How the Dreams Stopped

Twenty-two years of Citroën XM ownership comes to an end.

1990 Citroen XM SEi. All images: the author.

Two decades account for about two-thirds of my time on earth so far.  How began this span? In Billericay, Essex where an unseen driver, who suddenly wanted to make a right turn, led to the unexpected slow-down of a line of cars of which I was at the end. Crumple. My Peugeot 205 made contact with a Renault Laguna, which happily remained unscathed. Since a Peugeot 205 is made up of a thin substrate of metal beneath a thicker layer of paint, the 205 came out of it badly. Terminally, in fact.

Long story shortened: after a few weeks looking at large, cheap saloons I found myself the owner of a G-registration two-litre XM with a replacement nose cone and three inoperative windows. Four years later, that car got wrecked by a side-swiping lorry in Cologne. And that led me to the car you see photographed here, bought in the UK from a gentlemen handily near Stansted. I drove XM number 2 back to Cologne and then it moved with me to Jutland in 2006.

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Fast forward to the present times. Job changes and family circumstances pushed the XM into an underground garage in 2014, without license plates. In April this year, the municipality noticed the plateless car and gave me a month to register it or remove it.

So, on the last day of April, the car went off to my long-serving Citroën mechanic to see what needed to be done to recommission Modestine, as the car had become known. While superficially in good condition, entropy had gnawed and nibbled at the XM, primarily rust along the sills. That, and a long list of other things to fix, added up to a large number which, in all honesty, it would have been foolhardy to grapple with.

Six weeks earlier, I went with my kids down into the garage. The eldest wistfully sat in the back, recalling drives around Jutland, Germany and Switzerland. She took a photo with her ‘phone. Her younger sister sat in the front and played at driving the XM, fully immersed in the momentary projection of imagination upon the cold and immobile car. She is too young to remember the high-speed night time drives where I had to bring her to hospital for nursing attention. She will recall walking past the XM in the garage for eight years though, going to the other car, the one that actually moved.

You get emotionally involved with cars, either directly or through the stories they embody. The emotional involvement with people translates back to the cars. You love the kids, you love the car and the time spent together. Irrecoverable time is invested in the human and the material. It weaves an emotional fabric.

I like to think that both kids will remember the strange, ancient gold dart, a feature on the landscape of their childhood recollections. I know my own childhood is in part defined by the sequence of useless British cars my dad endured until going Swedish in the late ’80s. In part, those cars represent a slice of memory of my dad and my childhood and I hope the XM will remain one of the idiosyncracies of my own kids’ childhood.

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At least you can hang on to memories. The car had to go. I dreamt about it for three months, from the day the municipality told me the game was up. With a potential bill bigger than it was sensible to pay, I reluctantly contacted the vehicle scrapping system and booked the XM in for its final journey. The car would be collected sometime inside two weeks from the booking date. I had some more dreams about the car. This was going to hurt. Dreams: driving the XM in concrete landscapes. Memories: 160 km/h on the A5 to Basel; a day lost in the Taunus mountains; pottering around the Cotswolds; late night through Hamburg port and the Elbe tunnel…

The car in October 2009.

Then, something good happened in the karmic flow of this pointless universe. I really didn’t expect anything as good as lucky. The mechanic phoned me and said someone might want to buy the vehicle. It was parked prominently outside the mechanic’s premises and had attracted the attention of a driver-by who knew a guy who liked Citroëns.

I arranged to show the car a few days later and had a final journey, from the car park outside the garage to the hydraulic jack, to be precise. I had not driven the XM for a year or two. I noticed the short travel brakes, the haptics of my position inside the car, even the clearly different way the machine moves, a disengagement from the asphalt. Seen from new angles, the other-worldliness of the car was again apparent to me. I spent two decades looking at the XM and never tired of its forms, changing from each angle, each mood. And now the car has changed hands, so I no longer have to worry about its future. The XM dreams stopped that night.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

48 thoughts on “How the Dreams Stopped”

  1. Why scrap it when you can write a quick advert and share it in enthusiast groups. Many people would be happy to take it on as a project or use the parts. So many good cars get scrapped because the owners don’t want to bother or don’t know how to advertise and pass it on to someone else for scrap value or even more. Seems like people are willing to scrap for less money than what someone is willing to pay. This isn’t a personal attack on you Richard but it’s frustrating.

