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Guide to buying an ‘old banger’

I recently bought a used car from auction and I have become enamoured of the specific vocabulary and euphemisms used when describing and discussing used cars. Buyers who are not au fait with this arcane language should beware, however, and I feel it my duty to publish this very necessary ‘guide’.

Type / condition of car:
My recently purchased car is about 10 years old and with no service history – as such it can be termed a dodgy motor, or at the very least an old banger. One hopes though, that at least it is not a ringer, a car that has been stolen and has been disguised as a legitimate vehicle; or even worse a cut and shut, a car that has been in a head-on collision and has had its undamaged rear-end welded to a different, undamaged front-end of the same model.

Make of car:
There are many makes and models of car and some of these have acquired their own soubriquets: Pug for a Peugeot; Beamer for a BMW and not forgetting the Dagenham Dustbin, a derogatory term for all Ford cars made in that area of London in the 1970s and 80s. I should say in Ford’s defence that they made some iconic cars during that period, not least the classic Ford Cosworth, workhorse of every self-respecting British police force and lovingly nicknamed the Cozzie.

Car parts:
Cars are, of course, complex machines and thus, second-hand buyers should be aware of the existing language for the various parts of a car. Here are a few of my favourites:

Term                          Part
anchors                       brakes
marshmallows          air bags
jugs                               cylinders
bidet                             rear wash/wipe system

A seller may sum up his car like this:

‘It’s got all yer marshmallows, plenty of ice, an’ a bidet in the back. You’ve got a big bore to keep the horses quiet and it stands well.’

Which translates as:

‘This car encompasses current safety features, in-car entertainment and a rear wash/wipe. The large exhaust can cope well with the powerful engine and the suspension is excellent.’

Once you have purchased your second-hand vehicle, you may adore it to such a degree that you feel it necessary to pimp it, meaning to add various modifications, extra lights and so on. Be careful though, go over the top and you’ll end up with a Kev car … see Sharon Creese’s blog for further clarification of this!

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Beth Penfold


  • Great post!

    I’d never heard the term ‘Banger’ used to describe an old car until I came to the UK. Back home (Canada) they’re known as a ‘Beater’. One of those words that clearly means the same thing but has been regionalised for the sake of it!


  • Very useful post for next time we have to deal with an ‘Arfur Daley’ type used-car salesman!

    Many of those much-loved police Cozzies would also have been known as ‘jam sandwiches’ due to their red-and-white striped paint job.

    I remember a few other soubriquets too – ‘Dolly’ for the old Triumph Dolomite, ‘Moggie’ for Morris Minor, and of course ‘Bug’ for the VW Beetle!

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