Blog : The rules of scrap club

Steven Ward

Rover 200 was part of a long string of old cars..
Rover 200 was part of a long string of old cars..

Following a life time of buying really daft and/or crap cars (new and old), I’ve established a few rules which I now live by when it comes to running my own personal transport. As you’d expect from a sad old anorak like me, these rules are tough and require serious will power and determination. I’ve often said that Heroin would have been a more rewarding and cost effective lifestyle choice. Sadly BL was my drug and I was too scared to score – a lost Roxy Music line if ever there was one.

You might well call what follows as The Rules of Scrap Club.

Rule 1;
Only ever own one crap car at a time. This is surprisingly tough to stick to unless you are really, really skint. How many times have you spotted that automotive lust-at-first sight and thought ‘I desperately need that’? It happens to me at least twice a week. In these instances, all I can tell myself is that something similar will be along soon and I make a renewed effort to move-on what I already have. Which of course, I rarely do – although rule 2 does help one’s cause considerably. I’m an automotive tat whore if truth be told and having Motor Trade insurance and acres of parking space makes me especially vulnerable here.

If I can resist, then so too can you, brother!

Rule 2;
Make a firm pact with your current Pride and Joy that you operate a very strict ‘three Strikes and You’re Out policy.’ Take a zero tolerance approach. Tell your car loudly and firmly of this fact with no signs of weakness as your automotive bitch will have you for all you’re worth. For those of you in ignorance here, a ‘strike’ is a failure of the car. The failure is something which is non-service related and costs you time and/or money and causes you grief. It is as simple as that. Again, this can be a tough rule to see through. For me, three strikes usually occurs after a prolonged and serious investment of capital has just place in the vehicle. I remember an elderly MGF that I owned which had just been subjected to well over a thousand quid in new parts and what seemed like a hundreds of man hours. Cruelly, the third failure occurred after what was probably its most satisfying drive. That broke my heart but lead to rule 3.

Rule 3;
Never ever spend more on new, non-essential parts for your car than it is worth, although as a concession you can spend equal its value. Note, this excludes service and low-level MoT repairs on really cheap cars. This is a rule I’ve yet to conquer and it just goes to show even I’m not perfect. I simply cannot resist spending any available cash ‘improving’ an old knacker. New dampers are my favourite game, followed by poly bushes and full resprays. I don’t count Mobil 1 or Avon tyres as anything but absolute essentials of responsible car ownership. It was rumoured Mike Satur’s early retirement was cancelled when my addiction to mid-engined Metros (see Fs and TFs) was overcome due to Airedale ownership.

To Conclude;
If you do manage to display Churchillian resolve towards your current favourite crap car, there is one other rule to consider, but one which I merely suggest you follow. This one is tricky to advise on, let alone enforce. Basically, unless you have absolute faith in your knacker to get you from one end of the country to the other without hassle and at a moment’s notice, your car is essentially no good.

I’ll give you an example, but do bear in mind I live in the far end of the grim North. A telephone conversation might go something like this; Southern Chum; ‘Sward, I’ve heard Bristol Cars is changing their showroom stock around’ Me; ‘I’m on my way’. So unless you have this level of foolish faith you in chariot of chod, bin it. After all in doing so, you’ll adhere to Rule 1. You’ll move on to the next adventure in unfashionable personal mobility in no time at all.

Good Luck.


Keith Adams


  1. “Basically, unless you have absolute faith in your knacker to get you from one end of the country to the other without hassle and at a moment’s notice, your car is essentially no good.”

    That is the best rule of the lot – when you have that level of confidence in a motor you know you’ve got a good ‘un, no matter how shoddy it appears to the outside world!

  2. Love it.

    When I was younger, I used to refer to my £50 bangers as “Faith Cars”. I had total faith in them – the knackered Mk II Escort, the Dyane 6s…

  3. Put it this way, I bought a £600 runabout last December, which came with 5 months rent & 7 months MOT, all it has needed so far is a back box & 2 tyres. Exhaust was £30, tyres £35 each..Passed its MOT with only a couple of advisories. Not let me down in 11 months/12,000 miles. Just done an oil & filter change on it, less than £20 all in….

  4. The thing is, I think that ALL cras are crap. Some may look good, some may drive well, some may be practical, some may be economical to run but I’ve yet to even know of one tat will tick all of the boxes. My dream car, a 1989 Aston Martin V8 Vantage is, let’s face it, crap. It’ll rust unless it’s festidiously kept out of the rain. It will bleed you dry in fuel costs. Servicing and maintanance will burn another huge hole in your wallet. Oh, you want to carry a few bikes about? Forget. Cool it definately is, a good car, probably not. At the other end of the scale, a Nissan thing, well I’ll stop there. You’ll lose the will to live.

