Blog : Kerbcrawling in Northamptonshire

Keith Adams

A grand should be enough to get you this Midget. With a freshly minted MoT...
A grand should be enough to get you this Midget. With a freshly minted MoT...

An early morning start and a wander down to my local high street, saw me rooting round the local bomb-sites in search of a Bangernomics bargain in an impromptu kerbcrawling session. I must be well on the road to recovery now, because my juices soon started flowing at the sheer number of wacky – and not so wacky – sheds are out there within walking distance of AROnline Towers for well under a grand. Okay, a quick flick through the gallery won’t exactly set your hearts a-fluttering, but me for me – it’s great to see such a variety less than a ten minute stroll (well, hobble) from home.

I’d been kerbcrawling before for AROnline. Last time, about 18 months ago, took me to the Southend-on-Sea golden mile, and we unearthed some amazing cars, including an SD1 Vitesse for £700, but came to the conclusion that the day of the £500 bomb-site motor was well and truly over. And that may well be the case in sunny Essex, but further north, where money is scarcer, and dealers are less like bare-knuckle boxers, there’s plenty of sub £500 action, if you’re into getting your hands dirty and don’t particularly care what your neighbours think.

But the dealers up here can relieve you of £1000 or so and hand you the keys of something truly, er, interesting. Our first bomb-site owner obviously seems to have a thing about topless models. As well as the outwardly solid (brush-painted) MG Midget that he promises a fresh MoT for the (lucky) buyer, you could experience the joys of a Bertone bodied Vauxhall Astra cabrio (with at least half a sill gone) for a stickered £595, or an after-market chop-top Corsa for around £1000. What price dryness? MX-s seem to be the flavour of the month up here, with at least four on offer in a two-mile radius, all for under that magic ‘bag of sand’.

For the more sensible, there’s lots of mid- to late-1990s rep fodder to choose from. There was a delightful pair of cheap diesels could be yours. A Peugeot 306 which had everything going for it – except its colour – for £700, or the Ford Focus estate, which we couldn’t get a straight answer to our question of the missing MoT for £375. Would you? In contrast, I think we spotted the most expensive N-registered boggo Ford Escort in the world. £995 for a sexy three-door sporting Mexico badges. Nice.

Good MG ZR105 for £1495

Bad Renault Lagunas and Daewoo Leganzas.

Ugly The £700 Nissan 100NX. Ugh.

Tragic The 90K Citroën Xantia 1.8i SX estate, that hasn’t moved for at least two years, and is still up for £700.

But in the grot there were a couple of cars worth a punt on for the brave. We like the Toyota MR2 T-Bar, which could be yours for £1000. We’d need a close under-body look, and want to be present at the MoT test, but for an emerging classic – and one that’s so popular in the Japanese scene, this mid-engined bundle of fun looks like a bit of fun. But maybe only if your name is Kaff. And the low-mileage £700 Vauxhall Omega 2.5TD – years of minicabbing awaits you.

And the conclusions from this jaunt? Only one – you really don’t need to spend much money to enjoy interesting motoring times. Stay tuned for more kerbcrawling jaunts from around the country.


Keith Adams


  1. I think this is recycling at its best,a friend of mine has a small car front and insists on only buying rubbish like r reg astras and that sort of thing and he really makes a good living from it,his biggest customers are eastern europeans whom work at the local trading estates and gets a lot of repeat business!

  2. Your friend has the right idea, my bro-in-law has got a job packing parcels for, the location of the site is awkward to say the least and he has to get up at 4am to catch 2 buses to get there for a 6am start. A cheap runabout car is ideal for that and as you say plenty of repeat business.

  3. I like the look of the MX5 and MR2, the ZR looks really tidy too. I will pass on the NX too.

    Just bought my daughter a 51 plate Clio for £1495 with 12months test and 6 months tax. Tidy cars can be had for this sort of money. Helped my brother dig out a mint Bora 2.0 SE recently too for the right price

  4. I think those 100 NX’s are excellent (in a tragic way), I believe the “Mexico” was the first official mk6 special edition too, rear spoiler, 14″ steels and white dials and bolstered seats. TD bumper too!

