A SWISS Army knife might have dozens of different gizmos attached to it, but none of them are ever quite as good as a individual tool dedicated to doing that one job alone. For much the same reason, I’ve always believed in having a couple of different cars than entrusting it to a single set of wheels.
How many motors you have to hand depends on a couple of things – largely the size of your wallet and where you keep them when they’re not racking up the miles – but for me, three has always been the right balance. The Life On Cars petrolhead mix has always involved having a classic to take to shows, a hairpin hooligan to enjoy on mountain passes on sunny afternoons, and a workhorse for all the less glamorous – but hugely important – mundane tasks.
For years, I’ve entrusted the first of those two tasks to the trusty MGB and the fun stuff to two Mazda MX-5s, but I haven’t been as lucky at finding something that does the unremarkable remarkably. Four years ago, I bought a Renault 5 for just £100, which for eleven months went everywhere from Dumfries to Stonehenge without so much a whimper of complaint, but ended up getting scrapped when the MoT tester discovered the terminal rot around its D-pillars. Its hastily drafted-in replacement, a Rover 214SEi, spent three years conveying Simister junk to tips across Merseyside, but its increasingly sickly-sounding gearbox eventually drove me to sell it last year for half the £300 I paid for it.
I thought it’d be third time with its replacement – a grand’s worth of top-spec Ford Mondeo, which behaved impeccably despite helping me develop an unhealthy obsession with its fuel economy. It was the perfect workhorse to compliment the MGB’s nostalgia and the MX-5’s love of al fresco adventures – or rather, it would have been had a chap decided not to drive his BMW into the back of it. As a result, I’ve spent almost all of 2014 relying entirely on two-seater sports cars for just about everything.
That’s where this S-reg Peugeot 306 comes in. It is – as eagle-eyed readers might have already spotted – exactly the same 1.9 Diesel which I helped my partner’s family buy earlier this year, but having just helped them buy a much newer Ford Fiesta they’ve been more happy to give me the venerable old Pug for a fraction of the price.
It’s done 161,000 miles in 15 years, which might sound like a lot but it’s got plenty of history to prove it’s been cared for throughout its life. It’s also got an absolute gem of an engine counting in its favour – PSA’s legendary XUD diesel engine, known for their ability to go on forever providing they’ve been looked after. Naturally, it’s not going to win any concours events any time soon and – being a diesel of the old school – it’s a bit agricultural on cold mornings, but it’s a small price to pay for a 50mpg family hatchback which costs less than some of my pals spend on a night out.
Is it £150 well spent or an expensive repair waiting to happen? I’d like to think it’s the former, but that’s one of the fun things with buying and running cars for next to nothing. Either way, it means I can go back to the Classic Car Weekly offices in it and have the option of bringing my mountain bike back in it next time.
Try doing that in an MGB GT!