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Do It Yourself Cheap Car.

04/30/2010 11:47 PM

Lynlynch told us all that I am living on a island. I add, with limited resources, difficult and expensive supplies and communication.

We have gas and diesel and some stores supply car parts.

Like Napa does. Question: IN THESE DAYS what is a good and reliable car - no golf cart or electro mobile- to have here for transportation.

Luxury is no must - reliability is - and also great economy and easy to work on.

Preferably diesel engine. No tractor. Your input is very much appreciated.

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#1

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/01/2010 4:17 AM

Nissan Diesel Micra it has a very reliable puegeot diesel engine 55 mpg

my Fiat panda diesel is also very good on fuel 98 mpg also easy to work on.

in my experiance as a mechanic on european types all japanese cars are reliable.

in that they dont break down often

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#2

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.S

05/01/2010 12:51 PM

Actually, this is a tough question! Since I don't know of any manufacturer making a 'peoples car' these days, I would have to recommend a car from a rental car company. Rental companies buy fleets of alike cars, and sell them often. That makes for a lot of the same car on the used car market, and parts likely to be at the auto supply.

I would expect the rental car company has already checked the car out for reliability and simplicity.

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#4
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/01/2010 9:22 PM

Thanks for the help.

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#5

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 12:55 AM

Almost all car produced in the last 15 years and more are somehow electronically controlled, over/under engineered, planned obsolesced, dealer-required-to-repair, at some point, whizzbangs.

Your looking for a cheap, reliable, easy and cheap to repair car where luxury is not of interest? You already have the answer, "peoples car". I'm certain, with a little looking, you can find a well restored VW, pre '68's are the easiest to fix since they are pre emissions and the engines don't have any headache crap unless it's from California, for less than $5000. A much less restored running example falls in the $2000 range. I realize this doesn't sound that cheap but most of the other cars around in the $2500 range I wouldn't consider to be as reliable or cheap to repair and will be pretty much used up when you get it. And don't shy away from a 6 volt car. They run just as well plus if the battery is weak but not shorted, you can carry an almost dead 12V battery and just quickly jump it across the 6v to get started unless you can park it on a slight hill. Plus, thrown away 15" large car tires fit perfectly and NEVER WEAR OUT.

If you do go with an early VW, make sure you use a reliable theft deterrent. Since the engine or backside of the dash board are easily accessible, a jumper wire and a good push and you can wave bye, bye.

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 5:31 AM

I have to agree with you about the early VW. When we were young and "very house poor" I put about 100K miles on a 56 VW. It got 30mpg and was really a cheap ride. The time was the late 1960's early 1970's. I figured it cost me about a penny (US) a mile to operate. The end came at about 200K when both the tranny and engine said "I'm done" in that order.

We bought a 72 Ford Pinto Squire wagon (the one with the German 2 liter 4 cylinder engine) that lasted till 1990 at 210K miles when the 4 speed shed a gear tooth. Nothing remotely close to wear out on that engine; but getting the tranny in and out was a real chore when the clutch needed replacement; so I was glad to avoid that pain. This was a 28mpg ride and a pretty well made car. The fact that it was an object of scorn in the eyes of my teenagers, who went to a high school which was its own object of scorn in the greater community due to the number of Mercedes and BMWs in the student parking lot, was no bother to me.

Both were simple vehicles as was the 64 Plymouth slant 6 that I retired at 264K miles. On the other hand the '80 Mazda GLC station wagon with the 1400 cc 4 cylinder that got 34mpg but self destructed at 90K miles was a piece of junk. Even the seat cover material failed after about 5 years.

Point here is that the essence of a cheap car is fuel economy; proven technology, reliable and long wearing; simplicity and mass production quantities sufficient to keep repair parts low in cost. And readily available even out beyond the normal dates of the "We don't support that model anymore" ice bath you get from the guy at the parts counter.

Components of a do it yourself cheap car must come from these sources. Natural evolution by the efforts of millions of automotive do it your selfers has moved a few noteworthy makes and models to the forefront of selection to meet the criteria I cited above. The VW got there. Same with the Hondas and 20/22R 4 cylinder Toyotas. And the ubiquitous Chevy 283 V8 and Chrysler slant 6's (at least the engines if not the brake systems, a dubious record for the corporation that introduced hydraulic brakes to everyman's car)

Underlining this is the simple fact that the primary effect on economy is vehicle weight. The simple reason for this the fact that energy used to bring a vehicle to speed is discarded when it slows down. Hybrids offer a solution to this but are well beyond the scope of what most do it yourselfers are ready to deal with, if for no other reason than the cost of the related parts.

