When I wrote my last COAL post in January 2022, let’s just say I had no idea of the sort of year that was in store for my country as a whole. I wrote a previous draft of this piece a few months ago with lots of details about what was going on, but CC is a car site so I guess politics from anywhere really should be kept away. The short version is that decades of bad governing decisions came home to roost in 2022, and we found ourselves in chaos for most of the year.
If you want to know more, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-61028138 gives an overview of what was going on at the time. Proper viva la revolucion! stuff.
Anyway things have settled into some sort of quiet now, though we’re still broke and hoping for an International Monetary Fund bailout, life is a little better than it was in mid 2022, when we had zero fuel (resulting in multiple day long lines at fuel stations) and no electricity for the majority of the day, as well as shortages of basically everything. Messing around with cars sort of pales into insignificance when faced with all of the above, but speaking for myself, it helped me hang onto my sanity while dealing with the storm of excrement that 2022 brought, while also adjusting to becoming a parent in the middle of all of it. Probably because of that, my little fleet saw the highest amount of turnover it has ever seen, and I ended up selling three cars and buying four over the course of the year. Here’s how that went.
Goodbye No 1: BMW E30
Shortly after the E30 got its post, the steering rack, joint and wheel arrived so those were put on, improving the driving feel of the car even more. I discovered some spots of rust beginning underneath, so those were cleaned up and resprayed, and the dents were pulled by a PDR shop. A few more details were attended to, like new wheel cap badges and a bit more interior tidying up. After all that was done the car was treated to a professional detail and came out looking rather nice.
Not bad, right?
unfortunately by this point we were in the middle of a fuel crisis so driving for pleasure was out of the question, meaning the car sat for a couple of months. meanwhile fuel was getting increasingly hard to find (except for ordinary diesel, which was needed for public transport, goods transport and so on, ensuring at least some level of availability). Meanwhile my Mazda 2 could only run on premium (95 RON) petrol, and while the Surf ran on standard (92 RON), it used rather a lot of it, so I started thinking about getting something economical, diesel fueled and cheap as a “crisis mobile”. One day my friend who puts a lot of thought into tires casually mentioned that another friend was looking for something like an E30 and would I be interested in selling? I said I wasn’t actively thinking about it but they were welcome to have a look. They showed up within a couple of days and told me they’d been to look at almost every E30 on sale at the time, finding all of them to be rusty, missing bits or some other form of broken. Mine had no such issues and it quickly became evident that they were very interested indeed. Since I did rather like the car, I threw out a number that I felt was very high, certainly higher than any E30 sale price I had heard about. I was expecting a counter offer of course, but they just said they would take it without missing a beat! Occasionally I’m smart enough to know when to make the most of a good opportunity, so I waved goodbye to the E30 without feeling too bad. Some of the proceeds from the sale were funneled into a cheap, diesel powered beater, which will be discussed in an upcoming post.
Final picture I took of the E30, about to depart with the new oner (cropped to edit them out).
Goodbye No 2: Mazda 2
As I mentioned in my COAL post for this car, while it was doing a great job being a fun and economical daily driver, the cramped rear seat was a problem, which only became more pronounced when my daughter’s rather large car seat was fitted. In order for the seat to fit, the front passenger seat had to be moved so far forward that only someone without any legs would be able to sit there. Since the majority of people likely to be front passengers were actually in possession of these appendages, this was not really sustainable, so the little Mazda had to go. It didn’t end up going very far, because my sister and her husband were looking to upgrade their car and the 2 would be the perfect fit for them. Naturally they got a large discount from the market rate when they took it over in June, and they remain very happy with it.
Like I said before, truly a Great Little Car
As for me, I don’t truly miss the 2 because the replacement (which was originally going to be something safe, boring, economical and practical, but eventually went in a….. different direction) is a car I REALLY enjoy owning, but it is considerably older and has stuff that needs doing, so I guess I kind of miss having a new-ish car, on which everything just works.
Goodbye No 3: Toyota Surf
This is the one that I’m already sort of regretting because I fully intended to keep this truck for several years. However, one of the many results of 2022’s events in Sri Lanka was the price of fuel quadrupling within a few months, along with consumables like tires and all auto parts. Given that the replacement for the Mazda ended up being something distinctly not economical on fuel (and needed premium/95 RON), I decided we needed something that could run on normal (92 RON) petrol like the Surf and use less of it overall. The cost of some suspension work and replacement tires also ended up being rather shocking (due to the fact our currency lost half its value against the US Dollar over a couple of days), making me that keeping it would not be affordable, so after some discussion on the home front, we sadly put the Surf up for sale. It only took a couple of weeks to sell and was bought by a guy who lives in the US and has a 4 Runner there, who wanted to keep this at his parents house here. We were genuinely sad to see it go, but the proceeds from the sale helped us to cover some upcoming expenses with plenty left over to look for a replacement.
This was really quite sad.
This time too the criteria were supposed to be; as new as possible, safe as possible, economical and boringly reliable as well as easy and cheap to maintain. I was pretty far along the path of getting something that met those criteria, but then a seemingly very good example of a car I have always wanted to own appeared, and well… you’ll hear about that pretty soon.
