After a long weekend of searching around, calling dealers and - more often than not - discovering that the car I wanted had already been sold, I've finally found a decent ride. It's an R reg (1998) Ford Fiesta 1.25l Zetec with a little over 40,000 miles on it. It seems in good shape, but I probably wouldn't know a bad car unless it actually exploded on the test drive.
What pisses me off, though, is that I was looking at a much better car earlier in the day. I found a Fiesta on the Internet that was a year newer, had 15,000 fewer miles on the clock and looked, if you'll forgive the language, fucking cool. Diamond black (is that any different than regular black?) stunning alloys, electric windows, power steering, central locking and a nice CD player, and just a few hundred quid more than the one I ended up buying. I couldn't get through to the dealer on the phone so I drove out in my temporary company car to the dealership. As I approached I saw that the car was still in front, and wandered around it in awe for a few minutes, drooling all over the paintwork. After I reached a dangerous level of dehydration the dealer sauntered out and told me it had been sold last week. Were they just trying to torture me by leaving it out on show? We'll never know - I tore out the guys lungs and threw them into traffic. Grrr.
Anyway. I went on to another showroom and settled on a different Fiesta. It's cheaper, but it doesn't look quite as good and doesn't have the features of the other one (apart from power steering and a sunroof). Both front tyres are a little worn and it wants to wander to the left but otherwise it seems great. I got him to replace both front tyres, realign the tracking, tax the car and get a fresh MoT and agreed on a price. I can finally pick it up Wednesday.
So, all in all this has been a weekend that cost me a couple of thousand pounds more than I'd planned to spend, but otherwise it was good.