    1. Hello John: a big thank you to the local and other Citroen groups who didn´t help when I asked. I´d like to particularly note the lack of response from the Citroen Car Club who didn´t respond at all. You make a good point, I did try to make people aware of the car but to tiny avail. There´s a reason I gave up on the CCC years ago. Luckily the car went to a good home anyway, much to my relief.

  2. Good morning, Richard. That’s an interesting color, not much seen here. I know two XM’s in my area and two more close to my moms house. All four of them are silver.

    I still don’t know what to make of the XM. Too many creases, too many windows, the unnecessary black strip on the back of the hood, the rear spoiler, all the rear lights. It shouldn’t work, but it somehow does and at the same time it doesn’t. I still can’t make up my mind. Maybe I should have a testdrive one day.

    Anyway, I’m glad your XM is in good hands now.

    1. Each to their own, as I like to say. I never exhausted the XM for visual interest and I like windows. You´d find a test drive useless. It takes a long time to get to appreciate the XM´s character.

    2. It’s not that I dislike the XM, far from it, in fact. I look at one every time I see it. What I was trying to point out is that there are many things I don’t like about it, but it still works as a cohesive design. Well, apart from the rear spoiler that is. Later iterations of the XM got worse. Not sure if it’s true, but I heard that parts availability of the first series is a bit of a problem these days.

      I still think I should testdrive one. The ID Familiale, a very different Citroën, won me over in a matter of minutes.

  3. Hey Richard, I feel your pain. What a poignant piece about a moment I too expect to come one day (and nearly did a few years ago). It is the memories attached to the car and the family together that wrench the most. For my kids (now not kids any more) my passion for the car makes the car a kind of part of me, which makes the car association tricky emotionally.

    Anyway, I am pleased there was a happier ending for the car and you. I never tire of looking at an XM either, not since I spotted my first in Florence of all places in the late 80s. It looked like nothing else and nothing has come close since.

    Bravo on your long association with the car and I wish you continued enjoyment with the 406.

    1. Thanks. The 406 is, thankfully, a commodity car. I suspect I can fall in love with any car if I own it long enough though. What an affliction.

  4. Good morning Richard. Sorry to hear that the XM has moved on, but I’m delighted that it has not been scrapped but will live again in the hands of another enthusiast, however that came about. Living with and looking after an old car, especially one as complex as the XM, is a time and money-consuming business. I have great admiration for the enthusiasts who do so, but have neither the patience, skills nor space for the task.

    I’m old enough to remember when even newish cars were far from 100% reliable and spent my fair share of evenings and weekends applying my limited mechanical skills to the task of maintenance and repairs, so have little inclination to revisit those times! That said, like you, the cars I have owned over forty or so years are (almost) all remembered fondly, mainly for how they became part of the fabric of our lives over those decades.

  5. Thanks for this piece, Richard! Actually, I wondered if the car is still around, as you told me about it in my early DTW days, but it wasn’t a topic any more in the last few years. As other commenters, I’m glad to hear that someone will enjoy the car for more years to come.

    Thanks also for the photos. It makes me once mor appreciate the XM’s design in its purest form of an early model with original wheels. The improbable combination of this warm yellow with the technoid appearance of the car works unexpectedly well, I have to say. And they bring back memories of my dad’s first XM, a 1990 model, its look and feel, its noises and smells. A few years after, it was my first experience of driving a big, powerful car and it probably set my standards of what I like in a car.

