The white Gordini

There is nothing quite like driving a ‘new’ car for the first time, and this time the car in question is from a very short list of cars that I haven’t heard my Dad say ‘I’ve driven one of those’ or ‘I used to own one of those’. This is even more impressive given the fact that he used to be a Renault mechanic in his youth and is something of a Renault nut.

We collected this Gordini yesterday afternoon after purchasing it over the phone at Anglia Car Auction’s most recent classic car auction on Saturday. I’d been to view the car the day before the auction and whilst the description listed it as having an MOT, it did look a little sorry for itself, with plenty of surface corrosion all over the body and inner wings. Despite this the car appeared to be quite solid, with only a couple of small holes that I’ve spotted so far. I did the unthinkable at an auction and left without hearing the car run or checking the paperwork, although I already knew that we were interested in buying the car just for the sheer rarity.

This is the second Renault 17 Gordini that we’ve bought, with the first being the green example that we bought at a CCA auction nearly two years ago. When we bought that car it was described as being one of only two known examples of a RHD R17 Gordini left in the UK. That car was a one owner car that hadn’t been on the road since the 90s and was a non running example. It now runs but in the intervening period its been a project that has been tinkered with in between other work and hasn’t been on the road, and we’ve been debating whether to restore it fully or just to tidy it and preserve some of its originality.

This isn’t the first time we’ve bought a car from ACA and risked driving it home, and I can remember plenty of journeys home in a wide variety of cars (although we had usually seen them run through the auction earlier the same day and knew that they were running, driving, and the old man had a good chance to listen how healthily they were running). One of my favourites was probably the BMW 1602 which is one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven. Usually the cars have little fuel and we stop at the nearby petrol station to fill up, which also gives us a chance to decide if the car is driving correctly and running well enough to make it home. In this case we had half a tank of fuel and considering how well it started, we decided just to stop at the half way point to home, where we leave the B-roads and join the A11. Fortunately we got there with no issues, and the little Renault appeared to be driving very well.

At this point we swapped over and I got a chance to drive after figuring out the switch arrangement (which makes a great deal of your controls available to your right hand without removing it from the steering wheel). The knob to turn up the dash lights has been snapped off so I would be driving without being able to see the instruments, though luckily I was being followed home and we agreed that he would flash his headlights if I went near 70mph. The steering wheel is large but feels slim (though more solid than some similarly aged cars), and slightly squidgy. The lack of PAS isn’t bothersome and once the car is rolling the steering feels smooth. The pedals are reasonably positioned although the brake pedal is set quite high and requires a little adjustment from the driver for smoother progression. The brakes themselves had more bite than I was expecting, which is a pleasant surprise when driving an old car (especially one that is relatively unknown to you).  Though this car is badged as an injection model, it is fitted with a carburettor and the fuel injection set up is in the boot, along with a box of other parts. We’ll investigate this at a later date along with the other restorative works that need to be completed.

Mostly I kept the speed fairly low and stuck with the HGVs during my trip down the M11, and the car quite happily settled down. When pushing on a little more the Renault proved to be happy with motorway speeds, and provided more acceleration than I expected it to. The engine of this car feels very strong and happy to rev, which is always pleasant.

My driving experience was mostly on the M11 and M25, so I didn’t get to fully experience the driving characteristics of the car, but I did leave the motorway a junction early to take the back roads for the last leg of the journey. Whilst not a B-road ‘weapon’, the little R17 proved to be very enjoyable to drive on a country lane. It still needs to be handled with care and corners approached with caution as any old car does, but it is still a car that is capable of being enjoyed fully at reasonable speeds. If I needed any more convincing I’ve spent most of today itching to go out and drive, and that tells me all I need to know about how much I like this car.

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A very rare badge these days. One of only a few RHD cars still surviving.

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A brief pitstop, but Starbucks was closed early.
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Unlike most of our cars, this one isn’t a heavy drinker
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Such a stylish interior, and those seats are very comfortable!
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The radio works! Pretty sure the radio station was from the same period as the car though!

NCM Auctions: How not to buy a barn find

As anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram may know, yesterday I had the interesting experience of attending the NCM 135 lot ‘barn find’ classic car auction near Preston, which has received quite a lot of online attention in recent weeks. After a 4 hour plus journey, parking in a field so boggy it could only be in the North (if you think I’m kidding there were whole fields flooded under more than a foot of water less than 2 miles away), and having a little laugh at some other attendees who had pristine white trainers that were totally unsuitable for mud, we finally got to register for the auction and see if the cars were quite as bad as we thought they might be.

