I flew to England. with the mission of buying and storing a car for the Mongol Rally. The weeks prior to departure, I poured through autotrader.co.uk searching for cars that fit our criteria:
- 1.2 – 1.3L engine
- 4 doors
- Relatively low mileage
I have zero experience with buying a car in England. To help with the process a local chap, Matt from Team Scrumptious graciously helped our team out.
I found several that fit the bill, but I found one that was exactly what I was looking for and was extremely well priced. I contacted the seller and expressed my interest and put a 50 GBP deposit(10% of the asking price) for the right to look at it first and buy it.
WHAT I PUT THE DEPOSIT ON
I put a deposit on a 2000 Mazda Demio. The rig had about 70,000 miles on it, 4-doors, and the clutch was recently replaced. The latter is a nice bonus knowing that it won’t give out during the drive to Mongolia with four different people driving and abusing the heck out of it.
When I saw the Mazda in person to give it the good ole’ tire kick test, the car seemed solid to make the drive. Under the hood, there are no oil leaks in or around the engine, the car started right up, there’s very little rust on the underside and in the wheel wells. There was nothing that stood out as a problem.
All this said, I have a fair amount of confidence that the car will make the 10,000 mile drive to Mongolia and I agreed to purchase the car paying his asking price – a whopping $865 USD.
The car did come with some other unanticipated features like dog fur lined seats. This was no surprise since the previous owner had a dog that practically lived in the car.
In the ashtray and everywhere in the car, there was this white/bluish powdery substance scattered everywhere in the car. I didn’t know what it was at first, but it turned out to be laundry detergent to mask the smell of dog during our little test drive. I looked past the filth of the cabin and considered the mechanical reliability of the car.
The owner of the car invited us into his house to fill out and sign the paper work.
Now, this is where everything about the inside of the car started to make sense.
Inside the house, it looked like a bomb went off in house. His house couldn’t have been any more disorganized. It’s normal to have trash piled up on the kitchen counter and dishes over flowing from the sink, right?
There was dirt everywhere. Everything was out of place. It didn’t seem possible that anyone could live there, but apparently he did.
All I wanted him to do was find the paper work quickly and GTFO.
DRIVING IT SAFELY
I was only half way done with acquiring the car because the other half required me to store it. After leaving the seller’s house, this is where I took a risk and “blagged” it. By blagging it, I drove the car without insurance.
I didn’t bother with insurance because I didn’t know if I was going to purchase it and buying insurance for a day would have been a hassle. Needless to say, it was risky to drive a car in a foreign land without it.
I drove the car uninsured, following close behind Matt in his car, the entire 45 minutes back to his house.
What was comforting to know was the fact that most of drive was back roads with very little traffic, which was good news for me since I had ZERO experience driving on the opposite side.
The drive was pretty uneventful and went by fairly quickly. I had trouble finding 5th gear, but eventually figured it out.
I spent the next few hours “hoovering” the seats in the Madza, but the dog fur was winning against the sucking force of the Hoover. The fur was interweaved between the strands of the upholstery. Even several passes didn’t do the trick.
I didn’t have time to get lint rollers so that’s the next plan of attack against the the dog fur. Since none of my teammates saw the car in person, I gave them fair warning about the fur and any allergies.
I bought a few air fresheners hoping it gets rid of any remnants of dog odor and because the dog odor would probably drown the freshness of a single air freshener.
It was definitely worth it to take a trip over to England to buy and store car. I know some teams are having a hard time find a car or were not fortunate to see the car in person before buying it.
My advice to anyone doing the Mongol Rally is to have someone you trust look at and buy a car or fly there yourself. The car is going to be vital part of your everyday life on the road to Mongolia. If the car craps out or dies, you’re stuck footing a repair bill or worse – prematurely end your adventure. I’m hoping our Mazda holds out.