16 May 2013

Speedmonkey Fleet - Matt's garage

Since the last time I updated on the status of our vehicles we have lost three cylinders.  My wife was getting a bit tired of constantly refilling her V8 Land Rover Discovery and wanted to swap it for something slightly less thirsty.

She needs a 4x4 in order to tow her horsebox, which weighs just over 3 tons when loaded with 2 horses and their tack.  For the £8,000 budget we could afford all sorts of SUVs but very few are rated to tow over 3 tons.  Indeed most of the Japanese and German 4x4s are rated to tow 2800kg.  The choice came down to a Toyota Land Cruiser, Range Rover or Land Rover Discovery.

She didn't want a Toyota.  When I mentioned a Land Cruiser she gave me the kind of look that a husband recognises as needing to change the subject pronto.  The Range Rover soon fell out of favour because the only diesels in budget were the hopeless BMW affairs which don't have enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding.

Discovery it was then.  But Disco 2 or 3?  Almost everyone we spoke to reckoned the Discovery 3 to be a superior car but three things made it drop off our list - for £8k you can only buy one with a huge mileage, the TDV6 diesel engine is less efficient than the TD5 in the Disco 2 and the 'CAN bus' wiring system in the Disco 3 sounds frighteningly complex and expensive should anything go wrong.

So we opted for a Disco 2, and found a lovely one in Somerset.  It's a 2003 TD5 with 90,000 miles on the clock.  Because it's from the era when Ford owned Land Rover the interior is miles better than was in the 1998 V8.  It looks the same but doesn't squeak or rattle - and bits don't come off in your hand.  It also feels much more solid to drive.

Although it's a lot slower than the V8 it returns 30mpg rather than 10mpg so will cost a whole lot less to run.  We've lost three cylinders though as the TD5 is only a 5-pot.

My Audi S4 has caused no end of heartache, and financial woe, since the last update.  Back in February I documented the £2,000 bill for a new clutch.  Since then the alternator has had to be replaced, a door handle fell off and the boot latch has been playing up.

The alternator failed due to a tiny oil leak from the rocker cover.  The oil dripped down and was blown into the alternator by the fan behind the radiator.  This created a grinding paste which eventually destroyed the alternator.  The car was with Storm Developments for 2 days where the entire front end had to be removed just to get to it.  The only alternators you can buy for the B6 S4 have to be converted to water cooled with the requisite pipework plumbed in - absolute madness.  All in all the bill came to an eye watering £1050.

The drivers side door handle fell off on the way back from Thruxton where I'd been to watch the BTCC.  It's only a metal flap that covers the actual workings of the handle but is pretty poor quality control by Audi.  I've ordered a new one, which is being painted right now by Ridgeway Audi in Newbury.  I couldn't find any of the same type and colour for sale on eBay.

The boot lid fails to close properly.  The latch just won't engage properly.  A few doses of WD40 seems to have cured it, although it does play up every now and again.  More worrying quality control, in this case it seems to be a lack of grease when the car was built.

By this point I was really falling out of love with the S4.  My wallet and my heart had had enough.  But then something happened that has made me think all might be well again.  The front tyres needed changing so I swapped out the Falkens for some Pirelli P-Zeros.  These have transformed the stiff and wooden steering into something much better, more fluid and light.

I've only put 100 miles on the S4 with the Pirellis but the renewed handling and feel might just persuade me to keep it rather than sell it on impulse.

I won't talk about the Porsche 924S too much as a full review of it will appear this Friday.  I've had continued woes with the drivers door handle which hasn't worked since I bought the car, despite several attempts at repairing it.  It is now overdue an MoT so I've had to finally get it fixed.  I balked at paying £200 for a Porsche unit so have installed a £40 VW handle (from a Mk2 Golf) which seems to work so I'll get the MoT booked soon.

And finally to the newest vehicle in the fleet - my 2011 Triumph Street Triple.  It's the only one of our vehicles that lives indoors in the garage.  I probably love it the most out of all of them because, despite the fact I only use it for fun, it provides the biggest thrill.  You bond with a motorcycle far more than you do a car.  It scares you more than any car but it also rewards more than any car.  It's also the least troublesome of any of our vehicles.

I took the Triumph for an 80 mile jaunt around Wiltshire and Hampshire last weekend and came back utterly exhilarated.  Despite my love of cars I'll always make room for a motorcycle in my life - as long as I have budget and health enough to do so.

We'll have to do some major shuffling around soon.  I've a Jaguar XKR test car for nearly two weeks soon, and a Volvo V40 T5 for a long weekend. We can't fit four cars in the drive so one has to be parked in our (very accommodating) neighbours driveway.

I'll report back in a month or so.


If you run an interesting fleet of cars (and/or bikes) and would like to write about them please let me know and I'll be happy to talk about publishing it.