Sunday, 17 April 2011


I went shopping for an Audi Avant estate. My old Volvo V40 estate is creaking a bit and needs changing and  I was  fed up  pushing the Smart Car in the snow;  it's only light, but heavy enough to cause a heart attack.  So, a 4WD was the thing.  I tried a Mitsubishi Outlander, but it was as ugly as sin, and a big bastard,  and silver, like most cars.  I don't mind living in the future but I draw the line at having a mobile phone or any of that stuff  and I couldn't possibly have a big silver jelly mould of  a car.  It was OK, the Mitsubishi,  had one of those tectronic, is it,  automatic gearboxes and fair roared along.  But all my life, whenever I have heard the word Mitsubishi it has been followed, in my head, by the word Zero.  I wasn't even born in the Jap war, but I have met people who had a frightful time as POWs and  I just didn't fancy having anything called a Mitsubishi hanging around the place.

  I once had an old Audi 80 sports, bought for a song, and I loved it, so I was well disposed towards a newer Audi but there weren't any to be had. I had Googled them and found they enjoyed what they call in CarWorld strong residuals, they held their price.  Too fucking right they do, ten year old models with a hundred thousand on the clock fetching eight grand, more; I could have bought a stonking big BMW for that.

I needed a new car for an upcoming shopping trip to England and although the SmartCar would have done the journey in speed and comfort, I couldn't have got the  shopping in it.

My plumber, David,  has been promising to sell me his old Land Rover as soon as he can get round to sorting it out and so I thought, winter is some way off, I can press him to sort it out over the summer and in the meantime buy a non-4WD;  I'll just keep the Landy parked up when I get it and use it if I need to, I don't even need to tax  or insure it as the snowy problem areas are all on my own land, I'll just tow another car up the lane and Bob's your uncle.

And so I decided on  a used Ford Focus. Haven't had a Ford for thirty years, but they couldn't still be a pile of shit,  starter motors poised to jam,  Bendix gear chattering on a frosty morning, McPherson struts aching to pop through the  rusty wing, clutches failing as regular as clockwork, bulbs popping, radiators freezing, hoses blowing,  alternators burning-out, Jesus,  I hated those fucking things.  Seemed alright,  though, this one,  low miles, full service history, aircon, boring as Hell but never mind, OK, Mike, I'll have that one, it'll do.  Er, d'ya wannae just tak a wee look at this other one, it's a C-max Focus, and a hell of a car, ye can lift oot all the seats, d'ye ken.  Aye, Mike, but it's fucking silver..... But they're nearly all silver, the noo......Meantime,  Mrs Ishmael had spotted  a strange looking yellow car, down the line. What's this, Mike?  Well........ and so he told me.

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This is a Citroen C4 VTS, 2 litre, 16 valve, 180 bhp, 145 mph, three-door coupe, it does nought to sixty in eight seconds.  It has traction control, variable power steering, automatic braking assistance, ventilated discs, twin, separate  aircon for driver and passenger; it has directional headlights which follow the steering, the wipers come on automatically when it rains, the lights come on automatically when it gets dark, the JBL hi-fi has nine speakers and the volume increases automatically with the speed of the car,  there are nine airbags,  the speedo is digital and mounted on top of the dash in the centre, visible even in the brightest sunlight,  the rev counter is digital, too and mounted on the steering wheel boss, it turns  red as you approach maximum revs, all the controls are mounted  in a central boss which remains fixed as the steering wheel turns around it,  there is a speed limiter and cruise control;  the side mirrors retract themselves when you lock the car, popping out as you re-open it, you can also  retract them with a button from inside the car;  there is a Europe-wide Satnav system,  the internal mirror dims itself if dazzled from behind,  the hazard lights come on if you brake hard, switching off as you re-accelerate,  there is an onboard computer calculating trip distance and mpg,  there are front and back parking sensors with a visual display on the screen and a tyre pressure indicator for each wheel and there is a microphone by the mirror for something called a Bluetooth.  And that's just the half of it.

