Finally commentators are waking up to the ridiculous over payments Australians make every year for second-hand cars. You may have noticed that over the last 18 months I have raised the spectre of just how much the Australian market is being ripped off and has been for many years. They are bloody expensive, people.
Though it has slipped of late, the Aussie dollar has been on par, or close to it, with the USD for years now but we have seen no realignment at all. Fives years ago the European manufacturers suggested that they would alter their pricing for new cars given time, but it seems there is no respite in sight. Australians have been happy to pay twice as much for their luxury import than their counterparts in the UK, and even more so than those in the States. As with the price of housing in Sydney, it’s all about supply and demand I guess. And so the knock on effect is that second-hand prices remain artificially high compared with other Western nations.
I was never too sure where Michael Pascoe stood on this previously, as I have often found myself in disagreement with him. I assume then that he must have been out shopping for a new or used Euro barge recently, as I don’t remember it bothering him before. Nonetheless, on this I feel he has it spot on. The Government can help with a reassessment of the luxury car tax, considering we will soon be a redundant car making country, but that is only 33% of the problem over 60 odd grand (or 75 grand for something deemed more fuel-efficient). The rest of the gouging stands firmly at the manufacturers door.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that buyers of new cars hardly want to see their pride and joy’s worth cut in half over night, but surely something has to give? Maybe we should boycott buying new for a while and see what happens. Either that or allow those enterprising enough to go and buy second-hand overseas and make it a little easier for them to bring it in to the country.
We’ve been asked for recommendations to restore a 1969 TVR Tuscan V8. We’re told it is complete with many spares. If anyone has any suggestions, preferably somewhere in NSW, please let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Best to email: email@example.com
I’ve been remiss since the last update, way back in September last year, but it seems that I have now caught up with the problems I bought 3 years ago. The only issue that has arisen since September was a bearing in the rear nearside wheel, replaced for a little over $500. It was the worst Graeme Cooper had seen apparently and the cause is still unknown. We agreed that it may have been from its earlier years pounding along rutted outback roads but who knows.
It went in for its B service in December, along with its pink slip, and sailed through both, other than the rear tyre that needed replacing most likely because of excessive wear due to the bearing failure. It has since sped up to the Tweed Coast and back, taken a full load camping twice and not a beat has been missed. Fuel economy dropped drastically on that long drive north, recording an impressive 8.8 litres per 100kms. Around town it is edging up towards 12 again, but it’s a heavy car and one that has driven a lot of k’s now, so it is fairly reasonable. Plans are being laid for a Fraser Island jaunt in the near future and a bit of sand bashing, so that should bring a few stories.
Once cleaned up, the Discovery 3 still looks as good as it did when new, give or take a few scratches from the odd bush that I may have rubbed up against. I wouldn’t mind sourcing a new drivers seat, as 8.5 years and almost 300,000 k’s of arses getting in and out are taking their toll on the side bolster. Someone made the mistake of buying a cheap bike carrier and its pads that should protect the tailgate somehow moved to the wrong position. This means the rear is sporting an unfortunate black metal smear across it. Now I wonder who would have done that … ahem.
I am pleased that I have stuck with Graeme Cooper Auto too whose work and advice has been unrivalled. They tell me I have a small service mid year, but a big A service after then. I’ll try to stretch that to a 2015 job. Nonetheless, it has strengthened my confidence that the Disco will remain in fine fettle for a long time to come.
Who said you can’t buy a high mileage car and not enjoy the experience? Now where did I put that piece of wood …
What do I constitute a dream car firstly? For me it needs an element of exclusivity. It needs power. It needs to be well put together and obviously well loved. Ideally it will have the best spec available at the time and it also needs to have as few kilometres on the clock as possible with full service history. Finally, it needs to be reliable. So, what does AU$10,000 or less get you?
