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.
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!