With any luck, while you're reading this story Shed will be munching on his Christmas bird. If the village postmistress isn't available, however, he will be chewing morosely on one of the war surplus spam fritters that Mrs Shed traditionally serves up at this time of year.
Despite the culinary efforts of his spouse, who is about as far from a Nigella-style domestic goddess as it's possible to be, Shed still has his health. He is hugely grateful for that and hopes that anyone reading this has been equally fortunate. To those who have struggled to get through the most horribilis annus most of us can remember, both Shed and Mrs Shed send out their sincere best wishes along with the happy expectation that things can only get better.
Even with all the restrictions, the used car market has kept going, albeit with a noticeable hike in prices at the shedly end. At times, the selections of qualifying motors (£1,500 maximum price, valid MOT and advertised in the PH Classifieds) have therefore been a bit thin, but in best Micawber style, something has always turned up. Whether you liked them or not, there was always something to praise or criticise – and as Benjamin Franklin said in a prescient summation of internet forums (if not of sexual equality) “reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man”.
Time now to have a fond look back at the ten sheds that generated most discourse, plaudits and criticisms during 2020. For no real reason, given that everyone always goes straight to the end of stories like this anyway, Shed will nevertheless present them in reverse order.
In at number ten was this 146,000-mile Fiat Panda 100HP, originally priced at £1,150 before being lowered to £975. 100HPs have never been short of fans on PH. Popping up on the Classifieds on a regular basis, they go well, are tough and cheap to run, and the famously rigid suspension can be easily twiddled to make them more tolerable on UK roads. Some posters were suspicious of the vendor's decision to flog it after only just buying it, but most were charitable and positive. Belying its Halfordish look, our shed turned out to be a factory Pandemonium pack car, which despite the whiff of mechanical mayhem that name suggested, is actually a good thing in 100HP circles. Paraicj bunged up a pic of his/her 100HP packed and ready for a two-mountain bike trek. “Best £1800 I've ever spent.”
Bargain luxo-barges all but disappeared from the '£1,500 and below' PH ads in 2020, which must mean that their prices have gone up as they can't all have vanished in the course of a year. This gen-one 4.2 V8 quattro facelifter looked like a good car at £1,500 despite the 'dog toffee' on the front tyre. After spending a load of cash on getting it up to spec the owner had annoyingly been given a Kia Stinger company motor. As the original reg is no longer recognised by the Government, whoever bought it is either living the pretend millionaire lifestyle on a personal reg plate or they've scrapped it. A8s were built to last from rust-free aluminium but at these prices it only takes one apparently innocuous fault to end a beautiful relationship. As Limpet noted: “Audi dealers don't seem to have any interest in keeping older cars in the network… £1,550 to supply and fit two exhaust couplings is beyond a joke, and nobody is going to authorise such a thing on a £1,500 car.”
On to number eight then, a £1,490 Mercedes CLK 200 in Masonic Maroon. The '200' part was obviously the least appealing bit of this otherwise stylish coupe, even though the damning badge came with a 'Kompressor' suffix that hoisted power to 161hp. While many posters fixated on the unwashed state of the car, Shed wondered how hard a V8 transplant might be. Cerb4.5lee summed it up quite nicely. “I do like the way that these look. I'd prefer this one to actually have an engine under its bonnet though. In saying that, this does seem like a lot of car for the money.”
Just as with the A8, E39s used to be staple shed fodder, but this year the only ones that have come up for under £1,500 have had huge mileages, introducing a dauntingly high element of risk. This 'Individual' 530i in Aegean Blue was a nice reminder of the E39's 25th birthday but it did have 180,000 miles on the clock and there was no mention of service history in the ad. That made it too much of a gamble for many posters. Some had a pop at the 530 petrol's perceived lack of torque, but the overall vibe was 'yeah, not bad', with GTEYE pointing out that he'd seen similar cars advertised at ten times the price. “Not normally a fan of these, but that looks lovely and has brightened up Brexit Day!” said Turbobanana on 31 January. Oh, if only he had known.
The only Volkswagen to make it into our top ten was this Bora V6. These booted Golfs are getting pretty rare now and our Mk4 wore its 228,000 miles really well. A1VDY reckoned that the VR6 engine was “easily capable of big mileage with regular oil/filter changes” while Kambites called it “a wonderful thing”. Evercross was more circumspect with his “swift at the time but thirsty” comment. Reading between the forum lines, the overall impression was nicely conveyed by Sandpit Steve's “unusual, fun and maintainable” post, though the word ‘bland' cropped up quite a bit too.
