My dilemma

People do sometimes ask me why I drive such dreadful cars. It’s a fair point. Apart from brief spells, I have generally owned tired old cars that are 20-30 years old. Loads of them.

Partly, this is because these are the cars of my childhood and teenage years. Nostalgia is a huge part of the classic car world after all. Mind you, I’m starting to find that I’m being priced out of my cosy dreams. Cars that were a few hundred quid are now pushing over a grand.


My beautiful Bluebird. Too good for me, that was for sure.

Price isn’t the only issue though. There’s also condition. These survivors are getting more expensive purely because they are survivors! These are the cars that have never seen daily use, and have probably spent more time snuggled away in a garage than on the road. Today, that makes them collectors’ cars, which is a problem for me.

I don’t have much in the way of undercover storage you see, and I live in Wales. Moisture and old cars are not ideal bedfellows, so I’m incredibly reluctant to own anything that could actually be described as ‘nice.’ I had a 36,000-mile Nissan Bluebird a few years back, a car of which I was very fond. But, it wasn’t fair to leave it parked up outside every day and to drive it through a Welsh winter. So, I reluctantly sold it (for just £360!).

So, I stick with what’s cheap and yes, I’ve probably run cars into the ground as a result. I’ve owned several BXs that have given fantastic service to me and subsequent owners, but that has come at the cost of those cars’ survival. Eventually, I had to concede that there are not enough BXs to keep doing this.

I’m actually doing my utmost to protect the S-MX and RAV4 from the ravages of corrosion – both have undergone extensive wax protection. However, neither is exactly a museum piece – they’ve both clocked up over 140,000 miles each, and are covered in blemishes. So, if either did fall by the wayside, it would be no great loss to the world of cars.

But, it does leave me pondering what the future is. The cheap cars of today are more and more the problematic, overly-complicated cars of 15-20 years ago. Cars like the Rover 75, which for all its finery, has some major downsides. Stuff like clutch slave cylinders that are mounted INSIDE the gearbox. There’s plenty to stop these cars from being cheap transport.

I could buy an older car, and hope that advances in rust protection can keep it solid. I’m already doing this though, with the much-anticipated return of the 2CV. I must concede that I’ve long had a dream of turning a Morris Minor into a decent daily – up-gunned engine and brakes, better-controlled suspension and a heater that is less like a man blowing on the windscreen. First things first though, I’ve got to get the 2CV back on the road.


2CV body gets paint! Will it survive better this time?

That in itself reveals the problem. The 2CV has already undergone one very expensive rebuild in my ownership. It’s now reaching the end of its second. Every 100,000 miles, I have to entirely refurbish the body – and it had plenty of patching up in that time too. I’m yet to find a truly effective way to stop old cars from rusting – bear in mind I use the 2CV for greenlaning, and also hurtling along motorways in the winter. Challenging conditions for sure.

Much as I love Japanese tin though, I’m not sure an older Japanese car would be rewarding. My time editing Retro Japanese magazine has taught me that you need a LOT of patience to own older Japanese cars. All those aftermarket panels and parts that MG, Morris and even 2CV owners take for granted and almost entirely denied the owner of a 1970s Datsun or Toyota. I could not bring myself to daily an old Japanese classic, knowing that rot could see it entirely beyond restoration.

My other magazine is Classic Jaguar, and I’ll just have to admit that I simply can’t afford the price of admission. Maybe if we sell more magazines! I do allow myself the odd dream of an original S-Type as daily drive, but at 18mpg and with body parts problematic, a dream is what it shall remain.

Which all leaves me no clearer to knowing what form daily transport will take in the near future. I’m increasingly seduced by the world of electric, but the price of admission there is still out of reach. It’s getting far less so though. I wonder what 2017 will bring…

What are your thoughts? Do share them!

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