Bargain of the Week – Peugeot 306 convertible

Having been off with tonsillitis for the last two weeks my DB7 hasn’t seen much action. What my recuperation has given me is time to re-jig our Bargain of The Week series and consider selling the Aston. Over the last several months our feature has all been about finding the best priced car for what we think is great value for money. It gives us massive scope to play with and over the summer we’ve been concentrating on convertibles. What I’d thought we’d do to spice things up is start to play ‘trader’ with each bargain challenge. By that I mean actively go out to find a proper bargain whether that’ll be a bit of a shed or a straight car, haggle, buy, then sell for a profit. What it does mean is that I’m personally putting up my own cash in hope of making a profit. Obviously along the way I’ll have to spend a bit of extra by tarting the thing up but hopefully it should work on every deal -that’s the plan anyway. Now that it sounds much easier than I’m sure it’s going to be.

I don’t want to start this new found madness with anything too far out of reach so I’m setting an unspectacular budget of £1,000. I know it doesn’t sound like much for a convertible but without searching you’ll never know what you could come up with. Yes, there has to be a limit as to how far you’re prepared to go but with a sensible head on you can come up trumps, as I found out.

My search of the local papers and online brought me to a rather interesting metallic red 1998 2.0-litre Peugeot 306 convertible. Interesting in the fact that it’s under budget and the ad describes it as a one owner car from new with 68,000 miles, full history, power hood, leather upholstery and priced at £695.
Now, looking around, these ’98 306’s should be around the £1500 mark especially with power hoods and leather, so it begs the obvious question: What’s wrong with it? Still interested I call the owner and hope that my money is about to spent wisely.

OK, this particular Peugeot is indeed a one owner and it sounds like a genuine car, but as I suspected it does need a “bit of work”. Basically it’s owned by a lady who bought it new but unfortunately can’t drive anymore due to health reasons and it’s been sat on her driveway for over six months. It does need some paint work, according to the seller and just before it came off the road the head gasket went. Her son is selling it on her behalf but invites me to look anyway as he says it is a reliable car and has been looked after up until recently. Something still tells me it’s a sale not to be missed and with a few quid spent, could make a small profit.

Arriving to view the car I notice that his phrase “a bit of paintwork needed” is a slightly under-playing matters, more like “a ¾ re-spray” but it doesn’t deter me and we press on regardless. To be fair it’s in good nick despite the peeling paintwork. The tyres are about half worn and there doesn’t seem to be any rust and the hood isn’t torn which is always a good sign and means less money to be spent. The wheels are badly scuffed though and pitted in places but it still has legs. The interior smells a bit musty but that’s only because it hasn’t be aired for a few months. But the best news is that the leather is hardly worn especially as it hasn’t really seen any passengers from new. Even the driver’s seat looks and feels fresh.

After a good hour looking over the car I can see it selling for a profit and hope that there aren’t any hidden surprises along the way. Now to its mechanical downside: the head gasket. Because the current owner hasn’t had it replaced I don’t know whether it’s caused any further damage, like warping the head, piston or block damage. I can’t test drive it in this state and without the gasket getting repaired it isn’t going anywhere. Surprisingly, no one has been round to look at the car and that means we can haggle on the price as the current owner wants shot of it and doesn’t have the money to spend repairing it. The lower the better.

With the repairs needed I, of course, go in low (£400) as I’ve roughly calculated that it needs a good £500 to get it up to scratch. Surprisingly my offer gets refused and the owner’s representative counters with £600. I try to explain the cost of the repairs (head gasket, MOT etc) and run through a few of them going back in with £450. The other party budges slightly and offers £595 but I know he’s desperate to sell. I go in for the kill and offer £500 as my final offer. The owner thinks better of another round and we shake on it.
I arrange to get the car towed away and back to my workshop to discover whether it’s been a total waste of money and effort or will, in fact, bring me a half-decent profit.

