IT is about the middle of August that the earnest.:
and economically-minded seeker after a really cheap car' gets his best chances. At most Wiles of the year, nowadays, one can pick up soimder second-hand cars' than was possible only a year or two ago, 'but owing to the regulation set up by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders against the publication of year-dated series of new etas before -a given date—sometime in August itself, so far as I reniember- there is no longer a " vintage " to be considered. More and more manufacturers are abandoning the vintage • system and, neatly defeating the S.M.M.T., announce, in full legality, new models whenever they like. They must not and do not call them " 1937," nor, since the majority of them appear' halfway through 1936, can one quarrel with any other name they choose to give them. Several of them do not bother to call
them anything except new. . - -
This plan should work very well for everybody, particularly for the owner of used ears. " Vintages " date old cars unforgettably and there was always . a faint disability attaching to " last year's model." ..There. was probably nothing the matter with it but its unfortunate label, but there has long been a quite unfounded inipression in the mind .of the uninstructed buying public that a car a year old whose history is unknown must have done at Wait ten or fifteen thousand miles and be nearing its dotage. If the new name series," as first used by Rolls-Royce,. Morris, Wolseley and one or two others, gets -universally accepted, it -will help the second-hand market. -One only hopes.- that the American custom of changing the _shape of the radiator- guard two or three times a year; presumably in order to persuade owners of the April issue that they are driving an out-of-date car in September, will not be copied.
Several new models have appeared lately and long before the motor show the great majority of factories will have released their latest productions. For the past month or so those Who buy a new car every year or every so many thousand of miles, have been ordering the new one and disposing of the old one and stocking the second-hand -market with cars that are readily saleable. With few exceptions every' modern car, built within the last two years or with not more than, say,
15,000 miles to its credit, should be a sound bargain for anybody with that feeling for cars . which forbids him to expect the same results at 15,000 miles as at 1,000. Much depends, of course, on the quality and type of car. Your £1,000 machine, unless it has been ill-treated beyond the usual limits, must be good for another 50,000 miles at least without any serious replacements, while your £200 car, offered to you for £75, may need £10 or £20 spent on it in one way or another, but, at the resulting £90 or so, may still- be an excellent bargain. -
Although the modern car is often decidedly sensitive if not delicate, reacting as readily to professional care and attention as to neglect, it is astonishing how tough it proves to be. Nothing very serious' happens to it ina year's use. Little things may go wrong which are, heaven knows, madden- ing enough at the time. Careless testing, inadequate works supervision may discover all sorts of stupid aberrations. which meanthatthe owner must finish the manufacturer's job for him, but it is very seldom that any of the modern' cars, even those that cost under £150 and are often driven at 60 miles an hour,
run up big repair bills under those 15,000 miles.- -
Theoretically speaking, there was never a better time to buy a second-hand car than now. Not only are cars more stoutly made than they were even only five years ago, but owing to their own vast numbers their lives are far' less strenuous. Every month--every day, if one accepts the figures of the Ministry of Transport about the' 500 new cars launched daily on. the teeming roads—it becomes less and less easy to drive , fast, more and more .dangerous. Every so often nearly every car made is a little more powerful than its predecessor, if not faster, at any rate with a bigger power- reserve. They are being made fitter all the time -for work that, to a great extent, becomes lighter. Every second-hand car is potentially a better bargain than ever, for 'you can be reasonably certain that it has had very little flogging— and flogging is still the quickest way to destruction.
In the new conditions- the vetting of a second-hand car becomes at once simpler and, in another direction, more complicated. You. can accept a good deal of the claims for it as read, mentally making such reservations as occur to you. For instance, with a car 10,000 miles old (about-the average today, I should say, in trie cheaper categories) you must allot the price of new plugs, new tyres, new brake- linings for its revival. The plugs should last another 10,000 miles, and the tyres, with about 5,000 left in the existing set, at least 15,000, but more likely 20,000. The life of the brake- linings depends almost entirely upon yourself and your skill as a driver, and I daresay I need not have included them in any renewal estimate for a period of less than another 25,000 miles.
Those things are easy to arrange for and not unduly costly. Where you have to be careful is in ascertaining the condition of the cylinders. Some modern cars . exhibit an alarming rate of cylinder-wear, not always easily to be accounted for. You can, of course, trace serious - wear by over-smoking from the exhaust, having first -checked the oil- level, but this will not always betray the real state of affairs. To be absolutely certain you must drive the ear for a reason- able distance, say 200 miles, and take careful note of the oil-consumption. If it is high, say at the rate of a gallon for less than 800 miles, refuse the car. Before long you would be tempted to have the engine re-bored and that is a cure that only comes off once in a way and never when it is cheaply done. Generally speaking, it is not worth while in any but a really expensive car that you value for other reasons.
This question of cylinder-wear is the most important of all today. After that, assunfmg that everything else comes up to your legitimate expectations, examine the coachwork very carefully indeed. Worn upholstery may or may not repel you but it costs nothing to leave as it is, whereas serious rattles, leaks and ill-fitting doors must be dealt with. It is usually anything but a simple matter to cure these things at all, and if the work is properly done it is not cheap. Beyond these you should have little to worry about in a car aged less than 10,000 miles, originally priced at anything over £200. Your opportunities are considerable.
[Note.—Readers' requests for advice from our Motoring Correspondent on the choice of new cars should be accompanied by a stamped and addressed envelope. The highest price payable must be given, as well as the type of body required. No advice can be given on the purchase, sale or exchange of used ears.]