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The Motorists Guide

Steve Q

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Steve Q last won the day on November 12

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  1. Steve gets behind the wheel of a 3rd generation E class to see whether it is a used car gem. The Mercedes W211 E class was launched in 2002 to replace the notoriously rust prone W210 model. There was a lot riding on this new E class and most importantly Mercedes reputation, due to build quality issues affecting various models of Mercedes both in the late 1990s and into the start of the 21st century. This new model E Class was only available in two body styles, either saloon or estate and three spec levels were offered on release which were; Classic, Elegance and Advantgarde. Even the entry level Classic spec was well equipped and benefited from climate air conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels, heated washer jets and rain sensing wipers. The Elegence trim added interior touches such as wood trim, leather trimmed steering wheel/gear knob and the top spec Advantgade benefited from part leather trim, Xenon headlights, LED rear lights and specific five spoke alloy wheels. Various engine options were available including a good array of diesel engines which reflected the market at the time, as diesels were in favour with buyers and the government. The options were; 220CDI, 270CDI (prefaclift only), 280CDI and 320CDI in diesel form. On the other hand petrol buyers weren’t forgotten about as the E Class was available as a 200, 320 (V6) or a 500 (V8) which was fitted to the AMG and later replaced by the E63 at the end of production. The key to a long engine life for any Mercedes is regular maintenance and this should help reduce some issues. One key issue on CDI engines are injector seal failure and this can be sotted by a rough running engine and a fuel smell in the cabin. As you would expect it is not cheap to repair and you’ll be looking roughly up to £500. Also bearings for the super chargers pulley can fail especially on cars that have covered more than 100,000 miles. Due to the age of most W211 cars, most will have covered more than 100k so it’s worth checking the service history for this work being carried out. Unfortunately the early cars weren’t without faults, but compared to the previous rusty W210 the W211 suffered from electrical and mechanical gremlins. The most important electrical issue to watch out for on early cars, those built up to 2005 are faults with the Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC) system. The SBC system was designed to be a form of anti-skid control and was able to make adjustments to brake pressure to help keep the car more stable under braking. However the system has been known to fail and even Mercedes replaced the SBC units when the cars were within warranty. Due to the amount of customer complaints/system issues Mercedes reverted to a hydraulic system for the facelift model. In addition, one key issue with early E class models is with the radiator which has been known to leak into the gearbox oil cooler. This ultimately jams the torque converter and can result in an expensive bill but only affects models built up to 2003 and fitted with a Valeo radiator. Mercedes facelifted the E class for the 2006 model year and thankfully this rectified a lot of the early faults and around 2000 improvements were made, including to the performance and handling. The facelift was graced with new headlights, grill and bumper which helped improve the styling. For the facelift a sport spec was also added which was fitted with 18” wheels, cornering lights, stiffer suspension, gear shift paddles and cost £1,470 as an optional extra on the estate and a whopping £3,570 on the saloon. As you would expect safety wasn’t neglected either and the facelifted E Class was fitted with a tyre pressure monitoring system as well as adaptive braking system which flash the brake lights to warn cars behind of sudden braking. If the car behind still fails to stop the E Class is fitted with PRE SAFE occupant protection and neck pro head restraints which both prepare the occupants and vehicle for an imminent impact. Driving the W211 Mercedes E Class The car I have on test is a facelift 2006 280CDI estate model with the optional extra sport trim which has covered 133,000 miles. Sliding into the comfy leather seat it is clear to see that this model of E Class differs greatly from its boxy predecessors. The cabin is light and airy as well as having a dash that curves and gives the E Class a modern, yet sophisticated look and is very well laid out. The front seats are easily adjusted thanks to the electric adjustment and memory feature as well as being heated which is ideal for the up and coming winter. This is also supported with the reach and rake adjusted from the leather steering wheel. Turning the key and the V6 diesel engine fires and quickly settles to a smooth idle. Engaging drive and pulling away it is clear that the V6 diesel has brisk acceleration which is further helped from the 7 speed GTRONIC gearbox, both of which present no drama. The W211 E Class was highly praised for its handling characteristics, with great body control/neutral