The one thing that time is good at, virtually or otherwise, is marching on - and the march of time brings changes. A year ago, we were talking about the biggest change in the 2016 World of Shed being the change in the UK car taxation laws. That stopped the transfer of paid-for tax time between owners, so there was no more value-skewing er value in buying a Shed with loads of tax on it. Suddenly, a Shed was what it was: nothing more, nothing less.
So, what's been the biggest change in 2017? Last year, 28 marques were represented, three more than in the previous year's lineup. This year, the number of different marques in Shed's greasy hat has dropped to 23. The 2017 roster of cars was as follows: six BMWs (four of them in double-headers), five Fords, four Alfas, four Volkswagens, three Saabs, three Mercedes, three Volvos, three Lexuses, and two each from Renault, Peugeot, Jaguar, MG, Vauxhall and Mazda. The remainder was made up of singletons from Nissan, Citroen, Honda, Daihatsu, Skoda, Audi, Seat, Land Rover and Proton.
Some of the reduction in marque variety was undoubtedly down to the increasing difficulty of finding interesting sub-£1000 Sheds that weren't Alfas, Saabs or Volvos. Therefore, after an intensive August summit meeting in the form of three emails, the third of which said "OK then, let's do that", the maximum Shed value was hoisted from £1,000 to £1,500.
This belt-loosening exercise has opened up a wider firing range for Shed to shoot at. He's still not managed to corral any first-gen Honda Insights, a source of lasting regret, and he fears that the mighty W126 Mercedes S-Class will never again cross his Amstrad's screen, but there are still plenty of beard-stroking tempters knocking around.
As we hope to demonstrate now in this runthrough of the top ten most popular Sheds of 2017. This isn't the ten best, mind: you'll all have your own opinions on that. These are the ones that got the most electronic visits. Which is one sort of best.
So, cue the Bargain Hunt music please maestro, as we get stuck into our 2017 Shedrospective.
In tenth spot was this Volvo V50 estate. It was the first of these rather neat Focus-platformed Volvo wagons to drop into our Shedly orbit, and was pretty much an instant hit. Nobody disliked the fresh modernism of its compact A4 Avant-rivalling style. The exterior was all we were allowed to see by the vendor, but the MOT history wasn't too scary and with eight months left on the ticket it was hard to quibble at the £795 asking price. Barchettaman was impressed by the amount of motor you got for your money, while Dafuq bigged it up as a "bargain dog chariot or tip dragster".
Next up came a lovely 2001 steel blue BMW 325i with the desirable manual gearbox, 109,000 on the clock and just two owners on the reg doc. A private-sale "wife's car", this one had a smashing black leather Sport interior, smart alloys, an even smarter body and no apparent glitches bar some light corrosion on the brake pipes. Shed can't remember the exact price, but it was from the £1000-limit days. With seven months remaining on the MOT, it had many wondering what the catch was. "Surely this is as good a car as it's possible to get at Shed money?" expostulated Forzaminardi. Teacake gave it 10 out of 10. Spannerski mocked the small boot but just about everybody else on the thread was full of want. Shed liked it so much he gave the seven-spoke alloys an extra spoke in his write-up.
In at number eight was a 3.0 quattro A4, offering potential six-second 0-60 times for them as what could afford the petrol expenditure. The manual gearbox was good to see, not because it's one of the best around but because it wasn't the Multitronic auto, which definitely isn't. Our Shed had the first traces of rust coming through in the rear subframes, floor and front arches, but it also had quite fresh engine belts, a full Bose stereo, full leather and just 125,000 miles on the clock. PHers were torn on issues like the A4 saloon's styling, but those with pals in the welding game fancied a sneaky gamble on it. "Helluva lot of car," said Resolutionary. Russ T Bolt remembered running one as a company car and being "absolutely destroyed" by an Alfa Twin Spark.
Which is an interesting coincidence as our next most popular Shed of 2017 was this Alfa 156 Sportwagon JTD Veloce. Thanks to excellent pics by the photographer owner, you'd never have guessed it had done over 150,000 miles. It was an absolute picture in Gabbiano Blue with black moo. The ad was comprehensive and honest, speaking of much maintenance effort, and the mention of 64mpg on a run held out the real prospect of affordable as well as stylish motoring for just £1000. A few curmudgeons took a pop at the absence of a Busso V6 petrol engine, but most rated the value and looks of this facelifted '04 specimen. "I can't believe this design is 20 years old," said Twoshoe. "Stupidly cheap," said Hedgeperson. "They're nothing like as frail as folks make out."
Sometimes, perceived frailty turns out to be real frailty, and Saabs have been known to disappoint many a hopeful punter in that regard. But that's why they're so cheap. The 158,000-mile Saab 9-3 Aero that was the sixth most-visited Shed this year had been sitting around in the PH Classifieds for a while before it was picked out for wider exposure. No arguing with the spec - 210hp, 220lb ft and a full year's MOT - but this '03 model was famous for suffering one or two mech issues, most notably on the secondary air system that Saab consigned to the dustbin in 2004. There was no mention of that in the ad, but it did mention a lit MIL warning light, worn wheel bearings and a few small cosmetic blemishes. The general consensus was that it looked like a good car. Kitschki gave us a full list of pros and cons in his post, and was particularly scathing about the ride, a point on which others agreed. He also rated the friendliness of the owner community. 405dogvan chipped in with some useful tips from his experience of repairing Saabs, mentioning a Chinese GM Tech2 diagnostic 'knockoff' that could cheaply sort out some electrical coding issues.
