James Delingpole

I went looking for a used car – and found my inner boy racer

Meeting the Golf V6 Four Motion was like being propositioned by a supermodel

11 April 2015

9:00 AM

11 April 2015

9:00 AM

A bit late, I know, to put in a bid for Jeremy Clarkson’s old job. But I think I might just accidentally have rediscovered my inner petrolhead.

What happened was this. We’d just replaced our old sensible family car (a Ford Mondeo) with another sensible family car (a Skoda Yeti), only to realise that it just wasn’t enough. If you live in the country you really need at least two cars. The question was: what type should it be?

Well, there are all sorts of cars I would like to own — the one I covet most of all being one of those evil-bastard Range Rovers, preferably the sport model with Kenneth Noye-style tinted windows, because I borrowed one once and it was totally amazing. Not only can they go unfeasibly fast for a car so big but if you hit anything it doesn’t matter because you’re the King Tiger and everything else on the road is a Sherman at best. Problem is, I don’t run a hedge fund.

My budget, I reckoned, should be about £4,000 max. Spend anything less than that on a second-hand motor and you’re courting disaster. Or so I ignorantly imagined until I consulted my mate Gary who, besides being a QC (probably the only one called Gary), also happens to fancy himself as a used-car expert.

‘Don’t bother with garages. Just see what there is on eBay,’ he said.

‘But how will I know if it’s any good?’ I said, appalled at the sheer recklessness of it all.

‘You won’t. It’s a punt. But I’ve bought six cars that way and only one has been a lemon. What kind of thing are you after?’

I’d been dreading that question because cars aren’t something I’ve thought about for the past 25 years. Sure, they mattered in my youth: I had a bright red Opel Manta, which I used to race against my spivvy friend Tom Purton’s Golf GTi. But as you get older, I find, boy-racer toys inevitably tend to join the lengthening list of things you must learn to do without, alongside Class As, clubbing, rock-solid erections, energetic games of squash, styleable hair and so on.

Obviously, though, it would have to be something safe, roomy and practical, capable of fitting the kids comfortably in the back and with good fuel economy. And cheap to maintain. Something German, probably. ‘Golf?’ suggested Gary, which sounded a bit on the small side. But then I remembered how Purton’s GTi used to cream my Manta. ‘A Golf, yeah, why not?’

A few clicks later, Gary had found a Golf not at all far from where I live. Jolly reasonably priced too at just £2,200. It wasn’t a model I recognised: not a GTI but something called a V6 Four Motion. Quite old — 2001 — but with just 85,000 miles on the clock. So I did a quick Google to see what the reviewers said. None of them went into much detail about its practicality or fuel economy, it must be said. But they did mention that it has a top speed of 134 miles an hour, grips corners like glue, and can take out anything from a standing start short of a Ferrari. I gave an edited version of this to Fawn, focusing on the fact that it was nearby, excellent value and a fraction of what we’d been expecting to pay.

When we went to pick up the car it was like going back to an older, better age: an age when the wife stayed in the house making small talk with the vendor’s girlfriend while the men got down to business with that all-important test drive. We settled into the cream leather seats. The car smelt of vanilla. ‘Check out the noise of the V6 engine,’ said the man. He turned the ignition. It was a rich, throaty burble you just don’t hear on a Ford Mondeo. And how fast does it go, I asked. He smiled. ‘Like a stabbed rat!’ he said. And proceeded to demonstrate.

So now I have, sitting outside my house, exactly the opposite of the car we needed. It burns up fuel. There’s not nearly enough boot space. It’s quite cramped in the back. It hates going straight on motorways because it’s much more designed for hairpin bends on the Nürburgring. The kids loathe it because the music system is so old that it hasn’t got an adaptor for their iPods. The Fawn is deeply suspicious that I may have sold her a pup and that I’m probably going to end up killing myself.

And me? I totally agree with all the above but am helpless to do much about it. It’s like this. You’re away on some business trip and you get chatting to a supermodel. She’s 23. She makes £5 million a year. She says, ‘I’m really sorry but I’ve got this thing about middle-aged Spectator journos with big teeth, glasses and receding hairlines and I know you say you love your wife, but can we just agree to have this totally no-strings-attached affair with loads of meaningless sex in lots of exotic locations?’ Well, that, I’m afraid, is how I feel about this car.

Really, I’d say, it’s absolutely useless for anything but fun. But the fun is so much fun I’m not sure I care. There’s something ineffably satisfying when some little tosser in his pimped-up spivmobile thinks he can out-accelerate you from the lights and you leave him sniffing your exhaust fumes. And I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the thrill of being able comfortably to take, at 70 mph, country bends which in the Skoda would be lethal at 40 mph. Just so long as I remember not to get my cars mixed up when I’m doing it, that’s the important thing.

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  • gerontius redux

    “Meeting the Golf V6 Four Motion was like being propositioned by a supermodel”

    Speaking from personal experience James, I can assure you that it isn’t.

    • jamesdelingpole

      I don’t write the standfirsts.

      • FrankS2

        Better have a word with the sub, then – this isn’t Breitbart, you know!

      • gerontius redux

        Go on – of course you did!

      • gerontius redux

        Well it did sound more like Jeremy than you I must admit.
        Look James, I’m just a jealous guy – I’ve never driven a Golf and probably never will.

        • I drove a Jetta once, and even though it was brand new, once was enough.

        • What sounded more like Jeremy? If you want crass they are in the same class (it rhymes if you say this with a West-country accent. Or an American one).

    • Nice one. But James can always dream and who are we to stop him?

  • mountolive

    James, this is the time to consider getting the car remapped.

