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Felicity's last journey home

Over the weekend I had a look at the cost of repairing the duff variateur. A new one, a proper one this time, is pricey. Then there's the labour involved given that it's an engine-out job. And the salesman confirmed what I'd already found on forums, that if the gearbox was subjected to that sort of vibration, it needs to be stripped down and have its bearings and seals changed.
The salesman estimated around €1200-1500, which is in line with what I had already worked out for myself. Now, I don't know if the part was faulty (it was fitted last springtime) or if it was badly installed. I had to have the local garage do it because the first lockdown was harsh and the Aixam guys could not come and collect cars to do repairs.

I asked him, if he were to accept Felicity as part exchange, what would he offer? I guessed if he offered around €500 or less, I might make more by getting it fixed and selling it myself. If he offered €1000 or more, then selling would be the best bet.
He offered €800. I thought about it, then remembered that if I save up to get the work done in late summer (or so), then I'd have to be paying insurance on a car I cannot drive.

So I said yes. Which means if I have a lean month (eating lots of pasta, lucky I love pasta!), I ought to come out with around €1000 in savings, which is a hell of a lot better than €10!
Not quite how I planned it, but as I said on Saturday, what needs to happen will happen.

It's upsetting to get rid of Felicity, I do like her, but sometimes a line has to be drawn. I mean, do I take the €800 rebate or do I continue throwing money at a twenty four year old car? To add more context, once I sort out the variateur and the gearbox, I need new tires. Only one company makes tires that small (newer models use larger tyres) and they cost about €89 each. You see where this is going, right?

I'll take lots of photos and remember her fondly. I hope, once fixed up, she brings her quirky sense of joy to a new owner.

But today, limping home with the shakes, was her final journey home. I guess when you're a car, it's far better to go out with a whimper than a bang!


And...? Va-va-voom (sort of)

Let's get this out of the way. It looks like this:
My new car is red.
My new car is red.

As much as I might think "oh my God" about the spoiler (!), it seems like a fun car. Now that I have some idea of what side of the road I'm supposed to be on ☺ it's good to have a car that I feel I might be able to venture out to somewhere that isn't work or Châteaubriat. I'd love to "go south" in the summer, but I think that'll have to wait a few years - in one of those cars, it's going to be something like two and a half hours there, and then back again. I'm not up to that, and I'm not sure I'd want to do it in a car limited to 45kph.

As I mentioned previously, it has ABS so can apply independent braking to each wheel for safer driving. And, yeah, still no airbag (come on Aixam!). It now detects where the gearstick is, so if the car is left in Drive or Reverse, it won't start. Actually, the car won't jump as idling doesn't engage the pulleys. I have, one or twice, started Felicity with the car still in reverse (from parking). But it's good to ensure the idiot holding the steering wheel knows that the car is in Neutral before starting the engine.

Apparently steering is simpler and more responsive, due to larger wheels. That's what the salesman said. I didn't get to test drive (insurance issues), I sat in the passenger seat while he drove it.

And drove it he did. At 65kph. The car has been "débridé". That means to fiddle with the front variateur (pulley) so it closes up a little more and thus can push the car to run faster than the authorised limit.
I don't plan to drive at 65kph. For one thing, it's illegal. And for another, it's an aluminium and plastic vehicle. Doing those sorts of speeds is a deathwish.
That said, it is somehow reassuring that if I should ever need to "get the hell out of here", I can put my foot down and go. I'm not sure what would precipitate such an action, and to be honest, I don't ever want to find out. But, should a little extra be genuinely necessary (and no, late to work doesn't count), I at least have it as a last resort option.

The dashboard is black with three white discs side by side. The middle disc is the largest, and it is an analogue speedometer that reads from 0-80 with 45 marked clearly. The other two discs hold rectangular LCDs. On the left, a display showing RND, fuel, and it looked like something to do with service notification (yearly or every 5000km, which ever comes first). I didn't really see the right display, but I'd guess the odometer, possibly a trip counter, and maybe a clock? I think I also saw a temperature reading.
Scattered around are the usual lights for fuel low, brakes, preheating, indicators, headlights, and so on.

When the car is in reverse, there's a thing that beeps. The closer an object is, the more frantically it beeps.

There appear to be front fog lights and "daytime lights", as well as a third brake light at the back (a bar, as is common these days). As for controlling the lights, it looks like everything is in more or less the same place as in Felicity. The only thing I didn't see is a fog light button, I am guessing that's on the stick now. Left hand for headlights and indicators, right hand for controlling the wipers.

