With a car that cost less than £100, and a roadtrip of more than a 1000 miles ahead of us, myself and 3 friends Gav, Fozzy and Jon, were all fired up and raring to hit the road to the farthest reaches of Scotland and back. We dubbed the trip ‘4 Lads 1 Crap Car.’

Filled with the excitement and energy only the first day of a vacation can bring, we loaded our luggage into the back of our ‘crap car,’ a Rover 420 D. The dented and scratched stone grey car with its electric windows and electric sunroof seemed almost too luxurious to be called a ‘crap car.’ We all agreed that we could have done a lot worse with our £100 budget. Indeed, after the seller gave us £5 for diesel and finding £1.25 in change in various places throughout the vehicle, the car effectively cost just £93.75.

Like all old cars it wasn’t without its quirks. A long brake and soft throttle peddle were par for the course, but a problem with the wiring meant that the car had to be push started or hot-wired into life.

On the morning of our departure Gav’s neighbors looked on and laughed as we made several runs up and down the road pushing the car, noisily willing it to start, but try as we may the Rover steadfastly refused to wake from slumber.

In the end, after a visit from the RAC and replacing the starter motor, Jon realised that the car had a factory fitted immobolizer. With a simple press of the button on the key fob we were in business, albeit a little later than planned and somewhat embarrassed at our less than impressive problem solving skills. Lesson one = Always read the manual!

Initially we had planned to avoid all motorways, electing instead to use the smaller more interesting roads. However, given our later than expected departure we decided to take to the M6 to make up time with the hope of reaching Edinburgh by evening as planned.

At 7:30pm we crossed the border from England to Scotland, stopping to take a picture by the large ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign. Not long after that we found a camp site, set up our tent, then headed into Edinburgh for dinner and beer.


Following an unexpectedly cold night in the tent we were up bright and early. After a hearty breakfast of what Jon dubbed “an entire farmyard” we were back on the road heading north through Edinburgh where I snapped the worst ever picture of a Scotsman playing bagpipes!

Having not touched a drop of alcohol, despite the fact that we stopped at a local distillery for a dram or two of Whisky, Jon authoritatively informed us that Loch Ness ran the entire length of Scotland. But what he lacked in geographic knowledge he certainly made up for in speed. We quickly nicknamed our speedy friend ‘Motorway Jon’ on account of the fact he seemed to be driving as if he believed they might move John O’Groats before we got there.

Occasionally stopping to snap pictures and (allegedly) enhance roadside speed cameras, we continued north, consuming miles like a fat kid chomping through a bag full of McNastiness.

Visiting various distilleries along the way Gav, Foz, and I did our best to fake intellectual interest in the free Scotch on what could only be described as some kind of low budget ‘Down it and Dash Whisky tour.’

One distillery reluctantly let us in for a tasting with just five minutes before they closed. We chugged the delicately crafted and carefully aged Whisky like it was cheap Tequila served in a Mexican whore house.

The sturdy Scottish lady serving us then rudely told us to leave by simply saying “Go now” and showing us the door. Apparently our accelerated enjoyment methods are not widely adopted by Single Malt drinking Whisky connoisseurs.

Finding a camp site for the second night proved difficult as site owners told us they only took families and couples and not groups. With this in mind I called another site and when told they only took families and couples I told them we were two gay couples.

I was initially met with silence before the man on the phone asked me if we were married. This threw me somewhat, so I claimed that one of us was a married gay couple and the other were fairly serious about their gay love.

Again there was a brief pause as the person on the phone relayed this information to someone else in the background (possibly his wife).
“You’re married?” He asked again in his hard Scottish accent.
“Yes.” I answered.
“And you’re gay!?” He exclaimed in a tone filled with shock and disbelief. Presumably he wasn’t interested in the answer because with that he said something else that I couldn’t quite understand, then hung up on me.

Eventually we found a site that was prepared to take a group and after a ‘Jon Style’ barbecue, a few beers, and a game of pool in a local pub, we settled in for the night in our tent.

Our sleep, if you can call it that, was punctuated by heavy trucks passing just inches from us on one side with freight trains making the ground shake as they passed only a few feet away on the other side. Then at some ungodly hour Foz left the tent to find relief in the bushes, shattering the brief moment of silence in which sleep may have dwelled.


The next day I took the wheel and livened things up by doing a handbrake turn in the grounds of some grandiose historic castle. A little later I took a wrong turn and drove the wrong way down a one way street. As disgusted locals glared at us I lent out of the window saying “Sorry, don’t be angry, we’re French.”

Pretty soon we were pulling into John O’Groats, the most popular northerly settlement of mainland Great Britain. Spirits were high as we saw the coastline where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, and as we climbed out of our crap car at the top of our island we all felt a sense of achievement. Our £93.75 car and us had made it to John O’Groats!