*In the midst of all this I will add that the NCM staff were absolutely great and very friendly. Based on the conversation we had with the gentleman overseeing the parking they are quite new to auctioning (of this type at least) and had had over 1M hits online for this auction. He also spotted us getting stuck in the field on the way out and used a tractor to pull us out, without us having to go looking for someone to help – which truly made a huge difference at the end of the day*

A few of the cars were inside a new built barn with a large amount of seating (listen up other auction houses who are so stingy with chairs!) and the rest of the cars were crammed out back, some with only a few inches between them – not really suitable for inspecting rusty old cars. Rather unsurprisingly, the photos made the cars appear a great deal more presentable than they actually were, with a large proportion of the cars only worth being broken for parts. We had a brief look around and concluded that very few of the cars we had hoped would be ok actually were, and that it was pretty unlikely that we would be bidding.

With a buyer’s premium of 20% plus VAT (and an extra 1% or 2% for online bidders I think), I was curious to see whether there would be little interest or if auction fever would take over. I don’t know the reason for such a high buyer’s premium, but two viable reasons could be that:

1/ The auction house didn’t think that the cars would make much money given their general condition

2/ The single vendor wasn’t paying any commission

The rumoured back story to this auction is that it was a single collection of cars owned by a man and his wife. There was a divorce (around 2010 I think), and the wife got the cars, and there has been legal wrangling since then. This could also explain the deteriorated condition of most of the cars and the fact that not a single one of them had any paperwork with it.

As you can see from my Twitter feed and other various sources online, the bidding went absolutely crazy in a way that is rare to see. At one point near the end of the auction I saw a man up on the rostrum (so I can only assume he was auction staff) laughing and shaking his head in disbelief at the price being achieved on one of the cars. I truly hope that the many online bidders who bought cars from this auction actually went and viewed them beforehand, as they will be in for a few shocks. I cannot see why the prices achieved went as high as they did for a good proportion of cars, but I believe it can be attributed to a few factors, which includes:

  • Inexperienced bidders
  • Online bidders who didn’t view the cars
  • Google experts (the ones who find the highest possible price for a particular car ever, so this must be a bargain)
  • General auction fever

Obviously I could very easily be wrong, and I completely missed what other people were seeing, but I very much doubt it. This auction is also not a sign that the market is on its way back up, it is absolutely an anomaly, and I would still never advise anyone to buy a car for investment purchases.

In relation to buying a barn find car, my simple advice is this…..don’t. Barn find cars are often seen as an easy and cheap way into classic car ownership.  They’re not. In this sort of bracket where a classic car is worth under £20k in good condition (and even far in excess of that figure), there is a very strong possibility you will lose a lot of money in restoring it. It is a time intensive process and nothing is truly cheap anymore, especially old car parts and specialist labour. For those people who enjoy working on their cars, there is still a chance to do that with a good condition example, as any old car will require upkeep. If you do decide to restore your own car then please research it as much as you possibly can. Speak to people who have restored their own cars, consider whether you have the time and skills to complete the sort of work needed, and if you don’t, consider if you have the time, money and patience for someone else to restore it for you. Inspecting a car prior to purchase is an incredibly valuable tool, and one that couldn’t be reasonably exercised at this auction.

Below is a short walk around video of the auction and a few of my photos with the prices the cars achieved.