  5. Red MX-5 looks like it’s had a front bumper at some point, not surprising for it’s age, but something that warrants further investigation.

    the ZR has had front indicators sprayed black and looks like it’s had a bit of body kit fitted?

  6. At the other end of the spectrum my best mates dad has replaced his pristine 03 75 1.8t for a x type jag and only wants £1400 for it- a lot of car for little money only done 34K!

  7. Words escape me though in reference to the Corsa!

    There’s a similar place near us that recently had a V plate Rover 600 in seemingly fine fettle for £500. Seen it running around recently as a mini cab, so it can’t have been a bad ‘un.

  8. Hang on a sec… is that Corsa a rag top?? WOW!

    Also, I bet that Focus is a money pit waiting to happen at that price.

  9. I can’t believe how straight they all look for a grand! I remember how utterly rotten stuff was at that price twenty years ago.

    I know I shouldn’t, but I quite like the 100NX!

  10. Some interesting budget cars here… that Focus MK1 Zetec estate looks useful especially if it did find its MOT. My brother used to have a Hatch version in same colour which he used just for his work and it was reliable to boot. Like the ZR, MX5 & Midget too.

  11. Like Keith says, theres something going on with that Focus, a lost MOT is no problem these days as its all online. £375 is way too cheap for it so something smells big time!

  12. Rough guess that Fucus is either nicked, not seen an MOT for years, is 2 welded into one, or is about to be a fireball

  13. “Why did loads of people choose that horrid green death colour on Peugeots in the late Nineties?”
    Why did loads of people choose Beige and Brown in the early 80’s?

    The focus does seem way too cheap, unless it has 500k on the clock or something. Lost MOT is no big issue, just put it through another one at sell it for a lot more…. unless of course it’s got no chance of passing one….

  14. Where is the Xantia?
    The 1.8 is actually quite a reliable engine, for town commuting would work out cheaper to run than an HDi!
    Spheres are no biggie to renew. Must be high mileage, even high mileage diesels are going for £6-700, no-one would pay that for a petrol.
    But if a low mileage, elderly owner car, worth a punt!
    I’ve seen C5s starting to come around that price, approx. £1k for petrols, £1.5k onwards for diesels. Arguably though, not as well built, and more complex electrics than the Xantia.

    The Focus – Wouldn’t touch a cheap Ford with a bargepole! Been there, got fingers burnt (well, nearly, as the fuel tank was like a sieve. And that was the least of the problems!)

    Went to look at a 2.5TD Omega once. They have the BMW engine, and are a good big comfortable RWD saloon for those of us who wouldn’t drive German badges. Cheap too, but the one I saw was rotting badly around the arches, and it was only approx. 8 year old at the time!

    Got my Honda for just over a sandbag from a dealer like this, gave it a good look after, honest with a couple of minor faults, knocked down to good price, has been a fantastic car!
    And unlike dodgy gumtree adverts, showed up no unwanted history (or, if it had, there would at least be comeback to the registered dealer).

  15. I can’t believe how cheap MX5s are now. A grand including a hard top? The hard top must be worth a couple of hundred on its own.

  16. “after-market chop-top Corsa”

    Looks like the official imported one with the roll hoops, also sold as a Holden Barina cabrio down under (where I think the conversion originated, but I’m not sure). Last one I saw, green, went for £800ish on eBay with about 50K on the clock.

    That Midget is tempting. Sort of. I suspect I can imagine what horrors lie underneath though.

    The Mk 1 MR2 for £1295 should be good. They’re still changing hands privately in three figures, with MOTs. Not being a T-bar makes it less desirable in my book, though I think MR2 fans prefer them without any holes in the roof at all.

    The red MX5/Eunos with a hardtop… bumper doesn’t bother me, but is it an auto with rusty sills? If not, that’s a bargain. The black one is definitely an import.