  6. That colour takes my mind back to the only SM that I saw regularly when a teenager which, given the XM’s visual lineage and this example having been born before any defacing (“restyling”) had been done to the model, makes it something of a dream car to me. So, I’m very glad about the happy ending!
    (I would have this as an interior decoration item over a living room supercar any day)

  7. I’m very pleased for you and the car, Richard. I usually get very attached to my cars, and as you’ve said, it’s due to the major life events – happy and sad – that one experiences with them.

    I always hope that the next owner will look after the car like I did, which is ludicrous, really. There also comes a point where one ages, but the car doesn’t so much, which gets a bit weird. In many cases, we’re mere custodians of objects, rather than their owners. I have a grandfather clock which was made in about 1740 and I’m just one of hundreds of people that has / will maintain it and wind it.

  8. A happy story for a Friday – thank you Richard! And Charles is so right about custodianship of objects which reflect the creativity or craftsmanship of whomsoever designed or constructed them. Having spent much of this week transporting some (even older than me) relatives around Derbyshire back roads in a Jowett Javelin (they find entry & exit far easier than most modern cars) we have been struck by the number of people far too young to have any idea what it is who have made a point of telling us “What a beautiful car!” Eye of the beholder and all that, but pleasing to hear…. I’d like to think that Richard’s XM will trigger similar responses in due course, because regardless on differing opinions on details, it, too, is a beautiful car.

  9. Lovely article that brought back memories of my 1992 XM Prestige with lovely starfish alloys. A car that I just had to have a second look back at every time I parked it.

  10. Some 25 years ago, and entering into the air-cooled VW scene, I stumbled onto a site” The sermons ofBob Hoover”. One particular piece of them was titled “The Forever car”. In a sentence it advocated the no need of buying a new car but just keep going with what you’ve got. A bit like what they used to do in Havana, Cuba.
    Of course the whole argument was tightly linked to how easy it was to maintain an air-cooled VW on the road just by yourself, without any need of expensive and complicated repairs etc..
    I don’t think it could be advocated with the same eagerness when the car in question is an XM.
    But it is such a shame that there is so much difficulty in keeping a likeable car on the road…
    For me, Richard, the title of the article should have been “How the dreams keep marching on”.

  11. That image of the XM on the transporter is very striking. It underlined just how much the design has matured into its skin – especially in its first generation unsullied form. It’s such a distinctive shape and I can see why Richard might have found it a constant source of intellectual refreshment. One of the unfortunate aspects of the big Citroen saloons is that it is only when they achieve market recognition that the often eye-watering repair costs become financially viable; a point at which a majority have already been fed to the swine. This was the case with the DS, even more so with the CX and I can imagine that for the XM aficionado, the number of early generation cars in usable condition is probably frighteningly small. How the C6 will fare is anyone’s guess. Better perhaps, given that it has already achieved minor recognition as the last of its kind.

    I would also suggest that all the oleopneumatic Citroen’s required an acclimatisation period, although I’d suggest the later cars (post-CX) were perhaps less daunting to the novice. But I’d agree with Richard. They bring forth their riches over time.

    1. The C6 actually became a sort of “instant classic” even before or shortly after its demise. However, maintaining it might become much more difficult than for a CX or DS. Even today, the spare part situation is threatening some cars badly. I know of a C6 that has been immobile for half a year or more due to lacking spares. The owner will have to look for a new daily driver.

  12. What an excellent article Richard and thanks for posting it. I have spent a lot of time over recent years fettling older Mercedes just to keep them running, however there comes a time when you have to let them go or risk becoming bankrupt I found. The W201 190 that cost £500 and was used for our Daughter’s wedding car… The W210 320 V6 Estate, with more rust than paint, bought to carry stuff to and from the allotment. There are more but you get my drift.

    1. Hi Mike. Ah, the curse of the Millennial Mercs: rampant corrosion. Still, karmic balance was maintained with the £500 190E that was smart enough to serve as a wedding car. Happy memories, I hope.

