PUBLISHED: 11:41 06 January 2006 | UPDATED: 13:21 28 May 2010
THINKING of buying an inexpensive second-hand car? Found a really cheap one? Then check it out – thoroughly. A back-street industry resurrecting cars from written-off wrecks is pumping a steady supply of four-wheeled Frankensteins on to UK streets. You
THINKING of buying an inexpensive second-hand car? Found a really cheap one? Then check it out - thoroughly. A back-street industry resurrecting cars from written-off wrecks is pumping a steady supply of four-wheeled 'Frankensteins' on to UK streets. You could end up behind the wheel of one.
The problem has been getting worse in recent times, at least according to the AA.
The latest example found by its car inspection engineers was an X-reg Vauxhall Astra 2.0 diesel that started life as a four-door saloon.
It was written off in a crash and then returned to the road as a five-door hatchback. A well-hidden patchwork of welds across the floor and windscreen pillars had transformed this four-star Euro NCAP crash test class leader into a survival lottery should it be involved in another accident.
Vauxhall's UK engineers have condemned the rebuild method on this particular Astra as 'totally reckless and potentially lethal'.
Like many other industry watchdogs, the AA believes that a code of practice on the disposal of severely-damaged vehicles needs to be strengthened with compulsory safety checks of rebuilt write-offs before they are returned to the road.
This would hinder the shady rebuilders who, knowing that a car is listed as written off but repairable, readily admit its write-off status to buyers but claim they have restored the vehicle to "as good as new" and offer it at a bargain price. They can make a profit of at least double the value of the scrap sold to them. Sellers who try to hide a car's history will ask for much more.
The unregulated practice of rebuilding written-off cars applies to all makes and models. Although cut-and-shut vehicles, rebuilt write-offs at their worst, tended to be limited to hot hatches in the early 1990s and four-wheeled vehicles in the mid-1990s, the growing trade in resurrected wrecks has turned to everything from luxury vehicles to inconspicuous runabouts.