1. Are classic cars expensive to buy?
They needn’t be no, it all comes down to what you want and can afford. Rusty old wrecks can be yours for the price of a beer, but for the sake of argument let’s just take roadworthy motors. Much also will depend on the type of car you want. Interested in saloon cars? then for example a presentable and MOT’d Ford Anglia (105E) could be yours for anywhere between £1,000 – £2,000, or if you fancy something a little older then maybe you’d want something like a 1950s Austin Devon, usually to be found in good condition for anywhere between £1,500 – £2,500 for one that’s seen some useful restoration work in its time.
Sport scars are generally more expensive than comparable engined saloons; a good example is that of Triumphs. A Herald 13/60 saloon in tidy condition could be yours for £700 or so, whereas it’s sports car equivalent, the Spitfire (sharing much of its core running gear) could be anywhere from £1,750 upwards for a car in similar condition. Bearing in mind that they often get wet inside, which will lead to corrosion later in life, it’s often wise to buy the best example of an open topped car that you can. Much of this applies to roadster versions of saloons, the Triumphs once again proving the point – a drop top Herald or Varese will often be around 50% more expensive than its saloon brothers. Luxury cars are a lore unto themselves. Good ones command decent money, say £4,000+ for a really nice old Humber, but a basket case could be purchased for a few pennies as demand for rebuilt projects of this type of car is not high, largely due to the enormous cost of renovating tired wood and leather which rarely can be recouped with the value of the finished article.
2. Are all old (UK) classic cars tax-exempt?
No. Any car built (as opposed to registered) prior to Jan 1 1973 qualifies to be a Historic car in the eyes of DVLA, and as such qualifies for zero rated road tax. Originally the cut-off was meant to be a rolling 25 years, but the current Labour government quashed this, setting the cut-off for Historic status as 01/01/73. You do still need to display a tax disc however, really just to prove that when you applied for the disc you had current insurance and MOT, but you will not have to hand over a single penny.
This legislation can have some bearing on values of identical cars that were built either side of the ’73 cut-off – buy a January 1973 build Triumph TR6 and you’ll have to pay up even though the car comes out on sunny days only, whereas your neighbour with his/her ’72 TR6 is in the fortunate position of paying £nothing, which, if totted up over a few years, can add up to a significant sum!
3. I have a rotten Singer Gazelle propping up my barn wall. Is its registration number valuable?
It may well be, if it was fitted to an MOT’d car. If the car isn’t MOTd, then you will not be able to put the registration number up for sale. Something to remember is that if you sell on the original number from a classic car or truck, the value of the vehicle (now on a non-transferable number) will be markedly less, as most enthusiasts want their classic as original as possible, including its correct registration mark.
The drop in the car’s value may be less than you get for the sale of the number, hence you may be ahead financially, but this really is an act of heresy – would you sell your parents name (aka identity) if you thought you’d make some money on it?
4. Do colours affect the desirability of a car?
It all comes down to personal taste. Take 2 Jaguar E Types, both V12 fixed heads. One is bright red, gleaming like a newly polished pin. The other is also in an original Jaguar colour, this time sable. Sable is a dour shade of brown that was available during the early 1970s on all manner of BL group vehicles, equally to be seen on any number of Triumph Dolomites, Spitfires, and Allegros, such as in period episodes of The Professionals (a UK police drama for non-UK readers or those of tender years).
Now the years have done nothing to increase the appeal of the brown hue, after all, how many new cars nowadays are brown? whereas red is still popular with everyone from granny in her Austin Metro (automatic most likely) to the dashing young blades in their Z3 Beemer’s. The red Jag, OK they are 2+2s but never mind, should sell quite easily (assuming that people looking for such a beast are content with the fuel bills that come with the package) whereas the brown one will probably have to be sold at a discount to the red example, just to get it shifted. And, likely as not, the money that the brown car’s new buyer saved in the deal will probably go towards a re spray in red! Much the same thing happened to me earlier this year.
I wanted a Series 1 XJ, preferably in dark blue. The dark blue car that I found was a bit of a nail, but I ended up with a light blue example in the end. During this time I was offered a very tidy Daimler S1 XJ6L, ok it was a long wheelbase which I didn’t really want but otherwise sounded very promising. That was until I found out what colour it was – pink! Now, that is a rare colour I’m told for such a motor car but I can see why. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to drive around in a pink Jag, looking like Parker chauffeuring Lady Penelope back and forth to Tracey Island.
5. Will my classic run on unleaded petrol?
More recent classics, such as those with alloy heads, usually have hardened valve seats etc. and as such can run on this unleaded stuff ok (though it’s always wise to check with the relevant club/authority on the matter). Older engines, such as the BMC A series engine used in hundreds of thousands of Morris Minors, A35s, Sprites and so on, will not take unleaded fuel for any length of time without damage being caused to the valves and or seats (lead essentially lubricated these parts, offering protection). The only viable option is to shell out £150 or so for a reconditioned cylinder head. Engines do retain a lead ‘memory’ for a while, so if you only do 20 miles every year to the MOT station and back, then you should be ok.
