I've often thought this would make a great idea for an episode of either Top Gear or The Grand Tour. Sadly, I'm not speaking to Harris and his cronies, and apart from that Camper Van Holiday episode - Clarkson and CO, NEVER listen to my ideas.
So how does it work?
Well, the concept is simple. The three presenters are dropped off far from home with a wallet full of cash. They're already furnished with 'drive anything' insurance. All they're allowed is the wallet full of cash. The race? Purchase a cheap used car and drive it home. First one back wins.
Would this actually work?
Well, that's the thing. I asked myself this question. I picked a random postcode in Glasgow and did an Autotrader search for £500 local cars which ran and had an MOT. Given the eye-wateringly extortionate cost of trains in the UK, the theory is you could buy the car, drive it home and then sell it, getting home really cheaply. Here's what was on offer:-
If you're interested you can pick up this fine piece of machinery here:-
I think what we have here, to quote Richard Hammond, is a 307 'with a hat on'. I can imagine this being the sort of tub my good friend James May might roll up at the meeting point in. It's sensible, practical people-carrier which happens to have basically been to the moon in mileage terms. The alloys are a bit scuffed, but what do you expect for £500? When you read the details, it appears pretty much the entire car has been replaced. When you factor in it's only really got to get you back to the tent, I think it'd stand a fighting chance of making it. It's only the 1.6 too so as long as Clarkson wasn't given access to the accelerator the change left to buy fuel should suffice too!
If none of our intrepid trio were keen a Peugeot, then this would be another option. It's a low mileage Werther's Original. Your granddad probably owned one of these when they were new. It's more 'James May' than donning a flowery shirt, saying 'oh cock', itemising your toolbox, and going wine-tasting. Sadly, it doesn't have the in-car Gramophone. All that said and done, the owner has swapped out the auto box for a manual and it's a genuinely low-mileage example with a nice red velour interior. The only issue advertised is the lack of a working speedometer, but if Clarkson chose this he wouldn't care - he'd just try to use it as an excuse when he got pulled over.
If you fancy taking on this 'cheap car challenge' you can pick this beast up here. (Apparently he's looking for a quick sale and is 'willing to negotiate')
I see this as perhaps the choice young Mr. Hammond might consider. Not because he's small, but simply because I can't see him in a Peugeot or Rover. The Ford KA was basically a biscuit tin with an engine and about as safe as serving Clarkson 'cold cuts'. However it's been thrown together with components out of the Ford parts bin so should be reasonably reliable. If someone saw you piloting this rolling joke down the road, you could always lie and tell them it's your girlfriend's. I admit they'd probably be questioning your taste in girlfriends, but at least their opinion on your taste in cars would be preserved. If the Grand Tour DO decide to do this challenge, I sincerely hope Mr. Hammond doesn't choose this car. I'm not sure a motorway crash in a Ford KA is survivable - even by a man who has 9 lives and seems to be more or less indestructible.
If you've always wanted to die in a motoring accident you can pick up this bargain basement 'shopping trolley' here, you never know it might become a classic!
Now this might be pushing the boat out a bit. If the budget for the challenge was £600, well there'd be less to go on fuel with this one. However, it's only a 1.0 l so it should be the most economical. There was a time when a car like this would have been painted bright orange and fitted with whale-tail spoiler and a window-shatteringly loud stereo. You must remember them! The old sheep in wolf's clothing cars, where they'd chop one coil off the spring to lower it and spend more money on a set of alloys than the actual car was worth! You could relive Vauxhall's heyday and you'd have a really cheap donor for your modified monster. Challenge-wise, I certainly think this would get you back to Chipping Norton. It might not be the fastest, but it's just possible you'd need one less fuel stop than the other options. That could secure you a win.
If you live in Glasgow and you're looking for a bargain run-about, you can pick up this piece of nostalgia here.