    2. Hi Daniel Curse indeed on the W210. I should have looked more closely! The 190 – not the 190E – was a much better car once I found some original door cards, cleaned the cloth interior and got the aftermarket electric windows working. Sold it for £1000 to the first person who viewed it and the battery packed up about a mile from my house. Happy days…

  13. Thank you, Richard, for this very personal article.
    I can understand the melancholy when you write about the end of an era (we gave our Spider into other hands last year – aka sold it – which was part of our marriage union for over 30 years). But the good thing is, all the memories of driving this vehicle will never be taken away from you.
    And the fact that the vehicle will not be scrapped, but will possibly have a second (or third) life, is also a good thing. In a few years, your children may see the car at a classic car show and be proud to say, “we’ve been in that car too” – passing the torch to the next generation.

    What frightens me a little is the fact that the Danish authorities have power of disposal over an unregistered vehicle in an underground car park – legally not public space but private land. But anyway, it doesn’t change the end of the story.

    1. Hi Fred. Makes you wonder what the authorities were doing poking around in a private garage…or did a hostile neighbour dob Richard in?

    2. The rules of the rental were that the car must be registered. This is to stop people using it as long term storage for second and third cars (like mine was!). I am not bitter about that part at all. They were very patient about the problem – I got six weeks to deal with the matter.

  14. What a pack of mongrels. It is a mystery why West Europeans put up with so much of this utter nonsense.

    It is no-one else’s business that you are parking your car long term. You’re paying the rental on time I imagine*. They get to keep the money. You ought to be enjoying quiet use. Frankly the best thing to do would be to cease payments in anticipation of vacating the joint immediately they begin sending the begging letters. Go delinquent. Go silent. Pay them nothing and pooh trap the whole show on the way out. That’ll teach those wretched mongrels.

    *This is a good lesson on why it is unsafe to rent. Purchase your family home. It really matters that you do. Further, right now, were I living in Western Europe (and I wouldn’t and do not recommend it, but let’s say for the sake of argument I was), I’d be selling everything in the city and getting way out into the countryside. The largest conurbation in which to even start to consider purchasing a home would be a small town. Time is short.

  15. You see this a lot. People stating they really like a car, but they can’t/won’t maintain it properly so sell it or scrap it when it fails in some manner perceived to be too expensive to rectify. I ask, how did it get to that point. How did it get to be so bad?

    A car is a machine. It needs proper maintenance. Some of that maintenance needs to be preventative. That means you have to attend to items in the car PRIOR to them becoming a source of failure. For example, rust. Rust in the structure is dangerous. It can cause a crash or contribute to injury should a the car be involved in a crash. Cosmetic rust is also bad news. It indicates the owner is too stupid to care. Cosmetic rust is a warning that there may well be structural rust present. None of it goes away on its own. You need to act immediately.

    When you purchase a car you need to check it for rust everywhere. Get an optical bore scope (you can get them from Alibaba from USD34.00, less if you have RBL or CNY) and a drill. Check every cavity for rust. If you find it, cut it out and patch repair (or have a decent professional practitioner in motorbody do it for you). Then cavity wax the whole car. Tectyl or Fisholene* are recommended but there are several other products just as good. Finally, hot the undersides of the car with a good sealant. Be generous with it (wear disposable paper overalls with a hoodie and gloves when you do this). There is no excuse. Any second hand car (or new one for that matter) you purchase needs this done immediately. If not, then you are wasting money and behaving in an acutely irresponsible manner.

    Pretty much every maintenance job on a car (particularly older ones like the XM, 406, near anything from the ’90s and before, right up to the noughties) is simple. They are not hard. If you can’t do them, go find out how. Some options.
    – ask a competent friend or associate to show you by helping you on your own car
    – get the service manual (Haynes can be helpful in this regard)
    – enroll in a course (night school is always a great option- you can meet interesting people and build up your network of contacts)

    You ought to treat your car with care, just as people of earlier times treated their horses with care and with respect. Even today, when you take a horse for a ride and come back to the stables, you must attend to the horse’s needs first. You do that before you attend to yourself. A car is nowhere near as demanding to look after as is a horse. There is no excuse not to do it. And if you do it you WILL save money and time and avoid much sadness.

