The Failures

Investment opportunity – My third Astra GTE

A rusty £450 Astra GTE 16-valve is not, repeat NOT, an investment opportunity.

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Houses. Antiques. Paintings. These are things people buy and then liberally slather with the term ‘investment’. And do you know what? Nine times out of ten, they’re right to do so, because they invariably make a return on their investment.

Cars are a different thing. People think they can make a few quid, but unless you’re dealing with rare Ferraris or bespoke oddities, you are not going to make much money. Did this irrefutable fact stop me from thinking I could buck the trend? It did not. Did it stop me from kidding myself into thinking an Astra GTE 16-valve would be the trend-bucker? What do you think?

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By this point I had already owned two GTEs, and neither was what you’d call a harbinger of joy. In fact, one was nothing more than a party venue for the saddest gathering of teenagers in history. The second became shelter for someone who had a fixed abode, but chose not to use it. My GTE was better, apparently.

Still, being the embodiment of automotive belligerence that I am, I was sure a third GTE would be just the ticket. Plus, it was a 16-valve version, and that meant lots of power. And, at just £450, all I had to do was give it a tickle with some spanners, a wipe over with some T-Cut and then I could sell it for £5,000. Or something.

Not one to acknowledge warning signs, the quality of the photos from the advert weren’t, in retrospect, good.

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Seriously, there wasn’t a single picture that showed the GTE in its entirety. Just… bits of it. But hey, it looked complete. And again, it was only £450. I knew GTEs were going up in value, filling me with confidence. I’d make a meaty return on it, I was sure.

I should point out that’m not a complete moron. The GTE was described as a non-runner, and I knew it had been laid up for a while. However, the seller seemed like a decent sort, his history with the car seemed honest enough and one more time, it was cheap. I think to err completely on the side of moronic would be wrong. I do know about cars. Hell, I’m a motoring journalist. My problem is my optimism. I think they can all be saved. I also can’t ignore anything that’s cheap.

And just as you think “yes Chris, I like cars too. I can see where you’re coming from.” I do something stupid. Like pick it up in the dark. No questions asked.

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I know, my photography skills are on point, aren’t they?

Full of optimism and little bit of guilt, having made my boss drive into London on a cold, rainy night to get it, we dragged it back to his workshop. Wasting no time, we unloaded it and in the cold light of a workshop it didn’t actually look all that bad. Yes, it had turned that unfortunate shade of Vauxhall Racing Pink, but other than that, it looked like I was onto a winner.

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With a ramp at our disposal, we hoiked it skyward so we could get a look at what we had to work with. As it turns out, we didn’t have much. Actually, I should stop trying to share the blame here with the liberal application of ‘we’. Ben had nothing to do with it. In fact, he was laughing. Lots.

Want to see why? Want to dine on my misfortune you heartless bastards? Of course you do…

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Well shit. That’s not gone at all well. And it didn’t stop there. Later investigation from Ben revealed that the engine had become one solid block of metal, rather than one full of oil and moving parts. The electrics were shot. The wheels were doubly-hideous in the cold light of day (despite being BBS) and on the whole, it was an unforgivable heap of shit.

I sold it to Ben at a loss and looked forward to relentless mocking from my colleagues. Of which there was plenty.

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In the end, after lingering in Ben’s yard for a year or two, he broke it for spares. It was all it was good for. Though annoyingly, when stripped of anything that made it a complete car, it turned out that the shell probably was savable. Just about. But not without a lot of welding. It certainly wouldn’t have been worth doing in hopes of making money, that’s for sure.

I did not make even slightest hint of a return on my investment, and I haven’t tried to do it again since. Sod that.