30 December 2010 ~ 2 Comments

National Speed Awareness
Scheme courses

A run-in for me and the Polo last month. I became a marginal speeder in the first week of November, due to a lapse in concentration or just plain ignorance, resulting in a speeding ticket landing on the doormat. What was the damage? A £60 fine and 3 penalty points or a National Speed Awareness course for £82 and no points on my licence. You can guess which option I took, although it wasn’t without some deliberation. But, when it comes down to it, £22 seemed a fair price to pay to avoid any endorsements. And all for going 35mph in a 30mph zone, on a country road, where I don’t remember either a camera or a warning sign.

So, the day before Christmas Eve, I found myself driving up the A12 from Essex to Suffolk (courses are usually offered in the county of prosecution) to an industrial unit in Ipswich, and to the four-hour class run by AA DriveTech, a specialist driver training division. There were 18 of us, with over half the class over 45 years of age plus; the instructor informed us that the average age of attendees on the courses was 40, and with up to three courses a day, over 60 people are retrained in the laws of the road daily. Why no young people? They choose to speed apparently, and so aren’t offered the educational alternative…

The statitstics gave food for thought. Motorways are the safest roads of all, with 55% of drivers accelerating past the limit, while the majority of accidents happen on urban roads; 69% of drivers speed in towns and cities. A speed camera costs a local authority £23,000 to install, and while Suffolk is one of the lowest camera-populated counties (with eight currently in use), I think I was caught by one of the numerous mobile sites. But by far the most shocking figure was that it costs over £1 million pounds to administer ONE death on the road, and as there were 2222 fatal casualties last year, the money spent soon adds up.

A theory session only, attendees must ‘pass’ the course (though no proof is given), and ‘actively participate’, so there are plenty of ways to interact, from speaking, to watching videos, to voting on multiple-choice questions with handsets straight from the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Basically a PowerPoint-powered refresher of Highway Code information, the courses certainly serve a purpose, and the videos showing changes in braking distances and what happens in a multiple pile-up graphically illustrate what effects even small increases in speed can have on potential accidents. Proof positive that speed does indeed kill.

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15 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 1994 Polo GT Coupé

Last month Rich Gooding’s 1994 Polo GT Coupé came out of its dry home after a month-long stay. And although he’s not had time to find the source of the water leak, he has managed to hose some of the wet stuff underneath it

It’s April, which means only one thing. No, not a guaranteed soaking from the showers frequent at this time of the year, but the build up to the Stanford Hall VW event. Tradtionally the start of my show season calendar, Stanford Hall is arguably the UK’s longest-running Volkswagen event, and certainly one of the most laid back. Always enjoyable – and usually blessed with good weather – the show is held in the grounds of the country house with which it shares its name. An event which favours standard as opposed to modified cars, the concours d’elegance must rate as one of the best in the country, let alone VW circles.

So, with just over two weeks to go, it’s time to get L307 in some sort of shape. No, not that I’m entering any concours classes (the time has been and gone for that, but I did win a trophy), but I have got a club stand booked and I want the car to look its best. Or at least as best as it can be. So, all those jobs that I’ve been putting off for months have got to be done, or at least partly done, so that the GT can sparkle in the spring sunshine. First up, the wheelarches. I used to clean them out much more regularly than I do now, but armed with a bottle of degreaser, a brush and a hose, the job was easier than I had been expecting.

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09 March 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Our cars: 1994 Polo GT Coupé

After the recent months’ snow and an appearance in the March 2010 issue of Volkswagen Driver magazine, Rich Gooding’s Polo GT Coupé is now parked indoors and undercover – temporarily at least…

The biggest thing that’s happened to L307 JTM since my last report is that it’s now taking shelter from the weather in a borrowed indoor parking space not far from home. And while it will have to be moved, blinking into the great outdoors once more, it might not happen for a few weeks yet. Why indoors? The reason is simple – the water leak in the passenger footwell would have had time to dry out, or at least that’s what I’m hoping. Then it’s off to find somewhere that will water test the car, sourcing the leak once and for all.

In other news, fresh from last month’s minor DIY service, I looked back at some old parts receipts. It turns out the spark plugs were only changed 8,000 miles ago in 2008. Yes, that’s right, the Polo’s had only 8,000 miles roll under its wheels in two years. That was news to me (pleasant, I think) and was a much shorter distance than I’d thought. That figure might increase slightly this year, as I intend to attend more shows once the season gets underway, but then again, being effectively laid up for the last three weeks, maybe not…

Costs this month: £0

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23 February 2010 ~ 2 Comments

1990-1994 Polo GT Coupé profiled in Volkswagen Driver magazine

Monthly UK title Volkswagen Driver features the 1990-1994 Polo Coupé GT as the star of its model profile section in its March 2010 issue. With five detailed pages devoted to the spritely small Volkswagen, the magazine looks back at the Coupé GTs life with period Volkswagen photographs and ‘anorak’-type panels covering the colour and trims available as well as a full technical specification. The page of owners’ opinions also features two of PoloDriver’s long-termers, with Simon Kimber and Rich Gooding explaining why the sometimes overlooked GT appeals to them.

Grab a copy of the March 2010 issue of Volkswagen Driver from all good newsagents (find your nearest stockist here), or contact Autometrix Publications on 01525 750500.

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31 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 1994 Polo GT Coupé

Last month, Rich Gooding’s Polo GT Coupé passed its MoT, but only just. This month, there’s been more tinkering and a much-needed part-service

I hadn’t realised I’d neglected the car for so long. It was only when I thought about things and asked myself when the last service was, that it dawned on me that 2006 was probably the last time when a basic tinkering took place. And although only 13,000 miles ago, that’s far too long, especially for a 16 year-old car. It might have been later than that of course, but I neither had anywhere to work on it or have kept the service book up to date since then.

So last weekend, I set about rectifying the neglect. A basic part-service with easily-changeable items was the order of the day and a quick trip to our local branch of German Swedish and French yielded a set of new spark plugs, a new set of ignition leads and a new air filter. The journey was an insight in itself; the car was spluttering all over the place and almost stalled at two junctions. It felt more like a carburettor-engined car than a fuel-injected one, and brought back memories of driving my earlier Series 2 Polos.

The feeling was almost that of a misfire, something which I’ve experienced a lot this last winter. Damp conditions don’t make for smooth running at the moment, and even the inside of the car complains with iced-up windows, no doubt due to perishing seals. Opening the bonnet and taking the old ignition leads off diagnosed the problem. Some of the tips were oxidised and although not too bad a degree, the cloudy green ends that were once copper were no doubt the cause.

The plugs were much healthier and – according to the Haynes manual – signified that the 160,000-mile engine was in good order, the ends covered with a slight brown tint. The air filter wasn’t bad either; so much so I’ve kept it for now. All in all though, it’s amazing what results refreshing the most basic items can make. The car now feels transformed and is much, much smoother and no longer complains about the damp mornings or evenings. Only the heated rear window connector, front foglight bracket and passenger footwell leak to sort out before the summer…

Watch out for a basic service workshop feature coming soon.

Costs this month: £41.15 (ignition lead set £24.50; set of Bosch WR6DC+ sparkplugs £10.40; air filter £6.25)

(All parts prices are subject to VAT.)

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