Car Choice Special: One tough old German banger, free

Could passing on your old jalopy for nothing be the next big thing in automotive recycling?
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Anyone can sell a used car, but it takes a complete idiot to give one away. Especially when it has a year's MOT, a recent service, four very fresh tyres and is taxed until the end of October.

In these credit-crunched times if someone can make use of my old car this will be the ultimate in automotive recycling. This is true "bangernomics" in action – keeping a car running rather than throwing it away, and wasting money and resources on a new one. The terrible thing is that I don't actually want to go through with it; I really love this car.

Of course, this isn't an ordinary car, but a BMW 525i SE automatic. To those in the know this is early-1990s German over-engineering at it's very best. It is solid, dependable and a delight to drive. The six-cylinder engine makes a wonderful rasp, on long journeys it is supremely comfortable and, best of all, in the almost two years that I've had it, it has never broken down.

I never intended to keep this BMW very long, or even drive it much, because I bought it in a blinding hurry to act as a roadblock (long story, all legal, to stop someone trespassing). This wasn't exactly the car of the week, as the dealer who was selling it had become so disinterested in it that he had actually parked it several streets away from his forecourt. He even gave me the keys and directions, but I didn't help myself to a free car; I paid £1,300 for it.

I then drove a few miles and parked it for a while. When that job was done I immediately adopted it as my main vehicle. That surprised me because here was a car I'd bought in about five minutes, that had a patchy history, with six previous owners, the last one being a bloke who owned a minicab firm. I'd broken every buying rule in the book.

What I liked about this car was the fact that it wasn't too complicated; it had just the right amount of electrickery without self-operating wipers and tyre pressure gauges that are just waiting to go wrong. However, there was a dashboard warning system that flashed all sorts of perilous messages for a while and asked questions from a 1990s perspective, such as were Oasis still together and is John Major still Prime Minister?

With use it settled down and never asked stupid questions again. It just got on with the job started first time, every time. I liked the purposeful, no-nonsense styling and a friend described it as a typical publican's car. With the leather, alloys and Oxford green paint it certainly looked as though it belonged to someone much harder than me.

Just last week, when the MOT man described the BMW as a tank and handed me a freshly minted certificate, I decided that someone else could have the pleasure. Anyway, giving cars away runs in my family. My late father hated the whole tacky business of the car trade and he always gave cars to deserving causes, so I'd like to think I'm continuing that tradition.

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James Ruppert's Car Choice will return to its normal format next week. Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.ukgiving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and your budget.

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