handling and this particular car is no exception. The ride is very compliant and absorbs bumps well, which is impressive as the sport model has the stiffer suspension but is supported with self-levelling Airmatic air suspension on the rear. Furthermore the steering is precise and gives the driver confidence to push the car into the corners. As you’d expect the braking system is more than adequate to stop this autobahn stormer, and can bring the car to a stop in half the distance of the Highway Codes distances which is impressive for a car of this size and weight. On examining the cabin it is clear that the interior is built well and very electrical item was working and the interior was showing no real signs of wear, other than on the driver seat bolster. There is a generous amount of leg and head room for rear passengers as well as having a carnivorous boot which can also be fitted with optional extra rear facing seats. The Motorists Guide View The W211 E Class was a very expensive car when new but now they can be obtained for as little as £1500 and are exceptional value for money. But be warned there will be a lot of cheap E class cars out there which are suffering from mechanical or electrical issues, and as such a comprehensive service history is a must. Cars that are in good, cared for condition will provide fantastic family transport as well as providing good levels of comfort, equipment and safety and it is a car I would strongly recommend. Dimensions Saloon Length: 4,818mm (15ft 10in) Width: 1,822mm (6ft 0in) Height: 1,452mm (4ft 9in) Luggage capacity: 540 litres (rear seats up) Estate Length: 4,850mm (16’ 0”) Width: 1,822mm (6’ 0”) Height: 1,495mm (4’ 11”) Luggage capacity: (rear seats up): 690 litres. Luggage capacity: (rear seats down): 1,950 litres. Kerb weight: 1,785kg – 1,885kg
  2. In the last week both motoring fans and Hollywood have been mourning the loss of a true filming icon, Burt Reynolds who sadly passed away from a heart attack at the age of 82 in Florida. As a fitting tribute Steve looks through some of the cars that starred alongside him during some his most memorable films. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Smokey and the bandit One of Burt Reynolds defining films was Smokey and the Bandit which was released in 1977 and featured a 1976/1977 Tans Am which was used as a diversion to keep cops off the trail of the illegal cargo in the back of the truck. After the film sales for the Trans Am rocketed and Reynolds was also also gifted one of the Trans Am promo cars. 1979 Dodge Sportsman Ambulance – Cannonball Run The 1981 film Cannonball run involved a road race and was loosely based on the real 1979 Running the Cannonball race, but not only that the ambulance was used both the actual race and then starred in the film. This was No coincidence as the director for the Cannonball Run had raced the ambulance. 1971 International Scout – Deliverance In this 1974 film Reynolds drives a 1971 International Scout. This 800B model was one of the last of the Mk1 Couts before it was replaced by the Mk2 version. 1968 Chevrolet Camero – Cop and a half Cop and a half was a 1993 comedy which featured Reynolds as a cop who teams up with an 8 year old boy to solve a murder investigation. The film Reynolds drives a 1968 Chevrolet Camero which is fitted with a SS badge. However it is unknown if this car was a real SS as it did not have the SS bonnet. 1974 Citroen SM – Longest Yard This Citroen SM featured in the 1974 film the longest Yard but is only seen in the first few scenes. In the film Reynolds takes the car from his angry girlfriend when intoxicated. She reports the car stolen and a police chase ensues, which ends with the Citroen sinking in water after being pushed off a dock. 1975 Porsche 935 replica – Cannonball Run Compared to the Dodge ambulance mentioned previously this Porsche 935 replica only stars briefly in the film and is based on a 1969 Porsche 911. However those vital scenes gave us too important parts of the film, the first was captain Chaos but also the line “anti radar paint, turbo charged. JJ, nothing can stop us now! Nothing!” As can be suspected this did not go well and the car crashes after encountering a Police roadblock. 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Hooper This 1978 film is about an aging stuntman who wants to prove he’s still got the skills to do this risky line of work. Hooper was realised after Smokey and the Bandit which could partially explain why a Trans Am was used in Reynolds next film. The Pontiac in question was used in the second half of the film and is used for the films climatic ending where its jumps a 323ft gorge. 1978 GMC k10 stepside – Hooper Another noticeable cars used in the film Hooper is this GMC k10. In the first part of the film Reynolds drives this modified GMC pickup and it is featured in one of the films best scenes when he is pulled over by the police doing 55mph in reverse. 1971 Ford 500 – White Lightening White Lightening was released in 1973 and would be Burt Reynolds first car movie. In the film Reynolds, an ex-convict is employed by the Police to catch a corrupt sheriff who killed his brother and runs a moonshining ring. In the film Reynolds used a modified Ford 500 which was fitted with 429cu V8.
