This is why Britain is Great... the Black Cab

Spice up your garage life… alternative car guide

If your automotive love life has hit the skids, why not  put some excitement back in the garage department with our alternative car buying guide. Reignite the spark in your plugs here…

Used funeral hearse: Stylish but not for the squeamish

Get a hearse... ideal for those trips to Ikea

Get a hearse… ideal for those trips to Ikea

Keep up with the Adams’s by purchasing a shiny black hearse. We’ll all get to have a go in one of these eventually, but while most of us will just be ‘passengers’, why not beat the reaper and jump in the driver’s seat?


Read our full hearse buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy:  Be honest, you’ve not seen many hearses screaming down the outside lane of the M1. With most of their working life spent crawling the streets at a respectful 25mph, it’s safe to say the retired hearse won’t have any skeletons under the bonnet. There’ll certainly be plenty of life left in the powerplant, too. You’ll also get to display a hilarious ‘No corpses left in hearse overnight’ sign.

Refinement and performance: While most of clientele encountered during its professional life wouldn’t have cared too much about refinement, hearses will always be based on large, comfortable models without a sporty bone-shaking chassis below the black coachwork. It’ll soak up the scarred surfaces of Britain’s roads, while making an ideal motorway cruiser. Performance-wise, hauling a cargo of hefty pall-bearers and ‘client’ in heavy wooden overcoat isn’t to be underrated, so expect plenty of power buried beneath your right foot. Typically, you can expect at least a V6 to help cremate the rubber.

Practicality: Buying an ‘alternative’ car might dictate you compromise a little practicality for your quirky runaround – but not so with a used hearse. Most will have room for four to ride (in seats), but it’s the huge loadspace that’ll impress when doing the weekly shop or paying a visit to your local Ikea.

Buying guide: Providing you’re not planning on moonlighting as a cabbie touting one-way trips to the local crematorium, your MoT and insurance will be just the same as any regular car. When buying used, look out for rotten bodywork, as retired hearses can be left standing for long periods before they’re sold on.

Type of licence required: Standard car licence

How much: From £1,200 for models based on donor cars such as a Ford Granada, but expect to pay much more for an upmarket cruiser straight from the undertaker.
Where: Click here to search


Electric milk float: Power to the past

Join the electric car club with a used milk float

Join the electric car club with a used milk float: image credit

Long before Elon Musk was more than a spark in his daddy’s fuse box, our very own milkie was trundling the pre-dawn streets of the UK in his battery-powered milk float. Now you can fulfil that childhood dream – yes we know – and take to the highways in your very own example of the dairy express.


Read our full milk float buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy one: If you’re looking to cut your fuel bill, then a milk float will return a respectable distance of around100miles for £10 worth of electricity. However, it’ll also be exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge – and doesn’t require an MoT certificate.

Refinement and performance: The hefty battery pack hanging from its underbelly won’t promote F1-style handling, but with a top speed of around 15-20mph, an electric milk float’s ride certainly won’t be a deal breaker for the urban driver. Some owners do complain of heavy steering. Range anxiety shouldn’t impinge on enjoyment, either, as most milk floats are capable of travelling up to 80 miles on a single eight-hour charge.

Buying guide: The most important thing to do is get the float’s battery tested to check it’s in a serviceable condition. Leaving them discharged for long periods of time can leave them ruined – and deliver you a hefty bill for a replacement. Try to find one that’s been in daily use. Most drivers will find insurance very reasonable too; typically paying around £100 per year. Along with savings on road tax, fuel, Congestion Charge and insurance, you might be able to make some cash, too, by signing your float up with a film and TV vehicle casting company such as actionvehicleagency.co.uk

Practicality: Not a luxury vehicle by any means, but the large loadbay and easy driving style will be perfect for driving around town or short commutes. Great for small businesses looking for a cheap delivery option, too. Join the electric revolution without needing to read the Guardian, live in Hampstead and have a gas-guzzling – and hypocritical – Range Rover in the garage.

Type of licence required: A full car licence should have you covered; just look for category ‘L’ which entitles you to drive electric vehicles.

How much: Expect to pay £500-1000 for an example with useable batteries, but budget twice that for a top-notch version
Where: Try this milk float enthusiast page for the latest vehicles for sale


Amphibious car: Take drive on the wet side

Road or water... the Dutton can handle it

Road or water… the Dutton can handle it

If environmentalists are proved right, increased flooding and rising sea levels could make owning one of these car/boats an inspired choice – just don’t forget the lifejacket.