The windscreen washer fluid is interesting, the nozzle is mounted to the wiper itself. I presume this means it can squirt the fluid directly to the screen, rather than the nozzle mounted on the bonnet that sometimes manages to get fluid everywhere but the screen.
Just like Felicity, there's a dinky little wiper on the back window.

The boot looks massive. I've not made any measurements, but looking at the side on photo above, I think it might not go as far back as in Felicity, but that's just a guess.
Because there is no spare tyre included, the boot space goes right down to base floor level (rather than raised up to have the doughnut for the wheel), which gains quite a lot of extra space. The boot door opens right down to floor level as well, which ought to make it easier to load and unload heavier things like water bottles.
There's a plastic shroud between the boot area and the front seats, and there's a pull-out (retractable?) cover for the top (at about shoulder level). In other words, it ought to hide whatever may or may not be in the boot. Better security.
Inside the boot is a mesh pegged to each corner. I think this was intended to hold a spare wheel (option) in place, but can be useful for other things.
I keep a "kit" in the back of Felicity. First aid stuff, a few tools, heat blanket, the infamous yellow vest, spare bulbs, and a warning triangle. It would be good to secure this stuff in the back without having to worry about it being visible.

When running, the car still wobbles and vibrates. It's a Kubota twin cylinder diesel. Not just like before, this one is a later model that is, I think, Euro4. Which means theoretically fewer nasty emissions. I don't know how that translates to fuel consumption. To be honest, the engine looked more or less the same as the one in Felicity.
There is better soundproofing and baffles around the engine compartment, so it sounds quieter. Sure, it's still noisy, but when on the test drive it wasn't awful. More like a throaty growl, though I wonder how much of that is the engine and how much is some weirdo exhaust pipe. Because it has twin chrome plated tailpipes... yes, really. So I can pretend I'm Vin Diesel, right?

In fact, the only three things that concern me are:

  • The rims are scuffed up (as you can see from the picture). I'll have to find some paint and touch that up, as it makes it look like I don't know how to drive.
  • The floor of the car is a sheet of ridged metal on each side. I wonder what happened to the carpet? That said, given where I live, it might be better than carpeting. More grip and less likely to because messy if there's mud on my shoes. That said, it might be an idea to take them out and spray paint them black in the summer, because bright metal is kind of stark.
  • The car radio doesn't support USB. Just radio, CD, and an audio input socket. This isn't a big deal, as it looks like there's a selection of reasonable replacements from Amazon for around €30-40. I quite like the ieGeek K305.

Here is a picture of the engine. As you can see, looks more or less the same as Felicity, only with soundproofing.
That complicated looking thing on the right with all the little metal pipes is the ABS unit. It measures the speed of each wheel and applies the appropriate amount of braking.

Under the bonnet
Under the bonnet.


Delivery is scheduled for the 27th of February, but that depends upon how long it takes the Préfecture to sort out the paperwork.



Your comments:

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David Pilling, 16th February 2021, 03:53
Cool car. Hope you have fun with it. 
ABS == antilock braking system. Detects if a wheel is about to start skidding (and not rotating) and reduces the braking force on it. 
I suspect ABS is a legal requirement. 
I have in my driving career seen ABS work just once. On my driving test, which amongst other difficult circumstances took place in torrential rain after a long dry spell. So we did that thing of "I'll hit my clipboard and you see how fast you can stop" - and yeah, could feel the brakes turning on and off.
John, 16th February 2021, 23:48
You need to keep the fluo jacket and triangle within reach! 
We English should keep it visibly strapped to the front-passenger headrest where the flics can see it and don't therefore have to stop you and cope with the language problems! 
You need to be able to don it before leaving the vehicle in an emergency! The boot will NOT do!
Rick, 19th February 2021, 21:22
I think "we English" mostly counts for people driving cars with UK licence plates. In my Playmobil car, I've only been stopped once, and that was to check I had all the correct bits of paper during the first lockdown. People just look at the car, the grey haired bloke driving it, and probably assume I got banned for something... 
The rule is that you must be able to get it before leaving the car, so the boot will do if it is a boot you can easily access and don't need to get out to do so. In a toy car, perhaps. In a real car, not so much. 
However, there ought to be a little bit of space behind the seat that I can tuck it into. Or... I actually have a proper glovebox in the new car, not just a shelf. Could put it in there? 
Decisions, decisions... 😀

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