September 26, 2018

My continuing car saga

I mentioned in a post nearly two weeks ago that I’d been waiting for the new fuel injectors to arrive that I hoped would finally solve my Kia’s engine problem but that they had been stuck in the delivery company’s depot in Brive for about ten days, basically because they couldn’t be bothered to deliver them. Well, after chasing both the supplier and the delivery company they did eventually find their way to me and I then took them post-haste over to my mechanic’s garage.

He couldn’t fit them immediately because of being in the middle of another job but a day or so later he called to say that he was ready and could I come over to be present when the engine was started. Sure enough, the engine started but with clouds of thick white smoke, which was not surprising as the whole system was still saturated with unburnt diesel fuel. Nevertheless, the engine sounded fine, which was a great relief to me.

After allowing it to run for a few minutes it was time to give it a test, and while I watched he ran the vehicle up and down the slope next to his workshop a few times. There was still smoke but the car drove and sounded OK. After a few attempts, while stationary at the bottom of the slope, he revved the engine a few times to see if the smoke might clear a bit. Then all of a sudden there was the awful sound of a big-end or crankshaft main bearing running, and that was that.

So as of now, the Kia’s engine is effectively destroyed rendering the vehicle of little or no value despite the fact that it has relatively few kilometres on the clock (for a 2 litre diesel anyway, which is what it is) and the rest of the vehicle is in excellent condition, and I don’t just mean for its age.

But that’s something that needs to be addressed later. What mattered immediately was that as I was still relying on the generosity of my friend Victor to continue loaning me his fully restored 2CV as a daily runner, which I was less keen on than he was, I had to sort out a replacement vehicle more or less immediately.

I’ll make it quite clear at the outset that I’m definitely not a ‘car’ person per-se and have no interest in owning a car as a status symbol to be parked outside my house or to impress people when I drive up. More the opposite actually – I just don’t really care. However, I know from experience, including my most recent with the Kia, that it’s essential to have a reliable vehicle down here because there’s no public transport to speak of and getting around is more or less impossible without your own transport.

I’d had to think about a Plan B while the Kia was tied up ie what to do if it couldn’t be returned to the road within a reasonable timeframe, and had concluded, of course, that I’d have to find a suitable replacement. I’d decided that I don’t really need 4-wheel drive but that I need enough boot space to carry all the stuff that I need to work on and service my ULMs, the power to tow a twin-wheel trailer without over-taxing the engine and enough comfort and refinement to eliminate, or at least ease, the hardship of long journeys, which you tend to do a lot of in France.

And despite all of the current discussions about the relative merits of diesel (gazole) versus petrol (essence), as the former is so entrenched here in France I’d decided that I’d go again for diesel. So with all of the above in mind, I scanned what was both suitable and available and came up with a preference for a Ford C-Max.

I get the impression that Ford cars are like Marmite – people either like them or hate them. My own experience has been very good, not that I’ve ever owned a Ford personally, but family members have. They are ‘vanilla’ cars, which is why they are so favoured as company vehicles in the UK, and recognised as being pretty ‘bullet-proof’, economic to own and operate.

I set my target on a Mark II, low mileage example with at least a 1.8 litre engine, either manual or automatic. My Kia was automatic as was my Astra ‘Elegance’ estate before that, that I brought with me from the UK, but having run with the 2CV for a few months I’ve got used to changing gears manually again, and I also wanted a top-of-range Titanium model if possible, or if not, at least a Ghia.

I’d found suitable vehicles advertised for sale but up to last week-end, they were all in far-flung locations – Paris, Calvados, Marseilles etc. Then lo and behold, as if by magic, exactly what I was looking for – a 1.8 litre silver Mk II Titanium – appeared on Le Bon Coin and only 80 or so miles away just south of Agen.

Victor took me down to see it on Sunday and to cut a long story short, I made an offer which the seller accepted. I hoped to go back the next day, Monday, with cash to pick it up. However, banks here in France close on Mondays and my abortive attempts to set up a cash withdrawal and a bank transfer would be story in themselves, so I won’t waste time going into them.

Suffice to say that as presenting a cheque that is not covered by adequate funds is a criminal offence here in France, the seller proposed that I paid by cheque with proof of ID, which solved the problem, so I was indeed able to return and pick the car up on Monday as I’d hoped, and here it is.

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It’s far from new but the seller owned it for half of its life and has looked after and maintained it incredibly well. I’m extremely pleased with it and if it keeps running and driving as it currently is, it will meet my needs more or less perfectly. From a personal point of view, it’s an enormous relief to be self-reliant for mobility once again as it allows me my total independence.

I’ve still got to decide what to do with the Kia as there’s still a fair bit of cash tied up in it, but that’s not something that’s immediately pressing. What is, though, is to now turn my attention to the sale of my X-Air.