  3. Steve Q

    Fitting a sunstrip

    Sunstrips can both be aesthetically pleasing and yet very useful. The concept actually originates to the 1970s, where certain cars would be fitted with a green tint across the top of the windscreen. Then in the 1980s and 1990s it was quite common to see racing cars being fitted with sunstrips to not only block out the sun, but also provide extra sponsorship space on the vehicle. This craze then later filtered onto both the modified car scene for a racey look, and the commercial vehicle sector to provide a space for company sign writing. If you would like to fit a sunstrip either for vehicle modification, company advertising or just to block out the sun on winter days then here’s our fitting guide: Step 1 Wash the windscreen. This might seem obvious but if you don’t then the sunstrip might not stick properly to the windscreen. Step 2 Place the strip on the car (unstuck!) to measure your desired width of the sunstrip, and then mark the point with tape (we used blutak). You may need an assistant to help with this and also remember the sunstrip can NOT be in the wipers sweep or cover more than 25% of the window area. Alternately some sunstrips come pre measured for your car to make them easier to fit. Step 3 Trim to the sunstrip to the desired size. Step 4 Spray the windscreen with a water/washing up liquid mixture to help get the sunstrip in the right place. Step 5 Peel off the backing of the sunstrip and attach the strip to the windscreen to the mark line (we used blutak for the marker). Step 6 Now the sunstrip is fitted, you now need to use the water/washing up liquid mixture with a squeegee to get the air bubbles out. A pin might also come in handy to help with this. Once this is done, you can admire your hard work. Please note we used more than one type of sunstrip for the making of this guide.
  4. As tribute to the King of Pop - Michael Jackson, Steve has a look through some of his more unusual cars on his 60th birthday. 1990 rolls Royce limousine As one would expect limousines are part and parcel of a celebrity life style and Michael had more than one Rolls Royce limo. 1988 GMC Jimmy High Sierra Fire Truck One of the oddities within the collection was a fire truck, painted with Neverland Fire Dept sign writing. However it isn’t quite clear why Michael owned this. 1909 Detamble replica Another unusual purchase by Michael was this Detamble replica, especially when he could have afforded a genuine example. 1997 Neoplan Touring Bus Naturally no pop star is without a tour bus and Michael was no exception. This bus featured cream leather interior, as well as a bathroom made from gold, granite and obviously porcelain. 1988 Lincoln Town Car limousine And here’s another one of Michaels limos. The Lincoln Town car was popular with musicians and even Elvis had one. 1993 Ford Ecoline Day Van The day van was a very popular vehicle in America, and like a lot of Americans Michael owned one. His Ecoline was fitted with Televisions and games consoles. 2001 Harley Davidson Police Motorcycle It wasn’t just cars Michael had in his collection, as he also owned this Police spec Harley Davidson. But I have to admit that it’s a good match for the GMC Fire Truck. 1954 Cadillac Fleetwood Another American icon, and a must have in any car collection is a Cadillac. This car comes from a great time in American car design and this particular car was featured in the filming of Driving Miss Daisy. 1988 GMC Jimmy personality One of the least luxurious vehicles in Michael’s fleet, but non the less practical.
