Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Escort RS2000...

We're going for a car with the coveted RS badge, and we're not afraid to admit it. Sadly though, this is Not £2 Grand, so throw away any thoughts of a rear-wheel-drive Mk1 or Mk2 Escort with a hot crossflow or some-such. There'll be none of that here, mainly because we have no desire to sell a kidney.


BAD! NO! NOT ALLOWED! Well, not for £2000


No, what we're focusing on is the often underrated, but huge fun to drive, final generation escort RS2000...


To the local MacDonald's, we've got some burnouts to do!


Let's get something out of the way first. We like Escorts here at Not £2 Grand. Pollitt has had four while Bevis has had, erm, some. We know they're a bit of an automotive taboo - it's not really 'cool' to like them unless they have a Cosworth YB engine and big wing on the back - but we don't care. We're not cool, so such stigma doesn't bother us. We did once have a taste of cool when we were younger - mum bought us a pair of Kickers for school. Oh, those were the days. Anyway, we digress. Yes, the late Escorts, we like them. Here's Pollitt's old 'track' Escort as proof...


We reserve the right to ignore the fact this picture was taken right after a con-rod had exited via the engine block


So, the final Escort RS2000. Admittedly it's not the finest car to ever carry the RS badge, but in 1996 it looked like it could be the last. The Focus was still a sketch on a designer's drawing board and any thoughts of an RS version were the stuff of pipe dreams. The buying public recognised this, and building on the success of the Mk V RS2000 and for that matter, the RS brand as a whole, they came flooding into Ford dealerships to buy what could possibly be a slice of history.



Sadly, Ford ruined all that. It stopped production of the RS2000 in 1996, allowing the Ford die-hards to snap it up, only to release the Escort GTi a year or so after. A car which, while missing out on the 2.0 engine and RS provenance, still managed to look exactly the same as an RS2000. From then on it was a slow decline in popularity for the RS2000. After all, why would you pay twice as much for an RS2000 when a GTi looked the same. Especially if you put some RS2000 badges on it, which many people did.


Oh, bought a GTi have you? *runs away crying*


The GTi, however, would be the RS2000's saving grace in the end. People bought those instead, then they covered them in glue and drove them through Halfords - a fate the RS2000 escaped. Instead, as the prices of the RS2000 dropped, they fell into the hands of caring owners. They ignored the slightly woolly handling and the fact that it might not have been the best RS ever. Ironically, they saved them and cherished them simply because they were an RS. Plus, the Mk VI did have its good points. It was a marvellous place to be thanks to awesomely comfy seats. The 150bhp engine was a stormer and the gearbox wasn't too bad either. They looked utterly fantastic, too. And, provided you didn't drive them to within an inch of their mechanical tolerances, they were a giggle to pilot on the twisty stuff. The last RS2000 was, and still is, an honest and enjoyable car in its own right, even if it's a bit 'off' the normal RS standard.



So then, let's recap. It wasn't the best RS ever, it was a bit (and we have this from good authority) 'woolly' to drive, they loved to rust (find us a Ford that doesn't) and they were ignored in favour of the cheaper GTi. So, on that basis, why should you buy one?

Well, for a start they're cheap. Your £2000 will get you a semi-decent one with ease. Plus, it is - no matter what anyone says - an important car. Hell, the Mk IV XR3i was rubbish, too, but they're now starting to fetch serious money. We reckon the last RS2000 is going to go the same way. It's got provenance, it's got rallying history - Gwyndaf Evans was great at rallying/crashing them - and most importantly of all, it's the last of the RS Escorts. Buy one now, show it some tlc and then stick it in the garage for a few years. We promise when you come to sell it, it'll be worth a lot more than £2000.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Failures - Mercedes W202...

We've been with you for just over a year now, and while we like to come across as 'all knowledgeable' when it comes to buying cheap cars, we're afraid that in reality we've bought some pups. Some just failed a little bit. Some failed so spectacularly that clean-up crews were needed, branches of Government had to be informed and entire counties were shut down (okay, we might have exaggerated a bit there). With that in mind, we've decided to share them with you from time to time, starting with our most recent 'failure' - our dreaded W202 C230 Mercedes Benz. Shudder.

The Failures - Mercedes W202...

It started off well. Sort of. We had a W126 S-Class which decided to eat its own gearbox and then promptly vomit it back out. It was very dead. We needed a car. We needed a car URGENTLY. Calls were made and the internet was scoured with a keen eye. Nothing turned up. Just as we were giving up hope, however, A WILD MERCEDES APPEARED. What's more, it looked good...