In this part of the market we are more often than not talking about a car that is at least 5 years old and in many cases over 15. So we are in the realm of power loss, expensive part replacement and quite possibly rust. You can probably tell I am not talking about a run of the mill Toyota, Ford or Holden. Though undoubtedly there are some good buys among them, they simply don’t get my juices flowing. It doesn’t need to be Italian or German either, a nice little MX5 would suit me, for there are few cars around that would put a bigger smile on my face, especially for its price.
A glance around NSW shows up twenty possible contenders:
2004 Subaru Liberty 4 Gen GT Premium Pack 175,000kms $10000
2005 Subaru Outback 150,000kms $9200
2000 Volvo C70T Convertible 103,000kms $9000
As you can see there are some surprisingly tasty cars for the cash, and of all shapes and sizes too. Some are old, some rare but all tick the boxes in some way. But now I need to halve this list. A quick look at the odometers lends a hand, which takes out the Bimmer 318, Falcon XR6, the HSV sadly, the older CLK even though it has less on the clock than the newer verson, the Skyline because it has an after market exhaust and undoubtedly been thrashed, one of the 300ZX’s and the Outback. So that’s down to 13, which goes next?
The Volvo, though good looking, and a soft top to boot, falls short simply because it was never a “fun” car to drive, fast at any rate. Slow whilst tootling around town maybe, but I’d have to put the roof up for fear of embarrassment, and what would be the point of that?
Next goes the 1973 Mercedes 280. Bloody lovely car and with its white-walled tyres as advertised it is a really cool set of wheels. But for driver enjoyment, all the others run rings around it.
The Mini Cooper gets scratched next. Nice car, very well specified, but it’s still only a Cooper, not the S or JCW.
2004 Subaru Liberty 4 Gen GT Premium Pack 175,000kms $10000 (2 ltr Turbo)
So let’s take a look a closer look.
2002 Audi A4 3.0 137,000kms $9,499
It’s a well built car, with beautiful lines, better in my opinion that the latest version, but the 3 litre is far more fiddly to work on than the 1.8T or 2.8 and parts are more expensive. Apparently its timing belt needs to be replaced every 4 years which can cost up to $2,900+ (debatable). When added to the cost of large service you could be looking at a bill in excess of $4000. Hmmm maybe this is one to walk away from.
2001 BMW 530i E39 Steptronic 100,000kms $9500
There are very few reported problems, especially with E39’s built after 2000. Its cooling system can cause problems in time and brake wear is a consistent complaint with owners facing a hefty bill for replacement rotors and pads. Look for oil leaks around the engine and a rough idle could indicate a lack of servicing and extended oil change periods. But it is rapidly becoming the front runner.
2004 Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo 148.000kms $9000
Cheap and fast. If the car has been hooned, you could be staring at issues with the clutch and transmission. Build quality is obviously not as good as a BMW, but then this was just over a third of the price when new. At 148,000kms, I kind of think that there’s some expensive replacements around the corner, but they’d be cheaper than its European rivals.
2007 Ford Fiesta XR4 91,000kms $9990
The smallest, cheapest and newest car here. It may come without some of the niceties that others on the list have, such as a footrest or cruise control, but this is a zingy little motor. It’s the precursor to the current ST which globally has been lauded as one of the best little hot hatches money can buy and the XR4 is no different. Is it a dream car though? If I were 18 again, maybe so.
2001 Commodore VX SS 114,000kms $8500
From reading the forums piston slap, or too much clearance between the piston and the cylinder walls has been a persistent problem with the VX, particularly with the early models. By revving the engine from cold to around 1500 rpm and listening for a knocking sound, you can easily find out. The water pump has been known to go, as well as rear cv joints, along with a tendency to experience backlash in the driveline, or a certain amount of play in the gears’ synchro assembly. By accelerating hard in first gear, taking your foot off and back on again you may hear a knock, which would be a tell-tale sound. But this is a Holden, so cheaper to fix than the Euros and with improved safety over its predecessor, such as Bosch anti-lock brakes and traction control for the manual, this is still a contender. Still would this be a “dream” car? The current model V8 SS would be, but personally this generation never did it for me.
