John’s (sometimes pretty desparate) Car History – illustrated!

John’s Cars

Since starting to drive in 1976, John has owned, or had long-term use of:


Mk II Ford Cortina 1300L (green)


Datsun Bluebird (metallic pale blue)


Austin Allegro 1300 (beige!)


VW Golf 1.1 (red)


Fiat 126 (red – which, as you’ll remember, tried to kill him)


Mini 850 (red)


Mk I VW Golf GTi 1.8 (red)


Rover 2600 (red)


Mk III Ford Escort 1300 Estate (yucky brown)


Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 (white) (his first brand new car)

205 CJ

Peugeot 205 Junior convertible (ice-white) (his only soft-top)


Peugeot 309 (blue)


Seat Ibiza GTI 16v (black)


BMW 330i SE (silver)


Skoda Octavia vRS with subsequent AMD conversion (cat-vomit yellow)


Citroen DS 21 (grey)


Skoda Fabia 1.6 auto (black)

P and House 008

Porsche Cayenne S (black)

Fastest car – empirically, the BMW, but the 205 GTI felt faster!

Fastest drive – not saying where, but after modifications 160mph in the Octavia

Slowest car – Fiat 126. 0-60 in, um, soon-ish, maybe?

Best roadholding/handling – Porsche (biggish 4WD but handles like a sorted GTI)

Most comfortable – Porsche (tight, but even comfortable after 17 hours on the road)

Least comfortable – Mini (even the 126 was more comfortable!)

Biggest rust-bucket – Ford Cortina/Datsun Bluebird (too close to call!)

Most reliable – Ibiza (J’s first experience of VW’s non-VWs was a good one)

Least reliable – Porsche (aka the moneypit)

Biggest boot – Octavia (strange, but true, except for the cross-braces)

Smallest boot – 126 (under the bonnet)

Most space – Rover (otherwise, a truly sh*te car)

Least space – 126 (tiny, tiny, tiny)

Smallest engine – 126 (652cc)

Biggest engine – Porsche (4.5 litres)

Most mpg – 126 (it was too scary to go fast – and with a top speed of bugger all, what was the point?)

Least mpg – Porsche (but R’s Dodge gets even less on petrol, though LPG is more economical)

Easiest to drive – Porsche (power, good auto box, good handling and roadholding, comfortable …)

Most fun to drive – Ibiza (flat under 2,000 rpm, but get it on song and it flew!)

Most work to drive – 126 (really, really, not a lot of fun)

John’s favourite – Octavia vRS (the BMW was a beautiful car, beautifully built but not worth 2x the Octavia)

Least powerful car ever – US Ford Escort 1.9 with the air-con on – seriously, you had to turn the air-con off if you wanted to overtake anyone

Scariest car moments – when the 126 tried to kill me; when the auto-box on a US hire car refused to kickdown on the on ramp to a busy freeway; any and all US combined on-off ramps (one of the stupidest ideas in the driving world!); Mexico City in an elderly Dodge Dart, in seven lanes of traffic going one way and a bus lane going t’other; LA in the wrong lane of an eleven-lane freeway, with the exit approaching fast; sliding down Acomb Bank with the handbrake on, while the Bellingham bus slid backwards alongside, and a corner was approaching; getting out of the car at the top of Acomb Bank to see what was going on, feeling myself slide, grabbing the car and feeling IT slide

Oldest car – the Citroen. It was a 1967 model, the first model year with turning headlights, and had an automatic clutch/wand gear selector


Best car trips – over 3,000 miles in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and back to Florida on a US holiday; driving the Grossglockner Pass in the Ibiza; Hardknot Pass in the Golf GTi; dirt-road driving in Death Valley in a hired Thunderbird; racing the clock back to the ferry, five-up, in France in the 205 GTI; half way up a Polish mountain in the Porsche – with all systems engaged!

Most surprising – a loaner Vauxhall Corsa with a 3-cylinder engine. Sounded just like half a V6.

Most disappointing – a 2001 Golf GTi – I test drove the standard Golf GTi back to back with the unmodified Octavia … and bought the Skoda and kept the spare cash to spend on mods


Least accessible – Rajmund’s truck – we had to have some steps made so I can get up into the passenger seat, and I’ve still never driven the beast!


Best mate’s car – Richard’s Lotus Cortina


Craziest car weekend – I’d ordered but not yet received the Ibiza. A lady from a market research company rang me and invited me to go with her company to Dusseldorf. When I, and 80 or so other hot-hatch owners, got there, it was the final customer clinic for the first New MINI. I met the designer, too, in a model shop where we were both buying model cars.


Only vehicle to need more water added than the Porsche on the longest day – Eddie’s Transit van … his ex-wife had, unknown to us, stabbed the radiator with a knitting needle. We were driving from Hartlepool to Gatwick… (for the worst flight … LGW to Malaga on a Dan-air BAC1-11)

Vehicle I’d most like to own – and here I admit it changes by the hour, but


Dammit, when I picked up this picture I remembered this one. Can I have two dream cars at once?


1 thought on “John’s (sometimes pretty desparate) Car History – illustrated!

  1. Robin Gentle

    The picture of the Rover 2600 is the same colour as the 2600SE I had. It was a nice car but the head went 3 times at £400 for a reconditioned head just got too much. Have had our Octavia for 10 years now.


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