This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Richards Wrecks – Number Eight

Yep, finally got my backside in to gear again and  memories of my motley motors continues.

With the Ford Courier van (Number Seven) now doing all the grunt we decided to go for something a bit tastier and after scouring seemingly all of Brighton & Hove's second hand car dealers, we ended up with this:

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A 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK 230 K Sport Auto.  2.3 litre twin cam and supercharged, this was quick and the noise when the supercharger was in full swing was divine – which was just as well as it helped distract attention from the petrol gauge. Frugal she wasn’t – around 24 mpg around town and 35 mpg on our once frequent runs up to Cambridge to pick up HRH, otherwise known as Trev’s Mum. But we didn’t buy it to save money and the annual mileage we clocked up was so low she was more like an expensive ornament.

A ‘premium’ brand Mercedes may be but this particular one wasn’t without it’s problems. Steering wasn’t heavy but felt a little uninvolved  and vague.  The paintwork didn’t seem particularly durable, suffering from a number of stone chips and rust around the wheel arches, although this may have been due to spending it’s life on the coast with all that nice salty sea air that corrodes anything on sight. The alarm packed up and so did the reversing lights. However, she had over 103,000 miles on the clock by the time we traded her in after around 5 years and the engine still sounded beautiful. It was still a lovely car to drive – there’s a nice decadent feeling about driving a nice powerful petrol powered automatic. Unbelievably my first real wheel drive car too.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Richards Wrecks – Number Seven

Our job delivering parcels turned out to to be more than a stop gap and with volumes (and earnings) increasing we decided to become a two vehicle family again. The old red astra was showing signs of wear, so we bought, privately, out of the paper, a 1998 Ford Courier 1.8 D van.


This cost us early on – with only a little over 50k on the clock the previous owner clearly liked riding the clutch – and we had to have a new one fitted. The cam was belt driven and with little service history available we elected to have that changed too. A number of smaller jobs I done myself – starter motor, heater valve, throttle cable and rear door handle if I recall. It was based on a Ford Fiesta and was one of the easiest motors I’ve found to work on. It was a good workhorse too and we ran it on vegetable oil from time to time as well in the days when it was a lot cheaper than diesel. The ford radio was replaced with my own Blaupunkt MP3 CD player thingy – a piece of kit that was now on it’s third car, having been pride of place in the Rover & Astra prior.

We kept this a couple of years or so, it earned us some money and we got a reasonable price on trade in too.

Richards Wrecks – Number Six

Following on from the Rover was this 1997 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 dti Estate in red – no picture this time I’m afraid but I’m sure most of you know what they look like.

Having packed in my work at the office supplies form and deciding to join Trev in doing parcels I needed something more suitable than the Rover. By suitable I mean spacious, economical and reliable and practical, and the Astra fitted the bill.

In fact it did more than just parcels. It spent several weeks up and down the M11, M25 & M23 when we decided to relocate to the south coast carrying our worldly goods. When we settled in and started work down south it resumed it’s duties as a parcel wagon and lasted well over another year’s extremely hard labour before we decided it was time for a change.

It wasn’t without it’s problems in the early days. It became increasingly harder to start and the local garage couldn’t fix it. With the bill increasing and the customer (me) getting more irate, in desperation they turned to the the local Vauxhall dealers who diagnosed and fixed the problem for seventy-five quid. It cost me nearly seven hundred quid altogether then but was fine from then on.

This truly was a great workhorse and with over 120,000 miles on the clock it still managed to return over 53mpg after a sedate run back from Sheffield once. Towards the end of our tenure as it’s owners, the electrics became a little erratic – a little wet weather and you’d lose the indicators and speedo. The start of a low rumble from upfront on acceleration convinced us that her days as a workhorse – in our hands anyway – were over.

Richards Wrecks – Number Five

The ‘Rocket’ was traded in for this beast – a 1993 Rover 220 Coupe.

Fun to drive, powerful in it’s day and sounded good too. The Rover T series 2.0 twin over head cam engine produced 134 BHP. Bucket seats and a plush interior, it looked good – in my opinion, but the build quality was dreadful. Rattles, failing electrics, poor paintwork and ill fitting body panels. The aircon fans seized and the exhaust manifold was starting to leak. Only some very delicate throttle work kept it quiet when I went to trade it in. As soon as I left the dealers with my new car I turned the phone off!

