I wasn't sure whether to file this under Regrets or 10 of the Best. Having spotted a nearby fence, I decided to sit on it. In truth, it's a bit of both.
I've been tidying the attic. Some items will be binned, others will be sold, while some will live to fight another day in my living room. Some people might find old love letters in their loft. Maybe newspaper cuttings, school reports and Christmas decorations. I've found photos of my old cars. It has been a painful experience.
In the days before I discovered the Joy of Tat™, I had decent taste. Whereas today I worship at the altar of all things French, there was a time when I spent stupid amounts of cash on Volkswagens, Vauxhalls and Fords. Indeed, I once spent the combined total of £40,000 on a pair of cars with a Vauxhall badge.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If my crystal ball had been working 15 to 20 years ago, I'd have kept all of the following cars. The majority are out of reach to a freelance dad during a lockdown. Still, better to have loved and lost, etc. That's what I keep telling myself.
This is therapy. By sharing my idiotic decisions to sell these cars, I can be publicly shamed. This may help me come to terms with my loss and allow me to move on to a future of ropey Renaults, crumbling Citroëns and poorly Peugeots. Mesdames et messieurs, here are 10 of the Best Regrets. Or something. They're ranked in order of regret.
The subtext to this story is that I'm an idiot.
Volkswagen Golf Rallye
I still have to pinch myself. I owned a box-arched legend from the 1980s. Admittedly, the Volkswagen Golf Rallye lacks the visual drama and motorsport pedigree of the Integrale, E30 M3 and Quattro, but at least I can say I owned one.
The Golf Rallye was designed to go rallying in 1989. Unfortunately, a change in regulations meant that the supercharged Rallye would be unable to compete with its turbocharged rivals, so Volkswagen turned its back on rallying. This wasn't before 5,000 units were produced, all left-hand drive and powered by a 1.8-litre supercharged engine.
Mine was a rare UK-spec car, supplied new to a customer in Jersey. I bought it on a whim, paying £3,000 for the privilege, before using it for a 60-mile daily commute to Salisbury. My lasting memory is of the supercharger whine, the huge pull from low revs and the immense grip in wet weather. I think I sold it for around £4,000. The supercharger packed up a week later – I had no idea it was on the way out.
Fun fact: I only bought the Golf Rallye because my VX220 was in for repairs and I couldn't face the prospect of driving a Corsa for six weeks. Different times. I'm an idiot.
Ford Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’
Do you remember when the Ford Capri was seriously uncool. When four-cylinder examples were virtually worthless and six-cylinder cars were driven by wide boys and hairy-chested lotharios? I do, because that's when I owned a succession of them, but I was neither a wide boy or a lothario.
I worked my way up to Capri 280 ownership. A Lacquer Red 1.6 Laser was followed by another 1.6 Laser in Mineral Blue. I sold this for a tired 2.8i on ‘pepper pots’ and with a four-speed gearbox. When there was nothing else to fall off, I traded it in for a 2.0 Ghia automatic, which was minty but painfully slow.
Oh, I've just remembered a C-reg 2.8i Special I bought from a geezer in Southampton. It didn't have any VIN plates and the back half of the car was a different shade to the front. I was young and impatient and I made a mistake. Still, I sold it to a chap who arrived to look at the car in the snow just as it was getting dark. I never heard from him again, but the car was last taxed in 1999.
The Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’ was a one-owner car I bought from a family in Banstead. It was tired – the front wings featured holes big enough to fit a ‘Capri elbow’ in them, and the rear arches were rustier than a ship's anchor. I bought it because it was authentic and original. I can't remember the price. Something in the region of £3,500, I think.
I improved it, but it was sold soon after we moved to Devon. There was little interest in the car, partly because I downplayed its condition in the advert. It was also during the period immediately before the values of fast Fords went into orbit. It sold for £4,000. I dread to think what it would be worth in 2020. I'm an idiot.
