As I spent the last dying moments of 2020 in my home, in a lockdown in all but name, I did what ever other person usually does and reflected on the previous year. It felt like a short year compared to the others, but if you can only go as far as your spare room as a holiday destination, well that’s to be expected.
This website has now been going for over a year, which is a mental thing for me to comprehend. Usually, with a project, I will keep at it for a few weeks or months, get tired of it, then move on. But I have consistently came back to this site, and it’s grown in ways I didn’t really expect.
I log in to find people have left nice comments who have found the website from some small corner of the internet. I’ve had a chap here tell us all about his work with Rover when they provided FSO with the K-Series engine. I’ve had another person tell us all of the progress with their own Lada. Website traffic has ramped up throughout the year, mostly from people wanting to know why their Peugeot’s steering has gone all crappy, but from the analytics it’s obvious that there’s a desire for people to find out more about forgotten cars, Lada’s, FSO Polonez’s, and Rover engines.
So, like last year, I thought I’d condense in to one article and video, the state of the fleet for this year. Recapping a never-to-be forgotten 2020, and making plans (where appropriate) for 2021.
Video: State of the Fleet 2021
Paddy – 1998 Toyota Corolla E11
The year started well for Paddy. I was commuting to work in Birmingham with him, to then change jobs and start driving to a new destination which involved a shorter, prettier commute. For the first 3 months of 2020, life was good. I was hooning down country lanes, enjoying the handling made possible by the poly bushes I used on the front suspension, and the now boomy exhaust. A set of Falken all season tyres really improved matters.
Then COVID-19 hit. I was now working from home. My commute involved me waking up in the bedroom, slinking downstairs to my dining room table, where I have been ever since. Paddy the Corolla just sat on the driveway, going nowhere other than to the shops, filled to the brim with bog roll and biscuits. Everyone knows with a pandemic, bog roll and biscuits are the two vital food groups to stave off any sort of infection.
I used the opportunity though to attend to some of the body work issues that I hadn’t got round to sorting. Mostly the rear spoiler and rear bumper. I painted the rear spoiler in a lovely shade of Post Office Van red, and the bumper is now one solid shade of white. I even got round to removing the rear wiper, which has improved the look of the car from behind no end.
However, for the second half of 2020, the car sat there not being used. More to the point, I’ve fallen out of love with it. I don’t know why, I drove it recently and I just don’t have the lust for it like I used to. Plus, given the new addition, I can only run one properly full time (at the moment), and the wife is moaning at me daily about it being on the driveway. The Corolla, though, gave up a caliper bolt to get the RAV4 back on the road (more about that later).
So, at the time of writing, it’s for sale. As long as it’s a decent offer, and it’s not going to Dubai to be broken, make me an offer for it.
Rocky – 2010 Peugeot 107
It was 10 years since I bought Rocky, and yet again it just remains as a steadfast member of the fleet. When other cars aren’t working, Rocky is. Rocky is always there for you when you need it. Especially as recent as December 2020, Rocky has been there to be used when the other cars have decided not to.
Come MOT time, it’s never had an issue. The only advisories listed were from an eager KwikFit technician looking to bulk his pay up. This time though the exhaust was listed as an advisory, which was a fair cop. The left hand side hanger has corroded completely off the side of the back box, so it was hanging there from one hanger and the join to the exhaust pipe. This back box came directly from Euro Car Parts, and was fitted 3 1/2 years ago. 6 months after the return period expired, naturally.
Then a few weeks ago, the wife came home to let me know that she managed to spin the car on a wet roundabout not too far away from the house. The Peugeot 107 can suffer from oversteer, and it’s on the list of things to sort out. There are no anti-roll bars on the rear of these cars, although one can be fitted apparently. The wife’s alright though, the car (for the most part) is also alright – except she tapped the bumper on the island so it’s hanging off. In fairness I don’t think I fitted it right from last year’s surgery.
I’ve noticed myself that, at the lights, you can smell the exhaust fumes in the car. I don’t think the crappy weld I made has failed, but I don’t think it’s air tight either. So the front will have to come off, again, to sort out the catalytic converter for the 4th time. Further to this, I’ve added new weather strips to the car doors in an attempt to stop the footwell being flooded with water after a bit of rain.
Conor McGregor – 2001 Rover 25/MG ZR
There isn’t a lot to talk about with this car, other than it’s serving as a “container” for parts taken off Nikita the Lada, as well as holding up my fence until the weather improves and I can get round to fixing it.
