Blog : Oh, how I miss those car capers

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So here I am, pounding 230 miles up the M1, limited by bloody traffic and awful 50mph speed-limited roadworks, just to look at a car that’s up for sale for – yes, really – £170. Given that my Citroen C6, the car I’m driving up in, is hardly the most economical form of transport, the economics of this trip are really quite questionable. And yet, given the car – a 1999 Honda Accord Coupe – and the fact it’s not for me, but for friend Richard Kilpatrick, I can’t really lose. After all, he’s going to cover my diesel, right?

I have to say, I love a car caper. The thrill of arranging to buy something very cheap, unseen, and with the promise of questionable reliability can’t be beaten for a crap car fan, like me. Actually, I am being cruel on Richard, as I know his car’s going to be far from crap – it’s a car that Rover could have made – had the Honda alliance continued – and, as a replacement for the 800 Coupe, these Accords do make a case for themselves, even in four-pot form. The car is in Whitley Bay, a place I’ve been to before on a crap car caper to collect an 800 V6, which you can read about in these pages. That car didn’t work out, but the run was great – hanging out with mates, having fun, it’s what driving should be all about.

The seller, an Autoshite regular, has fixed the Honda’s main Achilles’ Heel – it’s main relay – so, as far as I’m concerned, it’ll be good to go. Richard clearly thinks so, too, not bothering to put any tools in the back of my C6 as we head north. I do hope he won’t regret it.

As it’s a Saturday, the drive north is far from fun. The M1 is up in pieces, and everyone seems to be heading the same way. According to Honest John, who commented in response to one of my frustrated tweets, there’s 66 miles of roadworks between the M25 and Scotch Corner, and it seems that EVERY SINGLE ONE is over capacity on our drive up. In my car, which feels as large as the USS Nimitz in the narrow lanes, this is not a pleasant situation.

However, as the miles pass, and we head into God’s wonderful part of the country, Richard and I start to relax, while contemplating the Honda. It was discovered a few weeks back by Autoshite’s Wilson Wilson, and rather than let it be scrapped, he bought it himself (even though he didn’t need it), just so he could sell it on to a fellow enthusiast. Richard came along, loved the automatic Honda, made a bid, and armed with an honest description of the car, decided to grab it. Being the gent I am, I’d offered to take him up and follow him back, should there be any issues.

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Transport for the drive to Whitley Bay – Keith’s Citroen C6 – was pretty comfortable

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And the reason for the trip – Richard’s £170 Honda Accord

When we arrived in Whitley Bay, and set eyes on the Honda, I could see that we’d not been sold a pup. You know when you first clap eyes on a car whether it’s going to be a good ‘un or not – and, in this case, it looks fine to me. The Honda sits straight and true, it isn’t rusty (good news, as it’s lived by the sea for some time) and, when Richard jumps in to start it, the damned thing fires first time and settles down to a mechanically smooth well-engineered Honda idle.

There are some minor scrapes and scratches and the wheels are in need of a refurb but, as we spend time looking in and around this car, I’m seriously jealous of Richard – I think he’s done well here. There’s an engine light on and the exhaust rasps away a little noisily, but this really does seem like a conspicuous bargain to me – in fact, it’s a clear indicator that the UK’s used car market is absolutely nuts right now and we’re still living in a golden era for bargains if you like your cars big and (relatively) thirsty.

Deal done, after fish and chips, we head south, and the Honda looks good in motion, too. It doesn’t take long for the first cracks to appear. Within a couple of miles in Richard’s wake, I can smell brakes, and he is pulling into an abandoned petrol station. Arrgh! The rear caliper has stuck and the brakes are on full-time. Ah, well… With no tools at all, I suggest to Richard he drives the car backwards and forwards and thumps the pedal. He does so, and repeats a few times, and all seems good. We’re on our way again.

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But not for long… As we pass Washington, he’s on the hard shoulder, grumbling again about his brakes. Once again, he thumps them a few times, and is on his way again. At a discrete distance, I can see there’s a little black smoke coming from the off-side rear but, as the miles pass, this ceases and the Honda looks happier as it lopes along at a sensible pace. A stop for fuel, and Richard slips in £30 for the 180-or-so miles to get him home, and rejoins the M1. Clearly, the rear pads have worn away, as he says it’s not so bad between 60-70mph.

