This sunburst red car was bought by my mum and dad (thanks a lot again!) for both my 18th birthday and passing my 'A' levels. They paid a LOAD for this car, which I then proceeded to trash into a National Trust entrance gate halfway up Mill Hill in Blackpill, Swansea soon after arriving at university. My excuse was that there were 5 of us in this little car along with heavy university books (ok so now you know I may be exaggerating!) going up this steep hill. This old lady came pootling down the hill in the centre of the road, and right on the blind corner was this entrance to this park - well rather than hit her I went straight on, trying to get into through the narrow entrance to the park. I failed, and the car ended up being patched up by a really kind bloke from the Reliant garage along the seafront. The garage closed soon afterwards, and was replaced with a Gulf Petrol station, which is still there now (As far as I know!).
The car was sold by my parents for me as I went to America to be with my (then) fiancee, Robin Masters, and I used the £1000 I got back for it to pay for the engagement rings - yes I had one as well. AAah! Well, it all went pearshaped in the States (although I did get to drive a Chevvy Cavalier and two Fieros whilst out there), and upon my return I needed another car...
This car was bought quickly - I needed a car after coming back to the UK as I had to travel to Birmingham every day to work for computer games company US Gold. I started by travelling on the train, but as I often worked late a car was the only real option. Our neighbour, Kevin, was a car dealer and he found me this real gem of a fiesta. Its official colour was gold, but it was more like silver. I even bought a CD player for this car, I really loved it. Unfortunately, the CD player got stolen whilst at a Neds Atomic Dustbin gig in Wolverhampton. Back at uni, I had a year or so of almost trouble-free motoring. Tyres, oil and gaskets were the main costs. All of which were relatively cheap, and certainly ok for a student with money from what ended up being almost a year out in industry! Unfortunately, I was involved in a car accident along the seafront road in Swansea, directly outside the prison and the car was written off by a rear shunt which pushed the car into the Sierra in front. This was February 1994. However, I still drove the car around during my finals in May and June 1994, which was a godsend. The car even made it to mum and dads, and they 'housed it' - well kept it in the layby across the road, until I was offered £500 by someone who wanted to do it up and sell it. Apparently, he lost out on making money once he did it up as it needed so much work doing to it to make it roadworthy again. Actually, thinking about it, I think I owned this car longer than any other...
As soon as I had the accident in the Fiesta, I knew that once the money came through I would be able to get another car. As I was able to still drive the Fiesta, I didn't mind that the insurance company were taking ages to sort our payment (strange that!). This wasn't helped by the husband of the woman to whom I was shunted into being a pain in the arse and changing their story twice! Anyway, as soon as I finished my degree, I drove the fiesta home, where it 'died' - I drove it no more. I picked up this Astra - the jellymould type - within a couple of days of returning with an insurance cheque.
As it turned out, the car was an insurance write off and used to be white, rather than the flame red colour that I bought it as! It had been restored by a guy that rally drove Astras and serviced them to earn his keep between races. Obviously the engine had been tweaked, and although it only had four front gears, I made it from Newcastle to Southampton in 4 1/2 hours - no mean feat I can tell you. I did blow the head gasket however after that run! I had recently moved to Newcastle to work for British Gas and my girlfriend at the time couldn't have lived much further away and still live in the same country. Fortunately, I was soon moved to Loughborough and used the car to ferry myself and neighbour opposite to work. Another accident ensued on the way to work which involved a lorry belatedly deciding to take the turn to Loughborough from the roundabout atop the M1 at Junction 23. Unfortunately, there is only a single lane entry to the road and I was already in it. He hit the rear quarter of the drivers side and scraped along it. His company admitted liability, and the car was patched up. I kept it for a further 6 months, and then as I had just received a few grand from the silver fiesta accident in Swansea a couple of years earlier, decided to take the plunge....
