Otis, an Astra F Arizona 1.4i

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Been meaning to start one of these things, but with a recent occurrence, been pushed to do it now :thumb:

This diary will be more adventures to places more than anything, but repairs and mods will also be here.

So, after my first car, a Renault Megane II Dynamique 1.6, named Sabine, packed in 4 months after buying her (was running quite badly right from the start, and she eventually blew her rather difficult-to-source throttle body to pieces), I went on the lookout for a cheap car that wasn't completely boring. It was there I stumbled across an Astra MK3 sitting in Leeds. It was something I'd always wanted, and it looked in pretty good shape... And so, 325 crisp English pounds later, here he is, named Otis.

Sitting under the smoke grey body is a 1.4 SPI engine, with only 82,000 miles on the clock (meaning around only 3,000 per year!). It may have been the runt of the litter, but the previous owner sure did his best to keep the engine is good shape. For something that only spits out 60ish HP, it sure does feel nippy. The trim is the Arizona package; which, from what I've gathered, was the cheapest option of its time, giving me a nice few luxury additions from the Merit trim.

No anti-roll bars, no ESP, no air conditioning... and, you know what, that's just the way I like it. 90s cars have always had a special place in my heart: the mechanical simpleness, the oddities here and there (took me forever to find out how to turn the interior light on manually!), the complete lack of factory-fitted angry headlights, and the manufacturers brass balls to just make a no-frills cheap reliable vehicle. I may only be a '96 baby, but I still get sensational feelings of nostalgia stepping into it. There's even the old Vauxhall smell, reminding me of our old family car, a Corsa B. Everyone who looks at it always gets a smile on their face when they see it or get into it; there's just something about seeing a 22 y/o "regular" car like this still on the road, especially when its pushing 80 down the M1.

Of course, it's not without its faults. There's rust here and there, missing boot liner, wobbly drivers seat, fired seatbelt tensioner, slightly inaccurate dials, and broken dashboard lamps (which I completely wrecked after shorting out some electrics while installing a new stereo). There's also an odd after-market immobiliser (I'll post a video, or GIF, later on). And, it seems someone didn't like feeling they were in the "cheap seats", so put paint (badly) over the plastic bumpers, which is starting to come off :doh:. But, it feels like it would keep going for weeks on end without fault.

So, plans for it I hear you ask? Well, as much as I'd like to dump a "Redtop" in it, or something, that's just not financially possibly right now. I do many miles in this thing - 1,500 miles in about a month since purchase - which the 1.4 SPI engine is keeping fuel stops many many miles apart from each other. So, probably will be doing my best to restore it to stock condition, and maybe dump some odd rat mods on it, or turn it into a 2WD off-roader, which it seems like I'm not the only one with these kind of ideas... we'll see. Besides, I've been eyeing up a road-legal quadbike or buggy as my fast toy for the road (I seem to be incapable of driving anything normal). So far, I've installed a bangin' stereo for me choons, some LED lights in the footwells, and upgraded to those fancy Bosch wipers (it's amazing how much wipers can affect the appearance of a car).

Anyways, I plan to keep Otis on the road for as long as possible, and hope he provides many great memories along the way :bounce:.

Also, if you like looking at graphs about super-exciting MPG stats, Otis in on Fuelly.

Picture time!


Aesthetic-out-in-the-wilderness-with-lights-on shot.


My boyfriend looking rather pleased with the sunroof. He's also, weirdly, nick-named "Astra"... although, that name came way before the car!
Also, yes, I am also a guy. I gather with a car like this, and both of us wearing trackies most of the time, we sure don't look gay.


Otis sitting alongside Sabine's death-bed. Didn't know her for long, but sure am gonna miss her. RIP.
Ford Ka MK1 also decided to photo-bomb this image: one of my all-time least favourite cars (although, the new third generation one ain't looking too bad).


If you look closely, you'll see it says "la' vista, baby" under the Astra logo. The previous owner owned a print shop, and a sense of humor. Seen quite a few people in my centre mirror laughing at this, and even snap some photos of it - hooray, Otis is famous!


Sat next to a relatively (but still old) modern Astra. My friend pointed out my car "blended in with the pavement and sky" - time for a new lick of paint, maybe?
There's also a photo of Otis near another bone-stock (kind of) Astra F on this forum.

I'm sure more photos and adventures will follow. But first, we must get back to the story, which will continue in the next post. Put you're safety belts on, you're in for a ride...
 
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Now, let's get back to my old car, Sabine. She sure made me paranoid, with all her breakdowns. Heck, even my insurance company was getting annoyed by the Megane's constant failures regarding the frickin' coil pack.

