In the absence of any car shows and as we seem to be lacking much in the way of new diecast announcements to talk about, lets talk about cars. Specifically, lets rewind a couple of years and tell you about our Mazda 323F. The following is made up from articles originally published on our blog, but we thought it’d be nice to round them all up and bring them here too. Enjoy!

At LobsterDiecast, we love cars. You’ve kind of got to if you do this really. Obviously we love model cars – I’m hoping that goes without saying – but we love the real thing just as much (which is why, if you hadn’t noticed that we tend to wander off the topic of diecast stuff quite a lot on this blog…)

Now new cars are great. Warranty, gadgets, reliability and all that although you can keep your Lane Keeping Assist and Gesture Control stereos, thanks. So we’re not on some ‘all new cars are bad’ hobbyhorse here which would be a bit hypocritical of us in fairness.

But there’s a lot of fun to be had with older, cheaper cars. We’re not thinking so much about classics or even what might be termed as ‘Youngtimers’ – those cars aged between about 20-30 years old but cars that are at the very bottom of their depreciation curve and can’t be expected to get any cheaper. You’d imagine that at this stage of their lifecycle that everything is basically rotten, unreliable, decrepit or dangerous and possibly all of those and more. But, we needed an extra car for a few months so it seemed a good opportunity to find out and at the same time have something ‘interesting’ to run around in for a few months. So here’s what happened next…

As you know, all car enthusiasts spend time browsing for interesting wheels on eBay. We mostly don’t do anything more than that. But when (as in this case) your significant other takes an interest and declares her approval of your wheeled object of desire then you grab this enormous, neon lit invitation with both hands and press the ‘Confirm Bid’ button.

Then you win it. Gulp.

A couple of days later saw us decamped to Colwyn Bay, withdrawing the cash and wondering or maybe worrying exactly what a couple of hundred quid Mazda 323F would be like. And how is it you wonder? Well, its a whole heap better than you’d expect.

‘It’ first of all is a 2001 Mazda 323F 2.0 16V Sport with 120k miles and a shade over six months MOT. To sprinkle a bit of ZoomZoom on it, Mazda bestowed it with a modest bodykit, MazdaSpeed badges and interestingly, a strut brace up front so whilst there’s only 130bhp lurking in there it should be interesting enough once you point it at the countryside.

And what do we know of Mazdas of this age? Well, they’re pretty much mechanically unburstable but they do like to rust. So that this one hasn’t anything significant in the way of corrosion starts us off very much in our happy place. Other than that, everything works, the aircon is cold and the sunroof doesn’t leak. Its also surprisingly good on the twisty stuff despite the fact that its wearing M&S tyres on the front (thats Mud & Snow as opposed to made-by-people-who-also-make-comfy-knickers-tyres but you already knew that I guess).

So what next then? We’ll be glancing a cursory eye over the oily bits to make sure everything does what it should, hitting it with the buffer to make it sort of shine and maybe even push the boat out with a headlight refurb kit. But so far, with a couple of hundred miles covered it all seems pretty good and well, uneventful. If everything works to plan then we’ll run it for six months or so and then let the kind man with the MOT testing certificate decide its fate. But in the spirit of Bangernomics we’ll be doing this on a very, very tiny budget. I can’t wait!

‘Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with..’ they sang. Now it’s likely that the Buzzcocks weren’t singing about midsize Japanese hatchbacks when they wrote it, but y’know what, they could have been…

It was supposed to be a summer fling. A sort of wheeled one night stand that a bit like your lust for that person from a sunny, foreign place would fizzle out as summer draws to a close (or September, when the MOT runs out in our case). But good, cheap cars get under your skin a bit. And so has proved to be the case with our Mazda…

But contemporary wisdom says that all old cars are inherently unreliable and quite probably downright dangerous. And yet, over the last two months we’ve stuck almost 2000 miles on our Mazda and absolutely no calamities have befallen us. We haven’t spent a couple of hours making small talk in the dark on the hard shoulder with an RAC man whilst waiting for recovery to turn up – (that was what happened when we ran a modern Skoda) – and nothings dropped off, stopped working or gone wrong and because of that, its been quite easy for the Mazda to cast its spell over us.

Y’see, despite its age it still feels really well screwed together and solid. It handles well – as well as anything running winter tyres on the hot roads of Lancashire anyway and has that dependable air of go-anywhereability to it. So thats why we think it might well be staying around longer term.

And if it is to become a more permanent member of the fleet then we’ve started thinking about what to do next… It makes a pretty nice daily although the comedy aftermarket ‘Ripspeed’ radio is as bad as you’d imagine so finding a proper, OEM head unit would be nice and with a decent set of grippy tyres it’d also make an interesting, budget occasional track day car.

One of the jobs we do need to do is to do something about the front foglights. Once upon a time – up until last weekend anyway – front foglights and their operation or otherwise mattered not a jot. Now though, with changes to the MOT there is an issue. Namely that one has a bulb out which is an easy fix but more that the reflective backings to the lights themselves has turned to a sort of white powder effect finish which does little for their cosmetic appearance nor their ability to project light forwards. In all honesty we don’t know whether just illuminating is enough to earn an MOT pass but its something we need to investigate. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll perhaps have a look at the front bumper which is a bit droopy and presumably needs *something* refixing. The limited online knowledge on these suggests that front bumper removal is something of a black art so that might not be a job we attend to any time soon.

So for the moment, we’ve splashed out an entire £1.04 on a 2001 brochure from eBay (and if that in itself isn’t a sign of true love I don’t know what is) and we’ll just keep clocking up the miles.