Read our full amphibious car buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy one: It’s got to be the ultimate summer runaround. No beach is out of reach with an amphibious car and the best known of all manufacturers is Dutton. No lengthy bankside conversion needed, simply disengage the wheels and switch power to the fully enclosed propeller with one easy-to-use lever.

Refinement and performance: The Dutton Commander is converted from the four-wheel-drive Suzuki Jimny, so comes with a go-anywhere drivetrain that won’t necessarily suit drivers looking for a motorway cruiser… however, if you want to sidestep the Tarmac and head off-road and onto the UK’s waterways, the Commander becomes infinitely more refined – if not a little noisy. Expect to travel on water at speeds of up to 6mph. It’s said that one even ‘drove’ across the English Channel in Force 4 winds.

Practicality: Who cares about practicality – this is a car that can drive on water! Do you want the moon on a stick?

Buying guide: Some people say that amphibious vehicles are compromised cars and sluggish boats, but if you’ve an ounce of imagination and adventure in your body this is an argument you’ll dismiss with the disdain it deserves. These cars are rare, but they are available. They’ll mostly be well looked after, too, but get a full check before ‘splashing’ the cash. If you find a used vehicle you like the look of, simply email the chassis number to Dutton and they’ll check the history of the vehicle for you. Head to dtech.uk.com for contact details. Insuring the car might be relatively expensive, but talk to a specialist firm and you should get a good deal.

Type of licence required: A full car licence should have you covered and Dutton’s website says the following regarding use on waterways:
To date we have not found any Country that requires you to have either insurance or a licence to drive a Surf on water.

How much: A new vehicle will cost you around £30,000 but a used example could be bought for half of that.
New Dutton cars for sale
Here’s a typical secondhand version

See it in action:
Customer being taken for a test drive/sail by company owner Time Dutton


London Black Cab: Hail the iconic Fairway taxi

This is why Britain is Great... the Black Cab

This is why Britain is Great… the Black Cab: image credit

If you’re looking for the ultimate family car, the Fairway Black Cab should top your list. There’s space for up to seven people to travel in comfort with huge amounts of loadspace for all you belongings, too. Most come with ramps, too, so they’ll be fully accessible for anyone with mobility problems.


Read our full Black Cab buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Refinement and performance: First up, the ride is extremely quiet – thanks to the partition between the driver and kids screaming in the back. All-round visibility is excellent and the Black Cab has one of the smallest turning circles available (25ft) – making it perfect for tight city streets and nabbing parking spaces. They’re comfortable, too, and with a top speed of up to 75mph, they’re not overly sluggish.

Practicality: If you want an endorsement of how pleasurable these cars are to own, simply consider some of the celebrity owners who have taken to the streets in an iconic Black Cab. Kate Moss, Stephen Fry, Bez, Carry On star Sid James, Sir Lawrence Olivier and the Duke of Edinburgh are – or were – all famous owners.

Buying guide: Reliability shouldn’t be an issue, many Black Cabs have covered more than a million miles. Insurance costs won’t break the bank, but many insurers won’t be able to find the Fairway on their system, so head for a specialist firm such as peterbestinsurance.co.uk and they’ll sort you out. Drivers over 25 with a good record should expect to pay around £300-£400. Average fuel economy is 35mpg for newer models, which certainly isn’t awful for such a large vehicle. A form of taxi ‘scrappage’ scheme took many off the road, so they’re not as plentiful as at one time, but there are still plenty on offer if you look hard enough. According to myblacktaxi.blogspot.co.uk/ the ideal Black Cab to look for is a P or R reg Fairway Driver Plus with less than 200,000 miles on the clock. Check out this excellent guide to what needs checking before you buy…

Type of licence required: Standard full licence.

How much: From £1,500 for a decent example.
Where: Head here for used cabs


Beach buggy: Hit the beach this summer

Having a mid-life crisis can be fun... with this

Having a mid-life crisis can be fun… with this: image credit

Summer’s coming so step from your MPV straight into the driving seat of a mid-life crisis – it’s time to hit the surf and buy a beach buggy.


Read our full beach buggy buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: Why not? They’re cheap, fun to drive and will take you straight back to a time when you didn’t need to use the dog as an excuse to dodge Corrie and head down the pub for a few pints. Here’s all you need to know about getting your hand on the wheel of a used beach buggy.

Refinement and performance: Open-top driving won’t be suitable for year-round motoring, so this is a second-car-only motoring experience. The gearing and tyres won’t make for comfortable motorway cruising – however swapping Tarmac for sand will offer a majestic ride as you glide over the dunes and make the oceans while simultaneously humming the theme tune to The Banana Splits

Practicality: Let’s not pretend… there’s not a sniff of practicality here and that’s what makes beach buggy ownership so damn attractive.

