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Weekend Edition: On the Polo Harlekin


That recent stroll around the junkyard near Hamburg, Germany, left a lasting impression. The Volkswagen Polo Harlekin appealed to me perhaps stronger than before: seeing a partially disassembled one teetering above a regular blue one drove the point home that it would make actual, yet ludicrous sense to buy Harlekins now, as there still are decent ones for sale.

They’re priced about the same as a regular, uh, colour-coded Polo would, which means you wouldn’t really need to pay much more than a grand or a grand and a half for one. You can get a rough one for only a few hundred, too, but there’s likely to be welding in your near future. As 800 euro cars come, the Harlekin makes a strong case for itself.

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Weekend Edition: The Lure of the 800 Euro Car


I’ve decided I won’t be buying another beater this fall. It’s an easy decision to make, since I still have four cars under my ownership: the Miata, the 205, the Sierra and the Polo. The Volkswagen is going to be reassembled by someone else, as it’s painfully apparent I won’t be fixing the engine together myself (or haven’t done it over the past two years); the Sierra needs a bit of welding to pass MOT, and then it’ll either perform winterbeater duties or get sold altogether, albeit I’m still tempted to Merkurize it to the best of my abilities. The 205 will stay and get improved on, and the Miata will be taken off the road for the winter so the rusting will be at least slowed down.

Yet, the market is full of AMAZING DEALS for 800 euros, as the summer is inevitably ending and people don’t know where to put their cars. Everywhere I look, there’s a dead end waiting there’s something that needs rescuing for 800 euros – or less. The Miata was cheaper than that in Germany, originally; the Sierra was cheaper than that, the Xantia I used to own was priced right there: with a loose grand, you can pick something up and even fix one or two of the initial problems. Let’s take a quick look at some of the stuff I’ve seen for sale recently in this beautiful used car country.

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Supergreen in Helsinki: 1988 Peugeot 205 Green


The weekend was crammed full of Peugeot 205 content, so I’m riding the coattails of that goodness even today. As a Helsinki sighting, here’s a very bright little Pug for your Tuesday enjoyment.

The 205 “Green” was a special edition available for a number of years during the 205’s tenure, and it was a differently specified version of the XS model. Same engine, same gearbox, same amount of power, but no front airdam and no bucket sport seats. And yeah, they were all white. This one isn’t.

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True Companion: Driving a Peugeot 205 XS to the Nürburgring, Part III

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After our Romanian leg of the trip was done, we headed to Serbia by crossing the Donau River near Gura Vaii. We drove the riverbank road to Golubac, and spent the night in a guest house close by. The border crossing was somewhat intense, as the guards eyed at our vehicles, and we drove past abandoned cars on the pier. They had been there for years, as there most likely had been document issues and the cars’ holders had had to leave them for the foreseeable future.

The riverbank road drive was otherwise pleasant, with local Turbo-Folk music blaring from the speakers, but a couple road works had left the surfaces way askew and a loud bang was the inevitable result despite trying to hit the brakes in time. No bent rims on mine, however. Thank the alu-steelies, perhaps.

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True Companion: Driving a Peugeot 205 XS to the Nürburgring, Part II


In the previous post, I outlined how we drove from Finland to the southern border of Poland, then to Slovakia and Hungary in a matter of days, and continued south on our long way around to the Nürburgring.

So, Romania. We crossed the Hungarian-Romanian border at Oradea, and up until then we had pretty much been plain sailing, without much regard to the road conditions, as they were mostly fine. The biggest potholes had been encountered in Latvia after the Estonian border, and there hadn’t been reasons to complain about anything since.

But after the border, which was situated on a field in the middle of nowhere, it soon became apparent the small side roads weren’t really suitable for enthusiastic driving. The pic above shows where we stopped, and it’s sort of decent there, but it wasn’t uncommon to encounter fist-sized boulders and wonder if it would have been smoother to drive across the fields. We scrapped our route plan and headed to the main road towards Cluj-Napoca soon enough.