  17. “The red MX5/Eunos with a hardtop… bumper doesn’t bother me”
    No i agree, given its age it’s to be expected, but definitely warrants poping the bonnet and seeing what (if any) sort of repairs have been done to the front end.

  18. Richard,
    ““after-market chop-top Corsa”

    Looks like the official imported one with the roll hoops, also sold as a Holden Barina cabrio down under (where I think the conversion originated, but I’m not sure). Last one I saw, green, went for £800ish on eBay with about 50K on the clock.”

    There was a red on in PC magazine (or one of the classics) for sale, sure the advert said “only one in UK” Obviously it isn’t then!!

  19. I’d doubt they truly believed it was the only one – it was officially sold in ’98, and my flaky memory is saying “300 or 800” were made available. I’m erring on the 300.

    Oddly, despite showing every one I’ve found a picture of (about 10 so far) as a “Vauxhall Corsa Convertible”, How Many Left isn’t revealing ANY under those searches, and is only showing Astras when I search for Vauxhall Convertible.

    MX5 with a hardtop would appear to be a UK car, which means a manual, a 1.8i, ’97 registration. If it’s not wrecked, it’s a steal.

  20. The days of the £500 bomb-site motor may be gone in Southend, but there is a dealer not far from me in Southchurch village which sells all manner of well-presented £800-£1300 cars, most of which are main dealer part exchanges. At present, they have a 2001 Citroen C5 estate and a 2000 Focus Ghia saloon up for £995 apiece 🙂

  21. There’s a couple of cheapish dealers near me, one has had a V reg Peugeot 406 diesel estate on sale for weeks, & has been reduced to £795 from nearly £1000.

    There was also a 52 reg Citroen C5 estate which took a while to sell.

  22. There are a few dealers about selling munters under a grand if you look off the beaten track. The scrappage scheme made them in short supply last year, but stocks of cheap cars keep turning up, as people tighten their belts, but still need 4 wheels

  23. “sells all manner of well-presented £800-£1300 cars, most of which are main dealer part exchanges.”

    That’s often the Key, many main dealers just send their PX’s straight to auction. However some will have an arrangement with a local independent garage to come and offer cash for them.

  24. Dennis: Many independent garages are only half that story – depending on the success of those garages of course, quite a lot of main dealers will have a favoured trader who underwrites their stock and then effectively filters it to independents – anything which falls outside the typical “approved used” schemes.

    Selling used cars, particularly at this end of the market, is not the lucrative thing people seem to assume it is. It wasn’t before trading standards and consumer groups clarified and publicised the laws governing such sales, and since then, there’s an awful lot of stuff which through no fault of the dealer, could wreck their business.

    Being the underwriter is the sensible bit of the chain – though even then, depending on the arrangements with the garages, you can have a lot of stock out without payment. And some of those cars can sit for ages unsold, particularly in the 5-7 year old high-value, small margin segment.

  25. Had a look at a C5 executive auto 2.2 HDi a while back.
    2002 model. A cheapy dealer like these.
    The price he originally had it for on the local used car site included a years MOT. I made an enquiry and went to look. However, as soon as I turned up the price had increased by £600. (!)
    I asked why, and was told that it was because it needed a new Xenon light. He did offer to take original asking price + £100, but as I was planning on offering original asking price – £150/£200, and on the test drive it was showing all sorts of errors on the MFD (tyre sensors etc.), walked away.

    Kept an eye on it on the usedcarsni site, it was sold 6 months later.

    Went to look at a 307 for the other half, seemed cheap, low mileage HDi and looked in good nick from the side that was photographed. Turned up, looked like it was deliberately vandalised down the other side.
    Walked away. Would’ve suited someone as a workhorse though, was sold soon after.

  26. Will: And now imagine you’re the dealer that’s sold the C5, the light has worked and the MFD has behaving (tyre sensors are a pest), and it’s gone for £150 less than asking and probably – for the time taken to bring it in, advertise it, take it for the MOT etc. – made £200-300 tops. Sometimes less. And there’s rent & rates on the pitch, of course.

