James Ruppert: To stick or twist on a three car garage

Well, this is something of a dilemma, and it is incredible – flattering, even – that reader Simon thought I could possibly solve it.

For a start, Simon has a fairly arresting three-car garage: an Audi A2 (2003 reg, 117,000 miles), a Vauxhall VX220 (2003 reg, 96,000 miles) and a Mk1 Audi TT (2002 reg, 170,000 miles). As Simon rightly points out: “The VX is a keeper, yes? It’s a dream to drive, great to look at and is just starting to appreciate.”

He’d also read – in Autocar – that the A2 will be cool forever (in fact, I might have said that), so he asks: “Do we keep the TT as standard, chop it in while it still has some value or plan to keep it as a rolling restoration/ restomod as funds allow?”

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

My first thought would usually be to use the modern family car that everyone has running around in the background. Except Simon doesn’t have one. That would make the A2 the fall-back position while the TT is moved on. Except that all of these are such fine cars.

The VX is now a wonderful one-off, a never-to-be-repeated piece of brilliance with a griffin on the front. They are becoming rare but not necessarily that pricey. You do have to be careful, but there are sub-£10k ones floating around with private sellers that seem to be fine. I rather liked a 2002 with 86,000 miles for £9995. It has had four owners, but the last one was for a decade and a half, which is always a good sign. A high-mile (as in 123,000 of them), full-history 2003 Turbo at a dealer for £12,995 seemed like a jolly good buy. The mint low-milers are over £20k, but this is definitely a club Simon should stay in and you should join.

Audi A2s, then. They’re becoming less than 10 a penny, but there are still plenty around. Maybe Simon’s could be moved on. Just at the moment, you can buy into a 2004 1.4 SE with a full MOT and over 100,000 miles for £995, and that’s from a dealer. The proper tidy ones are £3k-plus, but that, or rather £3700, buys a 2003 1.6 FSI with 50,000 miles. Not much for the coolest hatch on the planet. So Simon’s should probably be a keeper.

That leaves us with the other Audi, the TT. I am increasingly of the opinion that older cars made more contemporary is a good thing. The TT still looks like the future and they remain wonderfully affordable.

Where do I begin? Well, I will start and indeed finish with a 2002 1.8 180bhp example, with 96,000 miles and apparently the fullest of service histories, up for £2299. Throw a good few thousand at it to overhaul the suspension, paint and wheels and you’ll be laughing.

Clearly I’m terrible at all this dilemma stuff. Got great cars? Don’t choose which you should lose, just keep hold of all of them.



Q. I want to buy a small estate car with a torque converter automatic gearbox. Where can I find one? Ken Nicol, via email

A. Traditional torque converter autos use hydraulic fluid to transfer drive from the engine to the gearbox. As a result, they’re smooth and refined, but for many years they had a reputation for being inefficient.

They’re still smooth and refined but now more efficient, so much so that Ford reintroduced the technology on its current Focus 1.0-litre 125PS and 1.5-litre 150PS Ecoboost models, including the estates. It’s more efficient but the manual gearbox still beats it – just. For example, the 1.0-litre 125PS auto returns 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and does 0-62mph in 11.4sec, compared with the manual version’s 48.7mpg and 10.3sec