Theme : Secondhand – Forecourts & Small-Ads

A DTW Writer Seeks Professional Help

Road 2
I’ve tried in a previous piece to put forward the many logical reasons for secondhand car ownership. I’d like to think I am that logical person but there’s another side to it. There are people in this world who have trouble with relationships. Playing The Field, Commitment-Phobic, Philandering, Flirting, call it what you will. People like that get a bad press. Love Rats, Don Juans, Tramps – there are so many nasty names. But I know exactly how those people feel.

They walk into a room, see someone and they fall in love. For that instant they are totally honest in their feelings. But tomorrow they meet someone else and …. well. The problem with having that attitude when dealing with other people is, unless you really are both playing by the same rules, someone usually gets hurt and someone else ends up looking abominable.

Road 6That’s the good thing about cars – they don’t hold grudges. Some people are marque loyal. They look at every Alfa Romeo that appears and, however mundane and disappointing it is, they’ll defend it as if it was a Zagato bodied 1750 6C. I don’t really feel that loyalty. True, I have a car that I have owned for 19 years, and I really like it, but I can’t pretend that I’m always faithful. What can I do?

The problem is the way they flaunt themselves at every opportunity. Take the London Road, coming South out of Streatham and Norbury. I frequently drive down that stretch and there they are, almost falling off the pavements, trying to tempt me. Dealer after dealer, lining them up, all shiny and valeted, their windscreen banners shouting at me ‘One Careful Owner’, ‘Low Mileage’, Full History’. They might not look much to you – I mean we’re not talking exotica, maybe the odd mid-range BMW or MX5, but to me …. I just want them……all.

Road 3

Oddly, new car showrooms don’t have the same allure They lack variety. To labour the above analogy, they are a bar full of blondes. Not like a proper forecourt where a Clio sits next to a Galaxy sits next to a Volvo 850, sits next to an Astra Convertible, sits next to a Picasso 7 Seater, sits next to a Toyota Avensis, sits next to a Fiat 500. Now, when these cars were new, I never wanted most of them. Polished and prim in their main dealerships, they seemed sadly ordinary and dull.

But here, in a real street, their noses pointing out, they just say ‘take me’. And I would. I crawl along in the traffic and I wonder how that Galaxy feels. I want to sit in that driver’s seat, fiddle with the switches and drive it. But then, maybe that Astra Convertible … I mean it’s a sunny day. I’d really like to see that hood go down. Did they all have electric hoods? Mind you that Avensis has a sunroof. I’d be invisible in that – invisible is good when you’re driving.

Road 4

Even when I get home, you’d think that itch would stop, but it doesn’t. There’s the bloody internet, crowded with sites. I promise myself not to, but then I’m on Admittedly, on the net, my tastes often get a bit more exotic. My God, a Lancia Flaminia Berlina for 12,000 Euros – and the pound’s strong. Or what about a Mercedes GLK – unavailable in the UK, it actually looks pretty good for a modern-day Merc. I could import one.

Then the romantic in me trips in. There’s a Tatra in a field in Poland that really needs saving by someone. I am that man! Except, maybe first I’ll go and look at the Skoda Yetis on Autotrader. And how much would it cost to ship that Lincoln Continental from Florida?

Road 5

And don’t even get me started on magazines. Classic & Sports Car has two used car sections, one after the editorials, another at the back. How bloody irresponsible can you get?

Car, Cars, Cars and More Cars still. I really do want them all. Until tomorrow.


17 thoughts on “Theme : Secondhand – Forecourts & Small-Ads”

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I can never resist looking at what’s on offer and play ‘What-would-I-pick-here-for-5-grand’. Last time I settled on a Lexus IS 220d…

  2. I lost about 2% of my time on earth when I discovered Whether it´s the small ads in C&SC or any of a score of car sales websites, the allure is the same. I think it´s an imaginative act, to think “I wonder could I live with a Mazda 626 estate” or “Could I manage having a Triumph Toledo as my only car – it´s only £1200…I could throw it away and get a new one if it all went wrong.” You´re right about the new car showrooms. They aren´t very appealing. I much prefer a collection of 30 disparate cars to gaze at. What is going on is a mental modelling of an alterative reality. In many ways you get the best of owning the old car withou the nuisance of failed motors and incipient rust. I do wish cars were easier to buy. What I don´t like is all the paper work. That´s very offputting and it´s the same paperwork for a £300 as for a £30,000 more or less. Where is the sense in that?