  • This is our new car. It’s simply awesome. We have the sapphire blue, but the red is pretty, too. Perhaps we’ll get one of each: his and hers. http://www.toyota.com/4runner/

    What I like best — and I’ve never seen this on any other car — is that the rear window goes down like all the other windows. The moon roof (sun roof) is massive. The car is very high and leaps like a big cat. It drinks gasoline the way I drink wine. But it’s so worth it, just like I am, baby ;^)

    • flipkipper

      Ewwww. You manage to sound like a cretin with everything you post, congrats. Your pedestrian wonk addition is back too. Get a room.

      • Envious, much? I understand, but try to be grateful for your own life all the same.

        • Violin Sonata.

          Sound as if the kipper has flipped, a greasy cold splodge of
          something or the other. What an odd remark.

          • So you know him/her/it? This is my first acquaintance with the charmer.

          • Violin Sonata.

            Unfortunately I might have encountered him/her/it.
            Turned up on some thread making the similar bizarre comments for some unfathomable reason.

      • gerontius redux

        Chew the bitter cud of envy.

        • Poor chap. Perhaps we should have a whip-round and buy him a bicycle.

          • gerontius redux

            Pemberton and Shearsmith are superb writers and performers in a grand tradition.
            I don’t watch tv normally but for these these guys I’ll break the rules.
            Watch in the right order: Contrast is important and G’s lip quivered.


          • Can’t wait to look but must plant 17 plants or so first, before I can relax with a glass of something nice. (Just brought them home and they’re desperate for water, poor dears.)

    • gerontius redux

      next week I inherit. – not a lot but enough.
      I fancy an old Triumph softtop.
      I think you’d lounge gracefully therein.
      I wouldn’t let James near it.
      Or flipkipper – he’d probably trip over his own shoelaces

      • Hey: super choice! And if I can’t join the Spectator cruise — rats — a spin in the new old car could be fun (thank you for the compliment).
        ‘Not a lot but enough’ sounds all right.
        I inherited, once. It was enough to buy a few candles and a book. I spent it all at once and hardly noticed.

  • Violin Sonata

    A classic Alfa Romeo would be more your style James.
    Might I add if Sue Perkins and Jodie Kidd are truly in the running, you’re the wrong

    • An Alfa would be nice. Heck, I’m not that fussy, so long as it’s not the 2015 Subaru Forester. Looks lovely for its type, feels like the Jetsons’ space bubble inside — so large are the windows — but the seats are so uncomfortable that we had to give ours back. For a refund. Of $27,000. I don’t think they were well chuffed but what were we supposed to do? Develop lower back problems for 10 years just to make the dealership happy? This is a design flaw that they really, really need to fix. Even if people much taller than us don’t notice it.

      • Violin Sonata.

        You did the right thing returning your car. I think these companies
        become too concerned with technology and forget comfort.
        I love my heated leather seats, imperative most of the year. Driving
        assist, satnav etc.. are useful but if I could only keep two things that
        would be my heated seats and music system.
        I’ve been listening to the following recently, good driving music:


      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Avoid the 2.5-litre Subarus, unless your hobby is changing head gaskets.

  • David Prentice

    Sorry, James, the BBC is apparently going to reach into its large stable of lesbians for the Top Gear gig. Very Danny Boyle, very “rethinking the brand”. They won’t be insulting the natives any more but I’m not sure who’ll be watching them not insulting the natives any more…Danny Boyle??

    • wudyermucuss

      Top Bicycle.

      Hi!I’m Shaznee,I’m Ali and I’m Mo!
      And today,we’re cycling from Islington to Whitechapel on the latest hybrids to see who can drink the most organic smoothies and come back with the most nutritious vegetables in their wicker basket!
      Later in the show:nude cycling protests!From Palestine to global warming,we try the best saddle for your delicate behind!

    • Violin Sonata.

      Danny Boyle, wasn’t he the one who organized the flying nurses during the
      Olympic ceremony.

      • David Prentice

        Ha, you’re right. Cohen.

  • logdon

    When I retired and moved into the country last year I bought a 20 year old MX-5 with 45,000 on the clock from a local.

    Had it checked over by ‘the ace mechanic’ in town who said it was the best one he’d seen (and there are quite a lot around here) so it was mine.

    It is perfect.

    Course the huge f*ck off Range Rovers and Japanese monsters seem to see it as a challenge but I just let them pass.

    Lot’s of massive John Deere’s on blind bends and even a Defender would end up the looser.

  • David

    I’ve always seen you in a classic Jaaaag, James. Perfect for wafting around those country lanes with a glass of champagne in one hand and the thin-rimmed steering wheel in the other, you would be a sort of latterday Jason King. You’d need an edgy colour though, to suit your personality… http://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C399641

  • yoyoegg

    Take a driving skills course and take the car to a track day to get to know how it feels at the ragged edge.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Another track day wannabe.
      Wouldn’t it be cheaper to actually race … or rally … go cart …?
      Trailer, big sedan … off you go.

  • tenbelly

    You’ll be able to pass it down to your grand kids James, that lovely V6 2.5 will still be going into the next century.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Qualifications required:
    -Degree in automotive engineering
    -International competition licence

  • ant

    Take out a loan, bite the bullet and get a RR Sport. I did this and bought a 70K mile old, TDV8, full Kenneth. What a machine. Wonderfully fast but equally lovely driven slow. It’s good for 30+ mpg on a long run, has the best stereo i’ve ever heard, DVD/TV adaptive cruise control, etc even a fridge. Cost less than £17K. Cheap insurance. too. Put aside a small savings fund for when things go wrong. If you can’t afford it, sell the house, move into the Range…

  • Precambrian

    I genuinely did “lol” at this.