The car has done 43,000 miles, had one owner and has a full main dealer service history.

After I bought it,  I Googled some reviews, they were all good, even the oaf, Clarkson, having burbled along, in his Times column, about some actress, Kirstin Somebody, listed all the features and said You'd think I was talking about a hundred-grand S Class Mercedes.  But You'd Be Wrong. It's a French hot hatch and it is simply tres magnifique.

This'll be the sixth or seventh car I've bought from Mike  and they've all been ok.  None of them, though, have had this battery of electronics. We'll see what happens.

This is absolutely the highest spec in the range and cost   a private buyer   nearly nineteen thousand pounds five years and forty three thousand miles ago.  Clarkson and everybody else said that the depreciation on it was frightening.  I bought it for three and a half grand.  How can that be, what demented  actuary works these things out, that an expensively maintained  vehicle can shed three quarters of its worth in less than half of its life? Surely, this, too, cannot be Labour's fault.


Oldrightie said...

"Surely, this, too, cannot be Labour's fault."

It probably is, dear Sir!

mongoose said...

A fancy motor, Mr I, though in common with every other French car ever built, it looks like a lump of dog-dirt. No offence intended.

On the question of value or worth, the truth is that your new vehicle's value to you is three-and-a-half grand. You just proved that. It was never, ever worth 19-whatever when it was new. That was merely the book price. Maybe some deluded eegit paid that for it, more probably they didn't. The day after it was delivered, it was probably worth (= "could have been sold for") somwhere around the 14-thousand mark. Cars lose about 40% of their value in the first three years - depending on model and spec etc - and 25 of that goes in the first year.

I once bought a lump of French dog-dirt at fourteen months old and I got it for just under half the original list price. Piglet 405Mi16, since you ask, out of the workers' car park at Ryton. A great racket that was.

Dick the prick said...

Why 9 airbags? Is there one in the car seat which cups and lifts the bollox, guarding them in an inflatable cocoon against shards of glass or crumpled steel?

It certainly does seem rather fancy but one would suspect you need to find some 14 year old kid to teach you how it all fucking works. Seemingly fantastic value - whilst perhaps there is confusion as to Numbnuts Inc - the Actuaries of choice, i've always been surprised by the chumps who buy brand spankers; as Mr Mongoose states, devaluation is a rather speedy thing, I think there's that (potentially bogus) stat that to drive a Jaguar out of the showroom costs you £5k. Ho hum - suckers! Driving around today I saw a Merc garage offering what seemed to be a fancy motor for the princely sum of £409 per month with God alone knows what deposit, interest rate and ownership caveats.

All a bit odd.

richard said...

I wouldn't buy anything made after 1995. All those electronics - my Missis' Scenic was a non-stop catalogue of sensor and dashboard failures, all of which were "diagnoised" by a £70 a time link-up to a computer. No replacement sensor ever helped. It was shite. They build them shite to get you to pay more to keep the damn thing running. Repacing a carburettor - slide, needle, spring and hole - with Hal 9000 is utter and complete nonsense. Nevertheless, best of luck with your new conveyance. Mine cost £300and it's good for another 10 years.

a young anglo-irish catholic said...

Jesus christ

3.5k and only 6 years old? Imagine the trade price on that bastard. Does the second hand market hate Citroens that much?

Still, glad to see that the tasty motor is still a draw for those not of a free-market bent...

Am currently 24 floors above Shanghai. Isn't modernity a wonderful thing?

call me ishmael said...

It was Mrs Ishmael, I fear, a lover of comics, even the cinematic type, and had been watching the latest Transporter film - a series in which a muscle-bound oaf nouveau drives his W12 Audi through a ninety minute car chase, stopping every fifteen minutes to despatch a small army of martial arts experts with a variety of high-kicking, jacket ripping, muscle rippling, beady-eyed, bone-crunching manouevres, you know, that balletic, fighting-homo stuff.