The weight of the above mentioned American engines are an impediment to reducing weight in a vehicle with everyday all weather utility since the engine size and weight commands a similar level of drivetrain and chassis components. Even the Japanese examples share some of that burden. Large engine sizes are a consequence of the current market desire for vehicles with high passenger and load carrying capabilities as well as high speed and creature comfort features.

This is not the best period for a do it yourself car builder looking to create an economical ride. New economical vehicle designs are still lacking long term reliability records and easy component availability. There are a few good powerplant (including transmission) examples but not enough of a supply in the aftermarket to bring the price down to the point of fostering wide popularity for custom car projects. There are a lot of us waiting right now for the right setup to evolve.

One other thing to be considered is the decision that any amateur car builder has to make about just how much stuff and people the vehicle needs to carry and what driver skill level can be brought to "party" to minimize the degree of weight adding safety features so chances of driver and passenger injury are reduced to an acceptable level. Motorcyclists find that combination by definition else they would abandon that option for transportation. Ditto users of various 2 and three wheelers whose limited speed capabilities rule out the dangers of high speed highway travel.

This line of thinking is important to the creative process of planning a "cheap vehicle".

Another element of the selection process is determining just what level creature comforts as well as driver effort, both physical and mental, are required for the environment (read "weather") in which the vehicle will be used. In general female partners as well as children in one's life can have a big effect on this decision. So can affluence and cultural values. Two images come to mind here, one of a family of 5 perched on a motorbike I saw in Taipei some 20 odd years ago; the second my abovementioned teenagers who insisted that I stop two blocks from their high school to let them exit my old Pinto SW unseen by schoolmates.

For my own purposes I am waiting for the right small efficient diesel engine to show up. I have mixed feelings over whether I'd prefer it to be turbocharged or not, the latter obviously bringing a weight penalty. My present ride, a 4 cyl. 2000 Toyota shortbed pickup is almost ideal for my purposes. But the mileage, 20mpg city, 25mpg highway, is taking on the appearance of a future burden. This performance level is a bit low for the type due to the heavy shell I carry on it as well as the automatic transmission, a necessity for starting trailers on steep California back country hills.

Had I the incentive to do it at this point I would like to construct a lightweight truck on a pre-smog chassis perhaps even an updated Model A Ford chassis using the right small diesel engine and a suitable multi-speed transmission. The currently available diesel pickups are far too big for my liking, too expensive and nearly impossible to maneuver in and out of my tight driveway.

But I've never been very mainstream in my automotive interests; so like others I look to build stuff that is a bit off beat.

Ed Weldon

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 12:31 PM

What a coincidence, I had all these cars, too, but with different outcomes. My 56 bug was six volt, never wanted to start. It was the first experience for the mechanic who built the motor, apparently he didn't know to stretch the valve drain tubes before assembly, so it leaked badly, used a lot of oil. I quickly dumped it.

My 72 Pinto Squire was a wonderful car. It had a lot of power, and served me well. It was fairly easy to work on, too.

The Mazda GLC wagon was a rental car here, I had a couple of them. The aluminum head had a problem with corrosion at the water passages. You still see some around.

I tend to avoid front wheel or four wheel drives, don't like the trouble dealing with all the rotating shafts and joints.

I'm currently driving an 89 Ford Ranger, the motor is wonderful. I'm surprised such a complicated piece of engineering stays together so long. I don't like the fact you have to take off so much stuff to replace the timing belt, it was easier on the Pinto.

I would avoid computers if I could, that's not easy. Diesel sounds nice, biofuel!

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#15
In reply to #7

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 10:13 PM

Good answer, and quite insiteful. Thank you.

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#29
In reply to #5

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/05/2010 2:09 AM

Only one word of warning from someone that has owned many of these beetles. They have the petrol tank situated on your lap, so a front end is fatal - lost a number of friends that way.

The word Beetle also implies that when they die they role onto their backs - the old VW had/has a propensity to do the same.

On the bright side, you can take the engine out and change a clutch in half an hour. Apart from oil seals the old flat engine goes on and on forever.

Also the battery is under the back seat and had a habit of bursting into flames at the most inopportune moments. (Mainly because it was too much hassle to look after it and it was out of site).

Apart from these points I agree with everything you say.

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#6

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 4:31 AM

I have enjoyed a few of the 'peoples car' cars but if the question entails diesel powered you will find this very interesting.

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#8
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 5:40 AM

bwire - thanks for the link. Much interesting info there.