Very green. But that's cool, green's a lucky colour, right?


It got better, too. Not only was this car ready and waiting, it was also bloody cheap. For just £500 this vision of German, urm, green-ness could be ours. It had a load of MOT, plenty of tax, a musky 'old man' odour flooding through its innards and one of those keys that flip out of the keyring. IT HAD IT ALL! And, amazingly for a Mercedes of this vintage, it had no rust, just one owner and the dash displayed a verifiable (full history, y'see) 27,000 miles!


Now that's GOT to be a winning sign...


Happy as a clam, we exchanged money for keys and set about enjoying our *cough* new Mercedes. We enjoyed it for roughly three days, then this happened...

That...that's not good


That there is the ABS light, but it wasn't telling us the ABS was borked. Oh no. It was telling us the car was in 'limp mode'. It sounds comical. It wasn't. What 'limp mode' is, is a function whereby should the drive-line components of the car throw a wobbly, the ABS light will come on and the car won't go any faster than 15 MPH. Annoying. Even more annoying for us, as our 'limp' Mercedes liked to engage this feature every time we stopped. Driving without stopping is fun, but it does tend to attract police attention. Not wishing to end up on World's Wildest Police Crash Horror Been Framed shows, we did a lot of this in a bid to find the problem...



...to no avail. Sometimes the car said it had fault codes. We'd clear them, and then the green git would lull us into a false sense of security and 'ping' would go the ABS light, resulting in us sitting in a lot of fields and hard shoulders waiting for it to sort itself out. OH YES, IT FIXED ITSELF. When it could be bothered to. Sometimes simply turning off the ignition for a second would cure the issue. Other times we'd have to sit on the side of the A38 for 17 weeks. Either way, it'd break again and again every time it came to a stop. Many a garage looked at it, but none could fix it.

Not to be deterred, we took it to a car show. We then just ended up doing this again. A lot. Because it had broken. AGAIN.


Hmmmm, feel that German comfort and luxury


During that show - and knowing that we were going to cut our losses and get rid upon our probably lengthy 'drive' home - we let people have some fun via the medium of Sharpie...




...which was fine until someone drew a 'Police Aware' sign on the driver's door. Still, at least we didn't break down on the M5 on our way home. Next to two Police cars. Oh wait, we did. That was a fun conversation.

We got home and sold it via a forum for about £3.22. We were glad to see the back of it. Apparently it's going to become a track car (with a manual gearbox, thankfully). Since we sold it, though, it's been stripped out, bastardised and left in a barn until its turn arrives. Crucially though, NOT PISSING ONCE HAS THAT ABS LIGHT COME ON DURING THE NEW OWNER'S TENURE. Hateful car.

Still, you live and learn. Or not in our case. Next on The Failures will be our 1997 Escort track car. One Escort, two Mondeos, three engines and not one wheel ever hitting a bloody track. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The E38 BMW 7 Series...

We touched on this when we did our James Bond update, but we really like them so we thought we'd give it the proper Not £2 Grand treatment. Yes, yes, oh yay. Plus, we used to own one, so it's the perfect excuse to post pictures like this...


James Bond doesn't do building sites. The Pollitt does though, because he's weird


The E38 7 Series is the third generation of BMW's flagship, luxury car. The E23 and E32 before it had made a hell of an impression on the market and for BMW, business was booming. The new car had to be nothing short of spectacular if was going to carry on this success - mainly because James Bond can be a right knob if he doesn't get his way. The pressure was on, so the designers got penning. What they came up with was a car that still looks great today - nearly 20 years later. We wish we could say the same for our faces. We look rough.


Oooh, moody. That silly Golf with pink wheels was ours. In case you were wondering. Oh, you weren't?


The E38 took the executive-bottom-chauffeuring baton from the E32 in 1994. The executives in question were sad to see their E32s leave, but they were over the moon as soon as their cheeks hit the E38's leather - and it was always leather in an E38. Cloth wasn't even an option. Swanky.

Of course it wasn't all about leather, nice though cow skin is. It was the whole package. It didn't look too different from the E32. The front end still sported the famed BMW 'kidneys' and the rear doors still housed the 'Hofmeister Kink' (click to find out what that is, fact fans). In fact, the overall silhouette wasn't a million miles off its predecessor. Its clout, however, came with its specification and range of engines.

Inside you had that leather, air-con, a 14 speaker stereo system, gigantic sunroof, comfortable seating for 5 adults, electric windows, a mobile phone in some cases, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control and a little thing under the dash that went "BONG!" if you left the keys in the ignition after getting out. Fancy.


