Quick car review finder - select below

Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig's fleet

Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig's fleet Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig
Published on: October 4, 2012
Published on: October 4, 2012

Shoe-string motoring: update on Craig's fleet

After the fiasco with the Fiat, this week has been divided between the Lexus and the Renault. The Lexus has reminded me just how refined it is. It is not perfect, not by a long way - in fact at motorway speeds some irritating wind noise creeps in through the passenger side rear window rubber. While it is an annoyance one can either slow down a bit or turn up that high powered premium sound system.

But shock horror - something is not working on this paragon of reliability. The cigarette lighter that powers my satnav system has stopped working. One tiny fuse later and power was restored. That's as much drama as you would ever get from one of these I'm sure. I have been spoilt again by niceties such as heated seats, electric movement of the seats, that brilliant sound system and superb headlights at night.

The steering is strangely detached though - offering very little feel and being a bit too light for my liking, but that's the only real criticism I can levy at this car. Oh, and the dismal fuel economy perhaps, but then no V6-engined four-door saloon was going to shine in that area.

The Renault has been giving further service as well. The front wheels have been painted black by brake dust, telling me it really is time to drag out the power wash. The ability this Clio has to make you feel like an errant schoolboy and give you an enormous grin plastered across your face still stands. I have yet to take for granted just how quick this thing can get down a twisty road such is its sublime handling and fierce acceleration out of the tightest of bends.

It has not let me down in any way and nothing major has yet broken or fallen off, something I must say I am relieved and equally surprised about. An eleven-year old hot hatch that has probably been thrashed for most of its life still giving reliable service is impressive. Long may it continue as well.

So what of the Fiat? Well there are two types of gearbox these can use. Basically, I bought the right gearbox, the mechanic bloke I bought it off also confirmed it was the right one and would fit my car. Money changed hands (can you see where this is going yet?) and a gearbox was acquired. One silver Fiat was booked into a local garage to have the second-hand gearbox fitted at a cost of €150. Not too bad then. The car was dropped off in the morning and about lunch time I had a call...

"Hello there. This gearbox you have. It's wrong. It is the right type of gearbox but the mountings are wrong. It must be from a Cinquecento not a Seicento."

After a quick scan of all the ads, I found no Seicentos being broken for parts or cheap ones to cannibalise. So the original, broken gearbox was re-installed, I was €150 lighter for the privilege, had a new large metal garden ornament that resembled a gearbox and still no third gear.

This was when things got really silly. No cheap Seicentos for sale, but there were two cheap Cinquecentos and many parts are interchangeable. Just not gearboxes apparently. On one such advert was a metallic blue Cinquecento Sporting powered by the same 1.1-litre injection engine. Same brakes and likely most of the oily bits are the same too. NCT until December and taxed until the end of the month. €300 to become its fifth owner after fifteen years. I never even drove it - I watched it drive up to check for smoke, checked for head gasket and overheating issues, checked the logbook, noticed the two scrubbed tyres and handed a stranger my €300 in a public car park and drove off. Yes, nearly every rule for buying a car was broken. But if nothing else it was cheap and I could use parts from a silver Fiat with a brand new NCT to make one good Fiat. Well that's the plan at least. Also, I happen to have a spare gearbox for one of these...