Whatever type of classic car you are contemplating, and you have definitely made the decision that you want to buy a classic car, the No 1 reason that will dictate the type and condition of your potential car is ‘money’. You may really want a pristine E-type Jaguar or Bentley but unless you are prepared to pay a handsome sum, then you will not get what you want or the car will be not up to scratch. The many tips on buying a modern car do apply but should be taken even further when looking to buy a classic car.
So, getting the main obstacle, the money, out of the way, what else dictates the type of classic car you may want? Well, unfortunately, in a lot of circumstances the heart rules the head and the practicalities of owning and running a classic car may differ from what you anticipate. Let’s face it, modern cars are very reliable, they start almost immediately, they are comfortable, relatively economical, are quick, handle well, the brakes are spot-on (especially with ABS), they have great heaters, CD players – I could go on and on extolling their virtues but the real topic is buying older, classic cars. I don’t want to put you off, but running an older car, especially if you want to try to use a classic car as an everyday car, is totally different to running a modern car.
Firstly, dependent upon which model you might go for, there is the everyday driving experience. Not everyone will like what you buy or drive – some people will view you with suspicion, as though you are a bit of an odd-ball. They will cut you up, they will tailgate you and have no idea what you are driving and will not show you any courtesy.
You may have to change your driving style to accommodate the idiosyncrasies (some call it CHARACTER!) of your choice of car and maybe have to get used to getting your hands dirty and also a bit of unreliability. It may be worth investing some time on attending a motor vehicle repair course at your local college or getting to know someone who is a mechanic or a bit ‘handy’ with car repairs. It can be quite beneficial to join a car club and forum. Many invaluable tips and ideas can be obtained from these knowledgeable people.
You may also have to get used to not being able to use regular unleaded petrol. Many British-built cars of the 60’s, 70’s & early 80’s had to run on leaded fuel (the small amount of lead acts as a lubricant) so now with the unavailability of leaded fuel an additive may have to be used, especially if you drive a fair mileage. The valve seats were made of a softer metal and the lack of lead in the petrol recedes the valve seats and a lack of compression results – or so I’m told! You can get some work done to replace the valve seats but this may be expensive depending on your choice of classic car.
As even cars of the 1980’s are now up to 30 years old, with 30 years worth of ownership, thrashing, salty roads, children, etc… the chances of finding the 1 careful owner, low mileage, fully-serviced classic car is extremely rare. The No:1 problem (especially with a UK car is RUST and CORROSION. The majority of mechanical problems can normally be repaired or mechanical items can be replaced but a car that has succumbed to the rust bug is a money pit. You might keep the rust at bay for a while, but replacing old, rusty floor panels and carrying out chassis repairs are extremely time-consuming and EXPENSIVE to put right. Good quality resprays are now expensive and the use of the older cellulose paints is becoming prohibitive.
I want to repeat myself, in that, I don’t want to put you off buying a classic car, as the joy of ownership and the driving experience can be great – BUT – let your HEAD (plus your wallet!) rule your HEART. I know this goes against the grain as studies show 98% of ANY purchases, no matter how big, are emotional then are tried to be justified by logic! But simply, buy the best car you can afford and it should help you to achieve a relatively trouble-free driving experience.