The Future’s Bright at Your Used Car Supermarket

The one thing I’ve always promised myself would never occur happened last week – I became my dad. Now I love my dad and we get on brilliantly, but he does have a tendency to moan. Whether it’s being stuck in a traffic jam, the price of milk or the quality of projection at the cinema, my dad can’t resist the odd rant. Clearly then I’m my father’s son as when we attended the British Motor Show, I had a list of things to have a pop at.

Now the motor show is essentially what a used car supermarket will look like in a few years time so it’s important to gauge the quality of metal on show and pinpoint the highlights. Before I do that though, let me re-live my moan. I’m from a large town myself and am often out in a large city so a trip to London doesn’t faze me in that respect however it takes forever to get anywhere. The underground network is great – there’s always a train, always on time and always gets you to your destination. The problem is that they’re cramped, sweaty and it appears that to get from one shop to another type of retailer takes 30 minutes and 30 tube stops.

The motor show was situated alongside the river Thames, snuggled up alongside the Millennium Dome or whatever they’ve called it this week. In essence then the motor show was in the middle of nowhere. I could’ve got off a stop too early and never been seen again quite frankly. So off the train I got feeling as though I’d already done a day’s work and I was herded towards the exhibition centre. After being bombarded with dozens of flyers for all manner of goods within seconds of my arrival, I spied the entrance a mere 100 metres away and thought if I could keep my head down I’d avoid anymore trees being chopped down and handed to me.

Cunningly though the companies employed the most gorgeous girls to hand out the flyers and try as I might I couldn’t avoid sneaking a glimpse at their perfect faces. This of course involved eye contact which might as well have been a signed contract for another ten flyers in my direction. Despite these distractions I made it inside and can report that there are plenty of automotive delights on the horizon.

For a kick off, Lotus premiered their Evora or ‘first new car in 13 years’. The Evora is a 2+2 mid engined sports car aimed squarely at the Porsche Cayman. With looks to kill, a 3.5 litre V6 engine and prices starting around the £45,000 mark in the UK; their German rivals must be sweating like a turkey at Christmas.

For the Hyundai enthusiast, the Genesis had jaws dropping. It is envisaged that the orange monster on display will morph into the latest Coupe next year with the aggressive yet curvy styling remaining unaltered. The Genesis is definitely going on sale in the United States – and judging by the reaction it got in London – in the UK as well.

For the more realistic buyer two cars were the definite standouts. Firstly Ford unveiled the long awaited return of the RS badge, this time adorning the new Focus. Developing a staggering 296bhp from just 2.5 litres, the Focus RS is the company’s wildest hot hatch yet. Vauxhall offered a more modest new car in the Insignia, the replacement for the Vectra however the word ‘elegant’ just doesn’t do it justice. Aimed squarely the existing customer base, Vauxhall hope the Insignia will entice others out of their Fords and to their way of thinking. With prices set to range from £16,000 to £22,000 they are surely onto a winner.

Speaking of winners, may I be so bold to say that we as paying customers are in a very good position. You see with such an influx of new cars due imminently or in early 2009, establishments such as used car supermarkets will be flooded with the older Vectra or Ford Focus ST as people grab the new stuff. Just because a new car is out, doesn’t instantly make the old one bad – the Honda Civic Type R being one strong example. Used car supermarkets specialise in providing a wide choice of cars and the coming months should give the buyer even more variants to choose from. The upshot being that prices will tumble and you’ll end up with an exceptional car rather than a dog eared ex-commuter one as all the others have already been sold.

I really enjoyed the show and will enjoy my trip to the used car supermarket in a few months time even more. For a start I won’t need to get on the London underground.

Restore Your Own Classic Car – Finding Your Future Hot Rod

If you don’t already have your project car this article will help you decide on a good car to start with. I love restoring and modifying cars because to me it is an art, it is an extension of yourself. You can do whatever you want to do with the car because you are the only one who has to like it. That being said, I will provide you with incite on the restoration process from the beginning to the end from my years of experience.

My first piece of advice is to pick a brand or make of car such as Ford, Chevy, Dodge etc. There is a lot of brand loyalty out there so I am sure you already have something in mind. For your first project you should stick to the major brands because parts will be much easier to come by. Don’t set your sites too high, lets face it, we all want a Hemicuda or a Shelby but you just aren’t going to find those “hot ticket” cars on the side of the road for a cheap price. You should also have an idea of the type of build you want to do, such as a muscle car, hot rod, or a 50′s cruiser because this will narrow the year and type of car you will be looking for. You don’t have to have a definite plan yet but have an idea.

Once you have an idea of what you are looking for the next step is…to start looking! It sounds easy enough, but, where should you look? A good place to start are your local car clubs, someone is always looking to get rid of something. Also try your local restoration shops their technicians always have a line on some of the best restorable cars, especially if you offer a finders fee.

Don’t forget to check your local paper classified adds, auto trader, Ebay, and one of the most successful things I have found, take a ride in the country! you would be surprised how many people have old cars sitting in their fields, especially old farmers. I went horseback riding with my wife a few years ago at a farm in New Jersey and the farmer had five or six late 60′s broncos in one of his fields.

Once you find something you are interested in here is what you should do, Get the VIN (vehicle identification number) and make sure the owner has the title because if it can’t be titled again there is no sense wasting your time. If there is no VIN for the car just walk away. You can find many different sites on the Internet that will help you de-code the VIN number and that will tell you allot of good information such as the original color and motor size, body type, where it was made and what it is. I suggest you decode this information before you buy the car because many people have been scammed this way. It is just a good way to make sure everything is legit.

As you look the car over it is a good idea to take pictures and make a list of what you see. Write down the options the car has (power windows,seats,air conditioning), What size motor is in the car? Look at the rust on the body, how bad is it? fenders,quarter panels, deck lids can be replaced so what you are most interested in is the rocker panels (The small section of body under the doors) if the car does not have a full frame under it the rockers are a structural support. also bring an ordinary refrigerator magnet and go around the car to see where there is allot of filler.

Take in the overall condition of the car, is it sunk up to the door in the ground or is it sitting on inflated tires. Ask the owner as many questions as you can think of, remember the only stupid question is the one that is not asked. Ask is the motor runs, is it seized up? When was it last driven? Why was it parked? Was it stored outside or in a barn or garage? you will find a better car if it was parked on a hard surface like concrete rather than a dirt floor. Does the owner know any history about the car like where it was originally purchased or who the original owners were, every car has a history and the more you know about it the more you will enjoy the car.

Always get under the car and check out the under carriage, make sure the frame is not rotted away, there will be surface rust but you do not want to see large holes in the frame. Look at the suspension and where it mounts to the car, make sure the mounts are still good and that the suspension isn’t going to rip through the floor when you tow it home. Look at the floor pans from under the car and from inside the car, you are going to find holes but just make sure that the structural parts of the floor are solid, like the transmission tunnel and the inner rocker panels.

I don’t stress motors too much just because there are so many after market parts and ready to run “crate” engines available. So if you aren’t looking to keep it 100% original there are a lot of options. The only thing left to do is buy it! If you are not sure if you are getting a good price you can check the blue book value on the car or call up the local car club for that make of car and they should be able to help you decide if you are getting a good deal.

If you follow this advice you should be able to find a good, restorable car to work with.

Ready…Set…Go hunt for your future hot rod, have fun and good luck. next time I will cover how to plan your project.