Monday 9 December 2019

Vintage appeal is a universal draw

If you want to drive something special then nothing beats a classic car, it seems, says Geraldine Herbert

Mary Wickham with her Jaguar
Mary Wickham with her Jaguar

For a growing band of people, the only new car to go for is an old one. Driven simply by a passion for iconic cars and a desire to own something out of the ordinary, classic car lovers will move heaven and earth, raid savings and travel hundreds of miles to get the car of their dreams.

Steve Dismorr did just that when he bought his 1959 3.4L Mark 1 Jaguar. He was seduced by its leather upholstery, walnut veneer and racing pedigree. It cost in the region of €28,000 and since then he has invested more than €5,000 but it's now insured for a lot more than the original price.

It seems once you have bought one classic car, you're likely to fall in love with it, be unable to part with it and buy another. Steve also owns a 1956 MGA convertible bought in 2006 for €14,000 but today it is worth in excess of €31,000.

These days, the pride of his collection is a mint condition 1956 MK 6 Lotus. Tempted after seeing one race in Donnington, he purchased it for €3,000 and it is now worth about €60,000 - a worthwhile return on investment, to be sure.

But the adrenaline rush that comes with crossing the chequered flag is not the only reason why die-hards worship this mean machine.

"Enjoyment, an appreciation of heritage value and a different sort of driving experience await Lotus-owners" says Steve.

"We have been to Le Mans in France in it on four occasions" says Steve, "I have made some very good friends through my ownership of this car".

Classic cars may conjure up visions of middle-aged males who spend hours restoring and maintaining their vehicles and collecting spare parts with the eagerness of squirrels in autumn. But times have changed and there is now an army of men and women, of all ages and all sorts, buying classics and for as many different reasons.

"I always loved the Mark II Jag," says Mary Wickham (83) from Dublin, "the one I bought has power steering and is automatic, so it's a pleasure to drive".

Her collection of vintage cars now comprises two Jaguars; an XK150 convertible from the 1950s and a Mark II from the 1960s. She previously had a Bristol 403, which Sybil Connolly owned in 1952, but sold that a few years ago.

"I was always mad about cars, right back to my childhood in Westmeath. I can remember my father having cars, which was unusual down the country at the time, and I think that's where I got it from" recalls Mary.

"My late husband, Joey, was just as mad about them, and we used to race midget cars, which ran on grass tracks, in the 60s and 70s".

Young owners are attracted to the potential for low insurance, the stylishness and the erroneous but satisfying perception that their car must have been expensive.

Toby Cannon, an engineer living in Cork, is the owner of a vintage Porsche 911, "€56 a year to tax, and sensible vintage policy insurance quotes meant no guilt having it idle for a couple of weeks and also meant regular use all year around. It only does 17-21mpg but when it only does 2-3k miles a year, that is not too bad," he says

But regular maintenance is a constant feature of vintage cars. Toby who enjoys the challenge, estimates he has spent more than a few thousand euros and thousands of hours in his garage on his Porsche.

"I have replaced the entire brake system discs, pads, lines, reservoir, fuel system, plugs, distributor and various rubber bits in the air intake. Obviously costs reduce massively if you maintain it yourself and older cars naturally lend themselves to this as they are comparatively simple".

And for speed demons, classic cars can satisfy their need for speed. "You end up driving slower as classics aren't that fast when compared to modern cars", says Jack Burnford, the owner of a 1975 1.8 Porsche 914. "My Porsche is probably slower than a 1-litre Nissan Micra but driving at 80km on the motorway feels like doing 120 or more".

Old car enthusiasts say that one of the best plus factors is that an old car can be a hobby for all the family, whereas sports like golfing or fishing exclude many family members. "Everyone's interested in old cars, even if they don't own one," says Jack, "it's also good for partners as there is always something you'll want for birthday or Christmas".

Old cars should be bought for the right reason; by people who enjoy them for what they are, not for what they might become. A stylish classic car needn't cost a fortune so if you fancy taking the plunge remember a little homework and patience will save you money in the long run.

1) Set yourself a budget and consult price guides in classic car magazines to determine what you can afford to buy.

2) Be patient, sometimes the hunt can be more thrilling than the kill, so take your time and look around. A better deal may be just around the corner.

3) Remember the history of a classic car may not only make it more interesting but it can also increase its value.

4) As with buying any used car, buying an old car is a risk so do your research to find out what common issues may arise with the that model.

5) Check for obvious alterations or flaws and be on the lookout for specific rust areas and mechanical concerns.

6) Have the car checked ideally by a mechanic who specialises in classics as it is not always easy to spot a poor restoration from a good one.

7) Another consideration with classic car ownership is to ensure you have a suitable garage as the car must be stored somewhere warm and dry.

8) Insure your investment for the full value of what it is worth.

9) Consider also the availability of spare parts, finding a rare classic at the right price maybe tempting but keeping it on the road could well become a headache if parts are equally rare.

10) Be prepared for repair bills and maintenance and investigate running costs on the make and model you are considering.

Sunday Independent

Also in Life