Thursday, 11 February 2010


I think that before very long a large proportion of the population who have routinely enjoyed the benefits of motoring will be forced off the roads.

 A few weeks ago I was posting things all over the net about the impending doom that we were facing and even I thought that perhaps I was a bit of an Oddbod.

Not anymore. Big names like Sir Richard Branson are now openly forecasting an ‘Oil Crunch’ within five years. 
The less well off motorists must by now be able to see the end of the road looming up towards them.
I am one such motorist. I am officially living well below the poverty line. I manage to run a home and a family on almost a ‘Third World’ income.

I will tell you how much. £180 per week, scary stuff eh? I am not complaining though. I live in an area with a crippled economy by choice. In 1990 I was working away and earning £1000 per week. Even as far back as 1980 I was earning £225 per week but I have just lowered my sights and got better at living a realistic life.

As I said in earlier postings, I drive a pretty good car, a 2001 Mercedes Benz, and it’s a petrol. Not too shabby eh? But I am worried. I am fairly sure that the Merc will have to go but I do not intend to give up motoring.

I cycle as much as I can. I have a 125cc four stroke motorbike for fetching and carrying and I walk a lot too.
The trouble is I live in the countryside. There is nothing on my doorstep, the nearest town is seven miles away and the nearest town with any decent shops is thirty.

I have to keep motoring, so how can I? How can we, the poorer motorist hang on to the car?

The first thing to do is to ask our self what else we can economise on to extend our motoring life.

Then we have to take a look at the car. Mine is an obvious fail. Twenty five to the gallon is optimistic for my Merc and I already made all the necessary sacrifices so that I could run her.

So the first place for me to look is at economical and also home serviceable cars. 

I mentioned the wonderful little Renault Clio DCi in an earlier post. It’s good but it has its problems for the likes of me.

 For a start, the economy will go pear shaped at the same time as the Oil Crunch bites. That will mean that everything else gets more expensive and taking my car to a garage with diagnostics will be way out of my reach.

The DCi is a modern generation car with an ecu. It is also a common rail diesel engine that cannot function without an ecu so realistically speaking it is not going to be a long term prospect for me.

There are some cars though, that although they may be of an earlier type, are absolute gems.

Take for example the VW golf diesels from the nineties, fifty to sixty mpg ordinary diesel engine.

Peugeot 205 1.9 diesel, same again, conventional engine. Either of these two cars are potentially long term prospects.

If you want to look at petrol engine cars there are also some little gems. The petrol engine appeals to more people who like to tinker because they are easier to work on.

Peugeot have a contender once again with the little 106, very economical and easy to work on. Same goes for the Citroen Saxo.

If you want mega reliability there are several choices among the earlier Japanese cars. In short, a car with either Honda or Nissan stamped on the engine is almost bullet proof.

I once drove a 1970’s Honda Civic back from The Cairngorms in Scotland all the way to West Yorkshire with the radiator missing and no water. I went to the scrap yard the day after and bought a rad, fitted it, topped up the water and the car was none the worse for it.

I have a friend who lives not far from me who is an enthusiast of old Brit cars. He has managed to shoehorn a Ford Sierra gearbox into a Morris 1000 pickup. He now has five gears, full syncro and get this, sixty to the gallon.

Once you have put away the need to have the latest toy and returned to being a normal British, make do and mend person, you can actually start to enjoy the challenges that present themselves. Squeezing an extra few mpg out of some old ‘Fart Box’ can be fun.

If you want to get cracking with something for the frugal future I can’t fault you. Sod the idea of keeping up with the Jones’s. It’s a pathetic notion.

 We live such pallid existences today compared with those of a few years ago when we were tinkering around in sheds and helping each other with ideas.

My advice to you would be to chose your future frugal Steed and then grab another for bits and a few spares here and there. Look into ways of squeezing a bit more out of it and also mess around with alternative fuels, just enjoy yourself.

I will add to this with some links to people’s ideas and also continue with motorcycles. It really does get exciting trying to get some serious mpg out of a little bike and it’s as cheap as chips at the moment.

Keep watching this space.


  1. From a practical point of view, I view cars as an expensive millstone or a necessary evil at best. I had a very brief encounter with a Robin 3-wheeler which cured me of any vestige of car desire. I have ridden step-through motor bikes since the mid 80s and you'd be surprised what you can carry on them or drag behind you. Trailers are not legal though, below a certain cc, I believe, but the copper who stopped me with a hundred weight of wool didn't know it, thankfully ;-). Those were the days, eh? Here is a photo of one load, though I would not recommend that kind of load. It was the biggest and scariest one. Took two hours for the 5 mile trip home . Oh, and there was the bathtub on a little trolley wheelbase, countless planks on same, the oak chest of drawers strapped to the seat, and, you guessed it, the kitchen sink....

    A large box on the back of the bike does my regular shopping.

    Pooling work horses is one way of doing things. These days, if I have a large load to transport, I hire a friend with a pick-up for those rare occasions, or pay a little extra to have something delivered. Still a lot cheaper and convenient than maintaining my own car or truck.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. Yes, we will have to become more inventive, but don't let the bastards grind you down.

  2. Oops, forgot to mention, the Yamaha Townmate does about 165 miles/gallon. Not as much as it should do for its size, but still good compared to a car. The Honda 90 I also used to have, would do around 120/gallon. Your mileage may vary, literally. Considering the hills around here and the loads I've carried, that would not be an unrealistic figure though, even for a heavier person.

  3. I have been holding back on the bikes because it's my pet subject.
    You are right about most coppers being unaware of the law in relation to trailers.
    There are a few riders who turn up to the Honda C90 bimbles with trailers and they never get any bother.
    I intend to tow a trailer behind my little bike until I am stopped.

    I am going to do a good piece on the potential of mega economy bikes shortly but I am still chasing up some research.

    I don't think they are anywhere near economical enough when you consider that Renault can squeeze 70mpg out of a 1.4 engine. How come they are only getting 120 mpg out of 90cc?

    I am also very interested in maximising the potential of a bicycle for load carrying and I will follow that up too.

    I like your new site BTW.

    I hope it goes well.

  4. The problem with motorbikes is drag. They are far from aerodynamic. A friend of mine, Friend Wood (you may have seen his wooden car about, per chance), was a protigee of the late Frank Costin, who was involved in the Lotus and Maserati design and a specialist in aerodynamic design. He tought Friend a lot and bequethed him some plans for making a little "car" from a Honda C90, or even C50 engine, which should do at least as well as the bike per gallon, with the added advantage of comfort, and may even do better. Friend has long been plannng on building one, and I would hope, get the desgn out there.

    Another place to do some research might be the Shell race, as I believe it is called. A lot of little cars have been designed which supposedly do hundreds of miles, even 1000s to the gallon through super efficient design.

    Now that we are entering the downward slope of the Peak Oil bell curve, we might even get to see some of those designs, but as they have almost certainly been bought up by you-know-who, there will probably be a hefty price tag attached.

    Thanks about the site, and for joinng. Hope to see you around.

  5. Yes to all. Seen Friends car. Had mates involved in the Shell thing and yes you are right about you know who.