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Freebie community magazines, are they worth a read?

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

Most of us hate junk mail, I usually have the junk mail sorted from the proper post in the short distance between the front door and the recycle bin.

As much as we all complain about junk mail if you think about it if it did not exist there would be lots of people out of work. Think of all the processes involved in producing adverts and other irrelevant pieces of information put together, then printing and distribution. So much time, effort and cost, and all we usually do is throw it straight in the recycle bin.

And what about the poor old Postie, what would they do after Christmas with nothing else to deliver. Walking around on a Winters day on the snow and ice covered streets in the early morning, dressed in their shorts just to deliver to us personally details about stunning deals on “Mega” Pizzas, discounts on Slimming World subscriptions, furniture and carpet sales and once in a lifetime opportunity on Funeral Plan deals. Ungrateful are we or what!

However, sometimes what is other peoples “junk” can be quite useful to others. I find that sometimes it pays just to spend a little time sifting through the junk mail pushed through the letterbox before it is thrown in the recycle bin.

Occasionally I receive a local community based magazine which, being a community loving kind of guy, I thumb through just in case there is something in it worth reading. Recently the “RH8 Magazine” has been landing on our doormat. Along with local traders and suppliers adverts the RH8 Magazine has a “Motoring” page which is of particular interest to me as a car lover, well some cars that is.

A freebie community mag to look out for

The Motoring page is drafted by a guy called “Steve”, who apparently “is a former Woldingham resident and one of UK’s leading specialist car journalists, editing and tkc magazine. Steve is also a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers”. While I draft this Blog I am thinking that maybe I should contact Steve and ask him if he would draft something on interesting classic cars for Classic Car Connections.

The Motoring page included in the January 2022 edition of RH8 magazine included an article written by Steve on the Lexus NX450H F Sport. Now I am not a great lover of SUV’s, well I do not love them in any way as it happens, but I quite enjoyed reading Steve’s summary of a car I do not like. He made it an interesting read and has a much better drafting style than my offerings, which might just show up my failings if he writes Blogs for Classic Car Connections, hummm.

I noted in the November 2021 publication of RH8 Magazine as well as the Motoring page featuring a well drafted article by Steve on the Hyundai i30N Fastback Performance, which looked remarkably like the Lexus NX450H F Sport except it was red. In addition to the Motoring page there was another article entitled “When the Chips are Down”. I was initially attracted to this second motoring article because there were a number of pictures of Smart Cars, which is of particular interest where I am concerned being an owner of the 451 model for around 10 year

The “When the Chips are Down” article was drafted by Graham Tapley, who is the Director of Dan Jordan Publishing who produce and distribute the publication. I contacted Graham to ask permission to use the article as a basis for a Blog, which he agreed. He advised he had put together the “Chips are Down” article after the frustration he had experienced recently simply trying to buy a car.

Having read Graham's article about buying a car I thought how difficult can or should it be to walk into a car dealership and, if you are not too particular about any specific make or model, pay thousands of pounds there and then to purchase a car and just drive it away. I mean otherwise it would otherwise be just sitting rotting, or biodegrading, on the garage forecourt so best to get it shifted and make a profit before it falls apart.

However, from my fairly recent experience of buying a car I would agree that if you are after a really specific car then the task could be a quite stressful and lengthy process, not to mention costly travelling around the UK viewing and test driving. I have never been requested by a car dealer to pay a £500 deposit before confirming I could have a test drive as was experienced by Graham. My response to the sales person following such a request I cannot put in print, but needless to say words would be said and I would not be buying that car.

Had it been something like a Lamborghini Miura we were talking about then I might have reluctantly paid the deposit on my Tesco Clubcard as it provides me with insurance in case there is some shady dealings on the part of the dealer. But we are talking about a humble Smart Car here, and not the Lambo which in my view the most beautiful car ever created. Apologies to Malcolm Sayer, your creation is a close second IMPO.

I found Graham's article an interesting and I must say an amusing read, he clearly has a lot of patience dealing with the various garages and risk paying a sizable deposit just to have a test drive dealing, which is a questionable practice I feel.

So to the article “When the Chips are Down” by Graham Tapley

What have chips got to do with buying cars? At the end of the day, it turns out, quite a lot.. but we're not talking about the chips that go with fish... it's a total shortage of semiconductors that is causing the problem.

This shortage of chips has sent shock waves through the global economy, squeezing supplies of everything from cars to headphones, since these minuscule components are the basic building blocks of computers which allow electronic devices to process data, from smartphones, to all PC's and Macs, and every make and model of car. The Pandemic didn't help and with all the Lockdowns and "work from home", folk rushing to set up home offices and buy televisions and games consoles to beat lockdown boredom.

Temporary factory closures also put pressure on supplies and when US -China tensions kicked in last August, the US banned foreign companies, whose chips use American technology, from selling to Chinese tech giant Huawei, over espionage allegations, and Huawei began stockpiling semiconductors ahead of the sanctions coming into effect, and other companies followed their lead, further straining supplies.