    And then the Xenon bulb blows and the MFD throws a fit. There’s a warranty with these sales, whether the dealer likes it or not – and yes, the Xenon light blowing could easily fall into that category of required repair.

  27. Funny that i was at this very garage yesterday after work. Had a nice omega 2.5 td, facelift model lots of toys £695. its the only place i know thats local to me that sells cars in this price range. That midget has been there for ages, year or more at least. I love looking around at car lots like this,i just need to get some more pennies together.

  28. What are the rules on selling sub £1k bangers / cars over twn years old etc? Do the dealers have to provide a warranty?

    I must admit, a lot of the time I buy cars as a trade sale, I got a cracking Fabia that way. The clutch was slipping so I budgeted that it needed a new clutch somewhere down the line and it had 6 months MOT on it, I got it for £750 less than the forecourt asking price and spent £300 on a clutch and MOT 6 months down the line. I’m always unsure whether small independent dealers will do the work they promise – my Dad’s experience of the timing belt going (that had supposedly been done as part of the deal) in his newly purchased two year old Sierra TD requiring a £1200 top end rebuild has stuck in my mind.

    On the other hand, I bought a nine year old Nissan Primera SE with leather and all the toys from a small dealer for a grand including a fresh MOT. It was a PX that had a load of tax on, so they’d been running it. He said it had a month’s warranty, which I presumed wouldn’t mean a thing. Two weeks in, the driver’s electric window started juddering and had to be helped up – sticky runners, a common problem on Japanese stuff. I was prepared to do it myself, but I thought I’d give the guy a ring. I told him I’d got a problem with the car, he chuckled and said “What you done to it, lad? You’ve only just got it!” I told him about the window and he said bring it in, we’ll get it sorted. Which he did!

  29. Any sub-£1500 car I’ve bought off a dealer, they’ve always given me a receipt saying ‘Sold as seen’.

    However, I would imagine that if I later found it to be a Cat C/D writeoff, unroadworthy, cut and shut etc. I would have certain rights that (as I found to my peril…) I don’t have when buying privately.

    @Richard Kilpatrick – re: The C5.
    I found it odd that during the day it was on for £1400, I call to ask if it was still there (to potentially save a 50 mile round trip in the other halfs car), by the time I get there it has £1995 on the window. All over a headlight that can be obtained for £150 on ebay (and that’s without motor trade connections).
    Was a nice car, next time round (if I manage to run the Honda into the ground) I might keep an eye out for facelift C5s.
    On the flipside, managed to get the Honda £600 down from what they were asking. Big petrol engine, made a fuss over some scuffs, a blown headlight (A £2 bulb 🙂 ) and a tear in the leather.

  30. I saw an Allegro been sold at one of these dealers in the mid 90s, which probably wouldn’t happen now..

  31. What of the 700 quid Xantia?

    Is it still there?

    You should make a cheeky offer, the 1.8 petrol engine is surpringly reliable and quick enough for 110bhp.

  32. Locally you can still pick up an early to mid noughties Focus for £ 500. So long as the car looks Ok, has a long MOT and tax and some kind of service history, it should provide cheap motoring for a year. Also lower down the pecking order and with fewer toys to go wrong, 02-08 Fiestas are still plentiful and cheap locally.

    • My Mum recently passed on her 05 reg Fiesta to my Brother’s Girlfriend’s Daughter & it’s still running fine apart from the air conditioning.

    • I agree Fiestas prior and up to 2008 reg are usually decent in the bodywork dept. too

      I have a friend who owns a 03 reg Fusion 2. It’s used mainly for local driving only and seems reliable still & bodywork reasonable considering its age.

      • There’s an 04 plate Fiesta over the road from me that, apart from some scuffs and scratches, is otherwise in good condition and seems to start first time every day, something that older Fords weren’t always known for. Also should anything go wrong, parts are very plentiful and cheap.

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