Car Trouble November 11, 2009Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes.
As keen trivia vultures will well be aware, the above title refers to a crap track on an Adam Ant album (ringtone downloads are available) and an equally forgettable 1985 movie somewhat improbably starring Julie Walters as a romantic ingénue smitten by an E-type Jag. Not that I am either romantic or, god forbid, an ingénue, but we do have something in common, namely problems with motors.
Indeed I’ve already lightly chronicled the saga of my Lancia’s knackered engine in these postings and it continues with ever increasing complication and the expense that is its inevitable bedfellow. (If you are not even remotely a petrolhead, you may wish to stop here and turn to the more infinitely more edifying Heat or Waterways World websites). And last week I borrowed a van and collected a ‘spare’ Gamma engine from a barn in Oxfordshire which also housed a brace of jaw-droppingly pristine Bitter Coupes (rare German supercars). This engine looked as if it had been stored in a ditch for ten years but did – just – turn over when a 23mm spanner was sternly applied to its crankshaft end, however shortly after depositing it at Tanc Barratt’s classic Lancia emporium outside Kidderminster I got the call saying that it, too, was basically knackered. So that’s another few hundred quid down the toilet.
Or not quite. After further investigation at nice Mr Barratt’s not unreasonable hourly rate, it might prove possible that the undamaged crankshaft and con-rod(s) from the spare can replace the shot ones in my original. And whilst in the process, as the spare is a Series One engine with higher-lift camshafts, I’d quite like to stick them in my Series Two motor: even in the often genteel world of dodgie aulde motorcars, speed is all. Then the ancillaries will have to be stuck back on, a very large cheque handed over and I can get on with the business of halting a worrying vein of rust that I noticed creeping into a front wheel-arch as the car sat forlornly outside Casa Barratt.
At that point it’s usual for the impoverished classic car owner to decide to cut his or her losses, flog the damn thing and take up ornithology (or a subscription to Heat magazine). And vexatiously, this is the situation I’ve already arrived at with my daily driver, namely an utterly undistinguished but cheekily fast and hitherto reliable Citroen ZX Turbo Diesel estate.
Now some 15 years-old and as such almost approaching classic-dom itself, in the last year the ZX has exhibited a steady appetite for new components including a new clutch, timing belt and, most recently, rear brake cylinders. The recent discovery of rust (look away now if you’re of a sensitive disposition) in a suspension turret suggests that it won’t pass its next MoT without serious remedial welding using custom-fabricated parts (in its inevitable quest to build in obsolescence, Citroen neither rust-proofed nor offered appropriate spare mounts for this model), all of which would cost more than the car’s probable worth, i.e. about 300 quid.
And so the madness begins, namely the search to replace it. This involves an unduly obsessive trawl through classified ads in local papers and nowadays of course, myriad websites devoted to used car sales. Infuriatingly, the latter all seem to steal ads from one another, but re-drawn in different formats so just when you think you’ve spotted a really super 1998 Citroen Xsara TD Estate at just the right money on Yakaz.com, you realise that it’s the one you ruled out yesterday on Fish4Cars… because it’s 190 miles away in Hull.
So yes, primarily because it’s the ZX’s replacement with the same powerful, unburstable engine, I’m keen to get another mid-size Citroen estate, albeit at well under a grand. Certain iterations of the Xsara also offer the joy of air-con for our typically long, hot summers and of course I want one with a tow-bar for the ‘bike trailer I rarely use, but my lofty aesthetic standards mean that I can’t entertain a silver-coloured example which inevitably rules out most of them. This makes the search endless, time-consuming and leads to enticing little diversions such as a Peugeot 406 estate (same engine, same aircon, slightly bigger and thus heavier body so better find one with the uprated engine option), or a Fiat Marea Weekend (powerful turbo diesel, all the toys but ugly, patchily reliable and thus rare).
It will, of course, end in tears but possibly not before I’ve spent yet another wet afternoon trudging through that mélange of mud’n’sump oil common to all UK scrapyards in search of bits that could be cut out from a wrecked ZX and manouevred into place on mine. The sadness of it is that with neither the Citroen nor the Lancia have I the kit, skill or space to do the work myself, but the worrying thing is that I’ve just rented a second lock-up to house all the other bits that came with the latter’s useless spare engine, so it looks as though the madness may be with me for a while yet whether I like it or not.
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