  5. Spark Plugs are a small, yet vital part for the running of your engine and they can also tell you what condition the engine is in. In addition, spark plugs are both cheap and easy to replace as well as being a regular serving item. The most seen types of spark plug conditions are seen below as well as what they could mean you’re your vehicle. Fitting Spark Plugs Step 1 Let the engine cool and make sure the ignition is OFF as you don’t want the vehicles electrical system to potentially run through you! Then you can open the bonnet. Step 2 Remove the engine cover from your vehicle. This step may not be applicable to certain vehicles, particularly classic vehicles. Step 3 Locate the spark plugs. This will depend on the type of engine fitted to your vehicle. Four cylinder engines have four spark plugs on the top or side of the engine in a line. V6, V8, V10 and V12 engines have six, eight, 10 and 12 spark plugs respectively which will be evenly spaced on each side. spark plug layout on a four cylinder engine Step 4 Remove the end of the HT lead attached to the spark plug which should just unclip from the spark plug. It’s worth doing one spark plug at a time so as not to get confused when you’re refitting the leads as incorrect fitment will affect the running of the engine. It’s also worth checking the condition of the HT leads because if they’re damaged then they too will need replacing. Step 5 Remove the spark plug using the correct sized socket or spark plug removal tool. Once the spark plug is removed its worth checking its condition by using the above guide. Then use a feeler gauge to check the gap between the spark plug as you’ll need the same gap between the new plugs so in order to get a good spark. This will usually be between .028 - .060 inch. If you need a spark plug removal tool then you can buy it here Step 6 Screw the new spark plug in by using your hand and then use the correct sized socket or spark plug removal tool to tighten the spark plug. Don’t over tighten the spark plug as it can cause damage to either plug or the head of the engine. Also I recommend to first screw the spark plug by hand as cross threading the spark plug could damage the head of the engine. Step 7 Reattach the end of the HT lead and then repeat step 4 – 6 with each spark plug. Step 8 Start the engine to make sure then engine is running properly. It the engine seems rough then I would advise to switch off the engine immediately and check that you have fitted the HT leads to the correct spark plugs. If you need to buy spark plugs then you can get them Here
  6. Steve Q

    Full-scale, moving Bugatti Chiron made from Lego revealed

    This is truly staggering and all credit to the designers and builders. I'd love a drive!
  7. Steve Q

    Volkswagen deliveries halted by WLTP emissions certification

    Oh dear, oh dear. This doesn't help volkswagen whilst it's still in the mist of the emissions scandal. I wonder how many other manufacturers are facing the same issue?
  8. Steve Q

    Behind the scenes at Britain's ice-cream van HQ

    Wow! I do love to have a look around this factory :)
  9. The language of tyres can seem a complex, and one few drivers understand. When choosing tyres drivers are guided by the tyre shop, and most drivers understand which Brands are premium, mid-range or budget and how to check tread depths. However the tyre sidewall gives you a lot of useful information, you just have to understand the hieroglyphics. Here is a useful tyre chart courtesy of Pearltrees to help you decipher the code:
  10. Having an auxiliary fuse box can be beneficial to those who intend to modify their vehicle, either for work or pleasure and who intend to add additional electrical components such as exterior/interior lighting, stereo upgrades and alarms to name but a few. To fit a battery master switch you’ll need: Auxiliary fuse box with junction box - Examples available from eBay Four gauge wire from an auto accessories/ICE shop Insulated spade connectors Step 1 Disconnect the battery. This might seem obvious but if you forget you run the risk of running the cars electrical system through you! Step 2 Run the four gauge wire from the battery to your chosen fuse box location. This could be in the engine bay or even in the cabin. DON’T connect the four gauge wire to the battery yet. Step 3 Connect the other end of the four gauge wire to the junction box. The other end of the junction box will split the electrical supply between your additional electrical components. Step 4 Those split electrical supplies are then individually connected with insulated spade connectors to the fuse box. Connection point can be seen at the side of this fuse box. Step 5 Mount/attach the junction box and fuse box to the vehicle. Step 6 Fit the correct size fuses to the fuse box. Step 7 Re-join the four gauge wiring to the battery. Then reconnect the leads to the battery and you’re finished. Please note that the items shown in the pictures may differ from the one available in your country, however the fitting process will be the same.