    If anyone really is attached to something you’d think they’d care for it properly, not let it be ruined and then send it for slaughter.

    *warning- this one makes the car smell like a fishing trawler for about a fortnight. OK after that though- smell goes away.

    1. In the author’s defense I don’t know work being simple on an XM. People focus on the hydraulic suspension, but that’s just the top of the iceberg, the key repair process most mechanics recall about these cars is hours of swearing. They took the Peugeot 605 and altered everything in a way to make servicing way more frustrating – they ended up with a proper Citroën as a result, but that also means it’s not a maintenance-friendly vehicle at all.
      As for rust: continental Europe deices using road salt – people would have to apply a new layer of corrosion protection after about every 100.000 km of winter driving. And as we all know the difficult part is not spraying up the new coat, but scratching down the old underbody protection. Can be done on a few oldtimers, but not realistic with millions of cars. Especially given that all kind of different designs have different Achilles’ heels.
      Let’s be positive about the happy end though – there are plenty of silver, bordeaux, blue and green examples around and I often used to spot a white XM, but I don’t recall ever encountering a golden-yellow example in person. Glad it got to a new owner, I’m sure it will be easy to spot at future XM-meetings.

  16. Good Morning Richard,

    No. Life is serious. It is too short to spend complying with foolishness and nonsense.

    I’m glad your XM has likely survived. Plenty more of these special cars ought to have survived. It is sad they didn’t. They’re getting hard to find now.

    1. I would politely urge both John and JT to metaphorically take a few paces in another man’s shoes before leaping to judgement. Life is messy and often quite complicated. People generally set out with good intentions, but life has a way of intervening, rarely in a positive manner. So yes, life is indeed serious. It’s also fatal.

  17. I’m not having a go at Richard specifically. I’m writing in general. Too many people have the attitude that it is too difficult to care for what they own. The result is destructive. It’s a free choice and it is their own property to dispose of as they may. Still, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, let alone ought to.

    Richard is hurt as his dream is ended. I’m most annoyed that there are little fuhrers all over the show who oppress other people, crushing the dreams, hopes, enjoyment of life and the value/s of others. A pox on those vermin.

    The comment about about renting as opposed to free-hold ownership is important. There are risks involved with renting and they are non-trivial. It can be OK for a while, but be very careful. As far as getting out of the cities is concerned, do it soon.

    Re life in general. Plan ahead.

  18. Well, bugger me… Can I just thank you, Richard, for the
    generosity and richness of your reflections upon your XM.
    A gift. Go well.

  19. When it comes to scrapping, I have seen it often in enthusiast groups in the UK: something is offered for sale, people remark “that must be saved” but eventually the owner posts that the only person who actually offered money was the scrap-man, or banger-racer people. With examples that are not road-legal at the time, it probably helps that the last two groups own a car transporter themselves rather than having to pay one. Recent increases in the value of used cars may encourage people to repair rather than replace their car, although the push towards electrification may mean that this is temporary at best.

    That XM is probably the only one left in that colour, at least in RHD. Is it “Claudia Schiffer Xsara” yellow, I can’t tell?

    If this site, which I think is Netherlands-based, is genuine, an XM sill repair panel is surprisingly cheap:

    1. The contact address is in Poland, not the Netherlands.

  20. That was a ‘suggested’ phone number from their Facebook page, so it’s probably fine – I must have scrolled past their postal address. Quite cheap for a panel, and convenient that the XM uses the same panel for each side. I suppose that postage and importing to the UK would raise the praise considerably.

    1. The cost of replacing a sill is not in the parts but in the labour (and quality thereof) of welding in a part that’s important for the structural integrity of the car.