I took the 323F to the local dealer, Brian Gubby in Camberley, to see what I could get for it if I traded it in - I wanted an MX-5! They gave me a cr*p amount, and said that they'd also not entertain the thought of reducing any money from the face value of a new MX-5. To be honest, the salesman was a haughty git who either thought I wasn't interested, or just didn't care as in the middle of talking to him about the MX-5, he walked off to see another customer. This really put me off buying a Mazda. Fortunately, the dealership happens to also be a main supplier of Hyundai and Suzuki as well. I saw the Hyundai Coupe, and was hooked. A practical sports car. Cool. It had a large boot, room for 4 and still did 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds. But hang on, alloys, leather seats, air conditioning, sunroof, cruise control AND a cool rotating sunglasses holder in the roof? This was too good to be true. It was, it cost £17500 on the road. I could, at best, get £9000 for the 323F. Hmmm. I managed to get the car for £2000 off the list price and I had £2000 saved, which left £4500. I could get another loan!! So I did, and the newly available Cobalt Blue car was ordered. I even bought a personalised number plate (the reg number shown was the original one allocated by the DVLA - and what it has been registered as once more now that I've taken the plate with me).
The main moans with the car are to do with build quality. Its not bad at all, but not as good as Mazda. Don't even MENTION fog lights to me (or rattling dash facia!) Then again, you get a LOT for your money. I was quite happy pootling along in the Coupe, I really was. No accidents, never let me down. The furthest it ever got was Blackpool in the 12,565 miles for which I was the driver. I even really enjoyed driving the hell out of it once I knew that we were parting company. But, I was getting restless. I wanted an MX-5. So once I realised that those darned Koreans had announced the updated version of the Coupe (The Tiberon Turbulence, with its Toyota Celica-esque eyes and side air intake), I thought that it had to go. I had been warned about depreciation. I lost big style on it with trade-in, but I knew it was coming, so I grinned and accepted it. Especially as I got a good deal on its replacement and had just hit 4 years on the no-claims bonus!
Back to Brian Gubby with the Hyundai, and I was thinking about getting a new car from Europe. An MX-5 was the best bet, but was also interested in a Honda S2000 and Audi TT Roadster. But they weren't out in the UK, and importing from abroad was just as tricky, with delivery in the year 2000. I needed something fast before the whole world knew of the facelift for the Coupe. I went into the showroom to ask how much I'd get if I traded in the Coupe in respect of a new MX-5, and I knew Europe would be much cheaper. Arrgh, lead times from Europe were 5 months. I couldn't wait that long. And all for £2500 savings at best. Taking the dealers MX-5 out for a spin, I noticed it - 2,200 miles on the clock, a 1.8 is in racing bronze. Yes, the Wolves car had arrived! It was owned by a local gent who bought it to drive around on sunny weekends whils he waited for his Mercedes SLK to arrive. Fine, well, his loss - this little beauty with its 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds was to wind its way to my house - after 'cutting them to the bone' - Brian Gubbys' quote, not mine. I have taken possession of it just a week later (to avoid the carnage of the new V-plate of September 1st). CD player now installed, I have already taken 6 people for a spin on the first day. Oh, just beware if you want to consider stealing it - Its got a CAT 1 Thatcham approved Cobra Alarm and immobiliser which I set off just closing the garage door behind it! Mmmm, pleasant dreams Mexy. Sob Sob, in the end, Sam became preggers with Rebecca and we needed a family car....However, Tim Lloyd from Swindon, a young internet millionaire bought it for his girlfriend. I hadn't had the car that long either...I did manage to put a nice carbon fibre dash on and change the gear knob to a momo carbon one too. However, that gear knob went with me onto my next 2 seater. I wasn't giving up the top down experience that easily, oh no way was I.....
