the roads. In the NE of England there are still plenty around although I can’t recall the last time I saw a 600 or 800. Many are Rover 75s and they always look shiny.

  9. The problem with bangernomics is insurance. Sure you can pick up a cheap car, keep it running with scrap parts, but you can’t get cheap motoring in ripoff Britain. Even with the tiniest engine, with the cleanest driving record, insurance is an absolute joke. Unless you’re 50 plus years old.

    Then there are the nasty electronic gremlins. I wouldn’t dream of buying a French car made in the last decade, however cheap, because of the ripoff prices of items like ecus.

  10. Remaining Rovers seem to be cherished, or trashed. There’s no middle ground which I always find odd.

  11. @ Keith

    Ha! At least it’s not a Daewoo Matiz, there’s a car that qualifies for banger status and can easily be picked up for under £500.

    @Sam

    You’re right, round my way (London/Kent) there are plenty of battered 75s being run into the ground by people who buy them cheap and then give them no TLC. Not a surprise as you get a lot of luxurious car for your money. At the other end there are those in very good nick that are obviously well loved and cared for, and still look fresh. Admittedly they are in shorter supply. The ZT saloon that I see look well maintained, but not many ZT-Ts (apart from mine!) pop up at all.

  12. @10
    I’ve never spent more than 2k on buying a car, my insurance for a 2.0 Honda is just over 200 quid, and when I inquired about changing to something somewhat sportier the price didn’t change.

    Albeit when I was 17-18 and was looking at Rover 100s with my weekend job money, the insurance companies laughed quoting a few thousand.

  13. Another 5 years and Rovers will begin to hit the classic classifieds. I would argue the Rover 100 is now passed through banger status into Classic…stock up on some early 75’s for a good investment in 20 years time!

  14. Rover 100, a classic? I have a R100 cabrio and an MG Metro. The cabrio may well become a classic due to it’s rarity but there are simply too many run of the mill R100s still around. The other R100 that may become \ is a classic is the 1.4 16V. These are very popular with the MetroPower crew which tend to modify and or bend them.

  15. Helensburgh is positively crawling with 75s and ZTs. I was parked up having my lunch the other day and, apart from my ZT-T the (small) car park boasted a Moonstone 75 saloon and 2 75 Tourers. There are even 2 doing service as local taxis. I also regularly see at least half a dozen more round the area.

    Maybe the canny residents of Argyll & Bute just know a good thing when they see it.

    Don’t know if my ZT-T 120 counts as a bangernomics motor; I bought it nearly 2 years ago for £1100 and its been my work vehicle ever since, we’ve now covered nearly 18000 miles and it’s never let me down.

  16. 75s seem fairly well represented here in Somerset too, in fact a chap I work with has two, a tourer he drives to work and a saloon for weekends, mind you he has a driving to work coat that he changes for his driving the coach coat too..
    Another bloke who recently left also has one and there’s only about 10 employees in the firm.
    I must say I’ve mixed feelings about them and doubt I’ll ever own one unless I need an estate and can’t find a decent old Granada..I drove a 1.8 Connoisseur once and was horrified by it’s dullness and lack of poke. Later had a go in a V6 and that was surprisingly sluggish too, needed some serious rowing of the lever to get it to do anything..
    I am and always have been a fully paid up bangernomist though, and Keith’s right it’s amazing what you can buy these days with under a month’s wedge in your pocket. A friend has a Lexus ISE 200 on a 52 and it’s a lovely car, all the bells still work and goes like stink. Personally I’ve always liked big cheap cars, many Jags and Mercs and MKII Granadas have come and gone, and a Lexus LS400 but lately I’ve become a bit of a SAAB fan, there’s something about a SAAB that draws you in once you’ve had one, but you can’t quite decide what it is, any SAAB owner will tell you that, and there’s some very cheap and very nice SAABs out there..I’ve currently got a 1988 Turbo convertible, the real SAAB convertible..

  17. Short little bangernomics story to delight you.
    It’s 1972. I see a dull and slightly rusty but very neglected Ford Anglia Estate in a back alley. I find the owner (an elderly fellow) who says I can have it for £10. I offer him 7 and he accepts. A friend gives me £3.50 (in new money) so that we can both do it up and sell it. He does nothing – I do all the work and he backs out.
    With the car cleaned up polished and valeted I see an add from a guy wanting an estate car to take his family on holiday – will swap for an Ashley Sportiva (fibreglass 2 seat sports kit car on own chassis with Ford engine).
    Swapped cars.
    Kept Ashley for 2 months and saw Bedford CA van with windows for sale – fancied it. Guy asked if I’d swap the Ashley.
    Swapped cars.
    Kept the van for 6 months and saw an add from a builder desperately needing a van. Went along to sell but fellow had 2.5 year old Vauxhall Viscount in the drive.
    We swapped.
    So! In the height of the 70’s fuel crisis I had an 18 to the gallon luxury saloon (one of the nicest cars of the hundred or so I have had).
    Leather, wood, wilton, silence at speed – I was only 21 and I couldn’t give a toss about the fuel consumption. (And I was driving the equivalent of a two year old Insignia for £3.50 – couple of hundred quid today?)
    Wish I still had it.

