Regular readers might recall that over the years, AROnline and austin-rover.co.uk has taken part in a considerable number of banger rallies over the years. Our cars have been rather interesting over the years, ranging from a Mk1 Austin Allegro 1500 Super (above) that refused to die on its way down to Naples, to a boring grey Rover 800 that gave us some of the most amazing adventures once in the south of Italy.
One of the best ones was in a disgusting (but mechanically well-sorted) Skoda Felicia (below) which Andrew Elphick bedecked in a wonderful paint job that was a pastiche of the ambulance in Cannonball Run. All great adventures, where brilliant friendships were formed or strengthened. But since my trip to Romania (read the link if you fancy a laugh) to meet the Street Safari event I should have (but never) competed in, the Rat Rod Rally, ended in (personal) disaster in 2011, I’ve not been back on one of these events. And now, two years on, I’m really feeling the itch now.
But I don’t know whether the passage of time has been particularly cruel to the world of bangerdom, or whether we’re all just getting older, but it’s beginning to feel like the age of the banger rally might well be behind us. I might be wrong, of course, but when chatting with all my mates who were once regulars on the Street Safari events, there’s not really much going on out there. Like me, they’re leading busy lives – or perhaps there’s little left to see that’s not been seen before, or maybe the spectre of fuel costs are finally beginning to hit home. Who knows – but whenever I float the idea of going on another banger rally, I’m generally met with a shrug of the shoulders, or a non-committal, ‘nahhh…’
It does feel like the world of bangers has changed, too. Given it’s a decade since my first one, that’s understandable. But back in 2003, the rules were simple – anything went on the car, as long as it cost £100 or less. Nowadays, the era of the £100 car is over – unless you have friends in the trade, or some generous benefactor, you’re simply not going to bag yourself a £100 car by trawling eBay, Autotrader, Gumtree or wherever. With the economy still ravaged from the effects of the 2008 credit crisis, people are fighting for every penny they can. And ropey old cars are worth £180 per tonne at the moment – so why would people sell their old tat for less, just to see them go out in a blaze of glory?
Ah well. Perhaps 2003’s £100 should be lifted to 2013’s £350? Perhaps indeed – that would certainly improve your chances of finding a reasonable car with a wedge of MoT (and perhaps even tax). But there’s something else afoot here, which I don’t really want to confront: 2013’s bangernomics barge is way less likely to be of any interest than 2003’s equivalent.
When looking through images taken on the 2004 event – on which we took a Rover 216GTI – the car selection was interesting. The image above is a bit of a snapshot, where you can see Volvo 300s, Saab 9000s and even a Cavalier Mk2. All are interesting in their own way, and I’d be happy to travel down to Naples in any of them. The British iron was very well represented, with a smattering of Rover R8s, Metros and 800s to keep us enthusiasts happy back then.
But now, the landscape is a whole lot more barren. After much searching around, I have found that anything ‘retro’ is now out of the banger rally sphere of influence (perhaps no bad thing) leaving 10-15 year old bread and butter – which, as we all know, is generally as interesting as unseasoned yoghurt. Doing a postcode-based search for cheap banger fodder, I’d now be staring down the barrel of Corsas, Meganes and Mk3 Golfs, something I really don’t want to consider.
Rovers are now getting thin on the ground – knackered 75s, interstellar 45s or 25s in need of a clutch or coil pack just don’t hold the same appeal of the R8s and 800s we used to take. There are some interesting options out there of course, but a banger rally for Peugeot 406 coupes and Alfa Romeo 156s might be a bit limited in appeal.
So is the banger rally now a thing of the past? Or is there still plenty of potential out there to have fun on the other side of the Channel with a cheap and (not so) nasty banger? I’d say it’s still possible – with work. After all, it comes back to friends and adventures. Drive in convoy with your friends in the most beautiful scenery in Europe, and it really doesn’t matter what you’re driving. Really.
That’s my take on it. But what do you guys think? Do these events have a future?
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.