Archive for the ‘old cars’ Category

The other day I had the greatest pleasure of driving a 1963 fully restored E Type, it’s a 3.8ltr Roadster Mark one and it makes the most fantastic noise I’ve ever heard. The Jag is for sale but the owner doesn’t want lots of test pilots turning up for a drive so we here at Smokerspack towers are acting as go betweens. If you’re interested in buying the car drop us an email and we’ll pass it onto the owner who’ll get back to you. with the heading etype please.

Anyway here’s the video:


There isn’t many cars that are capable of making you smile from the moment you see them, in fact there isn’t many things in the world that can make you smile, let’s face it this country hasn’t got much to smile about, with tax, bank bail outs, job losses it’s not a happy place to be at all.

Well I found the solution to all these problems and it comes with a soft top, the little 500 has been around since 1957 when a post war Italy needed a small, cheap and economical car to get the country moving again. It was very successful, it lasted all the way to 1975 when it was replaced with the 127.

It made a return in 2007 with the new retro model that we see today, now Fiat have taken a can opener and taken the roof off and I promise it will put a smile on your face to see it coming down the road, but it will make you a happy person to drive it.

You see the 500 is no shrinking violet, in fact in the time I was driving it around I couldn’t have attracted more attention if I turned up in a pink Zonda! Even parking it meant that it was surrounded by people by the time I got back. There is a certain Italian style about the whole car but it’s not all mouth and no trousers. The cabin is made out of some great materials and there’s great attention to detail in the styling. The best part of the design is the speedo housing, there’s only one cowl so on the outer ring is all the warning lights, the next ring in is the speedo and inside that is the rev counter. It’s nice to watch the rev needle chase the speedo needle around, in the centre there’s an MFD that can tell you everything from radio channel to average fuel consumption, when the car is stopped you can get into the settings for disabling the air bag and hooking up your phone to the blue and me system, which can be controlled by voice, so you can tell the car to dial a number and I have to say it never got the number wrong even when I spoke very fast, smart system.

On the road the suspension is firm but I would expect that from a car that has the wheel base of a roller skate, the little 1.2ltr engine puts out 68bhp but it doesn’t matter because even when your going slow it feels quick, it’s the size of the car, a go-cart with a roof. It handles like a go-cart too, you point the nose and it goes there, it’s a fun car to drive.

The point of this car is to be different, it does that perfectly, it’s non threatening, cute and most important convertible. The peel back roof is fully electric and can be operated by two buttons near the rear view mirror or the key fob. When it’s fully open it’s breezy enough in the cabin, if you leave it 3/4 open it’s just nice, a diffuser pops up at the front to push the air over the car. On a warm day it’s a lovely place to be when you’re pootling around town, and you don’t have to stop to put the roof up, you can open or close the roof at up to 60kph. When it rains the cloth roof make you feel like your in a tent, the pitter-patter of rain drops is homely while the climate control gives a warm and fuzzy feeling.

In the week I had the car I met many people, there wasn’t one of them who didn’t like the little 500c, on Saturday I met the Druid bike club, even some of the hairiest men thought the car was cool, Sunday I went along to a drift track where people only think about smoking tyres, the 500c still got the nod of approval.

From the moment I saw the little Fiat I started to smile and that smile only went away when I had to give it back, this is the only car that managed to evict my Leon from the garage, I made room for the 500 to sleep. This car has personality, it’s become a member of the family, the kids love to drive along with the roof open looking out at the sky. Sure there are some compromises, size being the obvious one, but I still got both child seat and an adult into the car, ok one of the seats had to be put in via the roof but that’s now a talking point. This is a car that makes you interesting, it shows that your not afraid to drive something different, yes it has only 68bhp but it makes you feel like it’s a sports car and that’s the point; it makes you feel.

Lots of cars make you numb, in time you forget why you bought them, you might even forget what car you drive, but I guarantee you won’t forget the Fiat 500c.