Ed Weldon

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 10:42 AM

Good list

another source for donor diesel engines would be delivery vans

used & worked on a couple, got around 13mpg 1/2 loaded

turbo intercooler straight 6 mechanical injection until 5-6 years ago

you will be able to get parts for well into the future, both new & junk yard

I wonder about dropping the motor & tranny in something smaller

maybe a pickup or 80's cadillac, gm, ford, yer basic big ol boat

since there is an intercooler, you would need room for 2 radiators, the engine itself is not unusually large. you could use the same transmission, since they have overdrive. not that tough to graft the driveshaft of the donor car to the yoke of the big truck

It does take 2 big ol 12 volt batteries to start

the engine is good for 300,000 miles, 100 or so horsepower

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#11
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 4:03 PM

I didn't finish the thought on mileage

13 mpg with a 4:1 or so rear end & lugging around 8000 pounds or so

I would expect easily to be in the high 20's with about 1/2 the weight & and a final reduction ratio of 3 or less.

the 6 cylinder is more common, around 5 liters, more like 150hp, closing in on 300ft#s of torque

not exactly a dragster, but you certainly wouldn't be nervous on a freeway onramp

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#12
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 4:14 PM

Garth -- This may be drifting a bit off topic; but maybe you or someone else can lead me toward a source of more detailed and specific info on these 6 cylinder delivery truck diesels. I have a somewhat unique application in another vehicle that I won't get into here. ..........Ed Weldon

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#13
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 4:25 PM

I get 42mpg out of a E300 mercedes diesel turbo. We drive slow here. Only spare parts and too much electronics in the way. Up to 1993 they were ok. Mine is 1994, the face lift edition. And never imported in the US. I keep it running, but the electronics are hard to bypass.

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#14

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 6:09 PM

Surprised no-one has mentioned the ubiquitous London taxi. Designed with bolt-on fibre-glass panels for easy bodywork repair and bullet-proof diesel engines.

If you are shipping a vehicle over worthwhile to get it serviced and some oily bits changed before you get it shipped. e.g.

  • cam belt
  • steering joint boots
  • shocks
  • exhaust (maybe get stainless steel)
  • break pads
  • battery.

Fill the boot with some parts that readily wear and/or will ground your vehicle:

  • filters
  • brake pads
  • brake discs
  • clutch etc

Look after your consumables especially fuel. A dirty or contaminated fuel supply will ground even the best maintained vehicle. Especially diesel. Replace fuel and oil filters regularly.

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#21
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 1:02 AM

They were great. Had a 4 cylinder and a 6 cylinder and there were both stolen in less than a month.

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#16

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 10:35 PM

It is hard to beat a small motorcycle for inexpensive to buy, maintain, and drive.

It will not be the only form of transportation you will need, but if you can ride it 1/2 the time, the other vehicle can be less frugal, and still be affordable.

About the other vehicle, or THE vehicle, if the cycle is not an option. A turbo diesel VW is very frugal, but repairs can be taxing for parts availability. Plus they all seem to come with a high price tag. I am going to cast three different choices out for you.

Chevy-Ford 1/2 ton pickup. Not some loaded leather interior, limited edition model. Just a plane simple work truck.

A Ford Ranger, or Chevy S-10 pick up. Or a Toyota- Nissan pickup.

Lastly, there is virtually no resale value to the medium sized Chrysler cars. (exclude the convertibles they still bring some money to buy.)

The small pickups are very reliable, and cheap to buy, and cheap to drive and repair.

The bigger pickups are a little more expensive to drive, but may be offset some by doing some moving work for hire.

The Chrysler Sebring can be had a few years old very cheaply, and will look fairly good transporting others around, and it may also be usable at times transporting for hire to offset costs.

So how about a 350 to 600 cc bike, and a Sebring 4 door in black. Cheap daily transportation, and a mini limo for hire on weekends.

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#19
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 12:17 AM

bobc -- GA. Good practical approach if the commute distance isn't too far.

I seem to be circling the idea of an old small front engine rear wheel drive pickup early 70's vintage with a more modern high efficiency powerplant. Possibly a station wagon or even a sedan or coupe cut down into a Ute as they call them in Oz.

The ROI calculation (gotta be rational here) revolves around the crystal ball and predicting future fuel costs.

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#28
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 9:41 PM

Funny thing is I have been looking for a older English sports car ( MG, Triumph) to put a late model 4 cyl engine into. A late GM Ecotech with the blower, or turbo should make a fun car to drive.

As far as a diesel that would fit your needs, I would think the Isuzu engine from the cab forward trucks would be plentiful in junk yards by now. The design has been unchanged since it was brought here. In a small pick up with highway gearing, and perhaps tall tires, you should get a very torquey combination that can get some good mileage to boost. The engines have more torque than the 350 Chevy gas motors used in the same trucks.