Ford Racing Puma
To this day, the Ford Racing Puma remains the best front-wheel drive car I have driven. It's amazing to think that the car was a relative failure, but it was just too expensive when new. Ford struggled to shift the Racing Puma at £23,000, a price that plunged it deep into Lotus Elise territory.
It was also £8,000 more expensive than the Ford Puma 1.7: a near-flawless car, if EVO magazine was to be believed. In the back of the mag, the word ‘Everything’ was printed under the ‘For’ column, and ‘Nothing’ was under ‘Against’. The standard Puma got a five-star rating. The Racing Puma received four.
I bought a black Ford Puma 1.7 in 2001. It was only car I bought new, but I sold it at a loss to buy the Racing Puma. Having failed to convince punters that the FRP was a worthwhile upgrade from the standard Puma, many were used as Ford management cars. They were released to the auction houses in one batch, which sent values spiralling downwards. This must have angered those who bought one new. I paid £14,000 in February 2002.
It was a brilliant, brilliant car. The Alcantara-clad steering wheel, the Sparco seats, the bulging hips and the tuned exhaust system which pop-popped on the overrun like a thousand BB guns. Frankly, I'm amazed that prices are still relatively affordable. I got £11,500 for mine when I part-exchanged it for a VX220. I'm an idiot.
The Racing Puma made way for a Vauxhall VX220. I had no intention of selling the FRP, but I fancied a two-seater sports car before we started a family. When you're dealing with £100 Lagunas, £200 Safranes and £300 Camrys, it's relatively easy to assemble a collection of cars. Things aren't so straightforward when you're looking at expensive vehicles.
There was something alluring about the VX220. I could never see myself driving a Lotus Elise, but the Vauxhall badge appealed to me. Slightly under the radar. The Vauxhall dealer laid out the red carpet for us. We were given access to a dealer demonstrator for the entire weekend, which is the best kind of test drive.
The purchase was never in doubt. I remember arriving home in my VX220, at which point my neighbour emerged from this garage. “You've bought a Ferrari,” he exclaimed. “It's a Vauxhall,” I told him. “No, it's definitely a Ferrari,” he protested. I failed to convince him otherwise, which is odd when you consider the huge ‘V’ on the front of the car.
I spent many hours in that car. Commuting, driving for the hell of it, buying milk from a shop 100 miles away. It was sold to fund the renovation of a house – the builder fancied it, so a deal was done. I'm an idiot.
Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato TR-XX R4
The purchase of the Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato TR-XX R4 coincided with the launch of PetrolBlog. I spotted one for sale on Pistonheads, and the seller had photographed it in the snow. I was smitten – I just had to own one. Unfortunately, the car in question had been sold, so I waited for another one to come up.
A few months later, the Cuore Avanzato cupboard was bare, so I placed a wanted ad on Pistonheads. To my surprise, I received three offers: two were Japanese imports, but the other was a genuine UK-spec car. The chap had owned it from new, having seen it for sale at his local Daihatsu dealer on his way into work.
He was selling it because he had just bought a Renault Megane R26.R, so the Avanzato was surplus to requirements. A deal was struck, and I made the slightly terrifying journey home from London to Devon. Trust me, heavy rain, contraflows and lorries aren't happy bedfellows when you're at the wheel of a car the size of a matchbox. That said, four-wheel drive is a bonus.
In many ways, the ‘Box of Frogs’ helped to establish PetrolBlog, so I owe it my gratitude. I can't remember why I sold it, but I really wish I hadn't. I'm an idiot.
Vauxhall VX220 Turbo
I missed the VX220 so much, I went out and bought another one. This time, it was a VX220 Turbo in my favourite combination of Moonland Grey with a red roof. Going against the grain, I actually prefer the purity of the NA to the explosive pace of the Turbo, but I'd happily go for a drive in any VX220 right now.
The VX220 Turbo will always have a special place in my heart for being the last sports car I owned before the birth of our first son. It took us on an epic tour of Europe, taking in France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. This included five laps of the Nürburgring, from which I escaped unscathed.