This is a Sport. It's also a 'facelift' model, hence the funky stereo/Nav


The E38 wasn't popular just because it had leather and some fancy electronic stuff. No, it was also a popular beast because it came with some cracking engines. There was the straight-six 2.8 which, while not the fastest, still managed to hustle the E38's bulk along nicely. At the other end of the scale there was the 5.4 litre V12 (with over 300bhp) for executives in a hurry, and then, right in the middle, there were the V8s.

From 3.0 through to 4.4litres in capacity, there was an engine for everyone. Everyone apart from the economically minded, that is. The Europeans got a diesel. We didn't though, nor did the U.S market. Apparently we can't be trusted with diesel. Still, bugger'em, we like snorty, fuel-hungry V8s. In your FACE, diesel.


Yeah, punk! The badge reads 740 - that's 4.0litres. Oh and, erm, do you have any spare food? We spent all my money on BP Ultimate


On the road - and we can vouch for this - the E38 is great. Considering it's a bit of a fat old Hector it doesn't half motor. Not just on the M6 while on your way to powerful board meeting at I'm A God-Damn Executive INC either. No, this sucker will lap up the twisty stuff with gusto. To coin the BMW's very own tagline, it really is the ultimate driving machine.

It was so good in fact, that when the new, aesthetically challenged E65 7 Series hit the dealerships in 2002, sales of the E38 went up! Companies bought them in huge numbers before they ran out. A rare achievement in the automotive world.


E38 - bottom right, sexy. E65 - bottom left, bloody hideous


There you go, the E38 7 Series. One of the best luxury cars ever made. We had one (well, we had two actually, but the other one blew up. Long story) and we loved it. If you get one, you'll love it too. Plus, you'll be able to pretend you're Jason Statham from The Transporter. He had fancy kicking fights with Ninjas you know?


DRIVE, SKID, GRRRR, FIGHTY FIGHT FIGHT, GRRRR, DRIVE, OILY MAN LOVE, PEW PEW PEW, FREEDOM, THE END. Sorry, that's just an abridged version of the film for those of you haven't seen it

The MINI...

Hi. Bevis here. The Pollitt’s finally let me out of my box for another N£2G update. Unfortunately the cruel swine left me without an airhole this time, and I’ve been subsisting solely on photons and quark matter, which isn’t easy. So as an act of vengeance – and sensory confusion forced by a lack of oxygen and vitamin D - I’m writing a thing about a car he hates: the MINI (I now hate you more - Pollitt).


A MINI, yesterday

Now, this is an interesting and brilliant car (and don’t let him tell you otherwise) for a number of reasons. It’s a BMW product, so you’ve got a guarantee of quality and reliability there, as well as frugality, security and relatively good residuals - although the latter have slipped of late, that’s why it’s here. It’s BMW’s first FWD production car too, and they’ve made a pretty game stab of it.

Before we go any further though, let’s get one clarification out of the way: you’re not going to be able to buy an awesome streetracer MINI for two grand. The Cooper S is a spectacular machine, both in supercharged mkI and turbocharged mkII guises, but that’s pie-in-the-sky on your budget. Pull yourself together and stop being greedy; if forced induction is your bag, search N£2G for some of the turbo’d motors we’ve looked at in the recent past. But if you’re set on a MINI, you’ll be looking at the base-spec MINI One or, if you’re lucky, an early Cooper.


This is a 'spensive MINI. Stop looking at it!

Here’s a cool fact about MINIs that you may not be aware of: the difference between the One and the Cooper is largely cosmetic. The Cooper’s more powerful but it’s the same engine, so you can chip your One, add a nice set of wheels and you’ve basically got a Cooper. A Bluefin will cost you £249, plug straight in and give you an extra 33bhp. That’s the kind of lazy, minimal-effort tuning we love.


This thing makes it go faster. Somehow.

The major hurdle we have to deal with here, let’s face it, is image. Estate agents across the land (and in London in particular – damn you, Foxtons!) have turned the MINI into a sort of default middle-class hatchback of choice; a car for people who want something small, that will make them (they think) seem a bit quirky and different, and that basically they don’t have to put too much thought into. These people tend to ignore the Fiat 500, which basically fulfils the same remit, because… well, you see MINIs everywhere, and there must be a reason for that. But the more important image concern is that of heritage. A lot of people – and by ‘people’, I mean ‘car enthusiasts’ in general – feel that the use of this iconic British moniker is a slap in the face when glued to a comparatively massive German car (that was designed in California!), not least one that has cynically spawned a whole stable of cars that are wholly un-Mini-like; SUVs, convertibles, coupes, blah blah. Hell, the estate version has totally the wrong name; ‘Clubman’ denotes a different face, BMW, not a bigger rear glasshouse. You’re thinking of Countryman. Or Traveller. You berks.