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A Jaguar XJ-S 3.6 with a Monaco bodykit. Sold for £500 plus 24% commission to an online bidder
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A Daimler Double Six Vanden Plan with a fair amount of rot around the rear screen at least. Sold for £1,700 plus 24% commission to an online bidder.
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A Jaguar XJ-C 4.2. A rare car but with a lot of rot. Sold for £3,400 plus 24% to a bidder in the room
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A BMW 750 Hartge (or not, as it might turn out). Sold for £6,000 plus 24% commission to a bidder in the room
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This E-Type coupe was a LHD auto
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This Alfa Romeo could have been described as a Flintstones car. Still made over £6,000 plus 24% commission
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Just a few of the lots on sale
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I’m a big fan of the Mercedes SEC, especially in 560 flavour. I’ve got a feeling this car is hiding a few problems. Sold for £3,800 plus 24% commission
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This 928 was described as able to start from a jump pack. Sold for £9,200 plus 24% commission to an online bidder. You could buy a running, driving, MOTd car with history for less.
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From memory this Jensen (sans bonnet) made around £12,500 plus 24% commission
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A funky little car, no idea what it made though
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Loved this car, but didn’t stay right to the end to see what it sold for.
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This 996 has no keys and has been off the road for over a decade. It sold for £7,800 plus 24% to a bidder in the room. Again, you can buy a good one with history and known running condition for similar money.
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This Range Rover with Carmichael conversion (possibly) sold for £10,000 plus 24% commission
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This Lancia Fulvia will either be used for parts or as a ringing kit. Sold for £1200 plus 24% commission to an online bidder.
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This auto BMW 635 CSI sold for £5,200 plus commission
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This Lancia was possibly one of the only good buys of the auction, and I’m still kicking myself for not bidding. No engine with it, but sold for £3,800 plus 24% commission. More solid than 95% of the other cars there!
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This Trident sold for £3,800 plus 24% commission
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This Range Rover 3dr sold for £13,500 plus 24%. Barmy!
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This Opel Monza sold for £750 plus 24% commission to a bidder in the hall
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This Daimler Sovereign Coupe 4.2 sold for £2,800 plus. 24% commission to an online bidder.

Project Update: MK2 Escort RS2000 X-Pack

Progress on the Escort has finally been moving in the right direction and over the past few weeks I’ve been visiting the bodyshop to monitor progress and make a few decisions on detail items about the paintwork.

I had absolutely no hesitation in deciding that the car was to be repainted in Daytona Yellow. Not only am I a big fan of yellow cars, but I thought it would be much more interesting than the pretty horrendous green the car was previously painted with or its original colour of red. I wanted the car to stand out and I’m very pleased to have seen the car progress over recent weeks and I’ve also seen its character change dramatically.

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I managed to source an original RS2000 bonnet from a car that had just been broken for parts, and it was one that was the same colour as this car originally left the factory in (without the X-pack kit). The bonnet that came with the car when I bought it was fibreglass, which was slightly rippled as well has having NACA duct shaped holes cut in it, so choosing to replace it with a metal bonnet was an easy decision. The grille section of the kit had also been removed previously though fortunately the bodyshop were able to reattach it, and this made a huge step on the journey to making the car look like it should again. There was a lot of work undertaken to ensure the shut lines around the bonnet were correct and the top section of the kit had to be lifted and smoothed so that there wasn’t a large gap between the panels.

The car then underwent more bodywork before being spray filler-ed to achieve the best results for the fibreglass parts, and judging by the final finish this was a very worthy extra expenditure. The interior of the car, engine bay and boot were then painted, and it was nice to visit just after this point and take a couple more photos.  I’d seen the car just before any paint was applied and it was the first time that I had seen the car in one colour, but seeing it as it was in the photos above was even more exciting.

Last week an unexpected email arrived in my inbox and it contained these photos of the car in the paint booth, freshly painted and looking even better than I could have hoped. These photos were a confirmation that yellow was the right choice to make, as it will allow it to have a pleasant blend of originality and modification (along with my fascination for yellow cars).

Just yesterday I went to make the final decisions for the bumper and grille surround (which will be painted black). This was the first time I’ve seen the car with the doors, boot lid and bonnet back in place since it has been painted. The car is finally starting to look like a car again and match up expectations I have for it. Next week I should be able to provide photos with the detail work painted.

1992 Jaguar XJS 4.0

People who know me (or follow me on Twitter) probably know that I like an XJS more than most people do, and this is one of the cars that helped me to realise that. I’ve owned this particular XJS since September 2017,  after buying it at auction. I spotted the car among the listings of an ECCA auction and one of the main reasons that it caught my eye was because it had a black interior, which is pretty rare for one of these. Before I bought the car I was convinced that I was going to swap out the auto gearbox for a manual one as I’d never kept an auto of my own and didn’t find them involving enough, but after living with it for a while I realised its quite well suited to an XJS (at least in standard form).

Another of the big selling points for this particular car was that it was previously owned by a Jaguar club judge and had also just been featured in ‘Jaguar World’ magazine for seven months, which resulted in a rather healthy amount of invoices and a car that had been treated very well and cherished. I’ll happily admit that I love going through paperwork for cars at auctions, as you really do never know what you will find, and it tells you a lot about a car’s own personal story. This car came with the magazines that it was featured in and much more to display that it has quite a rich history.

