What cars are classics? Well, they all become classics eventually. It's the low survival rate of most cars which makes them become classics: if not because of their value then because of their absence from every day life. Plus nostalgia of course.
There's no definition of what a classic actually is. A modern expensive car may be an instant 'classic' but so too is yesteryear's unreliable piece of tin. Value, make, engine size, age and style have nothing to do with it. If you like the look of a particular car and have an interest in it, then that's good enough. Welcome to the world of classic motoring. It's a nice world.
Why Do I Want A Classic Car?
Probably because you're either fed up with washing dull plastic bumpers and wiping-over anonymous grey plastic dashboards on a Sunday morning? You've seen a classic with its shiny chrome bumbers and noticed how everybody notices a classic .. Or maybe you're cheesed off with how much your modern car depreciates every month? Maybe you want another car for the weekends ... a hobby; something of interest... or even nostalgia. Well, you won't be the first to think along those lines.
The short answer is any car you like, for whatever reason. The Morris 1000 was discontinued way back because nobody wanted them and they were superceded by the Marina. Now, there's more parts available for the Morris 1000 than there were during its production years. And when did you last see a Marina on the road - or come to that, a Mk3 Cortina with 'coke bottle' styling? The same is true of the Rover 2000, the 4.2 Jaguar from the 1970s; the Austin Allegro ...
It happens with all cars after their production life has ended and they go through the 'banger' stage and eventually disappear from everyday use altogether. The same will happen with the modern cars you can see outside your window today. Classic cars are those that you have an interest in owning and they probably have an enthusiast's club as well.
Restore It Yourself?
Many models have been restored in the hands of enthusiasts. A properly restored car has a life-expectancy of that of a new car, subject to the conditions where it is kept and maintained and, of course, the annual mileage it does. Then comes the point when it needs re-restoring. Most classic cars have been restored and it is often the top of the range model - it is for this reason that you see more 2 litre Mark3 Cortinas than you do the 1600cc variants. The 2 litre versions are the ones that have been restored ... their smaller-engined bretheren don't survive in such numbers.
Between the found-in-a barn after 40 years car and the one that only needs a quick polish and clean to make it presentable, there's a whole range .... and much depends on what you yourself are capable of. A 'basket-case' which is brought back from the dead is a labour of love to restore. It can take a couple of years working evenings and weekends. Unless it's an exceptionally rare and valuable car, restoration costs usually far outstrips its final value. Many classic cars are restored on a shoe-string budget over a period of time.
Then there's the 'rolling restoration' - you buy a car that is roadsworthy but still needs things doing to it and, over a period of time, you bring the car back up to its former original glory. At the other end of the spectrum there is the fully restored classic.
How difficult is it to restore a classic? The answer lies with you ... if you can weld, spray and carry out mechanical repairs and are prepared to spend time restoring the car, that's fine. Many people do just that. Whatever you do, don't rush off and buy a basket-case in a fit of optimism.
Using a Classic
Seriously consider what you will use the classic for: A restoration hobby to tinker with? Summer and weekend transport only? Everyday transport?
Cars such as the 1960s -70s Rover 2000/3500cc V8, Austin Princess etc .. are more than capable of holding their own today. Go back further to the Austin Big 10, Morris 8 ... many cars did not have heaters. It was basic motoring back then ... fun today perhaps, back then, no ..
'Star' 'Bean' 'Keeble' 'Lanchester' .. all makes of car that have long disappeared in motoring history. Perhaps you've never heard of them? In the world of classic cars there's surprises around every interesting corner.
Don't be in a rush to go out and get any classic. They'll always be for sale, somewhere. And it's always be easier to buy a classic then it is to sell one. Have a look around first; look in the adverts within the magazine Practical Classics - hundreds of cars of all models for sale. Why not join a car club of the model you're interested in? You don't need to own a car to become a member - and it's an ideal way of finding out the strengths, weaknesses and prices of that particular model.
One of the biggest - if not the biggest - advantages is that the older classic cars are easy to repair, maintain and service by the home-mechanic. Compared to modern cars, spares are ridiculously cheap. There's no £100 a time sensors to go wrong. Got a modernish BMW or Volvo/Saab etc ... that won't start? Ah .. that could be the camshaft timing sensor (£120) or the camshaft sensor (£100). Maybe it is the ignition pack (one per spark plug at £65 each) that is at fault .. but then again it could be the lambda sensor (£110) or the throttle position sensor (£60) or the ECU (£300) .. or it could be other things .. and if you have the necessary electronic testing equipment and a fat wallet, it's no problem .. Need the head gasket repacing on a modern car? That's £500 - £1000, thank you very much. Replace the head gasket yourself in a weekend on your Triumph Herald for £60.
Contrast this with the old, simple technology of decades ago. Car won't start? You need some new points (£15 max). They were (still are...) so easy to repair that a novice with a workshop manual could do it.
The downside is of course that older cars are more labour - intensive. Modern cars can do 10,000 miles between oil changes, older cars can not. Some need an oil/filter change every 3000 miles. They need more frequent servicing. An older car does not have the reliability or fuel efficiency of a modern car.
But in comparitive terms they are cheap to buy, easy to service and maintain yourself, and don't depreciate as such ... not to mention the attention and smiles they attract. The next time you're in slow moving traffic notice which car attracts the most attention .. the expensive Saab, Rolls Royce, Merc, BMW, Volvo, or the 1966 Ford Anglia worth £1000 ...
Your choice! In the early 1970s I used to drive from Cornwall to Northumberland in a 1967 1300cc Ford Cortina. More than 30 years later I make the reverse journey in a 'modern' 3 litre Volvo. It now takes longer to do the same number of miles ... I wish I still had that old Cortina.
Have a look at a guide about classic Rovers I wrote - http://reviews.ebay.co.uk/Classic-Rovers-P4-P5-and-P6_W0QQugidZ10000000005762915
Whatever classic you decide upon, you won't regret it. It's your choice. Go for it. Enjoy it.
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