1990 Mazda Mx5 Limited Edition 90,000kms $9880
I love the MX5, always have done but this is expensive for such an early model and appears to be over-priced by at least $4k. Carsguide.com.au tells us to “check that the Mazda’s engine starts easily, idles reasonably smoothly and doesn’t blow smoke from the exhaust under hard acceleration. The gearbox should be light and positive in its change action and not baulk or crunch even on the fastest of changes.”
The soft top needs to be in good condition with no stitching missing. Hopefully it has not been used to race or run around too many tracks. A roll cage and things like a fire extinguisher would be a big give away. As with any car this old, if the numbers on the odometer do not align perfectly, you could be staring at a car that has been clocked. At this price though, I don’t care how limited edition it is, it would need to be exceptional to hand over your hard earned.
As with the BMW, very little goes wrong with the Merc CLK. Its supercharged 2.3 engine, though no AMG, should give you enough of a push in the back to make you smile. However there has been issues with the control unit for the myriad of sensors it has. When some of these sensors go the car can’t be moved until the system clears itself, which can take anything up to 20 minutes, and can cost around $1000 to replace. Some drivers find the seats hard and uncomfortable, but most owners love their cars and forgive these little foibles. It is sleek and elegant and still looks as good on the road today as it did 13-14 years ago.
1992 Nissan 300ZX 103,000kms $6500
I was never too sure of these cars when they first appeared, perhaps it was the American badging, they called it the Fairlady, but today it still looks futuristic and very much like a sports car. The forums suggest it is usually a reliable beast but with no traction control it can be a handful in the wet. As with most of the cars here servicing and maintenance can be expensive but at $6500, you could put the remaining $3500 to good use and see many more kilometres of happily hairing around.
1992 Subaru SVX 163,000kms $9950
This is the wild card, or joker in the pack, if you will. Subaru was intent on showing the world it could make more than just small hot hatches that like to go ram raiding. It was futuristic and quirky and, because it was a Subaru, was very well put together. Apparently its auto transmission was not up to much, and getting parts and replacements could be an issue today. The word is Subaru apparently lost $3,000 per car back in the 90’s but it is safe to say, this car stands out like almost no other.
2004 Subaru Liberty 4 Gen GT Premium Pack 175,000kms $10000
Along with the Fiesta, the Liberty is perhaps the least “dream” like car on this list. But it would be foolish to ignore its capabilities. Famed for its unbreakable reliability, excellent build quality and, in this generation, its looks rivalled Audi’s A4. Some Subaru engines had a run of cylinder-head gaskets that were prone to fail and an ‘04 model could be one of the affected batches. Have it checked carefully but the new gasket design fixes the problem. This being said, the chances are that after 8 years this problem would have already been identified. Subaru engines do not tolerate poor maintenance and if oil changes have been missed, engines have been known to clog and die prematurely.
My Top 5
Ford Fiesta XR4
And the winner is …
If I follow my own rules, then the Merc CLK and and Subaru GT would fall by the wayside. Lovely as they may be, 170,000 plus kilometres is not something to ignore. No doubt the Scooby will go on for ever, they always do, and the Merc was built like a tank, but you know a transmission or an air conditioning unit is bound to go and that will take the shine off.
The Fiesta though the youngest and the easiest on the wallet just doesn’t quite shout “dream car.” The ZX, looks great, goes well, but I’d like to get home in one piece after a spot of rain.
So considering the small difference in price between them all, it seems obvious that my winner would be the BMW. Not only was the E39 one of the best saloon cars ever made, it was fast, supremely able and wonderfully put together. It may not be an M5, but surely it would be the next best thing.
To conclude then, it is quite possible to find an affordable car that ticks all the boxes and, depending upon the depth of your pockets to keep the vehicle in tip-top condition, there is a car for you. 100,000kms these days is not such an issue and for many cars it means the engine has barely been run in. Ensure any one of the cars mentioned is serviced at every interval, the right oil is used and changed regularly, and you make note of important belt changes, you may never live to regret your decision.