    The last 2 BMs I’ve had (E60 & E39) huge dissapointment. Steering in both very poor, handling on E39 was soggy, interior on E60 makes a Fiesta seem like a Rolls-Royce. What next though?

  5. I run crap cars but have a different set of rules I use. Sadly, I deliver pizza for a living (in Florida) and so it is essential that the cars I use every day are dead reliable, fuel efficient and capable of seeing 30,000 miles of city driving per year. In this business you are required to provide your own delivery vehicle and if you can not then you do not have a job. As such, my drivers are not very interesting as I reserve interesting for my hobby cars. With that in mind, here are my rules:

    1. NEVER have less than two well serviced vehicles at any one time.

    2. Only use 1990’s Japanese 4 cylinder cars with manual transmissions as they are the most reliable and cheap to run.

    3. Do not own a car that you can’t buy a set of paper service manuals for.

    4. Do not own a car that requires a large amount of proprietary tools to repair.

    5. Do not own a car with a CVT or DSG due to high repair costs.

    6. Only own a brand new car or a VERY cheap old one bought from a private party.

    7. Never let fluids leak and keep the car’s mechanical parts spotlessly clean. Oil leaks ruin wiring and hoses so they must not be allowed.

    8. Fuel economy is a priority. (My current 3 cylinder 1991 Suzuki was bought (for $250) because of it’s 45 mpg (US gallons) city fuel economy. It pushed my 360,000 mile Nissan truck into the backup position as it saves me $200 per month)

  6. What is the better investment if running a banger – a good toolkit to carry around in the back of the car in case of a “failure to proceed” or subscription to a good breakdown recovery service “just in case” – I suspect increasingly the latter?

  7. “full resprays” ?

    Surely the cost of a full respray would put most but the ‘better’ used car buys as being uneconomical?
    Last time I looked into it, >£2k for a Peugeot worth half that.

    @DeLorean’s Accountant – I agree, but all cars are crap because all cars are compromise.

    I was thinking this the other day, that all of the cars I’ve owned had been good at one thing and average at the rest. If I had a car that looked like my old 916-type Alfa GTV, ease of service of the Clio, had the fuel economy of the Citroen ZX diesel, the comfort and practicality of the old Xantia, with the ride/handling mix of the 406 and the reliability of the Honda, it would be a perfect car.

    Only one I would leave out would be the Orion. No more Fords. (Though was tempted by a cheap X type… 😉 )

    It depends what you want at any one time.

  8. I found recyling a racehorse reduced my fleet turnover dramatically. While said recyled racehorse does run on grass the garaging costs are rather more than the cars.. and it’s not actually that fast. However I still aquired an XM and Vitesse Coupé

  9. The other half vetoed my purchase of an XM, saying they’re ‘old mans cars’.

    “Rule 1;
    Only ever own one crap car at a time.”

    I was thinking about this. Does this exclude 2 car households? Myself and the other half both have ‘crap’ cars.

    I was tempted to buy something like an MX5 as a weekend car, or keep the Honda coupe as a weekend car and buy something like a Xsara diesel as a commuting car.
    Plus, if one needs work/goes bang, a backup is immediately available. (We like redundant backup systems in high-availability IT systems 🙂 )

  10. I gave up carrying a toolkit once I’d ‘progressed’ beyond Mk2 Cavaliers. I carry screwdrivers for removing lamp clusters, that’s about it. For anything with an ECU, electronic fuel injection, a serpentine ‘fanbelt’ and other mod-cons the emergency kit becomes a mobile phone and an AA card.

    Back in simpler times, having a toolkit and a spare second-hand ignition module did get one of said Cavaliers going at a remote campsite in Wales once.

  11. @ Ian S (12)
    I carry a full toolkit socket set and variuos spare in the Midget, but at the weekend my wife collect a brand new Mini Cooper S which does not even have a spare wheel – a puncture repair kit and a compressor. Obviously the cost accountants have worked out they are cheaper to provide than a spare wheel. (not that there are too many people about these days who even know how to change a wheel)…

  12. All of Steven’s cars shown here look mint! Do I assume his favourite oil & tyres are Mobil 1 and Avon’s? Cant decide which is my favourite car shown here, but top 4 for me are the Rover 200, R2000, the MGB and E Type

  13. “Obviously the cost accountants have worked out they are cheaper to provide than a spare wheel.”

