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Date: 06 February 2014

Today's Topic: The Poor Man's Posh Car

Triggers: Something I saw on

My Grump: Having to wait for the second hand value to drop to my price range

Strictly speaking the poor man's posh car is a vehicle made by a prestige manufacturer, with the manufacturer’s badge proudly displayed on the bonnet, but everyone knows what's under the bonnet is either the cheapest, entry-level version, or most of the luxury, quality elements have been stripped away, or it is fatally flawed in some other respect. Either way, you may enjoy the reduced price tag, but you need fairly thick skin as the kudos is in the dirt.

I'm a poor man's posh car enthusiast. Meaning, I have the expensive taste, but not the means to back it up.

Right from the mid 70's I loved luxury but lived on a council estate. The two didn't really tally. But I was on 3 shift work with plenty of overtime, and not enough hours left in the day to spend it all. I didn't care, I was young, and lied about my age to get the job; because in those days you had to be 21 to work where I was applying for, and I was only 18. By the time anyone found out, I'd already been there 5 years and it was too late.

It was during this time that I got a taste for posh cars. All my posh cars, and by posh cars I mean 'top of the range', have been pre-owned, but the criteria I have is, one owner from new, full service history and all the bills available to see from new.

I very quickly realized that by picking carefully, I could drive these cars for a while, tart them up even further, and sell them on at a profit. This seemed to defy logic, I always assumed cars depreciated in value, not be worth more after a year or two of driving it around than I'd paid in the first place. Still who was I to argue?

But that was the position I found myself in. So I started off with the Cortina 1600E with the walnut dash, spoked wheels and all the trimmings. When I got fed up with that, I found a Series III E-type Jaguar, 5.3 V12 with red leather seats. Man that was a beast of a car, and there's a funny story attached to it you might enjoy. Jaguar E-Type 5.3 V12

For what I was earning at the time, it was a wholly impractical car. Tyres were a weeks wages back then and the tank was about 25 gallons. At least it felt like 25 gallons when it came time to pay. The man from the Pru (the affectionate name for the Prudential insurance salesman) used to call every Friday night and take half my wages away for the insurance.

Yes, they used to do that! Usually a scrawny little man with a black hat and moustache, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase would call for the insurance money. Anybody else remember those days?

I remember one day having trouble starting the engine, and once it was going not wanting to stop again in case it conked out. I noticed the fuel was low and called into the Firestone garage just outside of Bridgwater, in Somerset. It was a manned garage in those days and also one of the first garages to have a note machine to dispense fuel. Anyway, the guy came up to the window and I remember taking a big gulp as I said, 'Fill 'er up mate'. I kept the engine ticking over, as I was afraid it wouldn't start again. A minute later, I got a tap on the shoulder, 'ere mate' said the attendant, 'think you could switch off your engine, I can't keep up'.

Anyway, it had to go; shame! Ford Granada 2.3 Ghia So I changed it for a lime green Granada 2.3 Ghia. This was the estate version, and was a great work horse as I moved a lot of furniture around in those days, and car boot sales were just getting popular, so it was pretty handy. But not really what I had in mind as a 'posh car'.

Ford Cortina Mk3 1600 GXL But I found I liked the big Fords as they were really easy to work on. You could drop a gearbox and replace the clutch with simple alignment tools and all the parts were really easy to come by. Anyway, then Ford brought out the beautifully contoured Cortina MK III with the bulge in the bonnet, like a fully packed pair of Y-fronts, and a bit of a magnet to the ladies of the day (blimey that sounds awful, and I hope the wife isn't reading this!). Twin headlights, sliding (and folding like a roman blind) vinyl roof, and the rather curious oval steering wheel.

I had several of these over the lifetime of the MK III, but every one was either the Ghia or the GXL. I went off Cortinas when they became 'boxy' in the MK4, and also didn't like the MK5 either, so had a quick fling with a Mercedes. As she was only an A class, there was no love lost when I went over to a Saab 9000 2.3 V6 Turbo Griffin.

Griffin is Saab's 'top of the range' and has electric everything. Saab 9000 Griffin 2.3 V6 Full Pressure Turbo At £36K new this one was a steal on Ebay for £1800, 1 owner from new, FSH and very low mileage. So I flew to Glasgow from Bristol on Sleazy Jet (one way ticket £17) to pick it up. Bear in mind I hadn't paid for it yet and so could walk away if it was a dog. But thankfully it wasn't. This car was in super, superb condition, all the paperwork tallied, so I drove her home and kept her for 4 years until some clown in a Fiesta pulled across a side road, ploughed into the side of me and wrote it off.

So now I was stuck, because I looked and looked everywhere to find another one. After 6 months of looking for another Griffin, and not finding one anywhere in the country that wasn't already run into the ground, I gave up.

Now go back to the late 70's. Mercedes had just introduced the S-Class range. I know the S-Class came from the stable of Mercs that rose from the 50's, but it wasn't officially called an S-Class until 1972. "S-Class" is the anglicized version of "S-Klasse," a German abbreviation of "Sonderklasse," which means "special class" or "in a class of its own". I was at Pendragon Mercedes dealers in Weston-Super-Mare and conned the salesman into letting me take a nearly new one for a test drive. Mercedes S280

It was like the Will Smith moment in the film Independence Day, when he flew the captured alien ship and shouted, 'I gotta get me one of these!' The trouble was, I was only around 20 and absolutely nobody would even quote me for the insurance. Ever since that day, I have always promised myself that one day I am going to have one.

I stumbled across a 2001 Mercedes S280 on PistonHeads, with only 50,000 on the clock. So I drove the 170 miles to take a look. I have to say it was immaculate! Every part of it was pristine! It felt like fate, and so I bought it.

I was 50 by then, and have now had the car (right and below) 5 years. The best part about being 55 is that just about everybody is fighting to insure me fully comp for less than £200. I can't tell you how wonderful it's been to own this car. Mercedes S280 It's silent with it's double glazed windows, it's comfortable with the air suspension, and so easy to drive it's like a flying carpet. The power steering is so soft just the touch of a finger is all you need; I sometimes think if it had a sail on the steering wheel, I could drive it by blowing the wheel around.

Not long ago I took my mum out for a ride. She leaned forward in her seat and after looking a little confused asked, 'Has this thing got an engine?'

Anyway, the best part is the maths: I paid £6000. I've had it for 5 years, or £1200 a year. That works out at around £20 a week over that time, or £3 a day. Where else could you get a car of that quality for £3 a day? Less than a bottle of wine, and half the price of a packet of fags. Bargain!!

Conversely, take a look at the rate of depreciation from new. The car is 13yrs old and I've had it 5. So 8yrs x 365 days = 2920days. The car cost £45,000 and I paid £6000. So £39,000 divide by 2900 days = £13.50 a day (nearly £100 a week) depreciation. I know it's not real money, but in theory, that pretty much frees up the equivalent of around £70 a week capital cost you can spend on fuel, or running costs or saving towards the next one.

The truth is, the car is polished, valeted and serviced regularly, and repaired when necessary, and in my opinion has many more years of life in it. Which means my £3 a day will just continue to drop and reduce. And if the worst should happen, like the gearbox drops out or the engine blows up, it goes to the scrapper with my blessing and gratitude for the wonderful 40-50,000 miles it afforded me.

Truly a poor man's posh car!

What's your favourite poor man's posh car? Please share your thoughts and stories below, thank you.

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