Prices start at €16,195 in the Pop model and €18,145 for the Lounge. The car I drove had these options:


COLOUR: Funk White Pearlescent

INTERIOR: Red Leather (with matching Red Roof)


Pearlescent Paint

Leather Trim

Xenon Headlamps with washers

Vehicle Dynamic Control

Interscope HiFi System

Total cost of Fiat 500C  €22,600

Want to see the smokerspack test in video? Right here

For further details on the Fiat 500 range please see or visit your local dealer.

Here’s the video of the Fiat 500c, we are very proud of this video, yes we’re getting better….enjoy!

Does the bank own your car?

Posted: September 21, 2010 by smokerspack in advice, Car news, old cars, Uncategorized, Videos
Tags: , ,

Last nights consumer show was interesting for the outstanding finance piece that was covered. There are so many cars out there that have finance on them I would be worried about buying any car without checking it’s history. If you’re a regular reader here you will know that I’m always banging on about doing a full history check on any car you’re about to buy, not just for finance but service and write off status.
There are two cases that I know of where there are repossession orders on cars that have outstanding finance. In one of those cases the current owner bought the car over twelve months ago in a private deal and has subsequently found out that the car has outstanding finance from two owners ago, now the car is the bone of contention. They bought it in good faith from an owner who owed nothing on it, the owner before his owed thousands on the car, I wouldn’t like to be the one to sort out that mess. The debt however is still on the car, now that the debt has been sold on either the car goes to service the debt or someone has to pay the loan off. The last owner is always the looser in these cases as there’s no getting a refund on the purchase, so the car goes as does anything spent on the car.
In a recent survey our friends at found that out of 100 cars 7 of them had finance outstanding.
It breaks down like this:
It found that of the 100 examined;
– 30% of the sample turned up positive for finance on the official records of the Irish Credit Bureau
– 21% of the sample were confirmed to have been on finance on the day they were advertised (verified by bank named on the record)
– 14% of the sample still have finance outstanding today (verified by the bank named on the record)

Of the 14% that were confirmed to be on finance;
– 2 were advertised by private sellers
– 5 were advertised by a member of the SIMI
– 7 were advertised by independent dealers and not affiliated with the SIMI

So you see that there are all walks selling cars with money owed on them. It’s common for dealers to sell a car with finance, they just pay off the loan when the car sells. But if they sell you car, don’t pay the loan and go out of business there is a real possibility that the bank may chase you for the outstanding balance on the car, or that your car gets repossessed.
Take my advice and do your checks folks.

Note: Finance checks can be performed on the website at a cost of €12 per check.
The above survey was used on RTE’s The Consumer Show last night on RTE1. To view the segment click here

Austin Maxi

Posted: June 11, 2010 by johnos1984 in Family car, old cars, Uncategorized

The Maxi

Imagine a world where your everyday family hatch came with more interior room than a Rolls Royce yet took up the same road space as an average family car. What if it came with a couple of novel firsts that no other manufacturer had installed in a basic family car?  Now let’s imagine its May 1969 and you’ve just been handed the keys to the new Austin Maxi, the big brother of the hugely successful Austin Mini.

In my last blog I talked lovingly of my current classic car, this time I wish to talk about my first, my Tara Green Maxi, lovingly called ‘The Bean Can’. It was 1800cc’s of pure British Leyland and everything that went along with that. Soft suspension, wooden dash, velour seats and a poor reputation for reliability although it has to be said it was far better than everything else they were building at the time.

I bought it over the internet for a small sum of money on a Friday night, flew to Southampton on Saturday morning and nervously drove it back to Tipperary by Sunday morning. Madness by anyone’s standards, an adventure worth having by mine!

So what made me buy it, well it was practical for a start as it came with a 5 speed gearbox (all part of Austin’s 5 policy for the car, 5 speed, 5 doors, 5 seats) so it wasn’t going to cost the earth to run. It was very different as I hadn’t seen any on our roads at the time. It stood out with its colour. But most importantly it had something which modern cars haven’t, charm! It was sprightly enough and could be driving at the maximum legal speed for hours without breaking a sweat.

For all its failings however, and the Austin Maxi had many, my friends thought it was lovable and different. The girls loved it as it was cute and the guys loved it because it was hilarious to drive with its roly poly gas suspension. The more I drove the more I became confident in what a classic could do. It was very smooth, very easy to drive and proved to be not too troublesome. Although it’s much maligned gearbox forced you to concentrate on every gear change for fear of wrong slotting it.

