I’ve never met Reg Thompson, but I’ve fallen in love with his Nippa. But before you go scampering off to report PetrolBlog to the Daily Mail, allow me to explain.
While researching a feature on cheap city cars, I caught sight of a bargain basement Perodua Nippa. You’ll find all the usual trimmings guaranteed to make PetrolBlog all hot and bothered – one lady owner; low mileage; original dealer plates and stickers; totally undesirable. That kind of thing.
According to the eBay ad, “this car is basically a Daihatsu Chore” and it’s possible they’re referring to the Cuore, but the Nippa is actually a rebadged Daihatsu Mira. You’ll remember that, long before the days of the Dacia Sandero, the Perodua Nippa was the cheapest new car in the UK, hovering around the £5,000 mark.
This was quite a landmark vehicle, as the Nippa – or Kancil in its native Malaysia – was Perodua’s first car. Like that other famous Malaysian carmaker, Proton, the company relied on rebadged and lightly modified versions of existing cars to get off the ground.
As you’d expect, Britain’s cheapest new car wasn’t the last word in sophistication or charm. It was basic in the extreme, but its Daihatsu roots meant that it was reliable. The Nippa was bought by people who simply wanted to get from A to B and couldn’t be bothered to go via C. They probably had as much affection for their Nippa as they did their tumble drier or kettle.
But it was cheap. And to some, that was all that mattered. What’s more, because the Perodua name was about as popular as a politician with an offshore bank account, secondhand values plummeted, meaning the Nippa fell into banger territory faster than you could say Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sendirian Berhad.
Today, you can buy a Perodua Nippa for less than the price of a wet weekend in Skegness. It’ll cost pennies to run and in the unlikely event that it goes wrong, you can probably fix it yourself.
This particular Perodua Nippa – originally supplied by Reg Thompson Cars of Keighley – is the entry-level EX model, so you’ll have to go without the body-coloured bumpers. But at least you’ll be able to revel in the pleasure of driving what was formerly the cheapest new car in Britain.
Sadly, a quick trawl around Keighley using Google Maps reveals that Reg Thompson Cars has gone to the great dealership in the sky, replaced – like so many other garages – by a hand car wash. You can almost imagine what Reg Thompson Cars was like…
Framed photos of Proton MPIs and Personas hanging on the wall. The overpowering smell of Magic Trees, heavy duty car wash and tyre paint lingering in the air. The desperate wait for a customer to drop by with a part-ex that might make some money on the forecourt.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, life at Reg Thompson Cars has been preserved forever. Huge thanks to Keighley Town Centre Association (KTCA) for this treasured memory. It’s just a shame that the video wasn’t able to save Reg and his Proton garage.
Still, on the plus side, at least the couple, who definitely weren’t members of the KTCA, managed to order a Proton Savvy in time for Christmas. And they’ll also know where the petrol filler cap is situated.
If you fancy Reg Thompson’s Nippa, and there’s every reason why you should, head over to eBay and place a bid. It looks like the garage will take an offer under £595, which is excellent value, considering it was formerly up for £895. In the words of Robin Thicke, I know you want it.
Not convinced? Well, Ian Seabrook of HubNut fame owns one, and he reckons it’s the 2CV of its time. High praise indeed. Vive la différence.