Life with a Vintage or Classic Car

Taking one out for a long weekend is one thing.
But what is it like to live with one permanently?

Taking one out for a long weekend is one thing, but what is it like to live with one permanently?

The first thing you have to remember is that cars in the sixties were designed to be lived in, year in, year out. The famous motoring writer Denis Jenkinson (Stirling Moss’s navigator and inventor of pace notes that they used to win the Mille Miglia in 1955), did 400,000 kilometres in his E type, traveling around Europe covering the Formula 1 championship. His book ‘Jaguar E Type’ (not a very imaginative title!) is a great read to give you an idea of what it is like living with a car from that era.

400,000 kms is nothing compared to the 5 Million kilometers that Irvin Gordon is about to clock up on his Volvo P1800 since new in 1966. It still has the original engine which has only needed 2 rebuilds during that time. Check out his story here.

Even today, some stalwarts use cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies as their regular daily driver. They miss out on climate control, intermittent wipers, power windows, decent brakes, awesome road holding and great sound systems but they gain style in bucket loads and still have a great sound system – it just comes from the car itself!

More common though is to have one of these cars for weekend jaunts. And that is really when they are at their best. Out on the open road (“O poop-poop ” said Toad), receiving admiring glances from young and old, feeling every bump and ridge in the road, enjoying the squeaks and rattles as the car ‘talks’ to you and, for once, feeling you are actually driving the car rather than the car driving you. They are also great for socialising. There will always be someone there to ask questions or tell you their tales. The hundreds of specialist car clubs always give you other like minded souls to have beer or a latte with – beer for MG owners, Latte for Lagonda lovers!

vintage-car-driveAny car from the sixties can give you that amount of fun but if this is your first it is hard to go past an MGB. The MGB was the first monocoque (ie no separate chassis) that MG built. As such it was grossly over engineered. Everything is pretty well bullet proof. There is nothing on an MGB that you cannot buy – even brand new bodyshells. Prices of new spares are low compared to other makes and there is always plenty of second hand gear around as well. Working on MGBs is also very easy. Anyone with some mechanical interest could completely strip down and rebuild one with some patience, a good workshop manual and a half decent tool kit.

Compared to a modern car, you will probably have a higher maintenance cost (though try getting a quote to replace a hood on a 10 year old convertible these days!), but then you don’t have depreciation to worry about. If you look after the car then it will hold its value over the short term and give you good capital growth over the long term. You will also find insurance very cheap. The insurance companies have learnt that old cars are always driven carefully and do minimal mileage. This keeps insurance premiums much lower than equivalent modern cars.