Seat lay out

It wasn’t an aspirational car like my SD1 but it was all the better for being an honest family car. Having said that it was certainly designed with teenagers in mind or wayward husbands, as the seats inside all folded down into a double bed…….useful for those occasions when you feel tired from driving I’m sure!

The faux wooden dash board looked well and after 132k miles everything inside worked as it should. The original radio had been replaced with a modern unit but I didn’t care. The car cost very little and all these faults could be fixed in time.

As has always been my experience people seem to be more considerate to you while you’re on the road in a classic. I’ve never been tailgated or cut up. Getting let out at a junction is easy and no one seems to rush you, knowing that you can’t go that fast anyway! Middle aged parents laugh and point while their kids look on in awe.

Having said that I did get reminded one morning that not everyone is so kind. I was ran off the road by a lady in who was ‘at speed’ in her much larger 4×4. She refused to give way or space as you would with any car, I hit the brakes hard and that’s when I learned just what happens when you don’t have any modern comforts or safety features. The wheels locked and I went straight for a ditch. To this day I don’t know how I avoided what should have been the end of me and the car but I did! Classics are loads of fun, but you must always remember what you’re driving. Modern driving attitudes just don’t cut it.

In the end I had to part company with the Maxi to finance a return to UCD. I miss it an awful lot, for that reason alone I wasn’t present when its new owner picked it up. My mother was left to explain my absence and that as part of the deal I was to have first refusal when it came up for sale again.

Austin-Maxi interior

However a smile was brought to my face last March when I was attending the St.Patricks day parade in Nenagh and there was my ‘Bean Can’ and its smiling new owners driving up through town bringing smiles to other people and indeed sparking a few memories from the past. I had many people stop me with stories such as the car dealer in Carlow who told me he made good use of the fold down seats to the woman who told me it was the worst car she ever owned.

You can’t please everyone, and while the Maxi did test my patience by self destructing its rarest parts I would still recommend people to buy one for a first classic. It was cheap and cheerful and if you realised classic cars weren’t actually for you afterwards you wouldn’t be much out of pocket.

John O’Sullivan

Rover SD1 1979

Posted: June 10, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, old cars, Uncategorized

Do you want a family car that seats five in comfort? One that has a large hatchback for easy loading? Lots of cubby holes and good storage? A family or small executive model that was designed with Ferrari’s and Maserati’s in mind? How about one that comes with a 3.5L V8 for the sporty driver or maybe a 2.6L straight six for the economy minded or if you really just want it for its looks a 2L or 2.4L Diesel?

No I’m not talking about a luxury exotic here, or indeed some sort of modern Chinese rip off, I’m talking about my Rover SD1. Many people are familiar with the Rover story. A luxury high quality brand that ultimately ended up as a cheap and out of date car manufacturer with questionable reliability. The SD in SD1 stands for ‘Specialist Division’. The SD1 was the first car designed in a new department created by British Leyland to help promote and better the fortunes of its premium brands, Rover and Triumph. Mine is a Series 1, 2600 ‘S’ and is special in that it is the only one of its kind known to have a leather interior from new. And what’s more special than that I ask you? Well everything works for a start and works perfectly, not something you can say often about a 31 year old car which came with a poor reputation for breaking from new!

So what’s a classic car like as everyday transport? I’ve used it a number of times for the daily commute in Dublin and on a number of long trips but not as an everyday mode of transport……its a little thirsty. Nothing too bad, about 23mpg in town and 34 mpg on the open road. However it comes with a number of benefits for this consumption, the engine sounds great and has a roar that my Corolla just couldn’t match. It has masses of torque also and feels like it could hit top speed in no time, although if you block out the noise and watch the speedo the reality is a little disappointing. However a classic isn’t for blasting around, its for enjoying how it makes you feel about motoring.

