There's some right weird stuff about. The barreleye fish, for example. Recently revealed on the telly by David Attenborough, these creatures somehow live at depths of up to 2,500 metres and have upward-facing eyes under a transparent dome-head that forms the front third of their bodies. If the lads use the picture supplied by Shed you'll see how very weird it is. If they don't, Google it and be amazed.
Nearly as weird as the barreleye is what's going on in the world of used vehicle values these days. A couple of years ago Shed blew a couple of grands' worth of his war pension on a motorcycle. It was nothing special, just an everyday Japanese homage to something the same firm had built a couple of decades earlier.
Imagine his delight, not to say astonishment, when he had no trouble unloading it for nearly three grand just one year after buying it. Unfortunately that jubilation has now been by replaced by anger as, one more year on from him selling it, these very same bikes are now being advertised at between £5,000 and £6,000. Garn!
What happened there? Nobody knows. But Shed has learnt two lessons from the madness. One is that he might finally be able to flog off the Pratlington Golightly and Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo that have been mouldering in his garage for decades, vainly attempting to acquire value. The other is that cars like this week's Shed, the Renaultsport Sport Renault RenaultSport Clio Sport 182 Sport, represent fantastic value.
As far as Shed can see, which admittedly isn't very far when you don't have a barreleye's see-through head, these feisty little Clio 182s are tough to beat at the money they're going for. Great handling, great performance, runty style, supermini practicality when you need it, and a degree of rarity. They were only on sale for two years - 2004 and 2005 - and now there are less than 3,000 left. That's a healthy percentage of a UK total that never exceeded 5,700, so there's another positive indicator: these cars last.
So, given all that, why is that you can still get a good 182 (like this one seems to be) for just £1,500? Is it a trust issue? Do people find it hard to believe that a small French car that was designed to be ragged to death can possibly be anything other than a bucket of bent bolts 14 years after it left the Renaultsport skunkworks in Dieppe?
They shouldn't. There's a clue in the car's mission statement. Renault knew full well what was going to happen to these Clios. When you're trying to set up a credible performance sub-brand, the last thing you want is a workshop full of busted cars, so Renault did the best it could on the build. Customer numbers lived up to expectations, so the faults that did exist in the hot Clios quickly came to the fore. Now these faults are all well documented, they all have fixes, and there's no shortage of reputable folk around to carry out them out for you.
Nobody should go into 182 ownership without knowing the state of the timing and auxiliary belts, along with the dephaser and the various tensioners. The dephaser pulley is critical to the correct functioning of Renault's version of a variable valve timing system. Driven by oil pressure, it adjusts the timing at around 1,350rpm and again at 6,500rpm. If it's on the way out, it will make itself heard on a hot idle and then go suspiciously quiet again above 1,350rpm.
Replacing all the bits and then setting up the dephaser system demands special tools plus somebody who knows not only what end of the tools to hold but also when to be holding them, as it's very easy to get it wrong even if you're a Renault main dealer, creating big power and economy losses. Oil should be changed at the same time as the dephaser in case there are bits of old pulley floating around in there.
The safe belt/dephaser replacement schedule is every 72,000 miles or five years, but those in the know recommend doing the aux belts on a tighter schedule of 36k/three years as broken ones like to huddle around the cambelt for safety.
This all sounds a bit scary, but we're actually okay on this car - for now at least - because this £600-or-so job was carried out just 17 months and 7k miles ago.
What else do you need to be on the lookout for? Well, today's 182s are highly unlikely to have the original exhaust system still in place. They rotted like pears. Aftermarket exhausts are generally better in every respect.
Gearboxes are robust, or not, very much depending on individual experience. Some reckon the later 197/200 boxes are worse than the 182s. Whatever, if you go for a too-quick 182 change from 2 to 3, or from 3 to 4, your reward may be an unsettling crunching noise. Rev-matching will smooth things out generally, if you can be bothered.
If there's knocking in the first two gears, the gearbox mounts might be shot. 30,000 miles on a clutch is regarded as not bad. Power steering can be noisy. Steering play or a feeling of floppiness or clunking on or off the throttle is probably a failed lower mount or dogbone bushes.
On the bodywork front, ClioSportRenaultSport front wings are plastic. The difficulty of colour-matching these items means they can look like replacements even when they're not. It's more obvious on the silver cars than it is on this blue one, though. A better giveaway of poor crash damage repair is the appearance of rust, unusual on these cars, or the disappearance of the factory details sticker on the driver's door.
Inside, there will be creaking. The Clio equivalent of the barreleye's transparent head is its notorious melting steering wheel. According to Renault, it never happened. This one's got it, but you'll find chaps on cliosport.net who will do top-notch retrims for between £95 and £150.
Apart from that, it's all good. 182s have none of those pesky turbos to fret about, and they're simple enough to encourage DIY mendage, with loads of affordable used parts available from the likes of cliosport.net. Coilpacks are inexpensive and nicely accessible. Another ownership bonus is the fact that a 182 will yield mid-to-high 30s mpg figures all day long (as long as that day isn't on a track).
Some will say they'd prefer one of the earlier 172 models, either a 2000-2001 Phase 1 or a 2001-2004 Phase 2 facelift. In performance terms, there's very little to choose between the 172 and the 182, not unexpectedly perhaps as the engines are practically identical apart from the exhaust manifolds, ECU calibration and rocker cover breathers.
On sensible dynos, 172s produced a 'real' 165hp and 182s around 173hp, and mileage is no indicator of power: leggy 182s could show over 175hp, low-milers less than 165hp. Our Shed falls nicely between those two stools. Peak power on the 182 was delivered around 1,000rpm higher than on the 172, changing the nature of the drive and reducing the 182's real-world 0-60 advantage to just 0.1sec (7.1 v 7.2). The 182 is obviously newer than the 172, which will appeal to distrustful types, but either car will make you feel like a better driver than you probably are. They are brilliant, brilliant fun.
The number of UK registered 182s is still dropping, but the interesting thing is that the rate of drop is slowing up. For those who like to dabble in market futures, that's a clear indicator of growing interest in a car - and tells you that values must start to go up as the scabby ones fall by the wayside and the percentage of good and/or restored examples increases. Get 'em while they're cheap. You'll thank yourself later, and you'll be able to brag about your clear-headedness - just as the barreleye does.