You may have noticed in Part 8 that my savings didn’t drop very much through December when compared to previous months. There’s a good reason for that - Sacrifice.

I’ve always said that if computers didn’t exist I’d be a mechanic. For as long as I can remember two things have really fascinated me: computers, and cars. As a young child I’d read any car books I could lay my hands on (this was pre-Internet), I didn’t understand a lot of it, but I was able to gain a basic understanding of how a 4-stroke engine operated. I’d also spend hours leafing through my Dad’s old Haynes Manuals, I loved seeing how all the seemingly simple pieces went together to form something as complex as a car.

At the same time I was also learning BASIC and programming shitty text-based adventure games. I was soon building computers from any assorted parts I was able to lay my hands on.

Anyway, back to cars. I’ve had a few of them, 7 at last count, but my favourite was my Mazda RX8. I was vaguely aware of the Wankle rotary engine in the late 90’s, when it powered the Mazda RX7, but it wasn’t until the RX8 that I really wanted one. Although a lot companies have dabbled in rotary engined vehicles, including Mercedes, Citroen, Chevrolet and even Norton Motorcycles, Mazda were the only company to stick with it. The first time I heard an RX8 revving I was intrigued, and the more I learned about the rotary engine, the more I wanted one.

While physically small, with displacement of only 1.3 litres, the RX8’s rotary engine generates over 200 horse power, and red lines at nearly 10,000 RPM. This is due to it operating more like a 2-stroke engine, essentially having twice as many power strokes per revolution. And with spinning triangular rotors, instead of reciprocating pistons, the engine runs incredibly smoothly, and makes a noise like nothing else.

Of course, Rotary engines aren’t as perfect as I’ve made them sound, otherwise we’d all be using them. They’re not particularly efficient, and burn oil by design. They also require quite a lot of maintenance, and failure to keep up with the maintenance can cause engine failure, requiring an expensive rebuild. Emissions is where they really fall down, and in fact it was the RX8’s inability to meet modern CO2 emission requirements that caused it to be discontinued. But none of that bothered me.

I’d first looked into getting an RX8 back in 2010, but as I was just starting my second foray into freelancing, I opted for something more sensible, and bought a Ford Focus. It wasn’t until October 2014, when I was looking for my next car, and saw a 2003 Mazda RX8 for sale locally. It needed some work, but had a full service history, 60k miles, and the engine was sound, so I bought it, and very quickly fell in love with it.

I called her “Rosie” (all my cars have names), she was my first rear wheel drive car, and she handled like nothing I’d ever driven. Rosie was a bit of a project, and spent a lot of time with pieces in my garage, but I loved every minute of working on her.

Basic maintenance was first up - 4 new tyres, new brake pads, oil and filter change. Then I replaced and upgraded the entire ignition system, replaced the non-working CD player, fixed a few little things like a broken battery box, and windscreen washer bottle. I gave her a thorough clean, including a day of clay-baring. After a good polish and wax, that blue paint looked beautiful.

She’d always had a slight coolant leak, so I decided I would upgrade the entire cooling system to fancy blue silicone hoses to match her paint. It was going to be a hell of a job, and I’d need to remove a lot of parts from the engine bay, so I hatched a plan - remove the engine entirely and give it a rebuild. That way while the engine was in pieces I could get it ported, because more power :)

In July 2015, I put her up on axle stands and started stripping the engine bay in preparation for the big engine removal:

Then in September, as you probably know, I fired all my freelance clients and started working on BugMuncher full time. Suddenly I had a lot less spare time and money, and poor Rosie spent the next two months on my drive way, on axle stands, with half the engine bay in my garage.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. I just want to drill home how much I love cars, particularly my RX8. It’s important to the story, as in November, having not done any work on her for over 2 months, I made the difficult decision to sell her.

With time and money in short supply, I knew I was never going to get round to finishing her. Worse still, while I could easily fix the leak and put her back together, the running costs would mean I’d hardly ever drive her, and might even struggle to keep up with the maintenance. Faced with that prospect, I knew that now was not the time for me to be owning an RX8. So many are being scrapped, that they’re becoming rarer by the day, I didn’t want Rosie end up like that, so I had to sell her to someone who would be able to keep her on the road.

Having already bought the upgraded silicone hoses, I spent a weekend replacing all the old rubber hoses, thus fixing the leak, as well as flushing and replacing the engine coolant. It didn’t take me long to get her all back together and legal (taxed and insured). It was great to be able to drive her again, but in the beginning of December I listed her on ebay.

I sold her to another RX8 enthusiast who’d previously owned one, so I knew she’d be in good hands. I parted with Rosie in exchange for £2,100. A massive loss when taking into account how much I’d spent on her in my ownership. In fact, I probably chose the worst possible time to sell her, RX8 values are at an all time low, and petrol is less than £1 / litre for the first time in years. However, I’d now be able to put some of that money into my savings, and spend the rest on something cheaper to run.

Something like this 2000 Audi A4 with 110k miles:

I’ve named her Amy, and she cost me just £700. So after the cost of tax and insurance, as well as some other essential purchases (Xbox Ones are essential, right? It was a Christmas present, from me, to me) I was able to put an extra £700 in my savings, which is why my savings didn’t drop very much through December. Although my accountant has just informed me that I need to pay £650 off my student loan by the end of January, so easy come, easy go. However, had I not sold Rosie, that student loan bill would have made a sizeable dent in my savings.

I feel like these posts should have some kind of comparison table, so here it is:

  Rosie (Mazda RX8) Amy (Audi A4)
Model Year 2003 2000
Milage 61,000 110,000
Horse power 228 bhp 123 bhp
Drive Rear Wheels Front Wheels
Gearbox 6 speed 5 speed
Drives Like It's on rails It has sails
Real world efficiency 15 mpg 30 mpg
Road tax £290 £230

So as you can see, Amy only wins on the boring stats, but that’s the kind of car I need to have right now. It’s a sacrifice I was willing to make, and I don’t regret selling Rosie - right now BugMuncher is my priority. One day, when BugMuncher has been turning a profit for a while, I’ll definitely get another RX8 :)

- Matt