  3. I am always in awe of people who ‘know their minds’ whose purchase decisions only involve poring down the option list of the Audi A4. If only it could be so easy. I can be considering an Audi S8 in the morning and, by the afternoon, be wondering how much those Australian Mini Mokes cost. My criteria are simply that it should seat at least two people, have some sort of distinctive character and not be diesel powered.

    And Richard, is indeed a most evil place, waiting to distract us from a righteous path..

    1. What’s so special about Is it any better than Autotrader?

    2. Far better (or far worse depending on your point of view). They have a bigger catchment area and have more exotic stuff too. For instance today’s Autotrader lists just 289 Maseratis against’s 1327, which includes 4 Meraks.

      Of UK sites, is good for older stuff. But UK classic car enthusiasts on the whole are more conservative that mainland Europeans, especially the Dutch. So if you’re looking for a Tatra, a Mehari, a Borgward, an E34 M5 Touring, etc,’s the better bet.

      I was recommended a very good French site once, but I deliberately didn’t write it down since that sounded like another hour out of my week I didn’t need to lose.

    1. They tend to be quite dull. Am I right to think that they offer mostly cars that were bought on lease deals and therefore tend to be all specced in safe colours with the most common options to ensure maximum residuals? There’s certainly no oddballs to be found there most of the time.

    2. No there is very little there for the enthusiast. It is more for those who like to insert themselves and have a quick prod.

  4. I’m not sure I’m so keen on supermarkets. True, they have so much stock that I could imagine my losing myself in one for life and becoming their resident hermit. But they lack the ambience of a small dealer – the little back office, the small talk, the flagrant exaggerations and, sometimes, the disarming honesty.

    Many years ago I went to a supermarket, convinced I was going to buy a Citroen XM Estate. The cars were locked and I had to go and leave my credit card at the office to get a key. Also the car’s weren’t valeted. That was good, because it didn’t dress up what was obviously a badly cared for car which I didn’t buy. But, at the same time, one of the pleasures of used car showrooms is admiring the embalmer’s art, the way 4 dodgy half worn retreads shine, the glossy dash, the paint polished back to a single coat, etc.

  5. That’s the most amusing thing I’ve read recently in that it me laugh: the embalmer’s art. Excellent.

    About – it has cars from 1960 onward; autotrader gives up at 1990 I think. Also, has a good filter mechanism. I prefer the graphics too.

    1. I see. Car & Classics is my go-to site for the older stuff in (mostly) the UK, but the site design is very dated and the number of pictures is limited.

  6. You will find that if you dial up and choose the “all of Europe” button you can find some very interesting old vehicles. Another good one is Autoscout24 which also has a Europewide function. It´s web-design is less pleasant than but both are vastly better than Autotrader. I wonder why Autotrader doesn´t add the possibility of selling cars from earlier periods. It would cost them little to make such a thing possible. As it stands it seems UK buyers must go to a wide variety of sites to get their rusting metal needs satisfied.

  7. I can’t agree more.
    Although is good (and bad), I prefer
    I’ve lost innumerable hours there checking for a well preserved Cit AX, before switching to this nice 406 coupé. Isn’t this Alfa GT nice though, or a Thesis? Maybe a Xedos 6 would do… It’s a neverending story.

    They have a “Merkzettel” (“notepad”, it’s called car park on I guess) function which is a real spawn from hell. Coming back to your longed for gems, getting notifications when the price fell. Demonic stuff.

  8. Ah well, and there was me planning to do a full day’s work tomorrow…

  9. Yup, that´s tomorrow gone. At one workplace we used a lot of billable time arguing over cars with providing the subject matter. Apropos of nothing someone would announce they´d found a Rolls Royce for €5000. A colleague spent months tracking down a Saab 900 and even blew a weekend travelling from Germany to Italy to look at it. I am always demoralised by how few nice Series 1 XM´s are around…I try not to look at that listing too often.

  10. Well, this is truly cheering. A bit like an AA meeting,

    “My name is Sean and I’m a serial car ad browser”

    “Welcome Sean, you’re not alone. You’re among friends now. We’ve all been there. We all know how it feels”

    But then there’s always someone who keeps a hip flask in his jacket

    “Go on mate, just a sip, it makes the talking easier”

    Daniel, really! Autoscout24. That was the name I was trying not to remember. They have a French site too it seems. Just a few seconds – well 10 minutes maybe, brought up this. A tuned Volvo 240.|as&testvariant=list3tiers&tierlayer=st

    Lose the rear wing graphics and …. well. And here’s another Tatra in another field.|as&testvariant=list3tiers&tierlayer=st

    I’m lost.

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