The miles wear on, Saturday afternoon traffic becomes an evening crawl as the sun sets, and the Honda’s twin tail lights remain in my sights. Pondering this for a moment, I wonder at just how cheap driving in the UK has become for those able to get hold of reasonable insurance – the total for this trip would encompass my fuel for the C6 (£50), Richard’s fuel (£30) and the price of the car (£170). Given that a return rail ticket from Leicester to Newcastle would be £200, plus buses/taxis either side (£25), and the craziness of this deal becomes even more apparent.

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At the final stop before the push home, and over a coffee, Richard’s enthusing over his latest purchase. ‘The stereo is awesome,’ he smiles. ‘And everything else works, including the cruise control and heated seats.’ Even if he scrapped the car when he got home, he’d be ahead, and he’d have enjoyed a lovely day out to the seaside. Not bad really…

The rest of the journey is just a simple game of avoiding mad drivers in the contraflows and keeping one’s cool in the jams. Yes, the M1 south of Sheffield is more than capable of grinding to a halt at 10pm on a Saturday night, thanks to peoples’ inability to merge in turn. In fact, now Richard’s Accord has survived this, I’m confident that once he changes a few consumables, it will go on for years to come. It could be argued you might not want to given the low value of the car – but, then, why would you not fix it for the sake of something simple?

And more than anything else, it reconfirms that we truly are in a golden age for Bangernomics motoring. I’ve been away from this for a while, thanks to owning my amazing, but rapidly depreciating, Citroen C6 – and doing this run has made me realise I’m missing the thrill of a good crap car caper. I’m already scouring the forums and websites for something similar to indulge in.

As for Richard’s journey back, he summed it up the next day by saying, ‘Aside from crap traffic jams because people are stupid (merge ahead of the lane closure you idiots, then we’d all get through at 30-40mph instead of having to stop to let you in), it made it down to Leicester on that £30, at motorway speeds, in comfort and with the radio providing remarkably good sound for some Bangin’ Choons. No overheating, spluttering or other maladies.’

‘Total cost including fish and chips and C6 fuel, too, is less than a train ticket from York to London. This country is insane.’

Couldn’t agree more…

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Keith Adams


  1. I’ve just done something very similar; Peterborough to Manchester to pick up a Rover 75. It’s a 2.5 Connoisseur SE auto with all the kit and a Personal Line interior – the sunroof doesn’t work, and it needs front dampers, but for £250 I’m suitably impressed.

    800 miles in, nothing else has broken. It’s cost me 36 pence per mile including the fresh MoT I stuck it through – and I reckon I’d sell it for what I paid at the very least. Motoring down the sharp end has never been better..

  2. The low scrap metal price is certainly helping at the moment – that’s now a £50 car, would have 3/4 times that not so long ago.

    As an aside I think that’s a bargain Richard.

    • It reminds me of times in the 2000s when I did things like buying £50 C-plate cars that would just keep on going. Still, they were never this nice!

  3. Brilliantly stated article about car adventures we have all been on.

    Alway looked these cars and if you drive something thirsty surely the fuel is offset by the low purchase price and zero depreciation. Plus, if the worst happens and it all goes pear-shaped, you just throw it away and start again

  4. I still think the Accord Coupe is a great looking car. My own was a bit of a disaster but in San Marino Red and on a decent set of rims it just looked so damn good.

    Sadly Dwayne from Honda USA had left some of his socket set in the dash, which slid and crashed from side to side on every corner, the interior fell to bits and the auto box imploded at 4 years old and 36000 miles. All this in spite of being a one owner car with full Honda history. After 6 months I could stand no more and went back to a Rover 75. The 75 went on to give 6 years service with no major drama by the way.

    That aside at that price and just by virtue of the fact that it’s survived and everything works I think it makes a good case for itself as a bangernomics motor. Scrubbed up and with a cheap private plate on it, I’d bet the average Joe in the street would still think it was a flash, expensive car.

  5. Hope you enjoyed yourself Keith, in my part of the world. The North East of England is a special place. This post is nothing to do with cars, just the best place to drive one!

