James Ruppert may be the father of Bangernomics, but he was far from the first enthusiast to be turned on by the prospect of cheap motoring.
Forty years ago Autocar’s unnamed ‘Secondhand Choice’ columnist set the bar for budget motoring at £100 – the equivalent of £750 or so in today’s money.
“Buying a car for less than £100 may be a bit of a joke in these days of escalating prices, but the jokers might smile less if they looked rather more carefully at the economics and the logic of dabbling in the banger market,” wrote our correspondent. “You can buy such a car, which must by law have legal tyres, a current MOT, be roadworthy within the meaning of the law, and which should, if picked with care, keep you mobile for at least 3000 miles or three months.”
Taking to the road in search of real-life examples, the writer first found a £100 Standard 8 that had just 8000 miles on the clock from new. The issue was that its centrifugal clutch had broken and then been converted back to a hydraulic unit. No problem there – but the likelihood of finding economically priced spares when the next problem arose were slim.
Wistfully, our writer pondered buying it as an appreciating asset, but then a 1966 Vauxhall Victor estate caught his eye. “It had a lot of rust on it, and the rear compartment looked rather like it had been used for carrying a bag of cement, but what do you want for £99?” he queried, setting the bar suitably low.
A £100 rust-eaten Rover 100 also caught his eye. “It was debatable whether the Rover could be saved from the rust,” he rued, “but it could keep someone rolling along in scruffy silence and comfort for many a long mile.” Rather than look to fix it, he argued it was “much better to harden your heart, treat it like a banger and throw it away when it finally expired”.
A vast Vauxhall Cresta for £99 also tempted him. “In the best banger tradition, there was a lot of Bostik on the rear window seals, to prevent leaks, and almost as much filler in the bodywork,” he wrote. “The inlet manifold also appeared to have been plugged with what looked like chewing gum, but the tyres were in excellent condition.”
He moved on, to find a Triumph GT6 on sale for £30, albeit with a duff back axle, 112,000 miles on the clock and “just about every panel pushed in at some time or other”. After a thorough mechanical check, our man concluded that beneath all the dirt, “a picture of a very sound car has emerged”.
And then, illustrating the ongoing risk of letting a motoring journalist research appealingly cheap cars, he opened his wallet. “Perhaps we should explain that we decided to buy it and keep it in order to restore it to some kind of respectability,” he wrote, thereby ignoring his mantra of spending money to keep a banger running. “Offers of help eagerly accepted.”