  11. Car security has come a long way in the last twenty years thanks to improved locks and immobilisers, however with the introduction of keyless entry and keyless ignitions car theft is sadly on the increase. To help boost security you could look at fitting a battery master switch which acts as a type of immobiliser by cutting off the negative earth electrical supply but allows the alarm, radio and clock to function when the master switch is fitted with a fuse holder. If this sounds like a good idea to you, then my first piece of advice would be to assess where you are going to fit the switch. You’ll probably need to do measuring so in order you can buy/make brackets to hold the switch. To fit a battery master switch you’ll need: 1. Battery master switch, with key and fuse holder Examples from eBay 2. Four gauge wire from an auto accessories/ICE shop 3. Four Ring terminals 4. Suitable brackets 5. Nuts and bolts. This will depend on the size of brackets you’ve bought/made and where you have placed them. Step 1 Disconnect the battery. This might seem obvious but if you forget you run the risk of running the cars electrical system through you! Step 2 Assuming you have decided on where you’ll fit the switch, the next job is to attach your brackets through the holes in the switch base. Step 3 Attach the ring terminals to the four gauge wire. Step 4 Break into the battery negative lead and attach the four gauge wire with ring terminals. It might be worth crimping it to hold it in place as well. Step 5 Connect the negative battery lead to one of the master switch connectors and use a ring terminal to connect the fuse holder. Step 6 Connect the other end of the fuse holder to the switch and then re-join the four gauge wiring to the battery. Step 7 If you haven’t done already, attach the switch and its brackets to your chosen part of the vehicle. Step 8 Then fit the fuse into the fuse holder. Your fuse and fuse holder may differ from the one shown in the picture. Step 9 Test your handy work by fitting the red key and starting the ignition. If all is well then take the red key out and job done. Just don’t lose red the key! Picture below showing an example of the finished article. Please note that the items shown in the pictures may differ from the one available in your country, however the fitting process will be the same.
  12. Steve Q

    Age defying Volkswagens

    Steve looks through five Volkswagens that lasted longer in production than you might think! VW Beetle The last Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg-German in 1978 for the hard top and 1980 for the Karman cabriolet; however that wasn’t the end of the story. Production continued in South America where there was still high demand for cheap, simple transportation at assembly plants both in Mexico and Brazil. Despite the introduction of the Golf, Beetles were still being officially imported from Mexico by Volkswagen Germany well into the1980s. Personal imports continued in small numbers, until two professional car import companies started importing larger quantities of Mexican Beetles from 1996 right up to the end of production in 2003. The Mexican Beetles were based on the late 70s body and chassis, similar to that of the 1200 but fitted with a 1600cc fuel injected engine producing 90bhp and catalytic converter. The Mexican Beetles also benefited from an electric washer bottle as opposed the vacuum system as found on the 1970s versions, as well as front disc brakes as standard. Besides these alterations the Beetle remained relatively unchanged, keeping the same suspension setup and four speed manual gearbox as found on the older versions. UK importers were generous with options lists which included right hand drive conversions, folding sunroofs, CD players and even heated windscreens. Even with the novelty factor the Mexican Beetle remains a rare sight on UK roads. Ultima Edicion Beetle VW Transporter bay window Just like the Beetle, South America was in high demand of the bay window transporter due to its versatility where both van and minibus versions were produced in Volkswagens Brazilian plant. The name was changed to kombi but the same 1970s design soldiered on with an air-cooled engine, until 2006 when new emissions rules were brought into force in Brazil. To prolong the life of the Kombi Volkswagen Brazil fitted it with a 1200cc water cooled engine which could also be found in the Fox, this not only reduced emissions but it meant the old designed gained a front radiator grill. Professional importers started bringing the kombi into the UK at the start of the Millennium, where buyers could select from a variety of interior and colour options, but more importantly allowed them to have the retro looks but within a brand new