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True Companion: Driving a Peugeot 205 XS to the Nürburgring, Part I

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Every summer, there’s a gathering of gearheads at the famous Nürburgring in Germany. Well, obviously there are gearheads there every day that the ‘Ring is open, but I’m referring to the FinalGear Ringmeet, a yearly thing where a bunch of friends drive to the track and have hilarious breakdowns on the way. I’ve been there a few times, and last year was the first occasion where I’d attempt to drive there in my own car. Naturally, I would take the Peugeot, as it was the best suited car for the trip: I had the thought in mind, that were I to break down, I’d have to unscrew the plates and fly home. After all, I would only stand to lose all of 350 euros.

The directions to the Ring from Finland are pretty easy. Go to the port where ferries to Germany leave, spend a couple days in the ferry, get to Travemünde, get to the Autobahn that goes south, take the exit where it says Nürburgring. Or something like that. We just decided to visit Romania on the way.

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True Companion: Living with a 1990 Peugeot 205 XS for two years


A little more than two years ago, in the middle of the summer of 2013, I bought one of the cheapest cars I’ve ever seen advertised with valid inspection, let alone bought for myself. It was a white Peugeot 205 XS with 230 000 km on the clock, it cost 350 euros and I pretty much immediately wrote it up for Hooniverse. After being used as a student runabout, it was the way you would imagine a cheap, somewhat neglected car to be, as the paint was dull, the interior smelled of smoking and the engine bay was horrendously dirty. There were a bunch of weird noises here and there, the tires were bad and I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, except tidy it up and drive it. And that’s exactly what I’ve done in the past two years.

It’s most likely one of the best deals I’ve ever done.

I’ll now let you catch up on the two years’ time I’ve had the affable little French econobox, and it’s going to be photo-heavy. Even so, that it’s better to splice up the pieces into several posts.

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Wagon Wednesday: 2004 Mercedes-Benz W203 C180 Kompressor


One of the more difficult things as a writer is assessing the dynamic characteristics of your father’s car. Or, to be precise: at a time when he’s sitting in the passenger seat. My formative years as a driver, brought up on car magazines with evocative tales of road trips were spent driving the family trucksters under somewhat constant monitoring, and whenever given free rein, discovering some of the attributes never quite to be reached with someone else in the car.

I’ve now passed my 30th birthday a good while ago, but whenever I’m piloting a vehicle with my father, double my age, there’s an eerie sense of being transported to an age a decade younger. That ends up ruling out the time-honed lairy gravel road Scandinavian flicks in the MX-5 and the immediate throttle response satisfaction given by the TU-series engine in the 205. The watchful eye with decades of road experience may be silent, but the direction is in the air – keep it steady, sudden movements to the minimum. Don’t launch the phone from the dashboard slot under the stereo head unit.

The car in question is one of the more puzzling of recent years, and by itself worthy of closer inspection. It’s a 203-body Mercedes-Benz C-class wagon built a decade ago. Is it a good used buy? Is it a decent Mercedes? What to really make of it, especially since it’s now been in the family for six months?

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Monday Video: Kawasaki catches fire at 247 mph

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Ever experienced the inevitable heat death of the universe while riding your turbocharged 2006 Kawasaki ZX14 at 247 mph? Well, this is pretty much what it looks like, from the view point of a GoPro camera strapped on the bike.

This video was taken at a runway, at a speed event in Finland. The oil return on the bike failed at speed and fire was an inevitable outcome. The rider was able to pull to a halt and bail, and it took a while until the fire crew got to the scene. This meant the fairing melted around the camera as the fire blazed, and amazingly enough the memory card could be salvaged from the GoPro-turned-alien-blob later on.

The latter half of the three-minute video is pretty insane, as that’s what it would feel to be a GoPro slowly engulfed by melting plastic and fiery fire. Wouldn’t want to change places with it.

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Sitting Pretty: (Most Likely) Abandoned 1996 Lada Samara 1500i

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I drive past this off-white Lada Samara almost every day, whenever I grab my car keys and go anywhere. It’s been sitting at the parking lot adjacent to the railway station as long as I remember, and after I first paid attention to it I don’t think I’ve seen it go anywhere. It’s on summer tires, but those were mounted a good few years ago, I wager.

A car so inherently disposable as a Samara, especially one manufactured as late as 1996 when the competition was quite far ahead of the little Lada, doesn’t really stand a chance of being intentionally preserved. This one will probably sit there until someone tows it somewhere to be cubed.

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