It feels a bit like someone has cast a spell upon you, or administered some voodoo on your soul, and once it grips you, well, at least two hours of your life will disappear into the ether as you trawl through the classifieds.

And the trouble is, the deeper you venture, the worse it gets – to a point where eventually you will end up staring at an advert like the one above, thinking seriously about how you might raise the cash, and who you could get to do the repairs.

I’m all too aware of the lure of the “lightly damaged” exotic, of course, having spent hours, days, sometimes whole weeks staring at adverts from the likes of Cleave Motor Salvage Vehicle Solutions Ltd.

But this particular one on Pistonheads caught my eye because, I dunno, it just seems like such an awful lot of car (potentially) for such a small amount of money (mug). As ever, the ad claims that the 2004 Mercedes SL350 in question has sustained “very light front damage”.

Another way of describing it could be, “This car has clearly had an almighty front-ender that was big enough to make the headlights fall out simultaneously. The bonnet also flew off into a field somewhere during the accident and has never been seen since, and the radiator has seen better days, as has the air conditioning condenser. But other than that, it’s an absolute peach.”

The thing is, though, it’s only done 46,508 miles (cars like this have always, somewhat mysteriously, done less than 50,000 miles, which of course turbocharges their allure). It also “starts and drives” and has a “nice spec including (floor-mounted) xenons, navi, heated memory seats, only one previous owner”.

And then you look a bit further down the ad and read the dreaded words, the ones that say “Cat D on HPI”. So, although it was most likely a viable candidate for repair, the insurers decided not to – because of the costs, time, difficulty in obtaining parts and so on. Either that or it was nicked, then recovered. And at that reality, your heart sinks.

Either way, it’s an insurance write-off – with no bonnet, a somewhat mangled radiator, a pair of headlamps no longer in situ and a front bumper that looks more like a piece of debris from the Space Shuttle disaster.