It’s quite possible I’ve posed this question before, nevertheless, it will be posed again (basically, because it provides a source of light entertainment). Do you know the difference between insurance and assurance? Don’t cheat and resort to a dictionary or leap for your laptop. Come on, do you know the difference? Well, insurance is protection you take out against something that might happen and assurance is against something that will happen.

Therefore, you insure against an accident, theft, breakdown or whatever, because they are merely possibilities. So, what in life is an absolute certainty? Pegging out of course, but that subject is far too morbid to use as a marketing tool for products. Therefore an insurance salesman (I point-blank refuse to use the PC and rather stupid word ‘salesperson’) will try to flog you life assurance when, in fact, it should really be called death assurance.

Great little conundrum that one and it neatly(ish) brings me to the subject of car insurance. The industry has moved on a great deal in the past few years. For example, it’s now part of a national database that holds extensive records on the history of most vehicles. You’ve quite probably seen cars advertised for sale and described as Cat C. That stands for Category C, and means a vehicle has been damaged beyond economic repair but can still be fixed by a competent person.

For example, if you were to have a knock in a second-hand, flash saloon – such as a Jag or Merc – and there was no major bodywork damage, only damage to stuff like parking sensors in the bumper and a rear light (big money), the cost of repairs would easily exceed the value of the car. It’s quite legal to get the car repaired – although the quality of the repair is never checked and also quite legal to sell a car that either needs fixing or has been fixed, provided the vehicle is clearly advertised as carrying a Cat C notice. Got all that?

A while back (yes, a good while back, as always), it wasn’t always like that. You could buy a car from a scrappy, fix it up and flog it on. It was a fairly easy way to make a buck or two, but it’s also naughty if you were in any way a bodger. I knew a bloke who made a living out of damaged cars. He’d buy one and either patch it up or sell it on, as seen. His speciality was joining two halves together. That is, find an undamaged front end and weld it to an unscathed back end. He’d cut through the windscreen pillars and the floor and then they could be paired up without any need to mess around with major visible panels, such as the roof. This was particularly easy with a front-wheel drive car because you didn’t have to mess around with propshaft alignment.

In the back street ‘motah’ game, they were known as joiners or togglers. I bought a joined-up Volkswagen Golf off this geezer and paid, I think, £450. That was a good bit over 30 years ago and was quite a chunk of cash back then. However, the VeeDub was only three years old (well, the bit that carried the number plate was), so it had potential as an earner. The car turned up at my joint on the back of a low-loader and was, basically, a shell with all the bits, bar the engine and transmission, chucked inside. It took me and a mate about a month to piece it all back together and I then painted the completed car.

We spent about £100 on various oddments, got it through an MoT and flogged it for £750. So, a profit of £200, split between the pair of us. Not too bad. I actually sold it to a bloke at work, which was a bit of a risk because I was within firing distance should anything have gone wrong. I was totally honest about its background and, anyway, he was pleased with the price for a car of its age.

The Golf behaved itself, remained reliable and apart from a few odd tantrums, gave no trouble. He sold it after a year and bought a Mini. This proved to be a right little monkey and he eventually sold it to a new girl who had started work in the office. The MoT ‘ticket’ ran out after a few months and it failed on a rusty sub-frame. The inspector detected that the corrosion had been patched up with body filler and then coated in thick, black sealant. This caused a major office disruption and she came close to suing the bloke who sold the car to her. It was ironic that I sold this guy a car that society would have tut-tutted at and he went on to sell another car that, on the face of it, was perfectly straight, yet turned out to be completely dodgy.

Confession time – I checked the Golf’s details on the DVLA and it apparently still exists, although it was last taxed in 1986. I won’t disclose this Mars Red example’s registration just in case it belongs to you. But please take my word for it – it wasn’t half a bad car.