Reality TV shows and politicians may come and go, but Shed of the Year will always be here. This year has seen readjustments in the perceived value of vehicles at the barrel-scraping end of the market. Early on in 2021 the number and quality of MOT'ed cars at £1,500 or less was small and poor respectively. Then, as the British weather warmed up to a toasty ten degrees or so and it looked like Covid might be going away, a bit of confidence came back and the number of SOTW-qualifying motors ramped up noticeably.
Miraculous shed finds were thin on the ground however, as a global shortage of chips and general economic uncertainty combined to take the wind out of new car production. The impact of that was to hoist used car prices. Interesting motors were priced up and dull cars that you would only buy in desperation to take you to the station and/or tip, and that you used to be able to pick up for £500 or less were suddenly getting 1s stuck onto the front of their price tickets.
Nevertheless, in best Arthur Daley style, something always turned up for Shed. And what turned up most this year were Volvos and Saabs. They accounted for five of our top ten. Now, Shed likes a Swede as much as the next man, ideally when Mrs Shed isn't looking. The only swedes she allows in the house are the overcooked ones that she splatters onto Shed's Christmas dinner plate next to the boiled mouse a la mode avec garni de candle shavings.
There is a Britmobile in our 2021 SOTY selection box, but it isn't the usual Rover 75 that can usually be guaranteed to kick off a friendly-ish battle between beards and non-beards. One of those topped the SOTY poll last year, but this year's 75s didn't ignite the forums to quite the same extent. Maybe the beards have finally won the Rover argument. Either that or nobody could be bothered to argue with them any more. Anyway, enough of all that, eyes down for a full house. As usual, we will do this in reverse order.
201,000 miles isn't a lot if you're a spaceman but it is if you're a motorist. That was the number on the odometer of this 2005 D5 diesel Volvo XC90. You'd never guess it from the overall condition, which seemed excellent, and more than one PH poster thought it was incredible value for money at £1,449, but other PHers advised extreme caution.
After deploying the classic used car bingo phrase 'that's a lot of metal for the money' PHer Bill pronounced himself out on the grounds of XC90s being 'horrifically slow and wallowy'. Baddie went further and called it a brave pill, citing his own experiences which included a broken 4WD coupling, creaky suspension and electrical faults aplenty. Eventually his one put itself out of its own misery by developing a terminal oil leak at 75,000 miles.
No SOTY would be complete without a nice old Jag to wonder about buying and then be relieved about not having bought it. Five years ago Jaguar XJs of varying vintages were, almost literally, two a penny, but they're nowhere near as common now. They've either been restored well beyond our £1,500 range or they've gone to the crusher.
This 146,000 mile V8-powered X308 seemed to be living in a sweet spot between those two extremes. It had no obvious issues, some useful rust prevention work had been done in recent times and it scored clean passes on each of its last three MOT tests. The forum revealed that it was once the property of PHer largespiced. He'd paid £600 for it four years before and said it was 'excellent fun'. He also said that he'd put a cigar in the glovebox that his wife had given him. You are Arthur Daley and we claim our five pounds.
The mystery of the MG TF deepened when this rather nice 2004 135 popped up on Shed's radar in early December. Well, we say rather nice but that was only if you ignored the Plymouth Road Runner-sized boot wing, the naff external bonnet latches and the chunky fire extinguisher that was perfectly placed to knock your head off in the event of an accident. And it wasn't so much mystery as such, more intrigue.
Brits tend to sneer at TFs, usually having never driven one (actual owners will tell you different), but TF-based PH forums oft upon the rialto have told us that this model of MG is practically non-existent in the US, making it interesting, and that it is madly expensive in Australia, making it valuable. An interesting and valuable car, then. Hmm, well, not according to waynecyclist who summed it up in three words: 'awful, wants burning'. Jackbarclay took some time out from polishing Rolls-Royces to present an alternative view. 'Wonderful throwback to a time when a struggling carmaker thought that a mid-engined sports car would be its ticket to success.' Nicely put sir.
The topic of street sleeping was provoked by this innocent looking Volvo S80. Why? Because under its unassuming Masonic Maroon bonnet lurked a twin-turbo 2.8 straight six producing 268hp and 280lb ft. The only external clue that you were about to be blown off by a regular Volvo and not by the creation of some mad backstreet remapper was the T6 boot badge. MouseRat outlined the salient facts. 'Very quick cars, great seats, great stereo. Poor traction, terrible turning circle, terrible fuel economy. Great shed though.'
The good news with this particular model of T6 was that it didn't have the potentially troublesome Geartronic auto box. The bad news was that it had an obscure GM trans that was just as, if not even more, potentially troublesome. 'There are a few transmission rebuild videos on YouTube,' ventured carinaman, helpfully. If you don't like this S80, don't worry, there's another one coming up in a minute.
Swede number three on our list is this handsome, practical and, courtesy of its 250hp 2.3 litre turbo four, fast Saab 9-5 Aero estate. With three owners on the V5, just 115,000 miles recorded and a fresh MOT in the glovebox it was a gambler's dream/nightmare at £1,190. Eight pages of forum posts produced the usual mix of opinions, quite a few of which were along the lines of it would have been perfect with a manual gearbox rather than the possibly fragile automatic it actually had. Wonder why Swedish manufacturers never seemed to get the hang of making reliable autos?