And so we enter the top five with a tempting Ford Mondeo ST220, one of just 4000 or so of these 3-litre V6s still prowling about on UK roads. The MOT tester's notes suggested some work upcoming on hoses, corrosion and an oil leak, but for under a grand it was a popular SOTW choice. Cambs Stuart described the one he'd owned as "superb until the main bearing went at 60,000 miles, despite twice-yearly oil changes". He liked the sound of it when it was running, but wasn't so keen on the "colossal" amount of fuel it drank. Krazyivan9 reckoned it wasn't a used Mondeo at all because it didn't have "the obligatory duct tape on the bumpers", a reference to this part's famously frangible nature.
No Shed of the Year lineup would be complete without a Jaguar, and this year's entry was a lovely X300 XJ6 3.2 in blue with grey leather at £1,490. Shed made his usual deliberate mistake of saying that Browns Lane was in Birmingham, causing the usual outcry, but most agreed that the car itself had plenty to recommend it, not least its single-owner history (despite having Cat D status at some point). "Cheap, desirable, smug ownership-inducing transport... it's an A1 shed," said Hammo19. Less salubriously, Rastapasta thought it would be a "nice car to go dogging in". Kellyt simply called it a "really nice car" but nobody seemed prepared to back their feelings with an actual purchasing decision. Alorotom probably spoke for many when he said the reality of owning it would be like "wanting the high school hotty when you're 15 and landing her when you're 33 - it's only going to be disappointment, tears and an empty bank account."
So, here we are at the podium. How exciting!
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a Peugeot 306 GTI-6 didn't attract all that much interest on the used market. Those times are changing now as folk start to realise that 205 GTIs are silly money and that this 167hp 6-speed 306 (only 20kg heavier than the much higher-profile 306 Rallye) is a very decent alternative. This blue one - the first GTI-6 to appear in SOTW for four years - was a 137,000-miler with a £1295 sticker. Its cambelt had snapped 26,000 miles earlier and it'd had plenty of remedial work carried out. The vendor was refreshingly open about the car's negative points and the vast majority of posters were convinced about its worth. "I would rather drive this than an Aston DB11 V8 and fly around like in a scene from Trainspotting," said Aes87. Lots of fondly remembered anecdotes came out on the thread. "It made a great everyday car, did a good 50+laps of the Nürburgring, it was surprisingly good at towing a couple of motorbikes behind it and was great on snow tyres in the snow (even more tail happy), happy on long schlepps to the Alps," said TiminYorkshire. "We miss cars like this," sighed Dinkel. One of the last great-driving Peugeots.
The second most popular Shed of 2017 was another old favourite among regular readers. Renaultsport's Clio 172 has given a lot of owners loads of fun over the years, and this silver 80k example from 2002 looked very appealing. The only trouble was the almost total lack of info from the trader selling it. Some posters got into an odd argument about it being Cat D, apparently not realising that this was Shed's attempt at humour in the write-up rather than an actual fact. Culpz reckoned he'd seen the car advertised elsewhere at a much higher price and that it had gradually dropped to its current price of £900. "Any Renaultsport at shed price would be a no-go for me," he said. Shaun442k was a bit more prepared to take a chance on it. "Buy it for £800, spend £400 on a cambelt/service, then for £1,200 all in you have a great track car." Too right.
So, here we are, the moment of truth: the most looked-at Shed of 2017.
If you had to describe the ultimate generic Shed, it would probably be a high-powered, top-spec estate in a sober colour. Our 2017 winner, this Saab 9-5 Aero estate, ticks all the boxes. It was actually a last-minute replacement for a Nissan 300ZX T-Bar that fell at the final hurdle on account of it not having a valid MOT, but in the best theatre tradition the stand-in stole the show. There are plenty of foibles to watch out for on an Aero, including but by no means limited to oil sludging, flaky LCD displays, hard-changing auto 'boxes and malfunctioning injection cassettes. But with the right attention paid to it this richly-specced 250hp wagon could be a wonder-tool for a sympathetic and devoted owner, not to mention a supercar-destroyer with the right remap and go-faster add-ons in place. This one had an LPG conversion, which set off alarm bells for Scottie-NW. GhostWKD noted the suspension, brake and corrosion advisories on the (due) MOT with a sense of foreboding, but many posters were asking practical ownership questions about the terminality or otherwise of oil sludging, indicating (you would think) a degree of serious interest in laying out the £1000 being asked. Chrislloyd81 described it as an "epic dentist jet" that in his opinion needed to be given some wasabi - an obscure movie reference presumably. This particular Shed was still being discussed many weeks after its appearance. Mr E wrapped it up nicely. "The hifi was dreadful, and very hard to uprate. The paint was bad. The interior was dated. The engine was mighty, the seats brilliant, and it is missed now it's gone."
As, indeed, is the 2017 instalment of Shed of the Year. Come back next year for more of the same. Meanwhile, from Mr and Mrs Shed, a very happy Christmas and an in-law free New Year to you all.