I sold it because I figured it was time to settle down and behave a little more responsibly. It was traded in for a nearly-new Skoda Octavia vRS in 2005. Because the VX220 was worth significantly more than the Skoda, I drove away with a cheque for £7,500. Still, I'm an idiot.
Honda Accord Type R
One of the great unsolved mysteries of the modern classic world is why the Honda Accord Type R is still relatively affordable. Integra Type R prices have been rising for a while, but the Accord remains good value for money. Having said that, I've just seen one available for £20,000, so maybe the Accord Type R ship is finally sailing.
In many ways, the Honda Accord Type R is my ideal performance car. I have a thing for Japanese saloon cars of this era. This, combined with my love of the underdog, means I should get on very well with the Accord. It's also relatively understated, even with that rear wing on the back.
Mine was an early car, but I never experienced any problems with the fifth or reverse gears. Cosmetically, it was a little tired, but it was backed by good service history across its multiple owners. It was sold to make way for the Corrado VR6, with my man maths suggesting that the Volkswagen would be cheaper to run. I'm an idiot.
Audi urS6 Avant
The Audi urS6 was so good, I bought it twice. Launched in 1994, the original Audi A6 was essentially a rebadged Audi 100, following the switch to an alphanumeric nomenclature. This means the urS6 was a little more than a rebadged S4. A little confusing at the time, but if the Swedish people can switch from driving on the left to the right in a single, I'm sure we can cope with a little badge engineering.
Back to the point. The Audi S6 was a demo-plus-one-owner car purchased from a guy in Sandbanks. He was the accountant for a blue chip company, so the car had a meticulous service history. There were no other bidders on eBay, so it didn't cost a great deal.
When it was new, the S6 would have cost £37,000, which made it more expensive than an entry-level A8. For some context, that's the equivalent of £71,500 in today's money. I sold it because it was getting tired, so I've got no idea why I decided to buy it back again a couple of years later. It was sold to make way for a Daewoo Musso (yes, really), with a guy paying £995 to take it to Bulgaria. I'm an idiot.
I owned a BMW M535i. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It was a B-reg car, painted in Cinnabar red, with a ‘dogleg’ five-speed gearbox and a 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine. What a glorious thing.
I bought it on my birthday, having discovered it at a classic car dealer in Beaulieu. It wasn't perfect, but it cost £995 and showed promise. One big issue was the red paintwork, which had progressed beyond pink and was on its way to milky white.
Undeterred, I spent two weekends bringing the paintwork back to life. It looked superb. Right up until the moment it rained, at which red paint did a passable impression of Steve Strange by fading to grey. It needed a complete respray, but having received a few worrying pointers from a local BMW specialist, I traded it in for a mint Mk3 Volkswagen Golf GTI which was far better than its reputation would suggest. I'm an idiot.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1
Speaking of Golf GTIs, I can list a Mk1 on my CV of car regrets. I shouldn't have bought it. While there was nothing wrong with the car, I was actually in the market for a Mk2. Having spent many evenings researching the subject and identifying a few candidates on eBay, I bought a silver Mk1 Golf GTI on a whim.
The car was based in Hastings. Getting there involved a flight from Plymouth to Gatwick, a number of trains, and a walk from the station. On the plus side, the drive back along the A272, A34 and A303 was fabulous. The car didn't miss a beat.
It was sold when the ‘Dartmoor damp’ started to eat the bodywork from beneath the paint. I suspect it was the result of a dodgy respray. I moved it on before I was left with a pile of rust in the garage. I'm an idiot.
That's it. A potted history of the cars I regret selling and proof that I'm an idiot. Apologies for the length of the article; I got carried away. It's been a cathartic experience.
However, the fact remains: I'm an idiot.
I'll update this article with photos of my actual cars as and when I discover them in the attic. That's the photos, not my cars. I'm not sure how I'd get them into the attic. I'm an idiot.