Clocked or not - David Millar
Needing a cheap load carrier I spent the weekend on the trail of three nearly identical Citroen BX estates. The odd one out was a 60K mile 19RD diesel which probably shifted off the forecourt five minutes after the local paper hit the streets. That left me two white 1.9 petrol estates, both with trade sellers. No 1 had 80k with a reasonable service history from new and was being sold on a forecourt run by a reasonable imitation of a retired Sex Pistol with a nice line in gunning the engine to warm it up. The accumulator was ticking away every two seconds but the interior looked good. Stone chips were in line with the mileage.

No 2 was on a smarter forecourt (still no suits tho') keeping company with higher priced stock it had been part ex'd against. It had an equally good interior, the clean engine settled down quickly, it drove nicely with the slightest touch of firmness, and everything seemed to work. The thing is it showed what I have always taken to be classic symptoms of clocking: apparently less than 4K miles a year from new, a wonderfully wavy line of numbers on the odometer and no service history earlier than the last MOT 1500 miles previously. On the plus side, the paintwork and engine bay were very clean, and the pedals were not unduly worn. Somebody must have cared for it at some time because they'd fitted the plastic headlamp protectors I always advocate friends to fork out for.

All in all it looked and felt worth the extra £350 over the other so I took the plunge, reasoning it is on the edge of throwaway territory anyway. Am I being too cynical and BXs tend to have wonky odometers and absent-minded owners who mislay the service book? These are 10-year-old vehicles but do we now assume that anything more than two-years-old has probably had something in its history faked? My old company Fiesta RS1800 went into auction looking immaculate after I put 73K on it in 15 months. I wonder what N467 GGC is showing today?
Re: Clocked or not - David Millar
Woops! Just read the reply from David Woollard, whose opinions I think everyone values, to the posting below. I dnon't mean to run the BX down by saying it is on the edge of throwaway territory. I do plan to get this one checked over and maintained well so it can continue to be used. Hopefully, I have gained a long-term workhorse but if it does turn out to be a dog, I won't have lost too much either.

David
Re: Clocked or not - David W
David,

No problem with your comments. The BX is in throwaway position already. Doesn't make it a bad car though.

You car is very likely to be clocked. Not many folks bought BX Estates and then did nothing with them. Our 10/11 year old ones are both well over 200,000 miles. If you think about it, it is likely yours had covered 12-20,000 miles a year for the first few years so unless it was then taken off the road for the remaining time you might expect to see a mileage of 90-120,000.

Also for some reason Citroen owners seem to be quite good on keeping what history there is in the folder so that being missing is a big clue.

As I said above though that doesn't make it a bad car.

I'm not going to wind you up with values but a weeks Tesco shopping money will buy the best petrol BX at auction round here.

Feel free to mail me direct with any queries if you want help on maintenance issues. But be warned I might twist your arm to join the Citroen Car Club. As one member wrote recently "The technical tips in this months column (BX) were worth more than the years subscription".

Forgive the blatant advertising!

David
Re: Clocked or not - David Millar
David

I certainly will be joining the CCC for the first time (previous Citroens:2CV, 3CV van (trans-Sahara in that one), Dyane 4, Dyane 6 (new), GS estate) since I recognise the value of short-cutting problems now that models tend to be quickly forgotten by mechanics.

I am sure you are right about the clocking but it was the best car I'd come across (I checked out a CX estate and a Renault Espace the previous week) and I thought worth a punt. Sitting around a cold auction for a few weeks doesn't appeal even if I knew where there was one within a reasonable distance.

These low-milers do turn up though. The Visa recently acquired for my daughter had 57K recorded and one owner (really two), admittedly with the service book stamped up to 48K only. My wife's 1986 Honda Prelude that the BX will probably replace had under 70K and one little old lady owner (75) when bought four years ago. "The back seat has never been used, mate, trust me."

Properly amazing was the 1984 Toyota Corolla advertised privately in one of the local papers last month with just 4000 (4K) miles recorded from new. If you could stand the bland shape and repercussions from lack of use, maybe a snip at £300 for someone.

Thanks for your comments.

David
Re: Clocked or not - Andy
David

Really valid message. This weekend I straight swapped my 1987 D Honda Integra with a full Honda service history and 93k, with a 1986 C BMW 316 with no service history and 96k.

The reason for my action was that the clutch on my Honda was whineing quite noticeably and the engine was also whirring, indicative, I am told, that the release bearing was also in need of replacement. To replace both of these problems, I was informed by a friend in the business that certainly the gearbox and possibly the engine would have to be removed, resulting in considerable labour charges. Honest John also questionned whether a whirring engine was worth replacing in a 1995 N Renault Laguna in his Daily Telegraph column last week, which really put the wind up me.