This could be my Transporter car, she simpered. Well, says I, you wanna drive it off a bridge and onto the roof of a train that's your look-out, don't anybody say I'm not feminist about these things. Only I'm not going with you.

Might not be nine airbags, mr dtp, maybe that's the speakers, but there's a lot of airbags, frontways and sideways; so I'll be alright, then, if I crash at a hundred and forty miles an hour.

No, I wouldn't, either, mr richard, I managed all my life without SatNav and normally just disconnect radio and CD stuff, moaning to an exasperated Mrs I that Oh, you know me, I'm jinxed, they never work for me, thesw things - in-car entertainment? oughta be a law against it.

I guess that all the electrics will go wrong but on the day in question it was this dancing robot of a car or a Ford Focus. If I hadn't bought something I would have been forced to hire a vehicle for a couple of weeks and I'd rather not.

I went to see the Land Rover yesterday and I just need to find somebody to fit the new shockers and springs which come with it. No aircon in that, no traction control, just hard bench seats, front and back. It's petrol, blue, with windows all round. Probably be better off with a 200k miles Nissan or Toyota for eight hundred quid.

I would drive to Shanghai in my old Volvo, any of my old Volvos, without even checking the oil or the tyres; the free market, however, mr yaic, and its traffic policemen, insist that I do not.

Yes, modernity is great, for some of us.

mongoose said...

It has long been my view that there are two types of people in the world - those who break cars and those who don't. There is a sort of mechanical-electrical sympathy that you have either got or not got. This does not mean of course that my mechanical sympathy didn't go astray one day the other year when I distributed a Mitsubishi gearbox all over the M40. These things happen from time to time but they are the exception rather than the rule. (Quite like the sound of the steering wheel centre that doesn't turn. Very Captain Scarlet.)

Dick the prick said...

Transporter films are alright - they have a moral framework dontcha know? Also, the Bourne films which have taken over the James Bond mantle of being current comic pseudo geo political espionage secret service para-military conundrums. Quantum of Solace was seriously the worst piece of shit i've seen in my natural. Fuck it - i'll get me coat. Kung Fu Hustle was on last week.

Seriously though, Tomorrow Never Dies has been my framework for Russia's deal with BP through Rossneft (and its inevitable fuck up - Capitalist @ Work guys have been blogging about it for a couple of years now and it really is quite funny as fuck) plus it had Sophie Marceau in it, ah Sophie, mmm.

richard said...

Mr Ishmael, you got a good deal and I'm quite envious of your car's nippy performance. My machine's increse in velocity is imperceptible to human senses, although by way of compensation it gets 60mpg. Just a quick point, though - traffic policemen do not manifest themselves via the free market. How so? If every wage earner had a form with each paycheck with yes/no boxes to tick - for instance NHS, traffic police, war in Libya, windfarms to Nigeria, bank bailouts etc etc - with the amount to be deducted in tax from their next wages, no bugger would tick yes for anything. So none of the Governmental "benefits" are wanted, because if they were the Gov't wouldn't need to take (ie steal) cash from your earnings without consent.

call me ishmael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
call me ishmael said...

That's right, I was the former, mr m, until I became one of the latter, in my thirties, and am now a bit a a car whisperer, can just nurse them back into life, keep them going.

It was just a nod in the direction of official car fetishism, mr richard, you know, how in some countries you can be nicked for having a dirty car and how; in fact, anywhere you live, having any car whatsoever leaves one at the mercy of smartass, high-vis, gelled-up, gay traffic cops, who can stop you driving out of a showroom in a brand new car and find something wrong with it; the over-reach of the criminal law, the over-policing of the citizen are just parts of the tyranny of the state, free market or otherwise - and I would describe the last two hundred years of UK society as being slightly more or slightly less free market. An anarcho-plumber, myself, it is the terrible human rights abuses and environmental anarchy of unregulated GlobaCorp, be it Chink, Wog, Russian or Yank, which trouble me. The older I grow, the more attuned I become to the fact that the depth of all organic life on the planet is the proportional equivalent to the depth of the fuzz on a peach and that the Cry Havoc! insistence on unbridled, intrusive, polluting, unbalancing economic activity is the slogan of the kamikaze imbecile. The free market exists within the atmosphere, not, no matter what they tell you, the other way around