All of this is tommyrot, of course – you just have to bear in mind that the MINI is not trying to emulate the Mini. Sure, they’re trading off the heritage to the stupid, but it’s a thoroughly decent new car in its own right. Try not to picture Paddy Hopkirk in the ‘64 Monte, stop whistling the Self-Preservation Society to yourself, and just enjoy it for what it is: a well-packaged, nimble, capable little happybox.


Oh, wait - that's the old Mini! Moving on...

So what do you get for your money? Well, under the bonnet is the 1.6-litre Tritec engine, a Brazilian-built unit developed jointly by BMW and Chrysler. This may not sound that promising but trust me, it’s a little cracker – the One gets 90bhp, while the Cooper enjoys 115bhp; not the most impressive numbers on paper, but this is a sparky unit that thrives on revs, and is more than enough for country lane fun in a car that weighs 1,150kg. And remember that Bluefin option! You also get clever brakes – ABS, EBD, cornering brake control – a six-speaker stereo, tyre defect monitor and five three-point seatbelts. To be honest, the boot is pretty rubbish for putting stuff in unless your weekly grocery shop consists entirely of flat things – pancakes, sliced cheese etc - but the rear seats split 50:50 to fold, so it’s more practical than you think for going on holiday. As long as you don’t take anyone with you.

The dash and controls are cool, the servicing intervals are wide, it’s got a 4-star Euro NCAP rating, and there are enough of them in scrapyards now that you can pick and choose which alloys and seats you might want to fit, so you don’t even have to be that fussy about spec when you’re shopping around. Although if you do want to be fussy, you can – there are millions of them about.


Bevis thinks this is cool. Pollitt doesn't.

So, is our angry leader – the Pollitt-buro, if you will – warming to the MINI? Probably not. And he’ll like it even less when he reads this bit and discovers that I’ve cheated. You see, you can buy MINIs for under two grand, but they’re still pretty rare. The reason this is going onto N£2G now is to keep you, dear reader, ahead of the curve: there are plenty of MINIs currently hovering around the £2,200-2,400 mark, meaning that in the very near future there’s going to be plenty available for under two grand. Or, with some agile haggling, you could land one right now – remember, your negotiating points will be discolouration of the plastic arch surrounds and trim (half an hour of Back-To-Black will sort that out), faded paintwork on bright colours (sod it, you can’t see that when you’re driving it can you?) and iffy stereo wiring (easily sorted by a cheapish Halfords purchase, probably). There really isn’t that much more that goes wrong with them. Well, there is, it’s a car, anything can go wrong, but you know what I mean.



Why not buy one now and wind up The Pollitt? He’s been telling you to buy Focus ST170s, Type-R Accords, Volvo T5s and Supras for ages – imagine the look on his face if you buy a sensible little MINI. Priceless.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The VW Lupo...

With VW recently releasing the up!, its new, teeny tiny city car, prices of its predecessor, the Lupo, are set to tumble even further. Get one bought. Unless you're over 6ft 3.


The Lupo! No, wait...



...here we go. Sorry about that


The little Lupo was introduced in 1998. It shared the same basic platform and shell of its less Wall-E looking cousin, the Seat Arosa. The Lupo was a better bet, though. It looked better and with a VW badge up front, it sold in bigger numbers, too.

It was a wise move by VW, as the car it once boasted as a being small - the Polo - was getting fatter by the year. You could probably park a Mk1 Polo in the boot of the current model, such is its expansion over the years.

Yes, the Lupo was a welcome breath of fresh air. It was fun, it was (despite its teeny, tiny dimensions) practical, it was cheap (in the VW sense of the word) and it looked great. Needless to say, it sold really rather well.


Genuine VW marketing strategy. Possibly


We used to have a Lupo when we worked for VW some ten years ago (damn, we're old) and we chuffin' loved it. Ours was a 1.0SE in silver, with a whopping 50bhp. Set the world on fire it did not. Get us where were going in comfort and safety, all while getting 5476mpg it did. It was a bloody hoot, too. With a wheel at each corner it fell right within the 'like a go-kart' handling cliché, and that was with a mere half-century of horses under the little bonnet. Invest in one with a 1.4 16v engine (75bhp, you speed demon, you) and you'll have even more fun. They even made a 1.6 125bhp, six-speed GTi version, which was a huge amount of fun. They're a bit more than £2000, though. Sorry.