  21. I in my folly now own both a C6 and a D Super- what was previously called the ID and a relatively basic version of the DS with manual transmission and no fuel injection, though still full hydropneumatic suspension. Though the C6 is vastly less idiosyncratic, I fear it will be the first to have to be put down because there is simply so much electronic trickery to go catastrophically wrong. The D on the other hand is mostly a very uncomplicated car with an old nail of an engine taken from the Traction and its suspension has a reputation for reliability despite itself. I know that I can leave it on a trickle charger for months in the knowledge that it will work fully and immediately afterwards but I would not have the same confidence in the C6, which gets regular use to try and stop stuff defunctioning. I suspect similar applies to the XM, though it is a level of complexity below its successor.

    1. Electrics and electronics related troubles were the XM’s biggest enemies already when the car was available new. The semi-multiplex wiring and fault prone Hydractive sensors combined with more than lacklustre dealer service put off many owners.
      Even at those primitive levels electronic systems are the main problem when you want to keep the car on the road.
      A fully mechanic DS or CX can be kept running with refurbished mechanical parts and there even are fearless people offering overhauled hydraulic parts.

    2. In my opinion the C6 has two game-changing technology up it’s sleeves to prolong it’s longevity though: OBD and quality control.
      You can diagnose a C6 with a notebook and the appropriate service software, while with most things from before 2000 you have to resort to all kind of analog cable testers, clamp meters and laboratory power supplies. The ’80s and ’90s were the worst in that sense, because electronics were getting quite complex and wiring diagrams started to look like a maze.
      Electronic standards and specifications also improved a lot since then. Manufacturers discovered that the environmental resistance properties of an ECU shouldn’t be the same as that of a Playstation, thus automotive PCBs don’t corrode or break that much nowadays. The ‘QC passed’ stamp means a lot more.

  22. Yes, the XM sure has a poor electrical system. The most vexatious feature was that practically all the wiring was the same colour. This made it difficult to circuit trace through the car. What were they thinking? Still, as with all problems, a solution lurks nearby. One has to locate it.

    In the case of the XM megger trace your way around the loom, labelling everything as you go (use coloured heat-shrink), or in the alternative, pull the loom and replace with a colour coded one (preferably one which you made). These are not difficult jobs, but they take their time. So be patient and work a section at a time, one step at a time. Get advice. Check alternatives. Plan what to do. Make up a realistic schedule and try to stick with it.*

    It’s the same deal working with CANBUS. The system is made by people, most of whom are nowhere near as intelligent as the people on this site. Sure, they are knowledgeable in their specialty. Nevertheless, they are people. People just like you made CANBUS and so you can trouble-shoot it, maintain it, repair it, modify it, replace it etc. There isn’t anything special to be fearful about. It is worth learning it as so many are scared of it. You’ll soon have amassed knowledge few others possess. This is valuable in multiple ways.

    It’s the same deal with rust. Quoting, “As for rust: continental Europe deices using road salt – people would have to apply a new layer of corrosion protection after about every 100.000 km of winter driving.” And?

    Consider as analogy the ownership and operation of a launch. Every two years it gets pulled onto the hard so that the entire hull can be stripped and repainted with anti-fouling. All the zinc anodes get replaced and any other maintenance that can be conveniently done on the hard is attended to. That’s part and parcel of owning a launch. None of the owners I know are incapable of doing it. None of them are marine engineers. Few of them are technical. They all do that job though. From direct experience a 38′ twin screw launch takes two weekends (three if you are not in a hurry). So, if you seriously do need to apply a new layer of anti-corrosion to your car as often as every 100,000 km (what products are you using?), then that’s what you need to do. Just go for it.

    Quoting, “And as we all know the difficult part is not spraying up the new coat, but scratching down the old underbody protection.” Seriously, this is not a difficult task. You just go do it. It isn’t technically demanding. It needs you to commit to doing it, but so what?

    Quoting, “Can be done on a few oldtimers, but not realistic with millions of cars.”
    You do not need to attend to hundreds of thousands of cars, let alone hundreds, let alone dozens (unless you have a collection). Work on yours. One car. Help some friends/colleagues/associates where you may, but one thing at a time it is.