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Richards Wrecks – Number four

Next up – a 1993 Seat Marbella. Hmm

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Trev had to pack in work in  2003 due to heart failure and so sold his taxi at the time – a Rover 75. We decided to buy something cheap and cheerful for my daily run to work that would be less costly to run than the Bluebird and ended up with this – a poor man’s Fiat Panda.

It wasn’t that bad to be fair – ‘the rocket’ cost us 500 quid and next to nothing to run, returning over 48 mpg from it’s 900cc engine on my daily commute to work, and later, over to Papworth Hospital when Trev was admitted prior to his op. We kept the Bluebird and that became the ‘weekend’ car.

It certainly wasn’t the last word in comfort, although rumours that Ryanair designed the seats were completely unfounded. It served it’s purpose well and when we eventually traded it in a year later we we got what we paid for it.

Richard’s Wrecks – Number Three

Next cab off the rank – in more ways than one – a 1989 Nissan Bluebird Executive 2.0 i Auto.

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There was quite a gap between my last car – the Nova – and this. I’d left home, bought my own place – a park home about 11 miles way – and happily cycled the 10 miles too and from work everyday. I was lean, fit and the money saved from not running a car went in to holidays – mainly down under to New Zealand & Australia.

It was around 1999 when thoughts started turning to getting another motor and it was at this time that Trev – a cabbie at the time was thinking of changing his car. Step forward the Bluebird.

It had spent a significant portion of it’s life as a taxi, but seemed none the worse for it. Full leather and electric everything, air-con, the works. With a deal involving some duty free cigarettes and Australian dollars the car was mine, and I loved it. The auto box made driving a pleasure, although a little pricey, returning only 22-24 mpg around town. It started needing some work during my tenure as it’s owner, a new exhaust, radiator core, engine mount and it was staring to emit small puffs of smoke when pulling away – due – I was informed – to worn valve stem seals. Extra thick oil improved this a little.

It was easy to drive, and in it’s day quite fast too. Trev even used it for while doing parcels when he returned to work following his heart op.  All good things come to an end of course and it was eventually passed to Trev’s brother-in-law as payment for concreting our drive. Ray had the car a number of years and loved it too.

One of my favourites.

Richard’s Wrecks – Number two

Next up in my collection of old crates is a 1985 Vauxhall Nova 1.3SR (ooh!) in black.1999 - 582

I couldn’t stretch to a GTE and the SRi was yet to come out. Shared the same engine with my Mum & Dad’s 1989 Vauxhall Astra although with the addition of a fifth forward gear.

Done one or two of the usual boy racer mods. Big speakers in the rear parcel shelf and a chrome tailpipe that slipped over the existing exhaust pipe. Kwik-Fit took it upon themselves to throw it away when it needed a new exhaust. Thanks guys, good of you to ask…

This car actually done some mileage other than to the local pub too. A few football trips – I used to follow Cambridge United in them days - so away fixtures took us to places like Bournemouth, Leyton Orient, Oxford and Brentford.

Following our first trip to Australia back in 1995 – which you read about here – I decided to sell the car to help fund a return trip. I was still living at home then and my parents car – the aforementioned Astra – was often free If I really needed it.

I advertised the car, someone came around, we haggled and they bought it. The day before they were due to pick it up – it was nicked – from right outside the house. Trev had called around on the way to the pub and asked where the car was and we narrowed it down to an hour  when it could have been taken. No one saw anything and it was never found. The insurance company came up with a derisory offer which the broker recommended I accept. I dug my heels in, turned it down and squeezed another 200 quid out of ‘em. Better, but still shy of what I sold it for.

Car wise, that was that for a while.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Richards Wrecks – Number 1

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A new and occasional series of mini blogs from the Blogger in Black featuring my less than impressive collection of old crates that I’ve driven over the years

First up is, obviously, my first ever car, a dear old Mini.

Registration SJE 163S (sad I know) I paid  525 quid for it with about 76k on the clock. I bought it before I’d passed my test and remember the day I ripped off the L-plate at the rear – and half the paint came off with it! As anyone who has owned a Mini will probably tell you, it was great fun to drive, although the longest trip it did was probably to the rally at Silverstone for the Mini 30th Birthday celebrations. More often that not it went as far as the local pub and was picked up the following morning!

I converted the old sealed beam headlights to brighter halogen ones and at one point had four driving lamps on the front too.

With drums all round for brakes and an 850cc engine  it had a reported top speed of 78 m.p.h. – and that’s the most I ever got out of it!

Had it for about three years then sold it when I got the use of a works vehicle. Thoroughly enjoyable and would love to have another drive of one now.