So, after loving every moment in the Bronze bombshell (well apart from on 4th May 2000 when a deer ran out in front of me in Windsor Great Park which caused over £1300 of damage), little Becky was on her way, and all we had was a Renault Megane Coupe. So I had to sell the bronze MK II to an Internet millionaire called Tim Lloyd as a plaything for his girlfriend. Grrrr. In its place though, I got this little number and still had almost £10000 in change! This car was imported in December 1999 from Japan by Dr. Alan Pappert who restores cars as a pastime. What a job he did on this as well - new exhaust (4 head manifold), new shocks (I still have the old Japanese lowered suspension in the garage), new typres, new roof, glass heated window, new stereo & speakers - strut under the bonnet - it was the business. Not as fast as the mk2, it still does a tidy 0-60 in 9 seconds. After a little bit of fun on the Isle of Man in July 2000 where I managed to lose a tyre off the side as well as the fog light, it still managed to pass its MOT first time with flying colours. I've since kitted out the interior with the same carbon fibre dash kit as that in the MK II, fitted the obligatory front grille, momo gear knob (swiped from the MK II!) and momo race steering wheel. Mmmm that exhaust is chunky. What did I do with that change? Well, now I have 2 cars....or at least did until I sold the eunos to Carl and Nicole in June 2003. Look at this pic of the car just before it went and tell me it wasn't lovingly looked after. I had a chrome cat back exhaust fitted, which cost over £300, plus all of the work on the dashboard with real carbon fibre. In, add-ons I spent around £700 on the car alone...
Ha! Who ever said that the family car has to be slow? I've not got round to showing piccies of the car with the S7 HAD plate, but thats what it's known as again now. So thats 3 cars that plate was been on. You can just about see Sams Megane in the top right of the first photo, which has since been sold to Nigel Downes from work. This monster was bought from The Great Trade Centre in Wembley - a great place to go for nearly new cars. It did cost a little more than the loose change (!) from the MX5 sale, but it only had one private owner, 6000 miles on the clock, and he had paid for those gorgeously dark tinted windows. Nice, now I'm in da hood. Now to get the matching car seat for Becky...which we did - the superb Maxi Cosi priori in "Harry" style. Don't ask me why its called Harry, but its grey and black.
Ebay? Whats that? Not a place to buy a car surely. £255 it cost, 12 months MOT, 6 months tax. Bargain. Supposed to see me through whilst I was awaiting the RX8. Lasted 5 months. Only a £100 bill for a broken suspension arm in that time. Matts got it now. These photos were taken when the suspension arm failed and I thought that it could have been the axle. Phew, it wasn't! Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, Electric Aerial too! Remote boot release, the list goes on. 1986 car? Wow. Did you know that not one of the VTEC engines have ever failed? That was on Top Gear on November 2nd!
If the ST24 was all about a family car not being slow, well this redefines everything! What a car. When Sam and I found out she was pregnant with Ben, at the start of February 2003, it just so happened to coincide with the announcement of the RX-8. As you can probably tell, I am a Mazda fan by now. The reliability on its own is second to none. In fact, thats true, based on the JD Power surveys on the last 3 years Mazda have been top of the pops. So on February 18th, I put down my £1000 deposit with T W Whites in Weybridge (Brian Gubby had long since died as a dealership unfortunately, and weirdly so had Whichford in Maidenhead), which resulted in me having to go to posh old Weybridge. Rotary is something that I always thought went into lawn mowers or involved a load of older blokes sitting round a table doing good things for the world. Like my dad does. (heh). But, no, a turbine sounding engine is the heart of this beast which officially is only a 1.3 litre, but as two lots of fuel goes through in one rotation (equivalent to one up and down movement of a traditional piston if such a comparison can be made at all), and thus two ignitions of said fuel then its classed as a 2.6litre. Who cares? 0-60 in 6.4 seconds makes this the fastest car I've owned thus far. But as I'm now 31, I can afford the (just under £700) insurance. So, I gave in and the Red Eunos went. However, I was allowed this 'practical' car in its place. Hoorah, no soft top (boo!) but speed, yes (hoorah!). Check those dates, deposit Feb, car Nov. Hmmm. Ben took less time to gestate than the bloomin' car. Mazda put it down to the success in Japan and the US. Good old Europe, we even got it after the Aussies in the end. Typical. Still, I was one of the first and (to my knowledge) the first silver private owner in the Country. Cool!!! After leaving the dealers, I drove through villages around Weybridge (I had to go and get the mats from a different branch of T W Whites). I felt so proud and happy, almost a tear in my eye that I had waited this long for this lump of metal and plastic. Ok, not as happy as I was when Ben arrived, but still, I don't think this much since at least the Bronze MX-5 and maybe even more than! Bonfire night came, and I took Rebecca out for a drive and we watched loads of fireworks. She must have enjoyed the ride, she fell asleep around 9.15pm !!! Ok, day one over, 70 miles on the clock now. Now all I need is that pesky personalised plate that I bought from someone from the owners club. Rich606. Did I mention that I am a committe member of the rx-8 owners club? Strangely, the handle is renegade_si on the forum there. Give me a PM. I'm also often found on the Rx8 European forum, same handle.