    Quoting, “Especially given that all kind of different designs have different Achilles’ heels.”
    Find out about YOUR car. Deal with that. You do not need to know about all of the others.

    As it happens there are advantages to doing projects like this. Here are eight of them.
    1. You learn how to do the job and gain a new skill (or several) along the way.
    2. You meet new people and expand your network of contacts (for sure you’ll be asking others for assistance and advice, including those who have previously undertaken similar work or who are professionals- most people will gladly help you, especially if they share the same interest or a similar one to yours).
    3. You start trading favours, goods and services. Informal barter with people is good. As you build your skills and confidence, you can do things for them. This can be as a matter of friendship or for wealth building or for fun and learning and whatever you please.
    4. You save your money and build up your wealth.
    5. Your car is repaired and in good order.
    6. You gain the satisfaction of a job well done.
    7. You learn a lot about yourself.
    8. You start to manage your time deliberately and effectively.

    But there are always excuses. Here are a few oldies which you’ll encounter over and over and over.
    I don’t have the time.
    I don’t have the skills.
    I don’t have anywhere to work.
    I don’t have the tools.
    My wife/girl-friend won’t let me.
    I can’t afford it.

    And on and on it goes.

    You already know, if you accept any of these and rely on them to excuse yourself, then absolutely NOTHING gets done. Your project is doomed. You failed.

    There are solutions to every one of the excuses. You merely have to find them and apply them. Be utterly ruthless.

    The most difficult part is getting up off the couch and making the changes to your life that you need to make. So, as the venerable Chopper was want to saying, “Harden the %#^ up!” So, go hard and get on with it else nothing will happen and the car you profess to like will eventually be taken from you. Same goes for any and everything else actually.

    *For a first time project it may be preferable to set a regular time each week to work on your project. For example, you may decide that Monday and Tuesday evenings are the go for your work sessions. Then what you do is make certain that the materials/tools/consumables/answers to problems (sought advice) etc. are all present ahead of those session times so that when you walk up to the car to start working on it you actually do start working on it. It’s like going to your gym. You go regularly at your scheduled times and you do not miss any of your sessions.

    1. This reminds me somehow of Robert M. Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. I finished this book recently.

      Also I remember applying anti-fouling on my dad’s sailing yacht, a 45 foot s-shaped hull with long keel, so there’s a lot of area to cover. My dad did the port side and I did starboard. I think we were kind of trying to outpace each other while still doing a good job. It’s amazing how much ground, or should that be hull, you can cover that way in a given amount of time.

    2. It´s a good book that. Have you tried his other book, “Lila”? It´s also worth a stare.
      I devote regular time to a swathe of things and I lack a workspace for car repairs. Two kids took up a lot of time too. In the end, the XM was a chronic and not an acute problem.

    3. Good morning, Richard. Yes, I enjoyed reading it. You recommended “Lila” to me before. I have finished something completely different, “The Almanac of Naval Ravikant” now, so I will start with “Lila”. I have to allocate time between my new job, girlfriend, my fitness program and studying Japanese, so it might take a while before I finish 😉

      A good space to work on your car is necessary. I’m a city dweller, but lucky enough to have my own designated parking spot in the underground facility of my apartment building, which is rare where I live. You’re not allowed to work on your car, though. It’s OK to fill up with washer fluid, maybe I can change the spark plugs and air filter, but that’s about it.

  23. Thanks for the article Richard, it definitely resonated with me with a car in a similar situation. Had to move it a few years ago & now have it at my new place.

    To JT’s points yes I have not so far prioritised this repair over everything else in my life, but I’m not sure that a sill replacement is the best point for a beginner welder to start?

    1. Hi John

      No, I wouldn’t begin welding on a sill. The steel is thin and easy to distort. If you are an entry level welder and you have a car which requires a sill repair/replacement the way forward is to first attend an introduction level welding course – night school is ideal. After this you have a reasonable understanding of what the challenges are and the skill level you need to ultimately achieve.