We shouldn't be too harsh on the transmission though. There were many other ways in which an Aero could ruin your life. 'Will it take a dump before you are able to smugly leer at lesser motors?' queried bitofayank. In a rare moment of sobriety Shed commented that those who have owned and sold these big Saabs generally regret getting rid of them, and that it was all about which end of the transaction you wanted your regret to be. We're still trying to work out what he meant by that.
Inserting itself into the Scandi stuff in Carmela Soprano spec and a paint colour that you're not allowed to mention nowadays was this 146,000 mile Mercedes E320 diesel wagon. Shed owns a big diesel Merc estate, but his is an S124 built in a happier (for Mercedes anyway) time. One weird phenomenon with Benz buses that he has never been able to fathom is how the newer and larger they became, the smaller the useable interior space seemed to get. Be that as it may, or may not, even Shed was tempted by the apparent soundness of this S211.
'A great shed IF it had a year's MOT, not a MONTH!' shouted nobrakes on the forum. The MOT at the time of writing (in October) was indeed short, but just one week after it appeared in SOTW it sailed through another test with no advisories. Shed can't remember how much it was on for, but even if it was near the £1,500 limit it looked like it could have been money well spent. He still wouldn't swap his old 124 for it because he doesn't want anything 'clever' (ie electronic and prone to break) in his cars, and the W/S211 had far too much of that stuff for his liking. Nice though.
Here's the other S80 we warned you about three sheds ago. It was the same colour as that T6. In fact you might say they were the same car after a night on the brews but the lump of metal under the bonnet was very different. This one had the well-rated D5 diesel. The quality of both the photography and the ad copy ("if you take some hallucinogenics and punch yourself in the face a few times, you can almost convince yourself that you own an Aston Martin Rapide") made you want to buy it, but you'd have to do some mental gymnastery to get around the hefty 175k mileage, the threatening presence of the Geartronic box, and the age of the engine belts.
'Ignore belts and tensioner pulleys at your peril,' said simongrif2010, spookily. 'Mine seized and the belt ripped the pulley out of the block, writing off the car. Oh, and injectors are £800 each.' Unlike the Merc wagon above, this Volvo already had a long and clean MOT on it when it appeared in SOTW, so the buying decision would be down to how brave you were feeling on the day. It sold sharpish, though.
Right, this is the last Scandi car, we promise. Not sure why we're feeling apologetic because this was another lovely looking Saab Aero that wore its 188,000 miles in an almost miraculously relaxed way. That was probably down to it being a one-owner car, and anyway, 180-odd thou over 18 years equated to a hardly abnormal 10k a year. This Aero was a 9-3 rather than a 9-5, and it was a saloon rather than an estate, but the size of the boot on the saloons meant that the non-estateness of it was hardly an issue. Shed noted that it was big enough to take four sets of golf clubs to the tip in one go. Power and torque were there in abundance, 210 and 212 respectively, and glory be it was a manual too.
Even so, not everyone was queuing up to praise it. Rob131Sport wondered 'why on earth would anyone want this when you could get an Alfa 159 or a Ford Mondeo.' 'Because it isn't a 159 or a Mondeo,' answered Turbobanana, not unreasonably. The gossamer-light comments on the new-in-September MOT suggested that the tester felt that he had to put something down to earn his crust. Even with £500 tax to pay every year, gumph, it represented handsome value at under £1,200.
Remarkably few BMW Threes made it into SOTW this year. Many of the ones that used to appear seem to have hopped over the £1,500 mark, their prices perhaps having been driven up more than most by the shortage of new stock in dealerships. We're talking about a cascade effect there, obviously. No BMW dealer would stoop to putting a 310,000 mile E46 330d in the compound round the back, let alone in the showroom, even when it's a Sport one like this with full leather, nice alloys and a grille held on by zip ties.
Whoever currently owns this car will be eyeing up the MOT that's due in February. Last year's list of advisories was cheerily short, but only after a retest: a load of suspension, braking and electrical work had to be carried out after the first effort. Not surprisingly perhaps, in light of the MOT and the £650 price tag, it sold back in May pretty much as soon as the ad came out. Wonder how many miles it has now? More than 310,000, not less, you'd like to hope.
From the pics at least this was an unlikely candidate for the most-viewed shed of 2021. After all, how excited can anyone get about a high-mile Skoda Superb in Resale Silver? Maybe PistonHeads has a secret following among minicab drivers because this luxurious Superb did look like an instant ticket into people-ferrying or possibly, and less salubriously, the Fake Taxi business. 'I associate the back seats of these with kebabs, blurry vision and regret,' sighed the appropriately-handled Rapidcrumpet. Our Superb had the requisite diesel engine, but not the usual 2.0 or better still the old 1.9. It had the somewhat rarer 2.5 V6.
There are a few reasons why that one is rare, none of them good. The non-renewal of this car's MOT in October appears to confirm the 2.5 drivetrain's money-pit reputation (dodgy fuel pump, CVT gearbox, water ingress, electrics etc) eloquently expressed in the forum. There were still some PHers who fancied it though. 'Great wafter,' said Chubbyross. 'Also the perfect getaway car as it's totally forgettable, although there's always the danger of the bank robbers running straight past it.'
And that, as they say, is that. Let's do it again sometime next year, towards the end of the year probably. In the meantime, best wishes for Xmas and the start of the New Year from Mrs Shed and what's left of Shed.
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