So, back again to the third mx-5 I've owned. I really do have a passion for them don't I? This is the best spec'd one of the lot. 6 speed gearbox, full forced air induction kit (by ARC in Japan), full Mk II Roadster RS, full bodykit with front fogs, adjustable Cusco shocks, Cusco strut under the bonnet, ARC Superintake, 4-2-1 full stainless exhaust.
I bought it from a Japanese importer (called Keith Toogood) in Basingstoke who didn't know what he'd got his hands on. Ok so the tyres were low, and the roof will need replacing in the next year or so, but I replaced the tyres straight away with Toyo's for only £130 for all 4 fitted in a top deal from Just Tyres. The biggest thing was that the odometer was in kilometers not miles, so instead of it having done around 75,000 miles, it had done only 45,000 miles. One top service from the Rotechniks guys in Reading and its all set for many more miles (and years!) of trouble-free motoring for £4400!
I got Keith to add a Toad Cat 1 alarm.immobiliser as well to the standard spec, which in itself is the top of the range (apart from it having ABS for some reason - I don't think they fit it to the Jap Roadster due to the weight). So thats electric windows, stainless kickplates and sills, electric aerial, Sony CD player (ok so I added that), 15" alloys, limited slip diff, windblocker and a cool badge on the front that I've never seen before!
Why oh why did we buy a tank you may ask? Well actually its quite a well-specced tank and its good to drive as well. We've since added a parcel shelf with rear sun blinds and the all-important roof spoiler / roof bars for carrying stuff on the roof. It had done 5800 miles even though it was two and a half years old.
What does it have? Well, its a Privilege spec but with many extras added.
It has metallic paint in Hologram Grey (£500), body coloured bumpers & metallic bumper surround (£450), rear parking sensor (£250), Carminat Sat-Nav (£1500), Roof Bars (£250), opening rear tailgate window (£300), rear carpet mats in row 3 (£100), rear sunblind (£300) as options -all for £14750 from a reseller on ebay called v7o (Anthony and Trevor) but the standard kit is pretty good too...
Auto front wiper with rain sensor, electric windows all round, full climate control with separate driver/passenger levels, ABS, ESP, traction control, brake assist, PAS, body coloured blue glass electric folding wing mirrors, 4x40W 6CD changer RDS radio + fingertip remote with remote control, Bi-xenon headlights / wash + dynamic range adjustment, leather steering wheel, leather gear knob and gaiter, 3x 12v sockets, tyre pressure monitor, Cat 1 alarm with auto window close function, Renault Courtier cloth / alcantara - Marine blue / beige, 17" alloy wheels.
I am amazed how great it is to drive - we test drove every (and I mean every) 6 and 7 seater available. Everything from the obvious Galaxy/Alahambra/Sharan/Previa (lap belts and no isofix!) to the C8/807/Ulysse (smelly to drive but nice electric sliding doors) to the Multipla (great to drive!) to the Touran/Mazda 5/new Zafira/Verson (all too small) Tucson, Sedona (I liked it!) Grand Scenic, Grand Voyager (80's man!). We even drove the Pathfinder. ts easier to drive than the Mondeo ST24!
I was at the Jonathan Palmer RaceDay. Excellent!