Opinion Piece: Car Shopping (Street Commodores Editorial Column)

24 Nov

This is the 20th in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 187 of Street Commodores:

Car Shopping (Written June 1, 2011)

With Project RAT304 gone, the journey to find a new daily began in earnest.

No one could claim that I tried very hard to sell the nasty old VH wagon, known lovingly as the ‘Rat. Besides a mention on the Street Commodores forum ‘for sale’ section and a couple of for sale signs in the back windows, the only other promotion my desire to sell got was mentioning it to people in passing.

When I left the warm safety and regular paycheck of SC HQ last January I had to make a choice between Project XXX and the wagon. It was just going to be impossible to afford both projects and naturally, the VP won the argument hands down. This relegated the wagon to daily driver duties – a task it performed admirably for a few years.

Sadly though, the amount of driving I started doing over the last 12 months increased and the injected 5L was chewing up too much fuel so I made the decision to let it go in favour of another V6. I’m glad to say that the wagon found a new home just the other day and the new owner is planning to continue work on the car, no doubt making it much better than I was ever going to.

That left me punting around in the girlfriend’s Hyundai Getz: not the most fantastic vehicle to turn up to feature car photo shoots and car shows in, right? It’s bloody good on the gas, though! No, this left me spending any free time I had searching through all the internet car sales sites and forums I could find for a new daily.

My brief read like this: clean, low-kilometre VS V6; preferably a wagon.

I have to admit that my standards were pretty high despite the fact that these cars are now a good 15 years old. I didn’t want a VT or VX because I simply don’t like them as much as the second-gen cars and being a child of the ‘90s just reinforced my desire for something from that decade.

I started making short lists of web links to sale pages on sites like Carsales.com.au et al, quickly becoming demoralised by the crap that filled up most of the websites. Almost all the cars I found were high-km hulks that had certainly seen better days and wagons of any description were thin on the ground.

I found one VSII wagon in Newcastle that had an incredible 86,000 genuine kilometres on the clock, was a one-owner and looked factory fresh. I think the dealer may have been on the whacky weed though, as they wanted an equally incredible $8000 for it. Scratch that, then.

At first I have to admit I was really starting to resign myself to the idea of buying a VTII or VX sedan or wagon just so I could get the mechanical and quality attributes I was after. But instead of jumping in and making a rash decision, I kept looking through the various websites every afternoon. I even took a drive past the local car yards in the hopes there may have been something suitable – to no avail.

Then one morning I made the decision to call one of the dealers listing a clean-looking VSII Executive sedan. The listing didn’t note the dealer’s location, but I got lucky: it was only two suburbs away from me. So, I arranged a time to go see it that afternoon and sure enough, it ticked all the boxes except for the fact it was a sedan.

With 170,000kms on the clock, this genuine one-owner VS came complete with detailed log books and all those special grandpa-spec’ add-ons like mudflaps, rear sun visor, hub caps and nary a modification to be found. I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine had never seen north of 3500rpm.

I went back the next day for a test drive. While the sedan boasted the typical ‘boat’ feel you get with a 15 year old car that may never have had new shocks fitted, the rest seemed really tight. The interior looks brand new, except for the beginning of that equally Commodore-specific ’10 year sag’ to the roof lining.

So, please welcome the newest project to join the Street Commodores family, known only as Project BASICS. This happy little VS won’t end up a showy, overblown monster like XXX or STREET. No, we’ll be using this car as the basis for a stack of informative step-by-step DIY and easy tech projects that aim to educate readers on the restorative elements to owning a Commodore as well as some easy modification tasks anyone with a few simple tools can do at home in the shed.

If you’ve got some ideas for stories you think we should cover along the way, jump onto the Street Commodores forum or email [email protected] and tell us.

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