Bad Cars

Bad Cars

We all have our favourite cars but what about the worst we have owned?

I ask this question as an ex-Reliant Robin owner.

Having lots of cars over the years I’m limiting it to the bottom 5 of the ones I’ve owned.

Starting with least bad first,

Rover 416.

I bought this car from a local auction about 10 years ago, it was cheap but still not cheap enough. Having previously driven one whilst working for a local print firm I expected to be fairly nice. It wasn’t.  That car had been well maintained and was in reasonable condition. It turns out that they did not age well say, unlike say Fords or Vauxhalls. They become deeply unpleasant to drive and own as they aged. I had it for 3 weeks and for 2 of those brother borrowed it. I use the past tense as most now have died along with the company that made them.

The Rover is properly one the reasons we don’t speak anymore.

Hyundai Lantra Estate


This car came from a friend at work and was in reasonable condition. It was cheap and oddly nice looking. The interior was nothing special but was well spec’d with all the toys like central locking, electric windows, and mirrors. If I remember it look like Hyundai had raided the MK 6 Ford Escort parts bin.

This car is on the list because I drove it a few days after buying it to South Wales, a journey of about 230 miles. Near my designation, I pulled into a supermarket to get a few things. When I walked out not only could I not remember where I had parked but  also what I had been driving for the last 3 hours.

A car has to be really dull to be so forgettable.

Volvo 360 GLT

I was given this car twice, once from a friend at work and once again from my sister-in-law.

At the time the price of scrap was really low so cheap cars were worthless. This was a nicely made little car and being near the top of the range came with heated seats and all the normal toys. It was comfortable to sit in and that is where the positives stop.

First, the dashboard seemed strangely low and the windscreen deep. This helped create an unnerving sensation when driving. Secondly, they are narrow cars with a short wheelbase. It would pitch and wallow given the slightest chance. As for handling, it simply didn’t, going from understeer to oversteer and back again in fractions of a second.

This is the worst car for the driving experience on this list.

Suzuki Gs500 


A motorcycle on the list  of worst cars?  Well, this bike deserves a place on anyone list of bad vehicles. Not that it is bad in any particular area apart from possibly build quality. No ,it earns a place on the list simply because it is so dull. How anyone can design and build a motorcycle so lacking in character is beyond me. I’ve owned this bike twice and on both occasions, it has almost put me off motorcycling for good.

If the government wants to stop people riding motorcycles, make the Gs500 compulsory. Biking would be dead in weeks.

Citroen Xantia 1.8 Estate


Once again this car was originally a gift, but sometimes gifts are not what they seem.

I was given this car and drove it back from Scotland to Cornwall. It was large, roomy, comfortable, good looking and fun to drive. So is it in the wrong list then?

Err no. Being a Citroen it means it is French, and that means cheap parts that impossible to get replacements for and really poor build quality. The self-leveling suspension adjusters would seize meaning the headlights even on dip would dazzle oncoming drivers. The front and rear ones used to take turns. The electric windows would break due to poor design and cheap components.

A truly nice car destroyed by cost-cutting and build quality.

Citroen Picasso



My bottom two cars are Citroen’s, so do I hate French cars?

No is the simple answer, but I’m not impressed with later ones.

I bought this car last year from friends so I could stop using the camper van for my gardening business.  It did have a lot of space in it and was comfortable. The design is total rubbish the stupid shape means that judging where the car is on the road is impossible.  The dashboard reflects onto the windscreen in the sunshine so that the already difficult job of judging the position of the car on the road becomes even worse. Luckily living in Cornwall sunshine is less of an issue than in other parts of the UK. The build quality is down to the expected low standards of more modern French cars. I will admit to killing this car in less than 6 weeks, and I consider it a mercy killing. These cars are so bad on so many levels. Poor design and crappy quality combine to produce the worst car I’ve ever owned.
If you drive a Picasso it might be time to question what has gone wrong with your life.

Bonus car


Peugeot 107

Another French car, Oh.

I only have driven this car and not owned it so my impressions are purely based on that. One day in April I drove over 500 miles in it on a large variety of roads and conditions.

The model I did this in was a 1.2 with a modern automatic gearbox.

It was fairly comfortable for a small car, even for my 6 ft frame and size 12 feet. It also seemed to be good on fuel. The cabin is simple but pleasant but with a lot of exposed plastic.

So why is it on this list?

First, I believe small cars should be fun to drive, from the original Mini to a 1.2 Fiat Punto I had they all have been fun. I borrowed a Toyota Yaris to pick a friend up from Bristol Airport and it was a real surprise. Not the most interesting car on the motorway but on a road with corners a fun experience.

The problems with the 107 came down to 2 things.

First is the electric power steering. It robs all feel from the tyres which mean it also takes all the pleasure away for anyone who enjoys driving. Oddly both the Yaris and the Punto had electric power steering that still provided feedback. So that is a problem with the car.

Second is the gearbox…

Traditional torque converter automatic gearboxes are fun to use. An experienced driver understands how they work can use them to help control the car. With an electronic gearbox, those choices are gone, along with any feel. The car changed up and down at odd times, sometimes getting confused when trying to pull out into heavy traffic.

I suspect as they age the normal crappy levels of French build quality will mean that they will do so badly…

What could be a great car became mediocre at best and hence has earnt a place on my list of bad cars.

Footnote… I have since driven a slightly older Citroen C1 and it was fun. Everything that a small car should be. So perhaps the Puregrot 107 was simply a bad one.

Assessing a Car


How do I assess a car?