  18. I’ve just come out of a year in a X308 XJ8, due to (not entirely) unexpected engine death. I’m going to wait it out for a couple of years until the post 2000 (non-nikasil) engined Jags are cheap enough. In the mean time of gone all Japanese (MR2), and I was sorely tempted by an RX8 but was scared off by the threat of engine death. Once they’re down to £800 I’ll definitely take the risk though.

    Epic swapping Wolseley Man, I’m assuming 2.5 years old was before the famed Vauxhall 70s rust kicked in.

    Funny to hear Keith talk about being intimidated in a car, my daily driver is a bicycle and any car feels very safe after that. The bike also allows me to completely ignore fuel consumption (the car gets £20 a week), the faster it drinks it the faster I’m back on two wheels….

  19. I drive a 2000 Volvo S40 as an every day car and a 1988 SAAB 900S every other day. I’d love to swap the Volvo for a good 75 but SAAB is a keeper – still feels like new and pulls like a train!

  20. I noticed the Best of Sting. Mercifully it should be verey short.

    Am I alone in thinking the new A-class, no matter how cool it may look is not nearly so clever as the two previous verions, even if the steering is lodged in gorilla snot?

  21. Yeah, we’ve done the Best of Sting bit… it’s just one folder in the 12GB of music on my iPhone. I don’t think it’ll take much to find a lot worse than that!

    Agree on the new A-Class. A good – conventional – car, that loses all of the W168/W169 innovation. In many ways it’s a case of Mercedes-Benz bottling it.

    This is a good piece by Richard Kilpatrick on that very subject

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/facts-and-figures/essays/unsung-heroes-mercedes-benz-a-class-w168/

    • I reckon the Audi A2 beats the W168 hands down in all areas; and some are beginning to get into bangernomic territory. My 1.4 TDI has been an absolute star of a car!

      And the A2 is a world first; the world’s first mass produced aluminium bodied car!

      And the styling- despite being the best part of 20 years old – is still cool and eye catching! 🙂

  22. Isn’t the best of Sting a silent CD? 60 minutes of nothing. Very chill out. Perhaps he will bring out a Volume 2. Another 60 minutes of silence.

  23. @19 Bangernomic gav
    Can honestly say there was a not so much as a buble of rust when I sold it a year or so later. I’ve remembered since I wrote the original story – the guy I sold it to wrapped it round a lamp post on the way home – wrote it off.
    The 70’s was a rotten time for the demon rust – everyone from Ford to Rolls Royce suffered very much the same fate with few exceptions. Certainly when I was selling Vauxhalls in the early 70’s our Viva’s were no worse than anything else. The 101 (FC) Victor was definitely less affected than the Mk 3 Cortina as was it’s replacement the coke bottle sexy FD model.
    I nearly got tempted to an early 70’s Rolls sometime in the late 80’s but when I viewed it there was not a single panel that was not seriously affected by the dreaded worm. The reality is that all cars (with few exceptions) suffered from body tin worm – it was unfortunate that Lancia – the makers of the most beautiful, pretty and competition successful cars had the misfortune to suffer it in the main structure – the engine mounting area. Hence a great company lost almost everything and is now a shadow of its former self. Anyone who has driven a 30’s Lamda will realise just how advanced they were! Now all but gone because of that 70’s tin worm!

  24. @19 Was it the nikasil problem that killed the Jag? I thought those that had lasted through the high sulpher petrol years were ok. many pre 2000 cars got new engines, sometimes without owners even knowing, or have been upgraded since, maybe yours was all original.Or was it timing chain tensioner or water pump failure?

  25. RE Nikasil.
    It effects only post 1998 cars equipped with V8s.
    Many of them were done under warranty with the engines being taken apart and put back by apprentices. Without wishing to sound disparaging, the work carried out was often not satisfactory.
    Many XJ8s never ran quite the same again as a result, some being prone to unexpected air blocks (that can be very serious in itself if you don’t catch it in time) and other nasty issues.
    Many Jag enthusiasts look down their noses at the AJ-V8, and that’s probably a big part of why.

    Sam

  26. Best Of Sting? pah… i`ll tell you what disapointment is….

    A few years back I bought the double CD “The Best Of Bowie”

    How sad was I to discover “The Laughing Gnome” had been omitted 🙁

  27. David Bowie had quite a few flops before Space Oddity.

    He also did some session work, rerecording current songs for cheap compilation albums. Elton John did similar work before hitting the big time.

  28. @26, Most Jag enthusiasts look down on the V8 because jaguars are meant to have cylider banks of 6 cyls minimum, according to Bill Lyons who for whatever reason hated V8s whihc is a shame as the Daimler V8 was rather a nice engine, and teh 450 would have gone well in the XJ, and the 250 would have been far better than the 2.8 XK

  29. @Sam Frank
    To be honest I don’t know exactly what killed my Jag but it had no compression (20psi) and Nikasil problems could have led to timing chain problems through overloading the timing chain tensioners.

  30. The Daimler V8 was a lovely engine but it was not really a viable proposition for quantity production, and more significantly its lasting qualities are nothing like as good as those of the XK engine . The real problem is the very narrow main bearings which are rather prone to failure at quite low mileages of 50,000 or so. In addition, by the time the XJ was about to be introduced, emission controls were rearing their ugly heads , and meeting the standards with the Daimler would have been very problematic as it is a notoriously ” dirty” engine particularly in relation to HC emissions

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