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#17

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 11:20 PM

Here is a small list in no particular order;

Toyota Hilux Dual cab Ute, available in both petrol or diesel in manual or auto transmission. Dual cab will carry 5 people. Car like to drive.

Toyota Landcuiser 60/75/100/105 Station wagon, available in petrol or diesel, you will pay a premium for the diesels because you can't kill them with a big stick

Toyota 40 Series Landcruiser also available in both petrol or diesel and again the diesel carries a premium. Truck like to drive, need really big rocks to kill them.

Mazda B series crew cab utes, in petrol and diesel will seat 5. Premium money for the diesel, will be reliable if adequately maintained.

Mazda also have diesel versions of their late model passenger cars.

Mercedes 240/300 D & TD Sedan/ Wagon. Long lived but, good provenance is important when purchasing, scrupulous maintenance a must but are very long lived.

Venerable Land Rover, late Series and Defender with diesel. Steer clear of Discovery (Disco) any model. Try and get one with the Isuzu motor. Yes they're agricultural and leak oil like the exxon valdez but you will eventually fall in love with their foibles.

There is always Tata and Mahindra which use a version of the old Peugot 2.2 litre diesel, very agricultural but very cheap.

In Oz there is a new Chinese firm called Great Wall, who are selling a diesel work ute I can't recommend them except that they are cheaper than Tata and Mahindra.

It all depends on where you are going to buy the vehicle to import onto your island.

And of course what duties you expect from it too.

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#18
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/02/2010 11:49 PM

Tobugrynbak -- Thanks for the detailed list. Here in the US most of those would be hard to find.

The only one I see a lot of in CA are the diesel Mercedes. Wish I knew more about them, what's available to keep those engines running and how well they will do with long pulls at maximum power output. Here in the Western USA we have these high mountain passes with miles of 4% and sometimes as much as 6% grades leading up to them.

Then there are the old classic land rovers. I probably ought to take a look at that subculture. But I fear that all the 4WD hardware will take a toll in mileage. Plus I don't really need a 4WD. A lightweight 2WD with good ground clearance is all I need to get around the back roads that I am likely to travel on.

Hmmmmmm...... I seem to be drifting into a commentary on my own unique needs in a vehicle. Should probably leave that for another topic.

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#20
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 12:35 AM

Well according to another site I lurk on (IH8MUD) you guys in the U.S. don't get much (or allowed to) in the way of diesels.

The Mercedes diesels are long lived if maintained properly and you have deep enough pockets. That said ebay Germany would be a good source of aftermarket parts though Mercedes are very good on supply of parts, even for really old stuff, but you pay for it.

By and large the Merc diesels are plodders, and will plod all day every day at highway speeds, the up hills though are a bit slower, the Factory Turbo versions are better in that regard.

As for highway driving with 4wd's, there is this doohicky called a "Freewheeling Hub" you flick the knob on both the front hubs. That unlatches the front diff, it's an accessory for most 4wd's too(but you knew that). Now with the front hubs free the steering is easier and your not loading the drive train up. Saves fuel too.

My preference is for Landcruisers over Landrovers partly because the parts are cheaper/easier to get (here in Oz) and they're more comfortable on the road if your a tad on the large size. In the U.S. you'll need to go to Canada to find the diesel versions of the petrol models you have locally. Though you may have difficulties in importing it because of the various quirky (to us in Oz) rules and regulations.

Of course you could use everybody's favorite meccano set the F100 and add your own diesel to that, plenty that'l fit includings Cummins, Isuzu and Perkins.

It's strange to us here in Oz that you guys don't get diesels like we do, considering Oz is such a niche market. Toyota or Mazda could sell in one variant model of their diesel vehicles in the U.S. the total number of all new vehicles sold here in Oz in one year.

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#22
In reply to #18

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 1:18 AM

Our company here had 4 W124 Mercedes 300Diesel between 1985 and 1989. Great cars and relatively easy to service with US mercedes parts from KW and Eurocars (even cheaper than in Europe) These cars have all been wrecked in accidents and I lost them. I only have a E300 diesel left - but that is a pain to service - since that car has never been imported in the US.(and it is the first electronic generation experiment) I can find some motor parts out of the SD series and body parts from W123 5 cylinders, but there is always something different, like other glowplugs or injectors. This car was wrecked too and I had to put the 1987 rear part on the 1994 front. I have now 220.000 km on it and it is not even halfway my expectations. The mileage here is better than 40. (drive slow) In this climate however they tend to go lower through the springs.

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#30
In reply to #18

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/25/2010 6:08 PM

Does something like this suit your fancy.

