Po-Low not so Mint for £70. The Gay UK’s First Car.

CREDIT: Stuart M Bird

Writing about cars and testing various marques might sound glamorous but beneath the glitz of a new car is the darker world of the second hand car market. Sometimes 7 hands. Sometimes even more.

Working in the motor trade, from time to time you get offered some real gems. My current mobile is an old Golf that a customer wanted us to dispose off. l couldn’t allow that to happen. Four years later and a couple of mechanical failures later we are still together. That kind of thing doesn’t happen often. My ears pricked up when l heard another customer’s Volkswagen was going on the market and l decided to take a chance without the editors knowing. Oops.

It’s called “Bangernomics”. In a nutshell it is to buy something cheap and hope for the best. More often than not it is done when you are in desperate need of some wheels. I’ve bought my fair share of bangers over the 20 odd years l have driven. Sometimes they come with an MOT longer than a month. Sometimes they come with some history. More often than not they are pieces of shit.

For this dabble into bangernomics l give you The Gay UK’s first car purchase. A red 1996 Volkswagen Polo L for the princely sum of just £70. Or to put it another way, 7.3 days worth of train fare bought us a Volkswagen.

CREDIT: Stuart M Bird

For that money you don’t get electric windows. In fact none of the windows opened because the regulators had failed. There is no central locking because it is a poverty model and at present the boot does not open. Over inflate the tyres and there is your power steering and the glove box is now a very spacious hole because the lid is missing.

All is not lost. What we do get for that £70 is a CD radio, remote adjustable door mirrors and it has some 10 months MOT. That’s it. No one said it was perfect. In fact no one said it was alright either.

At the garage we scrutinised the car from 10 paces. You’ll not find any corrosion on Polo. The nearside rear wing my be a little rusty due to an altercation with an immovable object but that is it. Its once all over red paint I am sure was the talk of the showroom. Twenty years later and it has held up quite well for red paint that it. A colour that UV rays like to fade. This one did show signs of touch up here and there using parts from a blue car. Judging the car today you wonder how bad the donor car was if it kept this one alive!

Amazingly, for an unloved, the interior is holding up quite well. I say quite well in as much as the fabrics still look capable of withstanding another 20 years. This car comes from a time when VW over engineered everything even down to the carpets. One air vent doesn’t quite aim in the direction you’d like it to.

It started quite well on the drive home. That little engine of 998cc felt quite spritely. You could say it was eager. This enthusiasm soon died down. Actually the enthusiasm abruptly ended when the engine got warm. This was where the horrendous flat spot from 1/4 – 3/4 throttle became apparent.

On the move is where you discover what it is like to drive a car that once had 50 brake horse power. Some of those horses have left either on their own accord or legged it to the lasagne factory. Those that have stayed are loyal horses that give you all they have and that isn’t much.

Seriously it isn’t.

The Polo struggled to go over 65mph and only gun-ho shouting, bouncing and rocking like some wild western cowboy managed to push those horses to give an extra 5mph. All that excitement was lost when 5th gear was selected some horse power that was made was lost while several horses took a mid drive nap.

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CREDIT: Stuart M Bird

Small engined cars can bring out the best in you though. Once you find out how to get the momentum going you find it a game of cat and mouse to keep it going. With this you discover the handling of the Polo. That non-assisted steering is woefully indirect were grand gestures of the steering wheel are needed to navigate anything with a bend.

It was good to know that the oil pressure light worked. What l did find after the thrash home was that there was hardly any oil in it. On removing the filler cap it was full of a mucky substance reminiscent to treacle. Thankfully it was not terminal or more worryingly a sign of a blown head gasket. Just good old fashioned lack of maintenance. Three litres of oil later – that is the equivalent to a full oil change –  and this annoying rattling noise sort of vanished. It did prove to me what an amazingly tough engine this Polo has.

It’s motoring on a budget. Get over the failings and something like our Polo could work its way into your heart.

CREDIT: Stuart M Bird

To sum it up, is it any good? It is a dreadful car. I tried a social experiment and left it opened and unlocked everywhere I went. No one stole it. No one left me a couple of quid in it either. As a dumper car it’ll perform perfectly. It’ll take you and the dog to the park and back on a muddy wet day. Garden waste will not be a problem. You won’t loose any sleep scratching it while on the dump run. Trouble is I have a tendency to want to leave it there.

Likes
Cheap
More reliable than public transport
Park anywhere ability

Loathes
It’s a VW for £70. What is there to dislike?

The Lowdown
Car – Volkswagen Polo L
Price – £70
MPG – 40 I suppose
Power – 30+ bhp probably
0-62mph – Many seconds
Top Speed – 70 mph
Co2 – Some, probably quite a lot (g/km)