Er, your boot's open. And your glow-plugs are still cold. And, er, the handbrake is on. Oh, and your ABS...never mind


The one for us, however, much as the above picture suggests is the diesel option. With a healthy dose of torque it's still a hoot to drive and with unimaginable economy figures it's perfect in a time when fuel costs about as much as a three bed semi in Reigate.

There's no shortage of cheap Lupos, so use your £2000 wisely and shop around. Find that low mileage one that's got full service history and so on. It'll pay dividends in the long haul. You might even get some change from your £2000, too. If you do, you could always treat it to some new shoes and suspenders...


Oh hell yes!


So, go forth and enjoy fun, wallet-friendly, German motoring! You won't regret it, we assure you!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Ford Focus C Max...

We've been gone for what feels like an age (sorry about that, we'll never leave you alone again, promise) only to return with a savage, fuel snorting, wheel spinning, erm, people carrier? Okay, you're right, it's none of those things. It's a bit slow, it's quite frugal and the traction control will put a stop to any of your tyre offending antics. This, ladies and gents, is the most sensible car we've ever featured on Not £2 Grand - the Ford Focus C Max...


Hmmm, raucous. Or not


Now we know you all like big engines, leather, LOUD NOISES and so on. That said, we tidied our room last night and found our sensible trousers (a lovely corduroy pair in green, no less). We're wearing them now, and while they're a little tight on our gentleman parts, we can't help but feel more sensible. With that comes a Not £2 Grand first...



We're here for you, readers. For all of you, no matter what your needs. All we ask is that you want the most for your £2000, that's all. That said, we've not been there for a select number of you, and that makes us feel ashamed. Yes, we're talking about you, family people. You folks with 'the childs' running around. You folk who need plenty of safe seats for your most loved of little bottoms. You folk who find even a trip to ASDA needs to be planned with near-military precision. You lovely, lovely families.

We've been rubbing cars in your pretty faces, which, while bargainarific, are about as much use to you as a George Foreman grill is to a gazelle. Not today, though. Today we've got a car which is modern, safe, rewarding to drive, cheap to run and not at all too bad to look at, either. Today, you, the driving force behind the financial security of Pampers are being given the Not £2 Grand treatment. You DO NOT have to be stuck in a clapped out, R-reg Megane Scenic, nor a rusty Volvo estate. No, you can be one of the family elite thanks to the clever bods at Ford.


Darling, I'm pregnant. Again


The first generation C Max was already onto a winner, as it was the first car to use the C1 platform, which went on to become the chassis for the second generation Focus - fantastic handling car. Slapping that platform under some slightly taller doors and a slightly higher roof couldn't be a bad thing. It wasn't, as the C Max was adored by the motoring press when it hit the showrooms in 2003 because of its handling.

Of course that wasn't the only feather in its hat. The C Max had clearly been designed by someone who used to work for Ikea, or Dr. Who. The innards were - for a car no bigger in terms of road space than it's hatchback sibling - massive. You'll find at least 34,000,012 cubby holes, drawers, pockets and trays. Perfect for toys, baby essentials, maps, drinks or that sandwich little Davey didn't want (which you'll find three weeks later thanks to the smell).



Up front there's big, comfy seats for Mum and Dad, along with a brilliantly thought out dash, some more cup holders and some buttons that go "bing". In the back, there's plenty of space for three little bundles of joy, including the option to retrofit Isofix fittings for the smallest of those bundles, offering the utmost in safety.

That leads us onto the next bonus of owning a C Max - they're damn safe. The white-coat-wearing bods at Euro NCAP fired one into a concrete wall, stood back for a bit, did a knowing nod and awarded it four out of five stars. The results were particularly pleasing for the children in the car, who would've all been fine. Good news for you, Mum and Dad, should a wall jump out on you.


I'm well safe, me. Safe in a crash, not safe as per the vernacular of children, innit


There's also a big boot, air-con, electric everything, durable trim, traction control (on some models), ABS and more. It's a great family bus for those of us who need seats and safety to be a paramount concern.

Your £2000 will get you a 2003-5 1.8 petrol model (diesels are still pricey), but that's no worry. The petrol engine hauls the C Max along perfectly well, and if you drive it while sporting your sexy, green, corduroy trousers the economy should be respectable.



So, there you go. You family folk are now officially part of the Not £2 Grand fold, and we couldn't be happier!

Right, that was all far too sensible. We're off to put jam in our pockets.