There are two ways to buying a cheap used car, the fast and the slow.

You can spend hours examining every aspect if buying from a dealer or privately. Or you can assess one in under two minutes. Sometimes less.

So what do I look for?

My most recent purchase caught my attention with its clearly displayed price and condition.

That depends on the situation, and it far easier when buying either privately or from a dealer. At an auction, things are very different, and even the best-prepared person can get caught out with when something previously dismissed or not even noticed becomes interesting simply because it was so cheap. Yet the basic principle is still the same.

What does our instinct tell us, and at the very worst, how much is the scrap value? Or if you have space, break it for parts for every car is worth far more that way.

What about the Vitara?

Its colour is metallic blue, and all the shades match, the body kit, and bumpers in silver. Both colours are really hard to match so any past damage would show. Apart from a few minor rust patches all was good and original. In fact for a car of its age, remarkably so. A quick look under it confirmed the chassis looked nice and solid along with the floors of the body. The exhaust also seemed to be ok along with the tyres. Of course with a 4×4 all of this is far easier. But any problems must be judged for hassle and time. If I was buying to sell on it would be slightly different. When buying a car for my own use I will put up with far more.

The classic joke is that a lot of mechanics drive scruffy cars that on closer inspection are mechanically sound. I personally like less complex cars, wind up windows are not an issue, no central locking, etc, etc are all good. Electrical connections suffer from age. So many good cars with lots of minor issues that become major hassles when older get scrapped.

The interior reminded me of a Triumph Acclaim I once owned, lots of hard wearing plastic and light blue fabric. Well under the layer of grime and the smell.  The last owner was a smoker but thankfully with no dog. This may put off some buyers, but if the price is right… The mileage was just under 90,000 and the condition confirmed that pedal wear, seat bolsters, etc, etc..

The actual time it took me to assess all of that, about 30 secs.

So why so cheap?

The Mot is only 4 months, long enough to test the car, but short enough to perhaps be a problem. Yet the car is worth more than say a cheap hatchback as is it still retains value as a farm runabout or the basis for trials car. I have not mentioned the engine and that when buying privately is the last thing to look at.

The trick is to see how dirty it is under the bonnet. Dirt is good for it means that it has not had any major work done. Of course, it also means that it will need a complete service. The engine was warm, so sadly I could not hear a start from cold, but I could check antifreeze, oil, etc.… The seller had it in part exchange and was completely honest that needed a complete service, but had priced it to reflect this. Parts for service including a cam-belt kit will come to less than £100, sadly the radiator looked like it is on its last legs, so that will have to be budgeted for. But, as it is simple and accessible, a lot of the jobs will be fairly easy, and I have a secret weapon in a good friend who highly rates Vitara’s and has had several, he also happens to have a real passion for all things with wheels and tracks. Combined with his skill level and natural modesty a very useful person to know.

Which means that if I do the work on his driveway, I have access to his level of expertise. So the under bonnet condition did not worry me. Far better for it to need a service than to see the signs of lots of recent work. This all goes into the personal calculation of what a car is worth.

Then the question becomes, is my value close to the sellers.

We have to be fair, and oddly by doing that often a far better deal is possible. In this case, I paid what I expected too, the Vitara was marked up at £395, so the £45 off will cover the basic service excluding the cam-belt.

Is it a classic? I think so.  Like the Golf, it falls into the invisible status and that means that they are bargains at the moment.

A Tale of Two Pipes



That sinking feeling was in my stomach as a couple of litres of petrol splashed on to forecourt.

Never before have I had a filler pipe disintegrate on a car. Some have leaked, but none have gone in such style. In a previous post, I described buying the Vitara. Now I wondered if I had made a mistake. After apologizing to the attendant I drove back to assess the problem.

Parked on the pavement outside my flat it was time to investigate.  In the fading light and rain coming down I got my spanners out. After struggling with three bolts the inner mudguard came out along with 2 kilos of mud. The pipe, well the slither of metal that remained meant that there was no chance to repair it…

A call to a friend confirmed my two choices, either replace or fabricate. It was time for a Scottish coffee and a little research. If the worse came to the worse it would be possible to make a new pipe using perhaps an offcut from an exhaust. The coffee now was not Scottish enough by a long way. Not having a workshop means that recreating the pipe would be a problem, but not impossible. The best option was to find a replacement, this is when living in Cornwall becomes a good and bad thing. The good is that I have ongoing relationships with local scrapyards. The bad is that if they do not have a part the rest of the country is long away from here.

‘One in the yard, £15 if you take it off.’

The sense of relief was immense, yes they had one. Now compared to what I would have paid from another local yard it was more expensive. But then they did not have one, and that yard did. An hour later I found myself in the sunshine removing the pipe. Clearly, in the past, this Vitara had suffered the same problem. The pipe was held on by jubilee clips and was in far better condition than the rest of the vehicle. So at £15, it was a bargain.

After popping into another parts supplier to say hello on the way home it was time fit the pipe. This only took a few minutes and it was time to get the Vitara earning its living.

Is the Vitara a pup?

At the moment the jury is still out, but I’m erring on no.


Alex Unleashed on Cheap Classic Cars

Welcome to my blog.

My name is Alex Small and classic cars are my passion.  Please join me as I share my personal perspective of this addiction.

We are living in a pivotal time for cars. They are becoming too complex for the average person to do little more than basic tinkering. Yet there are still some that are more accessible. I have enjoyed, at the last count, over 90 of them.  I’d like to share my knowledge and experience of this not always easy path.

Oh, and expect the odd motorcycle.