Right, here we are in the top half of the table, with the first of two Volvos in at number five. Like the CLK 200 mentioned earlier, the pillarless coupe C70 was a handsome thing. Unlike the Merc, this Volvo wasn't hampered by a power shortage on account of it being a T5. That meant 230hp from its high-character turbo straight-five, running through a manual 'box. Having 1,725kg to shift stopped it from dipping into the sixes on the 0-60 sprint, but the upside was a blazer'n'poodle interior that would keep you comfy all day. “Proper budget summer wafting,” said Arsecati, who was unfazed by the car's highish mileage. “It's a Volvo, it's not even broken in yet! 325k miles on my old 940 2.3 before I eventually had to succumb to a modern diesel due to mpg costs. I even still have it parked up in a container somewhere.”
Staring moodily at the top three on the SOTY podium was this Peugeot 407 Coupe. Powered by the slushtastic 208hp 3.0 petrol V6, this shed looked a lot less overhangy in black than an earlier 407 Coupe shed had done in silver, but that didn't stop Castrol for a knave suggesting that big-nosed old-time comic Jimmy Durante was Peugeot's head of design at the time. This Coupe was a 6-speed automatic but in its defence, it had only done 68,000 miles and it came with a lovely leather interior and a JBL sound system. As usual Shed got the annual car tax figure wrong. It was £330 and not the near £600 he thought. Either way, it didn't put off the bod who bought it within a day of it appearing in SOTW.
So, on we go to the top three. In bronze spot we had this slightly tatty but good-from-a-distance 146,000-mile Ford Mondeo ST estate in Performance Blue at £1,150. It was being offered by a PHer, which in the eyes of one poster at least meant that it must have been ragged to death. Hmm. To others, the simple fact that it was a Ford meant that it was the work of the devil and designed specifically to ruin your life. “Slow, rattly, unreliable and basically just the normal diesel with an ST body kit and interior… the very definition of all mouth and no trousers,” said Fastdruid. Most, however, looked past the potential problems and the Essex connotations and saw a useful and quick runabout that, thanks to the 295lb ft 2.2-litre diesel motor, wouldn't give you the heebie-jeebies every time you caught a glimpse of the fuel gauge.
In runner-up spot was another Volvo, this rather handsome S60. The what now? Yes, another Volvo 2.3 turbo five-pot warbler (a small version of the Focus ST 2.5 engine), remapped in this case to 310hp, and looking very stealthy in steel grey with a black leather interior. Yes, it was a saloon, but everything else considered – it had Eibach suspension and Nebula BBS alloys which on their own go for £800 a set – it seemed like an amazing bargain at £1,195. That appeared to be the view of just about every poster too. “Hit the shed nail on the head,” said Hammo19. “Perfect shedding and wafty barging. Respect.” “Superb value for money,” said Luckystrike. Although it was only January, many put it down as a strong contender for Shed of the Year, and as it turned out they were nearly right.
The shed that beat the S60, and every other shed we've run this year, was this Rover 75 Connoisseur SE. Vanishingly rare Vanden Plas aside, Connoisseur was the highest spec 75 they did, and is now the most sought-after model among the still-sizeble 75 fanbase. Here it was powered by the BMW 2.0 diesel, an excellent engine when new. It looked smart in silver and the trade vendor had a good rep so there was plenty of support for it.
“Lovely cars,” said R400TVR, who later in the forum admitted to being 6ft 8in tall with size 15 feet. “There aren't many cars as comfy or as solid-feeling.” Derventio struck a poignant note with his thoughtful post. “I think this is another case of people realising all too late, that actually, this Rover product was in fact pretty good.” Crumpet was coming from a similar angle, kicking off the usual sub-discussion about the sad fate of the British motor industry. “Such a shame that Rover went pop, no doubt they’d have been forced into the SUV game now but it would’ve been interesting to see what they churned out.” On a brighter note, Daveco rated the 75 as “Rover's best ever modern vehicle, and values will eventually reflect that.” The inappropriately named mrtwisty called it “one of the best motorway cruisers I've ever experienced”. Jacko got stuck into some obscure Smiths references when someone mentioned an owner called Johnny Marr, which confused some members.
Anyway, that's your lot for 2020. Just for fun, here's the current MOT status of our top ten. At least seven and possibly eight of them are still happily trotting around UK roads. Read into that what you will, but at the very least maybe look on the world of '£1,500 or less' sheds a little more favourably when you're nervously considering the purchase of your next motor.
- Fiat Panda 100HP - MOT to July 2021
- Audi A8 - reg no longer recognised
- Mercedes CLK - MOT to Nov 2020
- BMW 530 - MOT expired March 2020
- VW Bora V6 - MOT expired Oct 2020
- Volvo C70 - MOT to April 2021
- Peugeot 407 Coupe - MOT to Feb 2021
- Mondeo ST - MOT to Jan 2021
- Volvo S60 - MOT to Nov 2021
- Rover 75 - MOT to March 2021
1 / 11