17th August 2020
Since about March this year I have been searching the internet for second hand cars as it was one of my first priorities to resolve once we had a Portuguese address. The second hand car market in Portugal is very different to the UK as 10 year old cars here still keep a good proportion of their value and seem really expensive compared to what you can buy in the UK. Not wanting to spend €3000 to €5000 on something I know we could pick up for £1500 we therefore had two choices, buy something brand new with the knowledge that the price does not plummet once it has rolled out of the showroom or buy something much older for much less, a car that these days in the UK would actually be appreciating in value as a future classic. This spectrum of cars are from the mid 80’s to early 90’s where in Portugal there are numerous still running around as daily drivers but sit in the sub €1000 bracket. These are cars that are no longer seen on the roads in the UK as they are all in the scrap yards, moreover they are the cars of my youth hence I have an emotional attachment to them. Opting for the more ‘exciting’ route of car ownership, I began the search for a 80/90s classic………………
Armed with a list of potential candidates comprising of anything European, preferably in diesel form and with enough space for the dog but also small enough to handle the sometimes tight Portuguese roads. My favourites included Lancia as they have been withdrawn from the UK market for a good while now, the Alfa 33 model also fitted the bill, Fiat Uno Turbo diesels, mark 1 Seat Ibizas, mark 3 Ford Escorts, Renault 9, 11, 5s, first edition Clios with the simple dashboards and brands Peugeot, Citroen and Opel picking off the substitute places.
Using predominantly the website OLX (think Gumtree) I had formed a shortlist but all the good cars were far away in the Lisbon and Porto regions or even further afield. I managed to view and test drive a really nice 1988 mid blue four door Mk 1 Seat Ibiza in Lavos but decided against it as it was €1250 and only had a 900cc petrol engine with about 50bhp.
Determined still to buy something locally to take away the problem of how to collect it I spotted an advert for a 1990 Opel Corsa in 4 door 1.5 turbo diesel format. The Corsa name really did not excite me too much, but once I clicked on the photos of the car I realised it was actually what we would call a Vauxhall Nova, a different animal entirely to a UK Corsa. So that was to be it, we viewed the car in nearby Pombal using the motorhome as transport and then I roped in a Scottish friend called Derren who was living in Costa at the time to help me pick up the car on the first day after the house purchase completion. The timing was perfect!!!
At €650 the car is certainly well used but overall it seemed like good buy, especially as it had a diesel engine. Upon some research I found out the Opel Corsa A as it is known everywhere else in Europe is truly an international car being designed by Opel in Germany, manufactured in a GM factory in Spain and uses an Isuzu diesel engine from Japan. This actual car has another layer of internationalism as it was originally sold brand new in France and was privately imported to Portugal in 1994 meaning the owners handbook that is still in the glove box is in French.
The 1.5 Turbo diesel is quite powerful for a small car.
Our first month or so of ownership has not been without some dramas though as in week two whilst searching for a car park space in an underground car park in Figueira da Foz a BMW managed to reverse straight into it. More worryingly though was that on a weekend away to Cadaval to visit friends, a round trip of about 200kms, after the first 50kms the brakes failed and we had to be towed from Leiria city centre. Upon investigation at my friend Manuel’s workshop it seemed that air was entering the brake system and after a brake service and system bleed hopefully that problem is now solved……..
No damage was caused luckily
The Corsa had a bad day on the way to Cadaval
Overall though I love the car and it’s simplicity as nothing is electric or power assisted. It is really economical and can be left without worry anywhere. Long live our old Portuguese banger, aka ‘The Sausage’!