18 months with BumCar

DSC00365_4ce03ba2d2d74-lightboxAs it is, right now, sitting in a bay at the roadside outside my new student gaff, 62,504 miles have passed under the wheels of HK52 DTV after almost 8yrs on the roads of Surrey. Unlike our 05-plate Audi A6 after its 78,000 miles, DTV is starting to show it in places, but then what was I to expect? It spent most of its life carting around young sproglets and it is French after all… To give it its due, it isn’t bad, just a few parking dings on the outside from its previous owner and some of the softer plastics inside, like the stuff used for the top of the instrument binnacle is marked. Closer inspection into this revealed that even a finger nail can cause scratches in it, most must be caused by my Navman falling off the windscreen…

As for the mechanical side of the car, it had quite an extensive overhaul at the end of the summer, costing, in total, a rather eye watering £956… Sorry Dad, and Thank you! More on that in a bit…

The Summer of 2010 was a lot less hectic for BumCar than last year, having endured a year of living as a student I couldn’t afford to take a holiday, so there was no loading up with camping gear and trekking around the New Forest, and I wasn’t carting actors, actresses and a production office around Greater London, Surrey or Kent either! The majority of its time was taken up with my 2 mile each way commute to work and some courier work around the local area for extra money. It did however make several appearances at Petrolhead Nirvana’s Monthly Monday night meets at The Ace Cafe in West London, as well as numerous PistonHead Sunday Service events including a few runs too.

The runs have been great fun, proving a nice workout for  my car and a great opportunity to find some nice routes with decent fun roads on my doorstep to enjoy, as well as meeting a great bunch people along the way. BumCar even picked up a few compliments at various runs over the Summer, most aimed at how impressive its composure is through corners and how well it manages to hold its speed through the bendy bits as well as being deceptively nippy as a Clio 182 and a Focus ST170 driver will verify! “Never thought I’d see the day a 1.4 Megane was held up by a Ferrari!” Always nice, a little ego massage eh?

They’re not wrong though, even I’m feeling rather chuffed and surprised with the car, it really is quite a tidy handler  though on the tyres it wore for most of the Summer, it did have an alarming tendency to understeer on wet roundabouts. Body roll seems pretty well held together, there’s an almost adequate level of feedback available through the chunky rimmed steering wheel but it could just do with a little more power! I really have to give it some stick to keep up with the rest of the pack on some runs and thus has a noticeable affect on my fuel economy, dipping down into the lower 20s!

Insurance this year was with Admiral, coming in at a fairly reasonable £1083 fully comp, considering I’m 19, haven’t yet accrued any no claims bonus and have had my licence for just 2 years.

Having hit 7.5 years of age and crossed the 60,000 mile marker we decided that the cambelt needed doing before I took it away to Canterbury for my 2nd year of University so I was tasked with ringing around various local garages getting quotes. Our local Robins & Day Peugeot dealership in Guildford (who look after our 308)  came in the cheapest, and a fair bit cheaper still than the local Mazda garage could manage even with their 17.5% labour discount through PistonHeads… Unfortunately for me, well, my Dad whose wallet was taking the raping, BumCar needed a lot more work than first thought… Its water pump was leaking, the OSF CV gaiter was cracked, the alternator belt was on its last legs, its front tyres were on the legal minimum, it was still running around on it’s original, and now well worn, front and rear brake discs, its rear pads were cream-crackered and its fronts, that were replaced 4yrs ago were in need of renewal too… R&D were given the go-ahead for all the work bar the tyres as I’d ordered it some Kumho Ecsta KU31s for £114 fully fitted for the pair through Black Circles. The rest of the work came to £842 inclusive of VAT and labour, but I was without a car for just over a week as there were 2 mix-ups with the rear brake discs…

Boy did the car feel better after that, its starting issues disappeared, it starts quicker and the revs settle down rather than drop off, stalling the engine. I swear even the exhaust stopped rattling and bashing about under the car for a few days at least…. I’ve been meaning to sort this for a long time, the exhaust seems rather loose, though secure, and wobbles about, thumps the underside of the car and squeaks a lot too, especially on bumpier roads. Most annoying… I’ll see if I can get that sorted come MOT time as it’s not going anywhere in the meantime, touch wood…

These new tyres then. When I bought the car in April 09 it was wearing 4 fairly new Admiral (Kumho budget brand) SP712s, they were pretty good in the dry, but could come unstuck quite easily in the wet and weren’t great in the snow either. I don’t know how many miles the tyres had covered, but the fronts seemed to wear fairly quickly, especially on the outside edges. Trying to find good tyres for a decent price was a bit of a task in itself; seems my 205/55 R16 91v size come in fairly expensive, more so than a friend’s mk2 MX-5 1.8iS Paradas! Black Circles came up trumps with pricing, undercutting everyone else by about £20, I ordered a pair of Kumho Ecsta KU31s to one of their local fitting centres in Petersfield and dropped it in on a busy Saturday morning. Had it back 40mins later and £114 lighter and really rate their service! The tyres are great, the road noise from the front end is greatly reduced and they soak up the bumps a little better than the old ones did too, road holding in the dry is great and I’m yet to loose traction in the wet, even with all the city roundabouts and tight 2nd gear corners I have to negotiate around Canterbury. I took it for a blast the other evening after a day of rain and on a corner the old tyres would squeal and spin up the inside wheel at, silence from the Kumhos and they pulled me round without a hint of letting go.

After disgracing itself at Xmas it was doing well electrics-wise, until we started getting some serious rainfall in early September, the auto wipers started playing up. The rain would come, they’d wake up, sit happily at their adaptive intermittent state which was fine, but then they’d start sweeping more frequently before moving onto their normal-speed continuous wipe and then almost immediately onto ‘mental’ regardless of  the speed I was doing and the intensity of which the water was falling. Fearing water was getting into the Body Control Module I kept hiding the car in the garage to keep it dry. After poking around under the bonnet, they fixed themselves and have been fine since.

Only gripes with the car right now, other than the rattley exhaust, is that in this wet weather the windows seem to steam up quickly and don’t really clear with a blast of hot air, requiring the AC to clear the windscreen, often leaving the side windows still in a foggy state.

As I’m spending more time on motorways, driving between home and Uni, I’m finding the car a joy to use on long distances compared to my old Mazda as there’s enough poke for quick overtakes; I rarely find myself having to drop from 5th. The stereo is great, it’s quieter in every respect, the seats are bigger, softer and more supportive and I’ve even managed a new record of 39.8mpg! For night driving, the headlights are pretty decent too. I do wish it had cruise control sometimes.

I did actually look into swapping it during the summer;  a mk1 MX-5 1.8iS, possibly a Focus ST170, even a Skoda Octavia vRS 1.8T crossed my mind, the latter two insurable for £1800, the Mazda for a whisker under £1300, but it wasn’t to be. It’s just too much to spend on insurance at the moment, and I could use the space I have, so I’ll wait until I hit 21 at the end of Uni.

As winter draws in I’m looking forward to seeing how the new tyres cope with the snow, which I hope hits Surrey and Hampshire as it did last year, and I’m praying that BumCar continues to behaves itself this year!

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Tom Waugh