vehicle. Unfortunately progress left the Kombi behind, thanks to safety legislation production ceased in 2013. Last Edition Kombi VW golf Mk1 The first generation Golf was launched in 1974 as a direct replacement to the much loved Volkswagen Beetle. For buyers the golf was a vast improvement over the beetle, as it was available as a five door hatchback or two door cabriolet as well as having more powerful water cooled engines. Just like the Beetle the Golf developed a loyal following, and the model built on Volkswagens reputation for providing reliable family transport. The sporty Golf GTI was launched in 1975 which marked the introduction of the “hot hatch” and became a benchmark for other manufactures to follow due to its practicality and fun driving characteristics. The Mk1 Golf ceased production in Europe in 1983 for the hard top, but the cabriolet remained in production for another decade and final bowed out in 1993. However that was not the end of the story, because as we’ve seen previously in this article certain countries still required cheap and economical transportation. The Golf Mk1 continued to be produced in Africa until 2009 but was renamed Citi Golf so as to differentiate itself from the later model Golfs. The Citi Golf was available with either a 1.4, or 1.6 fuel injected engine and was available in four trim levels; CitiRox, CitiSport, TenaCiti and CitiStorm. 2003 Citi Golf VW Jetta Mk2 The Mk2 Jetta was noticeably longer, wider and taller than the previous model and was available in three and five door saloon. The second generation Jetta was released in 1984 and immediately became a sales success in America, where it outsold the Golf and even achieved bestselling European car of the year in America in 1991. In the same year the Jetta was introduced into the Chinese market in complete knock down (CKD) form, but this later changed in 1995 when China started their own production using locally sourced components. The Jetta was the first Volkswagen to be released in China but due to Volkswagens strong reputation the Jetta has become a popular choice for taxi drivers in China even despite the Mk2 Jetta production ending in 2013. VW Golf Mk4 The fourth generation Golf was introduced to the UK in mid-1998 to replace the aging mk3 model and was available in 3 or 5 door hatchback, estate or cabriolet even though the latter was just a facelifted Mk3 Golf convertible which naturally confused buyers. The Mk4 Golf brought with it various improvements over the outgoing model as it was both longer and wider than the previous model as well as being taller which all improved the cabin space. In early 2004 the Golf Mk4 was replaced by the fifth generation in continental Europe, but it continued to be sold as the Golf City in Canada and in South America until 2010. The Golf City was facelifted in 2007 and was available with either a 2.0 115hp petrol engine or a TDI engine, and sold well due to being competitively priced at $15,300 Canadian dollars. In south America the Golf City was available in either a 1.6, 1.8 or 2.0 petrol engine and was available in two trim levels.
  13. The start of the millennium is shockingly 18 years ago now, and since those wild parties and concerns over computer meltdowns, various special run of the mill cars were born. Steve runs through 12 cars in no particular order introduced in the Noughties (2000-2009) which he feels could become classics. Renault Avantime The word Avantime translated from French means “ahead time” and which was a perfect name for this Renault which was crossed between an MPV and coupe. It certainly was ahead of its time, and one I feel if released tomorrow in the growing MPV market it would sell well. It was fitted with either a 2.0 or 3.0 petrol engine and featured a panoramic roof and futuristic rear lights all wrapped up in a luxurious cabin. Alas, it was not to be and the Avantime had a poor sales record in the UK. However, this means that it is guaranteed to become a future classic due to its rarity and exclusivity. Ford Focus RS The Mk1 Focus RS was the first Ford hot hatch from Ford since the immortal Escort Cosworth and as such had big shoes to fill. However, thanks to Colin Mcrae at the wheel the Focus RS proved itself to be a very capable rally car and as such developed a loyal following. The Focus RS had a low volume production run where 4,500 were made for the European market, of which just under half ended up on UK roads. The Focus RS was powered by a 4 cylinder turbocharged engine producing approximately 212bhp and as such could easily give its competitors a run for their money. Just like other cars on this list I feel the Focus RS is a guaranteed future classic due to its rarity but more importantly due to its motorsport pedigree. Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI The Golf Mk5 GTI aimed to build on the Golfs dependability as a family car but aimed to inject some excitement back into the GTI name which some buyers of the previous models had been missing in both the Mk3 and Mk4 GTI. To do this Volkswagen gave the Mk5 GTI a hot 2.0 petrol engine, combined with a touch of retro flair with a tartan interior and Golf ball gearknob. Overall the changes made the Mk5 GTI very appealing to buyers and I sure will help in making it a future classic. BMW Mini R50/R52/R53 The BMW New Mini was released in 2001 just as the classic Mini production ended. This was a sad and exciting time for Mini fans, but also a bold move by BMW which cannot be denied has been a complete success. The Mini owes this to its design cues taken from the classic mini such as the grill and headlights, as well as the large round speedometer and classic style switchgear. The new Mini wasn’t all show and no go either, as its sporty yet classic looks were backed up by great handling thanks to a wheel at each corner and a great selection of engines. Citroen C6 The C6 was Citroen's flagship model aimed at competing with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E class. However, the C6 wasn’t as conservative as its German rivals due to the body style such as the concave rear window, the roof angle, hydropneumatic suspension and unusual interior design. Unfortunately, the C6 wasn’t a big seller compared to its rivals and as such it makes it a rarity today. But I feel just like its predecessors of the BX and CX the C6 will become a future classic. Jaguar XK The second generation Jaguar XK appeared in 2006 and had a hard act to follow in light of the success of the first generation and just like its predecessor the XK was available in coupe and convertible form. Thankfully Jaguar managed to succeed in releasing another exquisite designed sports car, however, some of the general public felt the car had copied Aston Martin in some of the body lines. This isn’t as daft as it sounds, as the same designer had been used for the creation of the Aston Martin Vanquish and the XK. The stunning design was also mated to a supercharged V8 as well as having a lovely interior. Renault Clio 172/182 The Mk2 Clio range gained the first sporty model at the start of the 21st Century and kicked off with the 172. This later developed into a facelifted version which included Xenon headlights, rain sensing wipers, more airbags, 6 cd player and climate air-conditioning. The final phase of the 172 was the Cup version which was a lightweight version of the 172 and naturally wasn’t fitted with any of the extras of the facelift model except for subtle body modifications. In 2004 the 172 made way for the 182 which gained slight cosmetic tweaks and increased performance. Just like the 172, the 182 also had a lightweight Cup version but then gained the Trophy spec which was a limited production run of 550 cars and was fitted with upgraded Sach shocks. I feel this Renault pocket rocket is sure to be a classic, with the 172 Exclusive model (172 units made) and 182 Trophy commanding the most money if kept in original condition. Honda S2000 The S2000 was yet another car to be released at the turn of the century and released in the year of the Millennium. The S2000 became synonymous as a true drivers car thanks to a 1997cc four-cylinder VTEC engine which could reach a staggering 9000rpm as well as appearing in the second Fast and furious film, 2 Fast 2 Furious. It also benefitted from a 50:50 weight distribution and double wishbone suspension which meant that it had great handling to match the performance. The most sort after models ar the GT Edition (UK)/Ultimate Edition (Continental Europe) which symbolised the end of production in 2009 and were limited to 200 cars. 100 GT Edition/100 Ultimate Editions which were finished in white with red leather interior, grey wheels and came with the additional hard top. Mazda RX8 Launched in 2003 the RX8 was a clever design, not only did the coupe style body hide four doors the engine too was something special. All RX8 models were fitted with a 1.3 Wankel rotary engine which were available in power from 180bhp up to 231bhp. The RX8 benefitted from sports car-like handling and performance but had all the advantages of a normal family hatchback. However, reliability issues affected the model due to engine lobe wear and engines requiring a rebuild at no less than 80,000 miles. I feel the RX8 is a guaranteed future classic due to its rarity and unusual design. MG ZT The MG ZT and its sister the Rover 75 were the last big MG Rover cars to be built at Longbridge, but had been designed by BMW and were available in either saloon or estate. The MG