GEAR | Five steps to classic car heaven

1. Understand what you want to use it for

Whether it’s track days, classic car runs, car shows, family holidays cruising to the south of France, Sunday summer outings. Understand that and look around for a suitable model using those criteria. Of course it should be beautiful or stylish, fun to drive and reliable (a rare combination!). Remember rarity is expensive and it’s vital to have a good support infrastructure to keep it on the road. Spares availability and local experts are key.

Go for cars with big engines. Most early cars were built over strong and will limp home somehow. The little engines – Riley, Frazer-Nash etc. – were designed to get round horse power tax and are painful to drive (unless you like being a mobile roadblock).

2. Research is key

Join the owners club – this will be the place you can do your most fruitful research by talking to owners who’ve lived with the car…do beware they do have there fair quota of loonies! Go to club meetings, classic car shows, talk to owners sit in their cars. They will not let you down. If you’ve done your research the old adage ‘don’t buy the first you see’ doesn’t count. When you see a good car you’ll know.

3. Finding the car

Look in ALL the classic magazines; find ALL the marquee specialist dealers and garages. Talk to them about what you are looking for. Keep an eye on the club magazine and web sites. Google is your best friend. The car you want is out there somewhere…

4. Carefully assess your purchase

Get it inspected by an expert marquee specialist and get the seller to re-MOT it if it hasn’t long to run, Always buy a car in good condition, if you can’t afford a good one save up (if you buy an OK car you’ll spend more on it in the long term than saving for a better one). Every classic should come with a huge stack of carefully filed receipts and MOTS, and don’t forget there is always a better car just around the corner.
Provenance is key – it vital that you know the history of the car and this is supported with documentation. This will give you confidence in any stories that the seller will weave and also help you when it comes to moving it on.

Beware Modern updates – be very suspicious of anything that has been hopped up. Invariably tuning engines will put extra strain on other components and lead to failure, so unless the whole car has had a complete fast road makeover it’s going to be trouble.

5. Maintenance

Learn the maintenance schedule and keep to it; keep meticulous records of everything you do. Find the best marquee specialist you can and stick with them. Take their advice, they know best! Work on the car yourself (they are pretty simple things) the better you know the car the easier it is to spot problems...whenever you spot a probem fix it NOW. The longer you leave things the less likely they are going to be fixed and as other problems come up things just get worse...

Beware modern parts they are never the same quality as the originals (except Mercedes-Benz!) and are often pretty poor. If you can fix the original part then do it.

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