A few seconds of him getting his testicles whipped was enough for me and I couldn't thereafter, stomach the new James Bond, mr dtp, but the Bourne and Transporter comics are a CGE tour de force in illusion and trickery, any one of those kicks in the face would have one hospitalised and having plastic surgery for months, any one of those collisions or handbrake turns would write-off your car.

If you are interested in fictional black-ops, the Quiller books, by Adam Hall, if you can find them in a library or a second hand book store, are the intelligent source of much of this hokum, Quiller one of the first espionage anti-heroes, expert in poisons, ballistics, high-speed car-handling, psychology and torture resistance. Rather, I suspect, like Dr Lord John Reid of Glasgow, or Lord Tebbit of the Filth-O-Graph.

Lucien Modo said...

As it happens I’m shopping for a new motor car at the moment… I have one of those big old BMWs, and I’ve worked out that paying for the petrol it uses up to get me from A to B is more than it would cost for me to hire Sophie Marceau to carry me around on her back. I’m looking for a SWB Landrover Defender with the barest minimum of gadgets.

Dick the prick said...

Jolly good - will certainly keep an eye out for them as whilst in my local library the other day an extraordinarily helpful librarian on over hearing the loss of my library insisted on issuing a new one then & there; 'you're not going anywhere, laddy'. Good man. Have seen the Quiller Memorandum but it's kind of spoilt by George Segal being a bit shit.

@Mr Modo - not too sure of the going rate to get the marceau Piggyback but one would suspect it could be quite pricey - yowzers!

Lilith said...

Love the thing that stops you taking off.

Verge said...

The first two Transporter films have some terrific bits of chop-sockee slapstick, almost Buster Keaton on steroids & speed. The third was irredeemable garbage.

Watched a couple of (relatively speaking) vintage Britflicks last week: "If", on the whole, has lasted very well indeed. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" has not.

call me ishmael said...

It was the young slut, spoiled it, especially when she showed up at the end, gooseberrying, between matey and his police inspector friend.

I'm hoping to remove the spoiler, Lilith, if I can; it bisects the rear view mirror, drives me nuts, probably make the whole thing seize-up.

black hole sunset said...

Probably the best car I've had, back when I could afford the luxury, was a 206 GTI. Had it for ages and did loads of miles in it. Air-con could induce frostbite or set your toes ablaze. Too low geared for fast motorway cruising and thus horrifyingly uneconomical at speed but the blighter always worked and was unfailingly warm and comfortable - breakpads and tires were about the limit of its non-fuel intake. Sold it to the local garage for £500 and still occasionally see it packed up on the main road by its new owner. Moonstone, it was, so, yes, silver, like most cars.

richard said...

"anywhere you live, having any car whatsoever leaves one at the mercy of..... traffic cops"
My friend was stopped and after careful inspection ie looking for something to fine him with, he was told that the spacing between the numbers on his plate was illegal(!) He then went over to the cop car and measured their spacing, which funnily enough was exactly the same. "If mine's illegal, then so's yours - see you in court!"
Much gurning from Plod then followed, but no ticket.
Back to the point, Globacorp isn't free market because Statist rules prevent any competition. Try hiring a tanker then offloading and selling cheap petrol on the docks, for instance, and you'll see what I mean.

call me ishmael said...

Oh, I know what you mean, but ClobaCorp happy to call itslef the free market - is a neat enough description of an overarching economic system which places the profits of already wealthy shareholders, individual and corporate, above the basic survival of billions of the poor, above the survival of the oceans, the forests and the atmosphere.

It's a good story about the cops - let him who is without sin write the first ticket

richard said...

Couldn't agree more.