Ride comfort in the SD1 is superb; the seats are excellent and very soft and supportive. Only a Citroen can match the seats for comfort in my biased opinion. As for the ride itself, well the quadratic steering wheel is more like a rudder on a fishing boat and is used mainly to guide the big car around turns. It grips well but the body roll would worry even the driver of a Citroen 2CV. The suspension jumps and knocks over bumps on the road but the big tyres soften the blows. Speed bumps can be an obstacle however for the low slung car. I have been known to match the local boy racers with their body kits for low speeds over them. Like them I love my baby and would hate to hear a dreaded crunch noise from beneath.

So in comparison to modern cars how does it fair? Well the fuel consumption isn’t excessive; it’s about average compared to similarly sized cars. Having said that it is a bit slow off the mark but it can keep up once moving. Interior space? Its huge, enough said but don’t expect isofix or anything of the sort. Safety? Well it’s got a long bonnet, seat belts and a collapsible steering column so it’s not all bad.

The main difference is driver appeal. It’s great, you can be almost sure you won’t come across another one and very little else on the road feels the same to drive. People give way far easier and often let you out quicker at junctions just to get a look…..but there in lies the main problem for people driving a classic car. Its not for the shy driver who wishes to go unnoticed. Everyone looks, everyone stares and many, many people have an ‘interesting’ story to tell. I love all that though so I’m happy.

The biggest problem with keeping a classic car, and you can ask anyone this, is that you will have to get your hands dirty. When did you last service your car? When did you last have your carbs balanced? When did you last weld on a new wing or waxoyl your car……when did you last meet a mechanic who could do all of that? Not as easy as it seems but its all part of the fun, as is finding the parts when the inevitable happens, and it will so don’t be fooled. Its all fun though and the sense of joy, relief and pride when its all back together and working again can’t be measured. It makes me happy to of done something myself and to of spent time working on something worth while.

In fact I’m very happy with my faithful dog Rover! It’s just a pity the recession is doing all it can to separate us

John O’Sullivan

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Toyota Carina E 1.6ltr 1997

Posted: June 2, 2010 by smokerspack in old cars

Sometimes I’m asked to review some unusual cars, and other times its all run of the mill. While all car news type sites clamber over the latest prototype of some exotic car that you’ll never own I get to review a Carina. Well that’s what turned up on the drive today, so I didn’t ask questions I got in and drove away.

It’s remarkable that a car of this vintage could still be on the road, there’s well over three hundred thousand miles on the clock and yet somehow everything was still working. This isn’t some classic car, this is a working car. This car drives a man to work every day and takes his family to the sea side at the weekend. It’s been minded from the start of it’s life, but Jimmy (that’s who owns it) has only given the car the best of treatment. He does his own servicing, which is really easy on a petrol Carina.

What is there to say about a car that has enough mileage to go around the diameter of the earth 38 times? Well it’s reliable, just ask any taxi driver in the last ten or so years. It came in various flavours, the 1.6gli is this model with front electric windows and useless lumbar support. There was also the 1.8ltr that had some spotlights and electric windows in the back, some of them had air con too. The 2.0ltr Diesel had all that and an engine that would not die. If driven carefully the 1.6 and 1.8 petrol engines will easily give 40mpg thanks to the lean burn from Toyota, the diesel will give 55mpg if it’s looked after.

It still amazes me that these cars just keep on going, remember this isn’t a car sitting in a garage with a flat battery. This is an everyday car. It’s also the last of it’s kind, the Avensis came out in 1997 and was a huge success here with thanks to the Carina. You see the Avensis is a Carina with updated exterior and a new dashboard layout. But all of the bits underneath including the engine comes from the Carina.

The back seats will easily fit 3 adults in comfort and the boot space would give any car on the market today a run for its money, you could get a ton of stuff in there. If you can find an estate one nab it, it would put most vans to shame with the room in the back.

The Carina is boring to drive, it’s very predictable, but what do you want from a family saloon?

5 Adults and all that boot space, moving in comfort you won’t find a better companion for a long drive at the kind of money. Don’t look at the mileage it will just scare you, I love this car for what it does it was like having an old friend come to visit, you see I used to own one of these too.

Thanks to Jimmy Phillips for the loan of this car, it brought back great memories.