Hopefully…

In the maelstrom of car shows, holidays and a busy online business, we might have forgotten to keep you up to date on where our bargain Mazda is at the moment.

The end of August brought the hitherto forgotten sensation of the annual will-it-pass-the-MOT sensation in the stomach. So we dropped it at our friendly, local older car place, crossed pretty much everything we had to cross and retreated back to the office.

Now, you know when you get a phone call and you can detect the entire contents of the call just from the tone in which someone says ‘Hello’. Well, that.

In truth, it wasn’t as bad as the tone suggested. That a 17 year old car can be returned to road legal for a couple of front shock absorbers, an anti-roll bar bush or two and a rusty patch the size of a perforated teabag (and with the same structural rigidity as it happens) replacing, then we can be pretty happy with that. Yes this mad rush of expenditure was more than the initial cost of the car but even so, its still a cheap car and thus far stands us at less than a couple of months average PCP payment on the average new hatchback. And does the average new hatchback have a red front strut brace we ask? No, they certainly don’t.

And three weeks on and we’ve stuck another 1000 miles on our dependable Japanese hot(ish) hatch. 143bhp isn’t a lot these days but its reasonably rapid and entertaining enough so we’ll settle for that. And it really does seem to be a very dependable car, the sort of thing you could happily drive around Europe with no issues whatsoever. And still, everything works although the aftermarket radio is a bit hopeless. But its comfy, looks presentable and tidy enough yet is something you can happily leave without worrying about the odd extra parking dent appearing.

So what next you might wonder? Well, hopefully we’ll carry on racking up the miles over the next few months and just seeing how good a rubbish* old car can be. Its got a cracking heater too so that puts it firmly in the hot seat for winter wheels duties. And then, as Spring 2019 springs and we mark twelve months on our fleet then maybe, just maybe it’ll be time to rehome it and let someone else enjoy the novelty of a fully functional tilt and slide glass sunroof. But probably best to get through winter first eh?

I said a few weeks ago that our Mazda was posing something of a dilemma – it was only intended to run it for a year and then move on to something else.
But in as much as is normal, head and heart tended to disagree in that selling something that works pretty much perfectly, isn’t costing any money and doesn’t owe us much seems, well, a bit daft. Never mind the somewhat less subjective fact that I actually really like it.

So a decision was to be made and now we sit here with a Mazda shaped hole in our lives that tell you, yes, it was thrown to the wolves of eBay Motors and sold.

And now with the money in the bank and confirmation of transfer of ownership from DVLA sitting in a brown envelope we can reflect on what running a £210 car was like for just short of twelve months.

And it was pretty easy, actually. We weren’t left stranded anywhere – never even came close in truth as it was absolutely, 100% reliable. It didn’t leak when it rained, didn’t burn oil, didn’t smell like the inside of a fishmongers pedal bin, didn’t make strange noises or anything. In short, it just worked.

That’s not to say we didn’t have to spend money on it because we did. A new battery resolved slightly recalcitrant starting, the MOT man prodded a hole in a sill meaning a small patch needed attending to before legality could be restored and at the same time two front shock absorbers and anti roll bar bushes replaced worn out items as well as tidying the handling up giving the added bonus of improving the B road jollies at the same time.

So yes, we threw a few hundred quid at it over the twelve months which you probably wouldn’t have to do on a shiny new car. So on that basis, new cars are cheaper to run than old ones, no?

Well no. Because we also sold it for a few hundred more than we paid which kind of offsets it a bit. So if we forget road tax, fuel and insurance – because everyone has to pay that – then what did it cost us over the space of almost a year?

Now bear in mind that the average car finance repayment in the UK is around £280 / month. So rather than pay that every month, you could have twelve months of Mazda fun for about six or seven weeks of car finance payments as our Mazda cost us just over £400 for the year.

I’m not going to open the old new car vs old car debate either, new car are great but to assume that all older cars are deathtraps / money pits / a one way ticket to financial, social and personal doom certainly isn’t true.

And anyway, its not just about money. There’s a certain freedom in running something that’s relatively valueless. You don’t worry about leaving it on an airport car park or a crowded supermarket car park in the way you might (ok, well, I might) with something costing many, many times more. Picking up a parking dent doesn’t leave you feeling angry with the world and the rigours of the school run and daily life worry you less than they would in something a bit more box fresh. Which isn’t to say that you can just run an older car into the ground. I mean you obviously can, but we didn’t. If something needed doing, it got done. It got the same treatment and care as the rest of the fleet as if you want something to be reliable, you still have to maintain it.

So we’ll miss our Mazda. It really was a cracking car and had that dependability and feeling of last-foreverness about it. But in the words of Ariana Grande (becauase y’know we’re down with the kids and all about pop culture references)…

…Thank You. Next.

Postscript – It’s about 18 months since we sold the Mazda, and its dead now. When I checked DVLA (which lets be honest, we all do with our old cars, right?) about six months on, it had gone. At this age and price level, any even relatively minor issue can mean a date with the weighbridge and presumably thats what happened – something went wrong and the owner decided not to bother. A shame as it was a pretty good car but it happens.

But anyway,as much as I really did like it, I really wanted a Twingo and with one on the horizon, this really meant the end of the line for our 323. If it was still around I’d have it back in a heartbeat. But I still have an eBay search set up for the same and there was a pretty nice Mazda Demio giving me the eye on facebook marketplace the other week which was giving me thoughts of reliving Gran Turismo 4 but on the mean streets of Lancashire rather than via the Playstation generated Yakuba Circuit. So who knows whats next…

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