Order any new car today and you could face several months delay.

Our business has always had a second small car, to enable us to be in two places at once (there are only two of us!) and when the lease on Smartie-2 expired last year we decided not to get another one and rely on occasional car hire, when needed, from a branch of a well known national car hire company just around the corner from our office. When a recent daily hire rate for a small Vauxhall Corsa went from £55 per day to £89 per day (+62%) to a daily weekend rate of £120 (+35%) it became time to look at buying another car.

We quickly learnt that shortage of new cars had impacted the used car market, particularly with the new kids on the block such as Cazoo and Cinch selling quality used cars online only.

Our primary target was for a reasonably low mileage, small, automatic preferably with a sun roof.

When a Fiat 500 popped up at a Fiat Dealership in Epsom, it ticked all the boxes and we emailed for a test drive. Immediate e-mail response and time set for a test drive next day with deposit of £99 paid (advised to do because of the shortage of used cars) So far, so good, with lots of confirmation emails, receipts and follow up... all wiped out by the email 2 hours later telling us that another department had sold the car without telling anyone!

Realising that we needed to move fast in this seller's market an online trawl found a Mercedes Dealership, again in Epsom, offering a Brabus Smart Forfour with sunroof and only 6,000miles on the clock. It was at the top end of the price range we had set, but one lady owner and hardly run in was too attractive to miss. Being Mercedes they demanded a £500 deposit before confirming we could have a test drive the following Monday. Several phone calls later and finally a return call received advising that there will be no test drive since the vehicle has failed a pre sale check as there is "too much work required on the engine to make the car saleable." At 6,000 miles?

Incredible, if true, particularly from a main Mercedes Benz Dealership. Surely these checks are carried out before advertising a car for sale?

Back to the drawing board and a non- franchised dealer with a very enticing website, in Essex, offering a Brabus Smart Fortwo Carbiolet with another lady owner and just 21,000 miles on the clock.

Didn't get to see this one either as a £15 investment in an HPI check with the AA revealed outstanding finance and the fact that when it was M.O.T'd in 2018 it was recorded at 65,000 miles.

Finally found an honest Ford dealership in Orpington who confessed that the Smart Fortwo Sport Cabriolet on offer had been bought in from an online dealer purchase due to the used car stock shortages: but had been checked, verified and came with a three year full warranty. There have been instances recently where online car buyers such as have increased their earlier buying offers and there could be a profit to be made at consumer level.

The Fiat dealership took 10 days to return our £99 deposit and then to our absolute amazement sent us an email and followed up with an offer to sell us the same car they had allegedly sold after our deposit had been paid. Left hand, right hand or, could this be another example of a car that doesn't really exist? The Mercedes Dealership held on to our £500 a little longer and after chasing we finally had the cash hit our bank - 13 days later.

Despite the glitzy showrooms, the Mercedes one is a veritable temple to the worship of the motor car, it's "buyer beware" - after all weren't car dealers' ancestors, allegedly, horse traders?

Success at last, the prized Smart Fortwo Sport Cabriolet (453), which in my humble opinion is the best colour scheme, but then I am a tad biased.

My humble little 451 in a customised colour scheme which was achieved around 9 years by vinyl wrapping the red elements. It took Mercedes Benz 10 years to finally conclude that Smart Car owners wanted colourful cars as standard and not the usual offering of dull silver.

In conclusion, upon reflection for me Grahams article highlights the issues with today's modern vehicle (car, van, HGV etc) manufacturing process, ie not enough plastic components to manufacture them let alone as a replacement part when the electronics goes wrong. French car owners take note.

Also from an old car perspective it is slightly worrying for “Modern Classic” car owners when relying on electronic components to keep their cars going in the future. Presumably such owners would “stock up” in anticipation of such an occurrence, which would no doubt add to the value and saleability of the car in the future having readily available replacement components. I guess the same as some of us do with older rare cars where finding spares can be a challenge.

Sadly however it also highlights the shady side of modern dealerships. Fleecing potential purchasers for a deposit simply to look at a car, which they might argue it prevents a no-show when other potential purchases could have viewed the car. However taking weeks to refund the deposit in the event of a no sale is a totally unacceptable practice.

More importantly for me however, and possibly other Smart Car owners, it reinforces my hatred for Mercedes Benz dealerships. I detest having to deal with them, such a load of old tosh for which the customer pays £125 plus VAT per hour for the privilege of being made to feel inferior just because you drive a small, economical, cheap, “Smart” car. Some of the sales people are just so up their own backsides.

Needless to say my Smarty rarely visits MB dealerships, I use a local specialist in South Croydon who gets his hands dirty. Meet David who is the owner of Surrey Smart Centre changing the lower panels on my Smart. Note no suit, white coat or clipboard.

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