With regard to the BMW, the car is in immaculate condition, better than my Honda both inside and out. My friend and I drove the car at least 50 miles alone before completeling the deal, enabling us to properly examine the car without being watched, and found that everything works. We further checked that the pedals, seats and steering wheel were not disproportionately worn and made, I believe, a sound decision.

The dealer was also keen on the sale, which slightly petrubs me. I paid him no money and even retained the tax disc from the Honda. The BMW's last tax disc, found in the glove box, showed 1999, however, there was a sticker on the inside of the windscreen stating that the car's next service was due in March 2000. I hope that this means that in March 1999 it was serviced before being sold in part exchange to the dealer. Certainly, under the bonnet, the oil filter is very new and the oil is very clean. I can only assume that the dealer had not managed to sell the car for a while, and had wanted to try his luck with a different car with a current MOT.

The BMW is today having its MOT so I guess that only the results will show how prudent my decision was. I am also painfully aware of the statistic that 1 in 4 cars has a "chequered" history and realise that the chances of me having found a "bargain" with a BMW are very remote. However, what reassures me is that the dealer only asked me to start the Honda, which I did first time, as always, and all he heard was the car idling, which it does very smootly, especially since I have recently changed the oil and filter. The clutch was never depressed and, thus, did not whine or whirr. We also concluded the deal, signing that neither car was subject to police interest, on the HPI register, subject to outstanding finance, etc., so I know that, should someone come knocking at my door, I will have legal redress. I can only assume that, because he dealt in higher priced cars and the BMW was a "part exchange to clear" he thought that a change on his forecourt would look good.

But, like David, I still retain a lingering doubt. Only time will tell.
Re: Clocked or not - Ian Aspinall
Surely the dealer hadn't had it sitting on his forecourt for 2 years?!? If I were you, I'd contact the last owner shown on the V5 and invest £30 in a HPI check. A bit late, but at least you'll know where you stand.
Re: Clocked or not - Andy
Ian

Thank you for your advice.

We tried to find out the last owner's telephone number from the V5 but, unfortunately, he was ex-directory.

*** Maybe, when selling cars, owners should be offered the opportunity to leave a contact telephone number on the V5 to help potential future buyers. They would have no financial interest in the car anymore so could, I feel, offer an honest appraisal of the car's value as well as confirm the last known mileage. I would appreciate feedback on this comment. ***

With regard to the HPI, I, as stated and perhaps foolishly, do not believe that I will be personally liable, with the dealer having signed that the car is clear. The garage appeared well-established so I believe the chances of him doing a runner on a £500 - £700 car are minimal.

I think that it all comes down to cost. I, perhaps, should have paid for an HPI check and similarly should have had the car inspected but this all adds up and I decided that the value of the car did not merit the extra expense. Another factor which swung my reasoned decision was whether somebody unscrupluous would find it economically worthwhile doctoring the history of a £500 - £700 car as opposed to the history of a £5000 - £7000 car.

Having said that, I am very grateful for your comments.

Yours

Andy
Re: Clocked or not - Ian Aspinall
Andy,

No problem. As for obtaining the previous owner's phone number, you could try slightly more devious means such as www.192.com or simply plugging his/her name and significant words from their address into google.com (obviously it helps if they haven't got a very common surname!). Failing that, write to them. Depends how concerned you are really. Have you had the results of the MOT back yet, by the way?

Also, the last-but-one owner should be listed towards the bottom of the V5 - they may remember who they sold it to.

By doing the above, I managed to piece together most of the history of my 6-owner, 15-year-old Cavalier, more to confirm its unusually low mileage than anything else. The previous owners I managed to find a phone number for didn't seem to mind my calling them at all, and were interested to hear that it was still on the road!

Ian.
Re: Clocked or not - John Slaughter
David

An HPI or similar check is probably worth it, and may show up a dodgy mileage, but it also runs a number of other chacks that may show episodes in its history that may put you off. Some dealers offer an HPI check as part of the deal, and when my 4 year old Vectra was traded in earlier in the year the dealer ran HPI on that, despite a folder full of receipts. He made sure the mileage was logged too. Probably as well as his comment was 'When I sat in it I expected a 40 thousand mile car, and was amazed to see nearly 80 on the clock'.

However, I think you've done the right thing. I don't like people who clock cars, but the problem is many buyers seem to be looking for a speedometer and not a car. Surely you're better off with a well kept, good running high miler than a hard used low miler. It's the condition that counts, not the mileage. use your eyes and your instincts, and don't be blinded by the speedo.

Pretend it's a classic, many years old, and examine the car, not the speedo. A wad of bills is great if it's there, but so often they are not.

regards

john
regards
john
Re: Clocked or not - Andy
Ian

Thank you very much once again.

I think, to be honest, now that I have actually bought the car I would prefer not to know... But, once again, your advice is valuable and I will bear it in mind next time.

MOT test results due tomorrow or possibly Wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Yours

Andy
 

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