As the credit crunch starts to bite - and more and more people are realising that ploughing several tens of thousands of pounds into a shiny new car last year wasn't such a great idea - might I suggest a wholesale return to the old-fashioned phenomenon of the banger?

Vectra One of the cleverest - and dumbest - things I ever did was coining the phrase 'bangernomics'. Clever because it seemed to strike a chord with those seeking to trim motoring costs to the bare minimum, but deeply dumb because I've never been able to make any sizeable amount of cash for having come up with the concept.

The idea behind bangernomics is simple enough, it concerns the 'how to' of running a car on an almost non-existent budget. My dad once told me about its purest form, a guy he worked with who would rountinely spend no more than a fiver on a car and would never even open the bonnet.

I think he may possibly have added a little water sometimes, but it seems he averaged a good 18 months from each car before it expired by the roadside and he strode off to buy another.

These days we're a little bit more sophisticated, and we don't actually mind some small strategic spending on our motors - not least because of something called the MOT these days.

So we shouldn't resent paying for the odd tyre or brake parts - but use the 'walk away' defence when anything gets too pricey. So you should treat your ageing car to the occassional wiper blade, but cut-and-run when it chews up its automatic gearbox.

Of course, any bangernomist should be no stranger to the salvage yard, where the finer proponents of the art will take enormous pleasure in picking up the slightly grubby electrical widget for a tenner, the same one that the snide bloke in the service reception said was £699.99 plus VAT, plus fitting.

Despite the growing complexity of modern cars, a socket set, a Haynes manual and a willingness to give anything a try will still get you a surprising way. That said, a sympathetic garage that understands your predicament is an invaluable part of the keen bangerista's arsenal, too. We're talking about the sort of places that issue oil-smudged receipts rather than invoices on headed paper.

Then there's the ultimate banger dilemma: when something goes wrong, should I spend or scrap? The raw cost-benefit analysis of having to pay more than a car's nominal value to get it repaired has to be offset against factors like the fact you know the rest of the car is likely to last better than a bottom-budget replacement.

It could be as simple as asking whether you're fed up with it, or if you want a change. Bangernomics has never been a precise science - it's got everything to do with irrationality, prejudice, stubbornness and plain stupidity. And that's what makes it wonderful.


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