PetrolBlog Fleet update: January 2013

Starting as I mean to go on, I thought I’d kick off proceedings in 2013 with a look at the current PetrolBlog Fleet. Regular readers will remember that 25% of the Fleet was cut in 2012 with the sale of the Saab 9000i. You can read its end of term report here.

So what’s in store for the three remaining cars?

Audi A6 3.0 Avant Sport quattro

By rights it should have been the Audi and not the Saab that was sold last year. It’s fair to say that we’ve never really gelled with the quick but thirsty wagon. The much loved (and much missed) urS6 Avant was always going to be tough act to follow and despite being a better car in so many ways, the 3.0-litre A6 lacks the character and charm of the 2.2-litre S6. Then there’s the small matter of the glorious 5-cylinder soundtrack, the beauty of which the V6 simply can’t match.

There’s also the ever-present engine warning light which has been glowing bright since about a month after we bought the car in August 2011. After lots of investigating it turns out that the aftermarket catalytic converters fitted in early 2011 aren’t of sufficient quality for the Audi’s management system. So to show its distate, it throws its toys out of the pram and forces us to live with the glowing light. Fine, but we’ll never know if there’s another fault in the system. The only sure-fire cure is to fit a pair of genuine Audi cats, which at £1,000 each isn’t exactly a cheap option. So for now, we’ll live with the light.

2002 Audi A6 Avant 3.0 Sport quattro

Throughout 2012, the brilliant Matt at Volkscraft helped to iron out just about every small issue with the Audi. The result is that aside from a slightly bent nearside rear wheel, the car is running better than ever. In fact, the late night journey home from the Guild of Motoring Writers karting event in Northamptonshire ranks as one of my favourite drives of 2012. The roads were mildly moist, the traffic was deliciously light and I was totally free of distractions. The tiptronic gearbox was shifted to manual and the A34, A303 and A30 presented an epic drive. I had finally gelled with the big Audi. My god this thing is quick. Just don’t look down at the single figure MPG display when you’re giving it some.

So we’ve decided to keep the faith with the big Audi. Besides, being a petrol-engined A6 it’s worth little more than a pint of lager and a packet of crisps. So we may as well hold on to it. Glad we didn’t pay the £35k price tag when it was new in 2002.

Plans for 2013? Well sorting the rear wheel out is a priority and I’ll probably get all the alloys refurbished at the same time. The car also needs a day of pampering along with the fitment of the genuine Audi roofbars recently purchased on eBay. Other than that it’s a case of not worrying too much about the mid to low 20s MPG figure…

Citroën AX GT

Progress is being made on the Citroën AX at last, but only by chance.

The sale of the Saab meant that the car insurance needed to be cancelled. But faced with a choice of a £25 cancellation fee or the same cost to transfer the cover to the Citroën, I naturally chose the latter. So the little AX is now insured.

Which is just as well as she’s currently sat outside, in the rain, having lost her garage space to the ZX. More on this later.

1989 Citroën AX GT

After eight weeks of inactivity I was delighted when the AX fired into life at the first time of asking. With some air in the tyres she moved effortlessly on to the lane ready to face the elements. I’m stupidly excited at the prospect of getting her on the road this spring. PetrolBlog’s Dutch correspondent, Ton Dumans has actually given me a deadline of April 1st to get her taxed and MOTd again. Fingers crossed!

The priority has to be a service, followed by a trip to the MOT tester to see what’s required. All being well the AX GT will become a central figure of PetrolBlog during 2013.

Citroën ZX 16v

The newest recruit and already she’s taken her place in the dehumidified garage. So how does that work then?

Dehumidifier in Citroën ZX 16vWell quite simply, she’s sprung a leak. I knew there was a problem as the inside felt damp and the driver’s side footwells were wet. Following the torrential downpours in December, I was left with a pool of water in the rear footwell that could so easily have played home to a few fish. Within an hour the AX was out of hibernation and the ZX was introduced to the garage. A few minutes later and the mats were removed, along with the window rubbers and the dehumidifier was placed within the car. It’s now slowly drying out.

Gunk in the Citroën ZX 16vFortunately I have access to press cars for the rest of the month, so the ZX will remain in the garage whilst I source new window rubbers. Their removal has revealed huge dollops of detritus around the windows which will be removed. There’s so much I’m tempted to use it as potting compost to see if I can grow some miniature ZXs.

Whilst she’s in the garage I’ll also treat her to some FailCar-style detailing to see what can be done with the red paint. It’s not as bad as the Saab, but it’s certainly lost its shine. I also need to think about replacing the heater matrix which is either dead or dying. Leaving for Birmingham Airport late one evening I was presented with a thin layer of ice on the inside of the windscreen. By the time I reached Birmingham it was still there, by which time I had discovered that the de-mist setting was broken and the system was generating as much heat as a hot water bottle filled with iced tea.

Hopefully a new heater unit and a complete set of window rubbers will cure all known problems. But then this is a Citroën, so that’s not exactly a given.

1995 Citroën ZX 16v in garage

Other than that it’s just a case of getting it back on the road as soon as possible and revelling in its old school charms. I haven’t driven it anywhere near as much as I should have, but when I have it’s been delightful. A car that begs to be taken by the scruff of its neck and given a damn good thrashing. I can hardly wait.

So that’s that. A brief re-introduction to the Fleet and a promise to provide regular updates throughout 2013.

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. January 8, 2013
    Ton D. (@Tonsty)

    Nice read, as most often the case when talking about old stuff 😉

    Naturally I’m humbled to see my name being mentioned… It’s true, I actually have an activity in my calendar saying “Check AX’s status with the Major”. Don’t even think I’ll forget about this.

    By the way, my MG ZS 180 has the exact same problem, or I should say problems, as your Audi A6. First of all, I get MPG figures in the twenties, but secondly, I got the problem with the cat and check engine light coming on.

    How I go about this is resetting the CEL every once in a while and reading out the error codes with my iPhone. More on this, hopefully around the same time the AX will come back to life..

    • January 10, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Found your comment, Ton! Stupidly overenthusiastic spam filter. Sorry.

      Resetting the CEL works on the Audi too. The light comes back on after a week if I recall correctly! Look forward to hearing/reading more about your app dev.

  2. January 9, 2013
    Peter Counsell

    Holy cheese, that is a handsome estate.

    • January 10, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Ha! I had a feeling you might have something to say about that!

  3. January 9, 2013
    Simon Hingston

    So how close to a bare shell does the ZX have to be to change the heater? For the paint have a look at either GTechniq or Bilt Hamber (they’re good for rust protection too) both have products to easily clay & polish then protect for regular use.

    • January 9, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Without wishing to tempt fate, it doesn’t look too bad. Plenty of opportunities for bleeding knuckles with the dashboard facia removal!

      Thanks for the paint tips. Will take a look…


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