Buying guide: Beach buggies – or dune buggies – hit the height of popularity in the 50s and 60s, with most being sold as kit cars. There are three main types of buggy:

Sand rails: Fast light and used for sandy terrain.
Trail buggies: Heavy and strong bugs used for tough terrain. Best for hardcore off-roaders.
Baja buggies: More like cars with a roof and stronger suspension and brakes.
Fibreglass buggies: Built with fibreglass shells, these are best for use on both the open road and sand. Good for all terrain, but ideally suited to sand because of their lightweight construction.

We’d recommend the fibreglass variant. They’re light and resistant to the attack of salt water. They are prone to mechanical failures, but the engine is easy to access and mostly simple to work on – with many owners claiming this aspect simply adds to the ownership experience. When it comes to insuring the buggy, you’ll need to look for a specialist company for the best deals. Check out insurers such as adrianflux.co.uk

Type of licence required: Standard full licence

How much: From £3,500 for road-ready buggies
Where: Check out buggies for sale here


Ice cream van: You scream, we all scream… you know the drill

Buy a van like this and become superdad

Buy a van like this and become superdad

If anyone can honestly say owning a fully operational ice cream van doesn’t fill them with a shiver of desire, then we’d advise they get someone to take their pulse and quite possibly call an ambulance.


Read our full ice cream van buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: It’s the ultimate novelty vehicle that’ll guarantee your summer barbies are the events to be seen at. Just don’t try selling your wares as competitors paying big bucks for licenses won’t be knocking on your window with the intention of buying a Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb.

Refinement and performance: You’ll be driving a van with a large refrigerator bolted to the floor… don’t expect the ride to be anything other than unremarkable at best. However, it’s when you park up and start dispensing goodies that the fun really begins.

Practicality: Once again, this isn’t about practicality and more about your kids branding you as ‘literally’ the coolest dad in the UK.

Buying guide: First rule of buying an ice cream van is don’t skimp on cash by purchasing a ‘lookalike’ van. These, as the name suggest, look like the real deal, but come without the gubbins of a freezer and ice cream dispenser. Ask yourself, what is the point? When you find a genuine van, make sure the cool bits all work before parting with any cash. Look around the London area as recent low-emissions regulations resulted in many owners having to replace their old vans if they wanted to remain in business. This has resulted in more vans on the market with lower prices.

Type of licence required: Standard full car licence

How much: Expect to pay from £3,500 for van with operational ice cream machine
Where: Check out vans for sale here


Buy an affordable supercar: Lotus Esprit Turbo

The quintessential supercar... yours for less than £10k

The quintessential supercar… yours for less than £10k: image credit

It’s an exotic mid-engined supercar from darkest, deepest Norfolk… the rocket-like design of the Lotus Esprit Turbo brings everything that we know and associate with a supercar – apart from the price. Read on to find out how to get one for around £10k.


Read our full Lotus Esprit Turbo buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: Because it’s a Lotus Esprit Turbo, of course.

Refinement and performance: Despite the fact it was built in Norfolk and not Maranello, it doesn’t mean the Esprit is merely a sheep in wolf-like clothing. Built on a reputation of precise handling and responsive steering, the Esprit also offers a supple and compliant ride. It’s also perfectly balanced and ‘enthusiastic drivers will relish attacking corners and harnessing the delicious oversteer as they exit the apex. Okay, it’s not all great; the gearbox lacks precision and the interior is very 70s and cramped, but that’s why you get it for such a great price. If old-school driving is your thing, then leave behind the banality of modern-day motoring and take your seat in an Esprit.

Practicality: Not really that useful for doing the weekly shopping or as family transport, but certainly acceptable as a daily ride. Once again, practicality isn’t really a prerequisite for supercar ownership.

Buying guide: If you’re serious about an Esprit Turbo, then you’ll need to realise the purchase price is just half the story. Repair bills can be hefty, but treat it right and the Lotus can easily be used as your everyday car – in fact, leaving it in the garage for weekend outings only, will not sit well with the mechanics. You’ll need to do your research before buying, so clicking on this this excellent buying guide will help you get the best possible example. Insurance for older models will likely be Group 19, but upping the excess and opting for a limited-mileage policy should cut premiums to a reasonable level.

Type of licence: Standard full car licence.

How  much: From £10,000
Where: Find example of the Esprit for sale here


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