The best laid plans...
Keen- eyed readers may have spotted a white car lurking in the background of some of my Driver Diary images over the past year or so, one that has not been formally introduced in the magazine. The car in question is a 1989 Skoda Favorit 136LX, so a very early UK market example of the car which moved Skoda into the modern FWD hatchback era. It was intended to be a project car, but for a number of reasons has remained on the back burner.
That does not mean it has been ignored, and indeed I have carried out a fair amount of work over the last 18 months, but ultimately this story does not have a happy ending because the Skoda has since been sold on as an unfinished project. And to get the gory details out of the way right at the start as I know you will all be wondering, I bought the Favorit for just over £1000, spent another £1000 on parts for it and ended up selling it for £565, so yes it has been an expensive failure. I do intend to detail some of the work in forthcoming Diary pages though, partly because I think the model deserves some exposure, and partly to show that even with the best will in the world, not all plans work out quite the way you intended.
Mind you, calling this one ‘a plan’ is rather stretching the point! The story really started with the Fiat Panda that we ran as a project car from the October 2021 issue until the May 2022 one. There is invariably a lag between buying a car and beginning to feature it in the magazine, and I had been bidding on the Panda in December 2020. It was something of a gamble because we were in the middle of a Covid lockdown at the time, so I stopped bidding at £1200. The Panda went on to sell for £1800, and I bought instead this Skoda Favorit, figuring that it would fill a similar niche of something cheap and cheerful from the 1980s.
Then the auction house came back to me and said the sale of the Panda had fallen through, so would I still be interested at £1400? I really rather wanted the little Fiat, so I ended up with two project cars and only one spot in the magazine since we do try to offer a balance of marques, eras and price points in the cars we feature. That’s why the Skoda got put on the back burner.
It had been advertised as being a one- owner car from new with just 26,000 miles on the clock. Allegedly it drove perfectly and the body and underneath were rock solid since it had been garaged from new, making it a ‘ very easy winter project to get ready for the eastern bloc car shows next year.’ The seller did admit that the alloy wheels needed refurbishing, but claimed it was fitted with new tyres, an important consideration when hoping to put a car back on the road cheaply. Unfortunately, while it was a perfectly viable project, the Skoda was considerably more battlescarred than you might have hoped from a 26,000-mile car that had been garaged all its life. And as for those tyres,
the last time two of them had been new was in 2005, while the other two dated all the way back to 1996!
Disappointments like this did not exactly endear the Skoda to me, but that is sometimes the way the cards fall. Other problems were petrol that was leaking from the carburettor, electrical problems with the lights and wipers, interior trim that was broken, a door that would not open from the inside, brakes that were not entirely seized but definitely sticking, a bent suspension arm, weak tailgate struts and more. None of those problems were terminal though, and pretty much par for the course when considering a project car.
On the bright side, while there was some rust in the bonnet’s leading edge, the top channel of the OSF wing and a small patch in the driver’s doorskin, none of it looked serious and I reckoned that potentially the Skoda could have been put back on the road and used quite happily without requiring any welding. That would certainly have been a bonus because by then we’d since uncovered all manner of crude bodywork bodges on the Panda that had to be put right.
And talking of the Panda, I was surprised to discover that this had been back on the road for a year already and was now due its annual oil change. While I was messing about in the engine bay, I thought it would be a good idea to change the inline fuel filter too as this was rather dark and discoloured. While attending to this, I was surprised to discover that I had never changed the fuel pipes that ran to and from the carburettor. These did not look to be damaged, but often they will deteriorate from the inside and with the increasing amount of ethanol in modern fuels, I do tend to replace any rubber fuel pipes that are of indeterminate age. Fortunately, I had plenty of
new pipe on the shelf in two different sizes. This was braided, which I’d bought for a previous project because of its period- correct appearance. It had been sold as R9 and so suitable for fuel containing up to 10% ethanol, but it was unlabelled so I will have to keep an eye on it. This is where the braiding is not ideal as the rubber inside can deteriorate without giving any outward sign of trouble, so a keen nose will be key in sniffing out any future leaks.
For now though, I want to finish with one final tip – rather than using a knife to cut fuel hose by slicing it forwards and back, I always try to push a Stanley blade straight down and cut through the hose in one movement like a guillotine. That way, you can’t inadvertently cut off a sliver of rubber that can work loose and later block the needle valve on the carburettor float chamber, something that happened to me many years ago on my first Herald and caused an awful lot of head-scratching.
“The last time two of the tyres had been new was in 2005; the other two dated back to 1996!”