When leaded fuel was phased out in the UK a few years back, all manner of ‘pellets in the tank’ and inline fuel line contraptions were launched, claiming to offer the protection of lead while you run on the new unleaded stuff. Many tests were performed, some of which threw up doubts as to the effectiveness (or not) of such inventions, so I for one have never bothered with them. You can get liquid fuel additives which you pour a measure of into the petrol tank before filling up with fuel, which seem to work, but like I say seek advice from other owners before committing to any one solution. One side effect of running on unleaded is that the engine seems to run hotter, so you might encounter problems with fuel vaporising that you didn’t before.
6. I’ve read of people running classics as their company cars – why do they bother?
This isn’t something I’ve done, but my understanding is that you pay company car tax based on the cars price, when new. So Vectra man or Mondeo man will pay company car tax based on the £20 grand or so that his sensational repmobile cost (his company) to buy.
However, if you buy a classic (up to £25k in value if I recall correctly) you are still only taxed on its as-new price, so the theory is that you can run a tasty Mk2 Jag or ’59 Cadillac based on its price back when sideburns were long and skirts were short (not on the same person I hasten to add – usually!). And then there’s the other benefit of zero rate road tax to remember, although before zooming off to find the nearest ’59 Cad you can find, it’s worth remembering that other running costs (eg fuel) may be a lot higher for a classic ride, and reliability almost certainly won’t be up to more modern car standards. But, if you don’t rely on your car too heavily, running a vintage motor as a company car could make a lot of sense, especially when you consider the depreciation that your modern piece of junk will incur.
7. Is it worth me joining an owners club?
If you are new to old cars, or a particular make/model of old car, then usually the answer is yes. Despite many people’s preconceptions of what the average car club member looks like, it is not de rigeur to sport excessive facial hair, a bobble or tartan hat with matching anorak, corduroy trousers and oil-caked fingernails (it helps of course!). Often once you have identified the car you fancy, it’s worth joining the correct owners club to have access to cars for sale by club members, as they run the chance of being well maintained examples.
There is a social side to most clubs and registers also, and it is entirely optional as to whether you take part or adopt a less involved role, receiving the club magazines and benefiting from cheaper insurance policies that many clubs provide. Should you wish to join in the fun, local area groups often organise treasure hunts, classic car ‘fun runs’, visits to sites of interest (eg breweries), barbecues, and so on. The cost involved can be nothing, for a simple register of owners, right through to £35 upwards for the big international clubs, although even then the subscription fee can often be recouped via the cheaper insurance options that they offer.
8. I have inherited an old car – where can I find out its value?
If the make and model of car is popular in the world of classic motoring, any old car magazine will have several pages of adverts containing a number of cars similar to your own. If that fails, then jump onto the internet and have a trawl around for websites dedicated to that particular motorcar, most have ‘Contact Us’ sections and usually the recipient of your enquiry will be only too keen to help out. Alternatively, try to attend a classic car meeting if there is one in your area – chances are if you own a fairly common classic (as in numerous) there will be other owners with whom you could discuss your inheritance.
Failing that, try listing it at auction, either in the traditional way via a specialist car auction, or on the internet with a company such as Ebay, although unless you set a minimum £ that you’d accept for the car (the Reserve), it may go for less than you imagine. For a rarer car, you may need to seek specialist advice from an auction house or reputable dealer in that type of car, but here too there is no better way to gauge a classics true value than compare your car with those on the market, so get a feel for what the market will stand. If you want any further advice, please feel free to email me via the email link on the homepage of old classic car.
9. What are the main differences between driving an old car and a new one?
Well, just about every aspect of motoring has been developed beyond all recognition over the last couple of decades. Drive a reasonable modern car, and you’ll find electric windows, central locking, sunroof, comfy seats and a decent sound system. Jump out of your hermetically sealed modern into a Standard 8 say, and prepare for a shock (admittedly to someone like me it’d be a welcome shock, but never mind).
Gone are electric windows, and back then wind up windows were still far from universal, so sit back and enjoy the experience of sliding windows, usually in runners that are gunged up and barely allow more than a whistle of air into the cabin (same goes for early Minis). Central locking in the early 1950s was still the stuff of ‘take a glimpse into the future’ type programmes, along with hydro foils and nuclear propulsion. Sunroof? Path no chance, although less lowly models, such as the wobbly Vanguard, did offer such luxuries, often listed alongside comfy unsupportive leather bench seats in the advertising blurb of the day, quite the thing when compared to the utilitarian example found in Standard’s more diminutive offering.
Braking is another area where you’ll notice a significant difference, requiring a great deal more forward planning than is often the case in an ABS-equipped modern steed, steering too being another area where the older car may well feel a little less communicative.
10. What tools should I buy for maintaining my first classic car?
Pick up any catalogue from a tool supplier and the range of tools available is vast. However 95% of these you’ll probably never need, or may need once during your ownership of the car (so hiring or borrowing from a mate may be the best bet there!). Stuff I wouldn’t leave home without must include the following: A range of screwdrivers, both flat and cross headed in a variety of sizes (but a reasonable quality set too, the cheapo ones just snap when you lean on them), a set of spanners suitable for your particular car (i.e. don’t go buying a metric set if you have gone and bought a 1950s Sunbeam).
A tin of oil and bottle of water/antifreeze is always a good thing to have kicking around in the far reaches of your boot in case of emergency, as is a towrope and quality set of jump leads (not the £1.99 set from Tesco’s either). Other less obvious things to include may be insulation tape, rubber straps and some string to tie things back on with! .