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I bought the car for just under £3,500, which I think is something of a bargain for a well kept XJS with plenty of paperwork, even if it did have over 180,000 miles on the clock at the time. After that point I used it as a daily driver with no real issues until the MOT, which it failed on a few small items. The car was then sat up for a few months until I couldn’t bear looking at it sat forlornly in the corner of the yard.  The work needed to pass the MOT wasn’t major, and mainly related to the diff seeping oil.

On paper a straight six, auto XJS wouldn’t usually be something that really appeal to me, but this car has plenty of character and does everything I ask of it with minimal fuss. The 4.0 doesn’t have masses of power, but with the gearbox in sports mode it does allow you to wring its neck a little and explore the upper reaches of the rev range, and also allows the Jag to be a reasonably fast car that is plenty of fun down a country lane. The suspension is very compliant and never uncomfortable or harsh (even when it bottoms out over a big bump) and the tall tyres help to provide a real GT quality that most modern cars now miss. It is one of those cars that you could easily spend all day driving and feel no worse for it. The handling is relaxed and enjoyable and that long bonnet stretches out in front of you in a rather lovely way. The XJS is still narrow enough that you don’t have to worry on country lanes, either, and that is one of the things I love about it. If there is a bug bear that I do have with the straight six Jag engine it is that it really isn’t all that economical. That isn’t something that usually bothers me but the Vantage is more economical and a V12 XJS wouldn’t be too much worse to run, and that is always a temptation.

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As a final note I will include that after a few spots of oil were found repeatedly and growing bored of listening to creaking bushes means that the Jag now does have a short list of jobs to be completed, so I will update with a final cost in a later instalment. On the list currently is a full service, a lot of new bushes front and rear as they are quite perished (and I’m considering sports anti-roll bars), a new oil pressure switch, front brake pads and also sealing the bottom of the dipstick. I’m also considering a new set of tyres which may wait for a later date at the moment.

 

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to write a quick blog post before all of the festivities get underway wishing a Happy New Year to everyone who follows us on social media, checks our website or has bought a car from us. Its been a good year for us and I personally am looking forward to another year full of interesting cars, people and stories. Hopefully some of our big plans for the coming year will be able to go ahead and make for some interesting reading for all of you. We’re going to be organising more car meets this year to try and raise some money for charity and hopefully we’ll see more and more people attending and more money being raised for good causes along with our own annual donation in March.

We’ve been clearing out a few of our projects in the last couple of months to make some room for more interesting and creative things (some of which will be a surprise), though we’ve still got a few big projects to complete before these get underway. We are also happy to discuss taking on outside projects, so if you’ve got one that you’re considering then please do get in touch. You can head over to our projects page and find out what is still going on and follow the progress on these both on our website and on social media.

Once again Happy New Year, I hope it will be a good one for all of us.

Soapy and the Coupe – Brands Hatch

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Last Monday we were lucky enough to be allowed to take Soapy and our Ford Coupe down to Brands Hatch to take some photographs for an ad that we will be running in the December issue of Classic American. We have some good friends down at Brands and it is one of my personal favourite race tracks as I have spent a lot of time there over the years. Continue reading “Soapy and the Coupe – Brands Hatch”

Bye-Bye Big Blue Merc

Our lovely CL has just gone off to a new home, this particular car was with us for a while and the market has been a bit saturated as of late with 90s Mercedes which didn’t help. However its hard to find examples like ours that are not only in great condition, but also have a fantastic history folder showing that the car has wanted for nothing. Now is the time to buy one of these lovely cruisers and enjoy it over the next few years while they appreciate in price. Our car even had the original bill of sale and the original phone, and it isn’t very often that you find those things. This is the kind of car that can crush continents and glides effortlessly over many miles while cosseting you in the luxuries of 1998. Continue reading “Bye-Bye Big Blue Merc”

The Project Corner becomes the Project Warehouse

A bit of an unofficial title but we’ve got a lot of projects waiting to be restored, its hard not to buy them when you can see so much potential! All of these cars will be featured over the coming months and there are exciting times ahead! Hopefully you like (at least some) of our choices and decide to follow them here and on our social media pages.