Anyways, I spent the next few weeks of owning Otis wondering what my first call to the recovery service would be. Overheating? Missing airbox causing problems (should probably get that fixed)? Alternator finally giving up? Nope, none of that.

It all began with a last minute camping trip we decided to take.


Apparently I have brilliant packing skills.

We packed him all up, and set on our way. He slightly struggled with all the extra load, but the engine didn't let me down, and easily picked up speed again with downshifting (Man, what kind of person would buy this engine with an automatic gearbox... Must be horrendous).

It was all going terribly well, aside from a stone being flicked up off a lorry and puncturing a hole in the rear door (yup, didn't even know that was possible). As we made our way to the Peak District (we were on our way to Leek, coming from Hull), the engine continued to keep up with my demands with me jamming the gearbox all over the place, as we made our way through twisty bends, and up steep hills.

20 miles away from the campsite, in a village called Monyash, a pack of cyclists blasted past of the side, so I kept a watch out for anymore.

As I came around this corner, however, things didn't go so well.


This corner drives me around the bend.

As I was busy mucking up a gear change, causing me to end up doing 20MPH, a cyclist cornered sharply on the other side of the road, and into my lane. With the bend being pretty tight, neither me or the cyclist had time to fully come to a halt.

The next thing I knew... huge bang. Particles of glass flew around the cabin. My tyres squealed. A lycra-decked body rolled off the bonnet. All I remember after was going into complete shock and quickly rushing out of the car to make sure the cyclist was alright. I hadn't even put my handbrake on, but my boyfriend in the passenger seat had noticed and quickly pulled it up; I'd also stopped so hard the blind for the sunroof had flown forwards to close itself. Minutes later, I completely collapsed in front of the car in a heap for about 10 minutes, trying to come to terms with what just happened.

Amazingly, nobody was seriously hurt. Cyclist walked away with a broken wrist, a few cuts, and (hopefully) a better mind to take it easy pursuing his hobby. Thankfully, everyone was quick to agree to the police that it was the cyclist at fault. Sure never thought I'd see 999 in my call log on my phone either! Everyone tells drivers not to use public roads as a racetrack... maybe it's time cyclists were warned about it too?

So, here's the outcome of when a bicycle and a car, both doing just over 20, hit each other... It's sure rather more extreme than those old PSA's we used to get in the UK...


Windscreen is completely caved in from where the cyclist bounced off it.


As well as the smashed windscreen, there was broken driver-side wiper (one of those super expensive Bosch ones!), dented bonnet, dented bumper, smashed numberplate, and a few scuffs here and there.


Another angle showing the impact.
His bike is somewhere in that heap in the background, with the front forks and wheel torn off... looks like it was worth at least 5 times as more than I paid for Otis!
Also, massive kudos to the Jaguar driver in the background who witnessed the crash, and stayed and helped me calm down, as well as phone the police for me.


Glass everywhere - going to be finding safety glass all over my stuff for the next few weeks! Always think the shadows the cracked windscreen produces make it look like there was a minor interior fire in here.


Sure does look nasty from the inside. There was even some blood left over in the crevices of the cracks. Cyclist was in pretty good shape to survive that... I'm sure if it had just been a casual cyclist, things would have been far different.

Currently, Otis is sitting in a recovery depo waiting for Autoglass to come repair the windscreen. So, should have him back soon!

Since the cyclist was Belgium, Otis has now received a new nickname... The "Waffle Iron".

Just hoping my next call to breakdown/recovery involves less blood and screaming :lol:.

Also, with someone now with experience... no matter what your transport, take it easy out on the road, yeah? You literally have no idea what's around the corner. :)
 
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Andy_Mk3

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Great start to a diary, great read! As above, 10 points for hitting a cyclist :lol:

The car looks good, sounds like you've covered the bases with plans to tidy it up again. Although your Arizona isn't the lowest model Mk3, you can find them as the well known poverty-spec Merit and LS models, where you would struggle to find a tachometer or even a fuel level light, plus a lack of electric windows and even more basic interior, they really were as basic as they came!
 
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Although your Arizona isn't the lowest model Mk3, you can find them as the well known poverty-spec Merit and LS models, where you would struggle to find a tachometer or even a fuel level light, plus a lack of electric windows and even more basic interior, they really were as basic as they came!
Oh wow, I really am living in luxury here! The tachometer is the only dial that is reading accurate too xD

I always assumed the Merit was slightly-less-low-range, and after looking at how many Arizona's there are left registered here (not a lot; only 153 in 2016!), it just felt like the "throwaway" car of its time. Thanks for clearing that up though :)
 
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Andy

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"The waffle iron" :lol:

Certainly an eventful start to your ownership, good to hear that nobody was seriously hurt (bar some mental scars I imagine lol).