Nikita – 1976 Lada 2101 Zhiguli
Work finally started on Nikita the Lada this year. It’s been slow progress though, just through other commitments getting in the way and stopping me from making the progress it needs. That is the subject of another article though.
If you’ve been following the YouTube channel (and if not, why not?) you’ll see the process it’s already been under. I’ve removed the windscreen and rear window, interior, stripped off the underseal to see how much rust a 44 year old Lada would have underneath. In some respects, it’s not all that bad. In others though, it’s quite surprising.
The biggest area of work, due to me being lazy and not being able to weld properly, was the floor on the driver’s side. I knew the passenger’s side was bad, but this was a surprise. It involved me cutting out a fair sized square from the floor, and removal of the chassis arm, to then replace it with fresh steel and a new chassis arm. Since then, I’ve been concentrating on the driver’s side wing. That’s been removed, as luckily I found new front wings and front valance for it! So all the crappy old steel can be removed, which is handy as it turns out the wing was just made of filler.
Nothing’s happened to it throughout December, as it was the run up to Christmas and I had other things to do. I should though have the front passenger side completed (in terms of rust removal/new steel welded in) by the end of January. So look out for that video when it’s released!
Jack – 1995 Toyota RAV4 GX
I know in my State of the Fleet 2020 article I said I wasn’t looking for another vehicle, but the chance to own a great Toyota RAV4 presented itself and I couldn’t say no. It’s been years since I owned a 4×4, and there was something about this RAV4 that I liked.
It soon became the car of choice, and it offered a nice driving experience really. It handled a long trip to and from Yorkshire, and I could not understand how people say it’s an uncomfortable car on long journeys. I think I might have more padding on my backside than most, so I come pre-cushioned for long journeys!
It’s not perfect though, and things started to go wrong after a few months. The first noticeable thing was how only 2 speakers worked. Now I like to have all 4 speakers working when I’m commuting to and from my local Sainsbury’s, so I decided to investigate the issue. The problem? Well it was two fold. The wiring had been hacked to death by someone who didn’t want to buy an ISO adapter for their after market MiniDisc player! Thankfully the Corolla gave up it’s ISO harness, and I wired it in. So at least the next owner after me can listen to their banging tunes!
It didn’t totally fix the rear speaker issues, which turned out to be just blown speakers. I had two Pioneer speakers for the Corolla which I fitted, and the tunes were rocking out across all 4 speakers again!
After that, I noticed a wet patch under the rear differential. This turned out to be a failed driveshaft seal. Not exactly a hard job to do, but I absolutely hate the smell of gear oil. It’s awful stuff, and after a weekend I finished the job. If you have a similar issue, you can see how I did it with the video below:
The car felt like it was always lacking power, and then one day it started to rattle. No bother I thought, it’ll be a heatshield that’s loose. Nope. A quick bang on the catalytic converter revealed that the cat had failed. I took it to a local garage because I could not be bothered to fix it myself, and after a con man of an eBay seller sent me the wrong part then blamed me for buying the wrong part, the issue was quickly resolved. And the engine was back to how it should’ve been!
Things took a huge turn for the worse though, as I brought it to get it’s MOT done. It failed. I’ve been here before though, but this was bad. I’ve never had the MOT sheet come back to me with “DO NOT DRIVE” on it.
The subframe has corroded badly, to the point where there are parts of it missing. As well as this, a wishbone is in the same condition and sills either side of the RAV4 need welding. Not what I wanted to hear, given I don’t want to be one of these people with multiple basket case cars that require attention.
After much eBaying, and visiting local scrapyards, I managed to source a second hand subframe in good condition, and bought two new wishbones from Autodoc which should be here in time for Christmas 2021. If it wasn’t for the snowfall we had a week prior to the MOT test, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be doing this work and moving it on. But it was great fun to drive the RAV4 past the try-hard’s in their BMW’s struggling to get up small inclines.
I can say, hand on heart, there will be no new additions to the fleet this year. Paddy the Corolla will have to move on unfortunately, and if I can’t get the K-Series to fit in the Lada, Conor McGregor the Rover 25/MG ZR will be moved on as well.
I did have aspirations of buying an MG F or MG TF last year, but COVID put paid to those plans, as well as going to Poland. I am, however, on the look out for a gearbox from an FSO Polonez from the ones that use the K-Series (incase I can’t mate the Mazda MX-5 box I have to the engine for the Lada). So if you know of one, please let me know!