    And because there is no room to put one.

    They also come with runflat tyres as standard. Many cars don’t include a spare. Contrary to popular opinion there is no legal requirement to carry a spare in the UK.

  14. @ Dennis (15)
    Beleive it or not, there is room in a new Mini for a spare, under the car. The owners manual shows how to access the spare(with the caveat ‘certain markets only’ or ‘if fitted’) It would go under the boot floor, accessed from under the car like many Peugeots from the 1980’s & 90’s. The boot itself is tiny and would be a struggle to fit actually inside the car.

  15. Citroens from the 90s had the spare wheel under the car.

    Was a bit of a pain when the catch had seized in place.

    A workmates Scenic from the mid 2000s had this, we couldn’t find the catch to drop the spare, accidentally ended up pulling the emergency electric handbrake release.

    Last new car I saw in the family, a Vectra VXR, only had a tin of tyre puncture foam. First thing the owner did was source a spare alloy and keeps it in the boot.

    The old GTV had a spacesaver spare. Boot space was extremely limited as is, I could see the benefit of doing away with it in that case.

  16. And spare wheels stowed under cars make too tempting targets for thieves.

    Better a space saver than nothing, although I’ve only had to use mine once in 6 years.

  17. If you won the Euromillions and could buy the poshest car in the world……would you still pursue the small ads for something ‘crap’ I think I would….

  18. I thought that they get rid of spare tyres to reduce weight (and CO2 emission)? Stupid idea, the foam doesn’t work when you have a hole in the sidewall. I haven’t had a puncture for ages and I did 40k miles a year until recently! I usually find I go a few years without one then get three in a month. Go figure! Still don’t like the idea of driving round without a spare.

  19. The Mk3 Fiesta had an underboot spare tyre. I remember it was an effort to get the tyre to sit in the holder & tighten up.

    Dunlop’s Denovo tyre the first self-sealing tyre IIRC. It was standard on some models in the 1970s.

  20. I remember people with Peugeot 205 GTIs in the Nineties keeping their spare wheel in the boot despite the fact that there was a spare wheel carrier under the boot accessible from outside because there was a spate of spare wheel thefts – all it took was for the scumbag scallies to find 4 cars with spare wheels and they had a full set!

  21. Remember on the ZX having to deflate the tyre a fair bit when putting it back under in the spare wheel carrier.

    @Jason 1.8 TC

    ‘If you won the Euromillions and could buy the poshest car in the world……would you still pursue the small ads for something ‘crap’ I think I would….’

    First of all, a full refurb of my, and the other half’s, crap cars. Money no expense, all those bloody trolley and door opening dings taken out, full engine rebuild.

    Then a fleet of crap cars, possibly a collection of examples of cars I’ve owned.
    Maybe something like a 2nd hand £3/4k early Jag XK too. Still looks the part today!

    My secret plan of buying a 406 coupe HDi, and fitting the Ferrari 430 replica bodykit. Would cause major confusion for the petrol station employee, authorising a diesel pump for a Ferrari 🙂

    Flying one of the crap cars over to the US and doing route 66 in it on UK plates.

  22. Help!

    My venerable (and admittedly crap) Cavalier has let me down!

    In the last couple of months I’ve treat her to both front wheel bearings and new lower arm bushes (total cost under £100). Yesterday the 12 month old battery died (my fault, long story) so I got the car jump started, got her home and put the battery on charge. Then this afternoon, half an hour before work I went out to put in the battery and the bloody bonnet release cable broke…

    Is that classed as “3 strikes”? If I decide to replace then the heart says find a Rover 75, the head says an Avensis/Primera.

  23. Go back to the mid nineties when I was in jobs that didn’t last very long and which didn’t pay well( taking home £120 a week, poor even in 1996). I had a Mark 2 Cavalier I’d picked up for next for nothing with 12 months MOT that while all it needed in 2 years of ownesrship was a starter motor( scrapyard naturally), loved its oil to the point it needed 5 litres every 350 miles. Simple thing on long journeys was to carry 5 litres of cheap glug from a motor factor who sold some unbranded oil for £4 a container. Did the job and I was quite sad when the Cavalier had to go as the state of the engine meant it would fail its MOT on emissions and it went for spares or repair for £150. Next up was a Rover 213 that ran like clockwork, but the tinworm had decided to eat it and it too went the same way afer 12 months.

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