ZT was powered by a 120bhp 1.8 K series engine, 160bhp/180bhp 2.5 V6 engine or a Ford Mustang 4.6 litre V8 and available with either a manual or automatic gearbox. The rarest versions were fitted with the options such as the X pack which increased power or pearlescent paint. But the V8 versions are coveted by enthusiasts as they are rear wheel drive as opposed to the other models which are front wheel drive and had a chassis setup developed by Prodrive. Vauxhall Monaro The Vauxhall Monaro will look very familiar to our Australian or American readers, as the Monaro was badged as a Holden Monaro in Australia and a Pontiac GTO in America respectively. Released in 2004 to the UK market the Monaro was relatively unchanged from its Holden sister, and fitted with the 5.7 small block gen 3 V8 for the first generation model or a 6.0 litre V8 as fitted to the second generation which also benefited from cosmetic changes. The Monaro was a rare car in the UK even when new which will only help with its future values and well worth considering if you want a proper V8 powered right-hand drive muscle car. Alfa Romeo Brera The final car on this list and by no means the least is the Alfa Romeo Brera which was launched in 2005 as a replacement for the aging GTV and based on the Alfa 159 platform. The Brera was available in four trim levels; Medium, Sky view, Turismo Internazionale and Brera S the latter was only available in the UK and featured improved handling which was helped by tuning company Prodrive. The Brera was available with a 2.2 four-cylinder petrol, 3.2 v6 petrol engine or a 2.4 diesel. Total production figures for the Brera exceeded 21,000 but despite this, the Brera was not a common sight on British roads even when new and as such will help make it a future classic.
  14. On the 9th August 2015 I had the fortune of visiting the historic MG factory at Longbridge in Birmingham, and on arrival we waited for our guide in the MG Showroom which gave me a chance to have a look over the MG3 and MG6. Our guide then met us and took us across to the main buildings where we were shown into a room and learnt the history of the MG brand and SAIC future plans for the marque. After the presentation the real fun began and we were shown a faithful reconstruction of Morris office and then moved onto the Technical Centre. As no surprise we were not allowed to take any pictures, but we were show an MG3 turbo prototype as well as the CAD/CAM machines as well as the engine test facilities. The test facilities at Longbridge design and develop the engines and suspension for European MG3s and as such they differ from their Chinese siblings. We then moved onto the heart of the site where we saw the build process for the MG3 but I must confess the conveyor belts and production lines were silent on the day of our visit as production only occurred two days a week. We were also informed that the cars arrive from China to the UK as Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits and reassembled at Longbridge. The silence was eerie but I was just pleased to see the factories still being used for their orginal purpose instead of just idling. The final part of the tour was to be shown MG’s private collection of prototypes and historic vehicles which included some limited edition models and key successes such as the Mini, TF and Austin Healey. Overall the factory tour was a great day out and a real insight into the current operations of MG.
  15. On August 12th 2015 I was lucky enough to visit the former DeLorean Factory in Dunmurry-Belfast and was surprised to find that the site is still being used in the manufacture of car components for no other that Peugeot and Citroen. I visited the site on a Sunday and as such it was much like a ghost town which how it must have felt shortly after DMC demise and closure in 1983. On looking around the various factory units it was amazing to still see some of the original DMC-12 production line equipment still hanging from the ceilings and which sit redundant and forever waiting. I look round and try to picture what the site would have looked like in the heyday of production and feel a sadness that the production was cut short. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to look at the historic Delorean test track due to a lack of time which was a real shame as it is under threat from being built on. Nor did I get to drive up to the famous Delorean House as it is a private residence which had subsequently sold the year before. I do hope that Belfast stops any proposals of housing on the Delorean test track, as it would be a great loss to Belfast due to the history the test track and the rest of the factory complex holds for the city.
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