Cars Opinion: Can you buy a good car for £300?

18:20  16 june  2017
18:20  16 june  2017 Source:   Autocar

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I’m in love. 

I’ve bought a 1999 (T-reg) Volkswagen Lupo and - believe it or not - it’s the first ever car where my name is on the V5. Before I had shared ownership with family members. 

By all accounts it should be a heap. I paid around £320 for it, and the car has no service history from 2007 onward - more than half of its life - and it’s got a dent or two. But the dents will polish out. Maybe.

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Opinion : Can you buy a good car for £ 300 ? Autocar 4 hrs ago. I’ve bought a 1999 (T-reg) Volkswagen Lupo and - believe it or not - it’s the first ever car where my name is on the V5. Before I had shared ownership with family members.

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It’s really anything but a heap, though. For a basic car dating from the end of the Nineties it’s not hugely equipped, but it’s got electric windows, central locking, only a couple of insignificant electrical niggles, a very sound engine which starts first time, and enough gumption to get it to Southampton from Cannock without so much as a grumble or wisp of steam.

Related: Essential steps to take when buying a used car (Wochit Tech)

Yes, I had to travel a fair distance to collect it, but that's small beer.

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So what’s the plan? I’m going to pour money into it, of course. I’ve always loved the Lupo - it’s got a sort of subtle cheekiness to it, without being overtly camp like a Mini or Fiat 500, or bland like its sibling, the SeatArosa. I already know it’s got bucket loads of handling potential - the steering is light but sharp and direct, the engine pulls well and if the brakes were a bit (or a lot) quicker, it’d be a genuinely entertaining car to drive. 

The ultimate goal is to get it to Wörthersee next year, but I’ll settle for just getting it to a pristine fit and finish on the outside and smart enough on the inside for me to find it comfortable, with a few mechanical upgrades to make it more exciting and engaging. That’ll involve a few modifications, most notably suspension upgrades to sort out the hilariously rolly cornering, perhaps a few aesthetic bits to add an edge to its decidedly cutesy look, and a ton of polishing, perfecting and fixing. Someone’s already suggested lumping in the original Audi R8’s 4.2-litre V8, but let’s stick to the realms of possibility. 

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However, there is good news. The surge in prices for desirable examples (turbo, 6-speed manual) is starting to normalize and now you can find fair used examples of the twin turbo It can be admired from any angle and has a presence that, in my opinion , hasn't yet been surpassed by any other car .

What next then? There’s a fair bit of tinkering to get done before I get to modifying: a door checkstrap has already been fixed, a filthy headliner replaced with a fresh (ish) new one from a scrapped Lupo and the rear wiper and motor reinstalled. It’s cost me £30 for the replacement parts, but a big garage job of replacing the cam belt and water pump - rather essential on a car you don’t have a service history for - will no doubt take a larger chunk of cash. 

I'll let you know how I get on here in the coming months.

1999 Volkswagen Lupo 1.4 S 

Price £320 (plus half a tank of fuel)

Faults Passenger checkstrap knocking, dirty headliner, two dents, needs cambelt and water pump, could do with a wash

Expenses New headliner £18, checkstrap replacement £5, new rear wiper and engine £10

Verdict so far Abundant charm, tempered by an underlying fear that bargain basement price will come back to haunt me. But enormously encouraged by sprightly handling

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