With a bottle of cheap champagne each we made our way down to the beach and sprayed their contents into the air like winning race car drivers. For me, this was a highlight. Sure, we hadn’t scaled Mount Everest or navigated our way to the North Pole, but we had made it to John O’Groats and as minor as that might be, it was a goal achieved, and a moment in friendship I doubt any of us will soon forget.

John O’Groats itself is an uninspiring charmless place, more attractive in the imagination than the fact. The average length of a visit here is reportedly just ten minutes and it’s not hard to see why. There is a disused and crumbling old hotel, an overpriced coffee shop, some temporary buildings, and a signpost manned by an odd little man in a century box who will take your picture for a fee.

Of course, we had to have our picture taken by the sign with the car we had now named ‘Defiance.’ The odd little man muttered incoherently as we posed by our crap car on what would surely be it’s final adventure. A little while later, after another hotwired start, we were back on the road, this time heading south… Heading for home.


From the top of Scotland we set a course for home through the rugged and rolling highlands of the breathtakingly spectacular west coast. By now the brakes on the car were seriously soft as the brake pads were pretty much completely worn down. Gav raised some concern about the cars deteriorating ability to come to a timely stop, but this far from home our options were limited. We had little choice but to continue and try to use the brakes sparingly.

The scenery in this part of the world is simply awesome, enough even to bring ‘Motorway Jon’ to a halt from time to time. We would stop beside the road, get out of the car and just stand in awe at the scenes before us.

The rapidly changing weather only added drama to vistas that made me wish I were a painter. Cotton wool clouds clung to mountain tops while sun beams pierced through gaps in dark blanket clouds resting over lush green valleys. For a while our car, usually alive with banter, was brought to silence.

With the evening drawing in we found a camp site to pitch our tent and settled in for the night. Another barbecue dinner was washed down with beer as darkness descended upon us bringing our third day on the road to a close.


Having slept in every single item of clothing I had brought with me, I awoke early, revived and full of life. The others were still asleep so I went for a walk to watch the dawn, but it was cold and I got bored so I headed back to the tent to wake the lads up. Oddly enough they didn’t seem appreciate my hearty rendition of ‘Morning Has Broken’ or any of the other songs I sang until they got up.

As we dismantled the tent we were swarmed by the most ferocious miniature mosquitoes. Such was the scale of their attack that we simply threw everything into the car and made off like bank robbers. As we sped away we hung our heads out of the window to blow the mosquitoes off our faces. Somehow I managed to escape relatively unscathed but the lads were so badly bitten that they looked like they had some kind of contagious disease!

From breakfast in Ullapool we sped south stopping frequently for photographs that would surely do the subject matter little justice. With our ever fading brakes now making excruciatingly painful noises we scraped our way down to Loch Ness (that runs the entire length of Scotland don’t you know!), through the valleys of Ben Nevis and Glencoe, and on to Loch Lomond and Glasgow. By the evening we had once again crossed the border into England, finding a campsite in north Cumbria for our last night on the road.


As we drove the last few miles toward home I thought about how I would remember this road trip, how I would read the twitter posts we had made through the week, and how I would write about this on my blog. I wondered about the moments and phrases that will be recalled in the future, the memories that will stay with each of us, frozen in time like flickering traces of crystal locked forever in stone.

Maybe I’m just the sentimental type, but as we began seeing signs for familiar places I thought about how this road trip, how 4 Lads 1 Crap Car, will stand in our history like a pin in a map.

It’s times like these that make all the rainy days and pointless meetings at work worthwhile. Memories like these that add flavor to who we are as we soak up the richness and color of these stories over the years.

Despite the fact that all of us could easily have afforded to make the roadtrip in a far better vehicle, or travel to a more expensive getaway location, here we were laughing and having a blast in a car that cost just £93.75 and that got us all the way to the top of our island and back again.

So as we neared the end of our 1000 mile road trip I was happy to once again learn that of all the things we ascribe value to in the world, the most valuable of things in life rarely has a price tag to match.

Gav, Jon, Fozzy… Thanks guys, I had a blast!

FOOTNOTE: The lads and I decided that we would donate any money we made from scrapping the car to a local childrens hospice and a charity that helps Britain”s wounded soldiers. Amazingly we sold the car for £120 to a scrap metal dealer, so we will be donating £100 to Claire House and £20 to Help for Heroes.

4 Lads 1 Crap Car Twitter posts
4 Lads 1 Crap Car video in HQ
4 Lads 1 Crap Car (Pre-journey post)
As summer fades (Part 2)
What a start