  6. I miss my Accord coupe, brilliant car and the only car I regret selling.

    Keep an eye on:
    – Brake calipers, these tend to stick
    – Drop links
    – The Main Relay. The symptoms of these are cutting out, not being able to start, but when left for a few minutes, starts and drives as if nothing happened. Fix is to solder the joints on the relay PCB, easy job.

    • All things that Honda also shared with a certain set of Rovers: I think that any owner of a Honda engined R8, a non-turbo’d Rover 600 or Rover 827 would have been dealing with these three typical problems (I know I have, incl. resoldering 5 or 6 main relays so far).

      • It was a Siemens item, if I recall.

        The worst thing about it was that I didn’t know what was causing it, it had been to a local mechanic who was diagnosing fuel starvation, no spark etc. and I’d spent hundreds chasing it down, it was needing a rear brake caliper, discs and pads and drop links for MOT, which had run out.

        I gave up and bought a Celica (which I thought would be another peach of a Japanese coupe, but it really wasn’t of the same quality).

        Then, someone on the Accord forums came through and said to try the main relay – soldered, fired up and test drove (on private land obviously) perfectly. Unfortunately I had to sell it as I’d already replaced it, and had no more money to prep it.

        If I had known that at the start, I’d probably still be driving it.

    • Brake Calipers: Oh yes, they do. All of them, maybe, definitely OSR and NSF. Will need the whole lot stripping, new discs & pads all round. I’ll do as much as I can to make sure they don’t stick anymore though.

      Drop links: Seem okay. So far.

      Relay: Had failed, has been done – no issues on those scores.

      Aside from brakes, main concerns are “rusty autobox cooler pipes”, “no belt history so should do it” (PS pump belt is a bit tired), and, er, that’s about it.

  7. The Honda Accord Coupe, and indeed the Citroen C6, remind me of an era when a luxurious car didn’t have to look like an ugly slab of metal called a crossover.

  8. Had a dig through the garage.

    Only Accord Coupe parts I still have are purple TouchUp paint (no use to you) and original mudguards. (I tried to fit wider “universal” units but one fell off…)

    Let me know if you want the guards, all I aak is postage.

    • When I had my Accord Coupe back in 2006. I asked the dealer to get me a set of genuine mudguards. Fronts were still available but rears were NLS.

      • Found the dealers to be very helpful, even had cut price servicing for older Hondas. Would definitely be a marque I would buy used again (up until this year, when the Accord saloon was axed).

        • That’s similar to the support I had from Toyota – £70 ex vat dropped to 40 for labour, for example, and great parts availability. Not sure how the parts prices are though, I’ve seen a few complaints that Honda bits are expensive.

    • Yes please, that would be awesome – it doesn’t have any. I seem to be missing something at the back – there’s a screw hole, and screw thread on the bumper, that I suspect may be where the mudflaps should have been fastened.

      I’m still desperately trying to find NOS ones for my SLK – an MGF breaker on eBay wants £70 for shabby used ones without fixings :/

  9. Cars like this will also be cheaper to run than a few years ago as petrol is now down to £ 1.07 a litre, compared with £ 1.40 in 2013. I think with used prices on the floor for cars like the Accord Coupe, which hasn’t attracted the future classic market yet( hopefully it will by the end of the decade), it’s quite a bargain. Also Hondas of this era were noted for being bulletproof and if serviced every 12 months will go on for years.

  10. Even with dragging brakes it managed Durham to Leicestershire on less than £30 of Super Unleaded (habit). With the brakes sorted I think it should approach 40mpg – also the O2 sensor wiring isn’t connected, when I have time to look underneath I’ll figure out why.

  11. @ Richard, 35-40 mpg is quite acceptable and with petrol prices dropping by the week, running an Accord coupe makes more sense than a couple of years ago. Mind you diesel cars of this era, lacking all the electronics and DPFs that cost a fortune to fix, also make sense as something like a Citroen Xantia TDI, the last great Citroen IMHO, with 55 mpg and good reliability is something to consider.

  12. Indeed petrol is now £ 1.05 a litre at some service stations now. I can this falling to a pound by Christmas and makes running two litre petrol cars less of a pain. I wonder with the Volkswagen scandal and the complexity of modern diesels that petrol sales will rebound.

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