For the 95's it went Merit, LS, GLS, Sport, and the CDX being the full bells and whistles. The Arizona was one of those 'special editions' which were basically an LS or Merit with a flash badge like 'Expression' or 'Montana'.
Not to say there's anything wrong with basic motoring. Having owned an LS with the c14nz, I can say for a FACT, that you can still have just as much of a laugh with only 60 horses and wind up windows.
 
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I can say for a FACT, that you can still have just as much of a laugh with only 60 horses and wind up windows.
Well, I got me some electric windows in the front! Well... one... driver side is broken :frusty:; the motor is broken, and the window is held up with some cable ties.

But yes, even with 60HP, I'm still having fun thanks to the lack of anti-rolls bars... feel like it's gonna tip over sometimes :D.
 

Andy_Mk3

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Oh wow, I really am living in luxury here! The tachometer is the only dial that is reading accurate too xD

I always assumed the Merit was slightly-less-low-range, and after looking at how many Arizona's there are left registered here (not a lot; only 153 in 2016!), it just felt like the "throwaway" car of its time. Thanks for clearing that up though :)
If you go by engine size and find the one and only 2.0 Petrol Arizona in the country, that belongs to TMODAlpha :lol:
 

TMODAlpha

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If you go by engine size and find the one and only 2.0 Petrol Arizona in the country, that belongs to TMODAlpha :lol:
You called? :lol:
Arizona is a mint model. Better spec than the Arctic, because the air con never worked in both of mine.
 
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You called? :lol:
Arizona is a mint model. Better spec than the Arctic, because the air con never worked in both of mine.
Air con? Hah. I'm from the North... we just rough it!

Seriously though, when does it get properly hot in the UK to make A/C worth having...

I never turned on the air-con in my Megane, because I was just worried it would break. And I don't have any in my Astra because 60HP engine. And all the cars I grew up with (Vauxhall Corsa B, Vauxhall Corsa C, Peugeot 106, Citroen C1) didn't/don't have A/C.
 
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Since I mentioned it, here's the aftermarket immobiliser. Sure is great. Key and socket is literally a 1/4 jack; wonder what would happen if I stuck it into a guitar amp :lol:?

Looking forward to the day I loose that key or it breaks, and I have to spend hours trying to pull the system out.

It's also still in the same fuse as the stereo, which was fun when I shorted the stereo out installing it (exposed bit of wire came into contact with the metal frame, and *blam*). Luckily, I was near a garage who happily gave me a new fuse for free. Took out the remaining lights behind the fan knobs too :Cry:.
 

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I have one of those in an old Citroen AX, lost the key and managed to wire it as a push button start :D

Welcome to the forum btw mate :)
 

TMODAlpha

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To be fair I'm always hot so I love my air con. And it's good to clear windows.
 
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Well, insurance called me up to sort out claims. Tried to write it off, but I'd only get £325 back, and it took me forever of sifting through some pretty clapped out cars to find this Astra. So, just paying the £75 excess for the windscreen replacement, and will repair the extra damage myself.

Was almost at 1 year NCB too, but lost it since cyclists "are vulnerable road users". Vulnerable, my ass. The window was almost about to come out of the frame; if the cyclist had been going any faster, he'd have been through the windscreen and crushed me. How come cyclists can use the roads as tracks, and still don't need insurance... doesn't make any sense!

Rather annoyed right now :frusty:.

Went and bought a new plate to cheer myself up...

 
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I have one of those in an old Citroen AX, lost the key and managed to wire it as a push button start :D

Welcome to the forum btw mate :)
Is there anything actually in the key? Are they unique, or does it literally make two ends of a circuit contact each other? Don't want to take the key apart since it's glued together.
 

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I think it just completes a circuit, I lost mine whilst an apprentice, the mechanic I was under sorted it for me to get home with an old button, I just left it like that
 
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Hah, wish I'd started this diary earlier. Came across some pics early on into ownership.

Since the airbox is missing, I threw on an old air filter for the meantime.



Took it out for a long drive, and could hear a knocking noise. Figured it was the air filter banging against the bottom of the bonnet, so I pressed on. Kept on for 4 days, until I finally decided to pop the bonnet at a service station because the knocking was getting worse...

Oh.



...that's probably why it was making weird noises.
 

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