Not long ago, I handed over £500 in exchange for a VW Passat. The car was a part-exchange/sold as spares or repairs and boasted evidence of lots of recent maintenance such as cambelt and water pump, new clutch and flywheel. Plus, it had only seen two owners from new.
Now, with dealer part-exchange cars, ownership can go one of two ways. Either the vehicle in question is a proper shitbox and you decide to get it scrapped the following day, or you quickly learn that despite its many flaws, there’s life in the old girl yet.
Luckily, the 1.9-litre PD-engined Passat quickly fell into the second category. That’s despite it having 270,000 miles on the clock (nothing for these engines when you remember we reliably ran a 540,000-mile A4 for a year), rear shock absorbers that sink to the earth with gravity alone, and an interior so rancid anyone normal would have declared the car ‘uneconomical to repair’.
But in the name of automotive recycling, and because none of these flaws were the fault of the car (affectionately known as Percy the Pig), I decided to give the high-mileage hero another shot at life.
Within a week we’d fitted new rear shocks, gave the PD engine an oil service and then went to town on cleaning the interior and exterior. Between four of us, it took seven hours to clean the interior alone, and as you can see from the image below, the results speak for themselves (you can watch the cleaning process in this week’s video).
As you read this, the seats are still wet from being scrubbed and cleaned with detergent, a lot of elbow grease and a spot vac, but this is now a used and abused Passat that smells great, looks smart and has, I’m calling it, another five years at least of service left in it yet. As it stood before, I’m guessing Percy would have been scrapped by the next owner within 12 months.
And speaking of new owners, I’m happy to say that one of my best friends Chris has asked to buy Percy off us for £800. Without our labour, that’s a profit of around £200 (rear dampers, oil, filters etc), but that wasn’t the goal here - what I wanted was to prove that old, boring cars like this Passat can and will do you proud if you put in some time and effort to make them shine again.
Whereas before this Passat drove like a pig (the knackered rear dampers made it quite dangerous, in fact) and smelt like one too, it’s now got great road manners, returns up to 50mpg on the motorway and is a pleasure to drive - if a little boring. What’s more, all four electric windows work as does the electric sunroof and get this - it’s also got working cruise control.
In summary, then, keep saving old cars from being scrapped, because unless you do, you’ll never fully appreciate the fact that bargain-basement vehicles are where it’s at.