The Accidental Almera

The car market is a fickle one dependent on the vagaries of oil prices and the subjectiveness of consumer choice. One year may appear short but what was popular may not be as I found out with the overtly unpretentious Nissan Almera.

In the summer of 2011, whilst mooching around one large salvage dealer in Cheshire, I spotted one car, unrecognisable by the absence of a front end. That is, bumper, lights and radiator were missing although the badge on the back revealed it to be a Nissan Almera in mint pre-accident condition that looked like it had a Northern Irish registration plate of three letters followed by four digits. A chat in the office elicited that this model was from 2006, one year before the Almera’s eventual deletion.

I liken myself to an Accident Investigator; examining what the car collided with for it to be written off. The front bumper was unceremoniously shoved across the back seats revealing that it had hit a tow bar as there was a clear impression of a circle on the bumper which had also buckled the radiator and air-con unit draining coolant with harmful refrigerant gases. As the impact was low down, chassis legs were avoided and there was no airbag deployment. Keys were asked for and the Almera ignited first time although struggled to reach over 1000rpm even with pedal to metal – throttle sensor knocked out, perhaps? With slam panel pushed against the exhaust manifold and the fusebox cracked, this could have been another cause of throttle hesitancy. Positively, I suspected that the registration plate could be worth money; even better was that the price had just been reduced from £900 to £750 with A1 Almera’s on the market worth around £4000. Surprisingly, the digital milometer proudly displayed 15500 miles that equated with the unworn interior and bodywork- front end excepted.

Another £60 transported said car to Mike the Mechanic’s garage and there it lay for two, yes two years – nice one Mike. Meanwhile I’d sourced most parts for a reasonable £130 off an unlucky man in Sheffield who had the misfortune of a snapped chain cambelt on his 2004 model. Gunmetal grey was a shade darker than the silver needed although he helped me strip the parts. Sonny, the bodywork man got to work on straightening the front end and it was decided to cut out and replace the slam panel as it was twisted and we didn‘t want any random bonnet breathing, Renault Clio – style.

The throttle problem remained however despite a replacement throttle body with crank sensor. When buying category C cars that were “accident damaged”, you have to budget for more problems as parts often get pilfered whilst the car is static and the force of the impact can cause other problems from suspension to electrics. Impatiently yet curiously, I placed an advert for the Almera in the local paper and had four interested calls – yet the car was still not ready so I thought, opportunity knocks. Why not source another car for a waiting customer? so that is what I did, travelling to Fleetwood for a 30k miler that had been part-exchanged at the local garage and had subsequently been bought by a trader. That weekend, I spent about three hours cleaning it and with only one interested party remaining, arranged a viewing on the following frosty Sunday morning. It remains the easiest money I have made on a sale in England – an £800 profit for a waiting customer. As Del Boy said, “Who dares, wins!”

The Almera was a popular car and judging by enquiries are revered by Asian, African and the elderly populace; the latter diligently practise push-pull steering yet Nissan didn’t rustproof oil sumps so they would rot through relieving you of £50 from Mr. Scrappy. The 1497cc petrol unit can achieve big mileages provided the oil is changed every ten thousand miles although £10 of petrol would only get you 80 miles and taxation is high at £175 for one year.

Nevertheless, the summer of 2013 came literally this time and the accident-damaged Almera had to be coerced out of its hiding place. With bodywork straight and painted, the only obstacle to the Almera’s action was that throttle issue. Interestingly, one of Mike’s mechanics had been online and had been advised to swap relays around and incredibly after TWO years, the Almera exceeded the 1000 rpm marker! With MOT certificate gained with no advisories, the Nissan was ready for the road with an unexpected phone call for that private registration so I am awaiting £175 which when deducted from total costs of car, parts and repair amounts to £1848.41. I’ll be advertising the Almera shortly for £2750, priced accordingly because of that accident history but it could have been sold years ago and for much more. So, the moral of that story is to inspect a damaged car as well as choose your repairer carefully!

Words, photos and film are copyright of Sotiris Vassiliou

January 2014