I had no idea there was so much going on in Sri Lanka. I work with two Sri Lankan immigrants (one in the US and one in our Denmark office) and I’m sure they worry.
If they have family back here, they probably have been worried. You’re also likely to be seeing a lot more immigrants from here because SO MANY PEOPLE are looking to get the hell out.
Wow, tough times .
Good to hear you’re working your way out of it .
Thanks Nate, yeah taking it one day at a time.
One day at a time, plod along, that’s what I do .
You’re one of the good guys and many care about you and your family .
Sajiv, whenever I heard about the crises going on in Sri Lanka, I wondered how you were doing since your COAL series was still fresh in my mind. I’m glad that things are looking better now. I’m actually surprised you were able to find buyers for the cars relatively quickly.
Relatedly, I’m also surprised that you were able to find a cheap, diesel powered beater, since it would seem that that type of car would be heavily in demand. I’m looking forward to reading about it.
I completely understand the issues with Mazda and your daughter’s car seat. I had the same problem when my first kid was born, with my Ford Contour. The Contour was widely panned for having an inadequately-sized rear seat, but I actually found it acceptable… until I tried to fit a baby seat back there. That giant rear-facing infant seat couldn’t go behind the driver or passenger because those seats would have to be pushed up so far as to render them unusable. We kept the baby seat in the middle of the rear seat for that reason, but when baby #2 was born, the situation became a bit tougher to resolve. We sold the car shortly thereafter.
Sajiv, I’ve been somewhat following the events in Sri Lanka and wondered how you and your family were doing.
Thanks guys. We’ve been a lot more fortunate than most because we’ve just had to do some belt tightening and be even more careful with expenses. Working in the agriculture industry also help a lot as it’s one of the few that remained somewhat insulated.
@Eric703, The used car market has remained surprisingly robust in the midst of all of this. There was a huge spike in prices right after the currency devaluation, but that was not sustainable so now things have returned to a lower level (but still high by any sane standards). The fact that new car imports have not been available since 2020 and seem likely to remain unavailable for a while probably helps.
I picked up the diesel beater when things were just starting to look grim, so I guess it was before other people got the same idea.
Glad to see an update and glad that things are looking up; here in the US the focus seems to be on events domestically, then Europe and East Asia so I wasn’t really aware of what’s happening in Sri Lanka. Good luck! While partisan politics probably don’t belong here at CC, local economics, conflict or even yes, politics do play a huge part in our lives so it’s important to understand the context. Switching to cars, I don’t know if child car seats have gotten bigger but almost 30 years ago we had no issues fitting two child seats, though one forward facing and one a backward facing infant seat, in our E100 Corolla. Though it was easier in our 80 Series Land Cruiser.
Thanks dman. We remain hopeful. Car seats have definitely gotten a LOT bigger I think.
Glad you have survived! I have always followed your posts with interest and enjoy your humorous, self deprecating stories. I have been following the whole Sri Lanka WEF ESG saga and have been hoping that you, your family and all Sri Lankans would survive ok.
Despite what happened in your country, these evil, anti-human policies are still being promoted in the rest of the world – look at what is happening to Dutch farmers! We need to learn the lessons from your “storm of excrement”, as you so aptly put it….
As to your fleet – modern child car seats are, as you say, absolutely huge, much bigger than 20 years ago (and much safer), dictating cars with large rear legroom. Our over 5 meter long SUV can accommodate these ok, but, when it came to a compact “shopping/dog/bike” car, we had to think carefully. We ended up with a Skoda Yeti – basically a box on wheels with a ton of space inside. My now 6 year old son loves the thing… “Conventional” compacts such as a Corolla, or your Mazda 2 cannot fit one without unacceptable compromises for front seat passengers, as you said.
I cant wait to see what your beater and non-sensible fleet replacements turn out to be – please don’t leave it long before you tell us.!
Thanks Huey, that means a lot. We are still not out of the woods by a long shot, mainly because our politicians are seeing this as an opportunity for power grabbing, but I guess we will see.
I would LOVE something like a Yeti but unfortunately we never got them here. And my daughter’s seat is rather larger than average, so it needed a lot of space during the rear facing phase. One member of the fleet is kind of a box on wheels, but a smaller box than a yeti. I’ll have the rest of the updates up soon.
Can’t wait Sajiv! Power to you – politicians are there to serve their people, not the other way round – I hope things work out well in the end.
And your remark about our hobby as a way to preserve sanity during a nasty situation was very apt…
Looking forward to your next COAL series – I quite enjoyed the last one. It’s always interesting to read about how our cars are there with us through various stages of our lives, whatever we happen to be doing and going through. It’s also good to see that you’re hanging in there despite the problems in Sri Lanka. There’s always good to be found and things that make us smile no matter the political situation.
Thanks dman. It’s not so much a series as it is a couple of posts, but I do hope you’ll enjoy reading.
In the final photo, a decal above the license plate resembles the “longhorn” logo of the University of Texas? Is this right? You said the new owner has a USA connection? Is that part of the story?
Arkansas Razorback here
Sorry this is so late, somehow missed the notification for your comment Lee. Yes that decal is in fact the longhorn logo of the University of Texas, the previous owner is an alumnus. I kept it on since it was part of the history of the truck.