Right, first things first; Head gasket. With a friend to help me get the head off and block out I order a new gasket and dig deep into the block to try and spot any further damage. Apart from the usual milky residue caused by water damage we can’t see anything untoward but just to be on the safe side send the head and block off to be skimmed. Time to tally up the costs so far: £34 for the gasket and a bill for £90 to get the head and block tested and skimmed. While the head is away next on the list are the wheels. A local garage has offered to refurbish all four for £40; not bad considering the usual cost is around £70 per wheel. But as this isn’t a Ferrari I’m not too concerned about the finished result so long as they look acceptable.
With the car up on a set of axle stands and missing half the engine I call in another favour and get a body shop colleague round to look at the paint. Having seen the damage he’s prepared to re spray the peeling panels for £200. With a resale price of around £1,500 I can see my profit going up in smoke and that’s without even putting it through the MOT.

With the block and head back and a new gasket fitted we spend the whole day putting it back together. It’s not an easy job but we prevail and whack a new battery on to see if it actually runs. Could this be the moment the whole project comes off the rails?

The wheels arrive back looking much better than I’d hoped and they go back on ready for the car to be taken to the body shop. With a £55 battery and a can of petrol we twist the key and hope for the best. It takes a while to crank but eventually fires into life. It blows out a plume of white smoke but settles down to a reassuring tick over which with a good run should settle down nicely.

Sat idle for six months has thrown all manner of dash warning lights on so it will eventually need to be plugged into a diagnostic machine for a fault finding mission. The following day it starts without a hitch minus the blue smoke and gets ferried off for a re spray. Time to add up the bill so far: £34 for the head gasket, £160 for the wheel refurb, £90 for the head and block repair, £55 for a new battery and £200 for the paint plus £100 for my friend who gave up his evenings to help me with the repairs. So in total so far including the £500 for the car, I’ve spent £1,139. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to spend more than my £1,000 budget, selling for £1500 and bagging £500 profit but I’m already over. Two days later and the back comes the car with a new coat of paint. I have to admit it looks so much better and even though I’ve spent too much I’m still happy that I bought the Pug.

The next twenty-four hours are spent nervously waiting to see whether it’ll pass the MOT. If it passes all I’ll need to do is fork out another £55 for the MOT and six months tax and a good day cleaning and polishing it. I’ve already got the polishing materials so at least I won’t need to make a trip to Halfords spending more money.

I get a call from the MOT station with a bit of bad news. The clutch pedal has sunk to the floor indicating that either the cable has gone or the master cylinder is leaking. Not what I wanted to hear. Other than that and a quick adjustment to level out the emissions from fitting a new head gasket and it seems it’s not too far away from a ticket. Rather than stick it in their workshops to repair I tow the car back home to investigate the problem. Sure enough the master cylinder is shot so I order a new one from a motor factor and get cracking to repair it. Another hit on the credit card (£98 for the master cylinder) and the Pug get’s driven back to the MOT for one final time. With £263 of profit left in the car (if I can manage to dollar) it’s looking dangerously like I’ll just about break even when it goes up for sale. The other option, of course, is to price it a bit higher to see if I could get lucky.

Thankfully it passes but with an advisory that the brake discs are worn slightly. A quick inspection reveals that they have at least 6,000 miles of wear left so the credit card stays in my wallet and I make a trip to the post office.

With a fresh ticket in hand a shiny new tax disc gets stuck on the screen and we’re ready for the final task: Cleaning. I spend a whole day washing, polishing and waxing the Pug and without blowing my own trumpet, it looks great but I’m slightly reluctant to stick it up for sale especially as I’ve spent the last two weeks working on it. Still, it can’t stay in the driveway so I get an ad sorted and stick it in for £1695 and hope for the best.

Yes I know it’s slightly over priced for the year but I’m hoping that my David Bailey style photography and good summer weather will pay off and pick up some interest. With £1,400 spent in total including the internet ad I’m hardly going to make a fortune in profit, but even if I get £200 I’ll be happy, and with the work put into it I’ll be pleased to see it go to a good home.

With the ad live I get a call almost straight away. This chap is looking for a cheap convertible and has already seen other 306’s. I come clean with the work done and the money spent yet he still seems impressed. A quick test drive seals the deal and we shake on £1600. Cash paid he takes the car away and two weeks of money and labour disappears down the road. All in forty five minutes. Not bad.

So I made just over £200 profit but having done what I did, I don’t regret the choice of car and the money spent. Will I do it all over again? As I’m finishing this piece off I’m already bidding for another bargain on eBay.

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