Long story short, overheating issues meant I finally got home from work at 11pm on Friday night being towed behind a yellow van. A quick test for combustion gases in the coolant at a local garage on Saturday morning confirmed the worst – a failed head gasket at the least, and probably a cracked head.
So, I did what all respectable shed enthusiasts would do – chucked the BMW on eBay, jumped in the lovely Toyota Auris hire car provided by the AA, and went car shopping.
I had a budget of around £500, wanted something cheap to run and ideally not painful to drive. Could I get fun and cheap to run, for less than £500? Surely it wouldn’t be possible. I also needed to buy one that day, so I couldn’t afford to be picky.
I headed to a local dealer I’d visited previously. They had a forecourt (well, wasteland) full of bargain bangers. Many would have done the job – but I have a habit of getting bored of cars, and as sensible as a 1996 Volkswagen Polo might be, it’d be a matter of days before I was looking for something else.
From 5 Series to five Pumas
One car stood out – a blue Ford Puma. A quick blast around the block and I was sold – on a Puma at least, just not that one. Its last MOT had a long list of advisories for rust. And then, a bit of investigating discovered a serious case of rot, conveniently where the VIN should be, making it unreadable.
Not to worry – I had a plan. I wanted a Puma. I wanted one this weekend. They all rust – I knew that, and with a limited budget and a short amount of time I couldn’t be picky. So, I was going to look at as many as I could in one day, and buy the best.
I viewed five in the end, traipsing around areas of west London meeting the dodgiest of car dealers. And this is the result.
Bought from a local private seller, it’s not perfect but easily the tidiest one I looked at. I also had a good gut feeling about it, something that I reckon is important when buying a used car. The seller had owned it for six months – using it for his three-mile commute on the rare occasion he didn’t cycle. A company car now meant he no longer needed the Puma.
I played on its faults (a cam belt due, a borderline tyre and rusty sills – but unusually tidy arches) and the politest haggling session ever resulted in an agreed £575 – nearly £100 off the already pretty reasonable asking price. That’d do me.
Puma: bought. Andrew: sold
And you know what, it’s fantastic. Everyone says these are fun cars to drive, but I didn’t realise they’d be quite this fun. It (a 1.7-litre, the only one to go for) is much nippier than I expected, sounds great, and handles amazingly. Its tiny steering wheel and high geared steering helps to make it extra nimble to chuck around. I’m almost inclined to say it’s as much fun as my old Mazda MX-5.
Jobs? Well, currently, I’m just planning on enjoying it. If it passes its MOT in six months time and the novelty hasn’t worn off, I’ll look at replacing the overdue cam belt. I’ve also noticed this morning that the passenger footwell is damp – hopefully just due to a grommit in the bulkhead, if Puma forums are anything to go by.
Hopefully it’ll support my theory that you don’t have to spend loads on a car to have fun.