We've utilized VW, Toyo, Mazda, Ford and no known reason a small diesel power unit wouldn't work too.

Though being somewhat familiar with the type driving and terrain you may be developing a vehicle to use personally I have a few suggestions.

1. Isuzu 4x4 diesel PU, extremely durable and with good economy but hard to find...

2. A 1970- early 1980's VW Van...or wagon with a body and suspension lift kit...

3. Short bed full-size 3/4 Ton PU; for added ground clearance and greater spring rate to allow use of a diesel pusher.

4. The original converted Hummer or a lighter weight replica

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#31
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/26/2010 12:03 AM

Bwire -- Thanks for the suggestions. The dunebuggy setup is pretty good for folks who can handle exposure to the outdoor environment and deal with the theft issues. They are lightweight and fairly cheap to build. Not for me as a general purpose driver.

Both the early diesels are great if you can find a copy and find the right solutions to parts availability. Ditto VW vans, especially a pre 1977 copy if you live in CA. Trouble is now they are becoming collector pieces.

Several years ago I was at the Turlock, CA, Winter swap meet and saw an old VW transporter pickup body type with a mid engine stock Olds 455 V8 installation. It was a clean installation and clearly an everyday driver. Everything was under the flat floor of the bed. A small diesel on the order of 100hp and the right gearing in such a setup would be pretty neat.

For my purposes the idea of a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup with a diesel conversion is pretty appealing although it would require a lot of miles of use to pay back the investment in the conversion. Really though you have to need the utility capabilities of a pickup to make such a conversion practical. In my case I do have that need.

Still, back to the original topic, I think it's pretty hard to beat an old 4 cylinder Toyota pickup for cheap as long as you don't have to haul children around.

Ed Weldon

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#32
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Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/26/2010 6:18 AM

Hi there Ed,

I've experienced great service from International brand pickups and the source for parts is obvious too. The other thing about them is they never got popular enough to drive up the cost.

There's not a great disparity of economy between an efficiently powered full size pickup used for very light work and the little 4-cyl type and the room is fine.

But the Brazilian or Mexican VW bugs are still fairly simple to find parts for.

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#23

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 1:44 AM

I just did a Google Earth to work out where the OP is, nice spot.

What about a VW Golf (does the US still call them Rabbits?) in diesel. They do alright in Oz. I don't know the availability in the U.S. but you could get one through Canada. I'm now assuming you want a new(ish) car because of the hassle to get it.

4 door, reasonably well appointed and as long as its not a sports model good ground clearance. VW Passat are available in diesel, but they're too expensive for what they are (at least in Oz). Parts shouldn't be a problem.

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#24

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 4:18 AM

1300 suzuki jeep older versions, inexpensive, tough, can go anywhere, low maintenance & run costs, and even idiot proof for non mechanics, can be repaired anywhere with only a leatherman. hope you find what you're looking for. Regards, Leon

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#25

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 2:03 PM

Whats "Napa" ?

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 2:12 PM

NAPA is an auto parts store.

While I'm here, I just want to say I was favorably impressed by the number of small cars and trucks I saw on my visit to England. Not too many large gas guzzlers visible. I couldn't figure out the price of gas per gallon, but it seemed high.

I wonder if bio-diesel is being home brewed there.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Do It yourself cheap car.

05/03/2010 2:26 PM

Thanks for that.

We cant afford big cars here the fuel is £ 1.28nunleaded and diesel. diesel was cheaper then uk goverment noticed that and put the price up.

United Kingdom

Main article: Hydrocarbon oil duty

From 2007-10-01 the main road fuel (petrol and diesel) duty rate in the UK was GB£0.5035 per litre (GB£2.2890/imperial gal or GB£1.9059/US gal). The rate for biodiesel and bioethanol was £0.3035/L (GB£1.3797/imperial gal or GB£1.1489/US gal).[3] Value Added Tax (VAT), 15% from 2008-12-01 to 2009-12-31, is also charged on the price of the fuel and on the duty. At a pump price of 90.0p/litre (typical for petrol in mid December 2008), this would put the combined tax at 62.09p/litre, or approximately USD$3.49 per US gallon. Thus without tax, the retail price would be 27.91p per litre, making a combined tax rate of 222%.

The latest increase – to GB£0.5619 per litre on unleaded petrol – came into force on 2009-09-01 and is planned to increase "on 1 April from 2010 to 2013 by 1 ppl above indexation in each year."[4]

Diesel for use by farmers and construction vehicles is coloured red and has a much reduced tax.

Jet fuel used for international aviation attracts no duty, and no VAT.[5

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