      Now comes step two. Purchase a good quality welding plant and kit (and PPE). I like Lincoln Electric but Kempe is very good and there are some other makes which are excellent as well. Do research. Google and the telephone are your friends. Welding consumable suppliers and welders are your friends. Ask around. Note that once you know exactly what you are looking for (specification) you’ll be in a better position to find good deals and the best prices.

      At step three you have alternatives. You could continue with an intermediate welding course. While this is occurring you locate someone who has sound experience on undertaking high quality sill repairs. Have them work with you to repair your car’s sill. Work together. They can demonstrate, showing you how it is done as they accomplish portions of the job and then you have a go on portions of the job. They let you know if what you have achieved is sound or if you need to grind it out and re-weld. In the alternative you don’t start the intermediate level course immediately and start working on your car (with expert assistance) right away. Another possibility is to do the intermediate course prior to even touching the car. It is up to your judgement (and the advice you have sought and evaluated) which option you follow.

      The key is to practice and practice and keep practicing on clean steel work pieces. Also, use Argoshield for MIG (not CO2). Check that the metal in the car you are welding to is clean. Check what metal it is (some cars use aluminium in various areas, for example). Make sure to cavity wax the whole car (rust proofing) once you have made the repairs. Finally, do make absolutely certain to have well experienced expert assistance assisting/coaching you on your first sill repair.

      You’ll be impressed how far you’ll come in a modest space of time. The feeling of attaining new skills is a most rewarding one. It never gets old. The feeling of achieving progress as you execute the tasks for your project is also most rewarding. That never gets old either. You’ll gain more confidence in yourself. You’ll sleep better. People will respect you as they see what you are doing and achieving. You’ll meet more most really excellent people. They’ll enrich your life just as you’ll enrich theirs. Life improves. Try it and see.

      You do not have to prioritise the sill repair project over everything else in life. You make a plan, schedule it and fit it in. Keep a regularly scheduled time. Can you not spare an evening or a morning per week? Surely?

      The average person wastes so much of their precious time on achieving absolutely two-thirds of SFA. What most people do is watch nonsense on TV or spend every Friday at the pub talking sht with other people who talk the same as they do (did you notice that none of them are even listening to each other and that none even have an original idea to talk about?) or spend endless hours on the social media or porn or whatever time wasting/achieve-nothing activity they sacrifice their lives and person to. Damn near everything they witter on about is mere repetition of the deviance and daftness they have been exposed to from assorted media sources. When you exterminate this time-wasting useless dross from your day you’ll be shocked at how much you can do, how productive you can become and how enjoyable it is doing cool projects.

      Try this experiment.
      STEP ONE: Accurately record in a dairy the time you are spending watching the box, surfing the web, hanging around social media and so on. Do it for a month. Add up the hours.
      STEP TWO: Accurately record what you achieved as the direct result of this investment of time and attention. Be ruthlessly honest with this.
      STEP THREE: Ask what you could have achieved with all this time had you directed it towards a productive enterprise (such as a project or two).
      STEP FOUR: Compare and contrast. Be brutal. Write it down (make sure you do write it down, it’s a vital part of the process- helps with realisation).
      STEP FIVE: Ask yourself what you are going to do with what you have just learned. In the light of this make your plans and act.
      STEP SIX: One month later review your circumstance and see what has changed or hasn’t changed. Here you learn something important………… about yourself. What are you going to do about it?

      Try it and see how you go. I do hope you go down the project road. It is rewarding. Many good times!

  24. Richard thank you for sharing this very personal story.

    You’re right about family memories, we had a CX Safari which was a wonderful car in many ways and have me great pleasure to own and drive and like the CX saloon we also ran some years prior had that factor that makes you turn your head back as you walk away from the car.

    None of which prevented the head gasket failing and then failing again – like you I was pleased to be able to find an enthusiast to take it off my hands with the hope of fresh life to come.

    It was a sad day when we handed the keys over.

    Thank you again

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